“How different is this from regular dating?” asked one rather bland, but harmless early 40-something guy when we met for a drink. We'd connected through a website that sets up escorts (sugar babies) with men willing to pay them (sugar daddies).

“Apart from the cash upfront and the lack of thinking it may lead to something bigger, such as marriage, I suppose not that different for a lot of people,” I replied.

“Exactly,” he said.

I wasn't actually interested in taking his money for sexual favors. Rather, he was among around 10 men I met in an experiment I undertook over a period of a few weeks to see what it was like to meet men through one of these escort set-up sites as a prospective... employee.

These kinds of arrangements aren't that unusual in New York, where I live. Having interviewed an escort and married man who hires escorts, I was curious about signing up for one of the websites that hooks them up with each other. What did people derive from the transaction, beyond quick sex and quick cash? Maybe it was shockingly normal — alluring beyond the obvious reasons.

I also wanted to find out why these kinds of relationships persist. Sure, they’ve always existed somewhere. But it seemed to me that the proliferation of post-collegiate debt, an atrophied job market, and rising unemployment for single ladies — not to mention the speed and anonymity of the internet — might make these arrangements more attractive to young women with rent to pay and dreams of living The Life in New York while they were still young. Besides, dating in New York sucks anyway.

But what I found is that the men often have to sell themselves just as hard — perhaps harder — than the women.

Let the seduction begin.