Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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May 30, 2016

Rent-a-prom-date

by Charles Lott, Online Features Editor
"This is strictly a platonic Friendship website. This is NOT a dating website, and NOT an escort agency. Services on this website are strictly for FRIENDSHIP purposes only." These guidelines are plastered across the various pages, headlines, and banners of website RentAFriend.com, where you can hire somebody to spend time with you for between ten and forty dollars an hour. Prostitution is illegal in forty nine out of fifty states, but paying someone to be your friend isn't illegal in any. Should it be?

With prom coming up, many Blair juniors and seniors are scrambling to find a date. Students can usually find a friend to fall back on or, in truly dire circumstances, a distant cousin. The goal of RentAFriend is to turn these and other awkward social situations into something much more manageable.

On RentAFriend, you can sign up and search through the thousands of available Friends included within the site's database. You can sort based on gender, race, or even what sorts of hobbies friends are interested in. The site experienced a popularity surge in 2010 after NBC and Fox News reports in which a field reporter hired a Friend to take out bowling or ballroom dancing. According to the site's creator Scott Rosenbaum, one of the site's best features is the variety of people it offers. "You can find pretty much anything on the site. We have Friends who are professional chefs, teachers, and athletes," explains Rosenbaum.

The biggest question raised by RentAFriend concerns the definition of prostitution. The line is pretty blurry between escort and friend-for-hire, but a lot of people don't seem to have a problem with the latter. One Friend on the site, who goes by the username "Mlt," doesn't see any moral issues with RentAFriend. "I think it'd be cool to have fun experiences with new people, and it's not wrong to pay someone to do it. The money isn't really a part of it when you're actually doing the activity," comments Mlt.

While anybody who is working for the site would likely share Mlt's opinion, some Friends are a bit more skeptical. According to one Friend, who goes by the username "pearlly," the service does raise some questions. "I've had a lot of fun with the site, but I can see why it might make people uncomfortable. If you just hire someone to hang out, that's a little weird, but a lot of people use it to find people to go to social events with them or show them around a new city," explains pearlly.

Among the activities suggested by RentAFriend are things like city tours, weddings, and proms. But even if Blazers can get passed the stigma of hiring somebody to go on a date with them, another question is raised by the site. Is having a prom date really that important? Many would say yes, as clearly evidenced by the elaborate promposals that occur throughout the hallways of Blair. According to sophomore Yonathan Tadesse, when it comes time for him to attend prom, a date will be an essential part of the experience. "It would be kind of embarrassing if you couldn't find somebody to go to prom with," says Tadesse. "I mean, you have months to find somebody, and you can just take your friend if you want."

The stigma surrounding going to prom alone can be harsh, and RentAFriend is there for those who want it. But it's up to each and every member of the Blair community to decide if it's okay to pay somebody to go with them, and if a date is important enough to pay the price of admission on RentAFriend. Who knows? There could be a Friend dancing next to you at prom come this May.



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