Will Date for Food: Women Who Seek Fancy Dinners

The perks and pitfalls of online dating.

Dec. 8, 2011— -- It's a stereotype as old as dating itself: women seeking guys for material gain, and guys seeking women for their beauty. But when 25-year-old Jessica Sporty spoke honestly about her brief but calculated plan to date men of means while living in New York, her confession sparked outrage online.

BusinessInsider.com, the website that featured the interview with Sporty last week, eventually disabled the article's comment section, but angry readers continued to vent on other websites that had picked up the story.

Some people called her a "gold digger" and others called her "obscene."

After the fallout, Sporty -- who now lives in California -- sat down with "Good Morning America" to tell her side of the story.

"I'm a traditional girl," she said. "And to me, I feel a part of dating is if a guy wants to take me out, what's wrong with him taking me out to a dinner and me expecting for the bill to be paid?"

Sporty said she joined Match.com while she was living in New York two years ago, and she soon discovered there were a lot of well-to-do guys in Manhattan who were interested in her online profile.

So for a little more than a month she became a serial dater.

During that time, she told "GMA," she went on 30 dates, saving approximately $1,200 because the guys would always offer to foot the bill.

Had one of them asked her to split it, she said she probably would have responded, "OK, no problem."

"In my head, I probably would have said, 'You know, that's not very traditional and I think that a man should pay for the first date,'" she told "GMA."

"New York is really expensive. ... A lot of these experiences I wouldn't have been able to have if I hadn't, you know, been on Match.com and gone through this," she said. "It was my own 'Sex and the City.'"

Of course, women seeking well-off men -- and men seeking beautiful women -- is nothing new on the dating scene.

"Dating first started in early 20th century -- an alternative to the older middle-class custom of 'calling,' where a woman's family invited the man to come [visit]," said Stephanie Coontz, a history and women's studies professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., who recently wrote a book about feminism in the 1960s. "Dating gave young people a lot more freedom from parental supervision but it also introduced a lot more commerce into the situation. The woman was expected to give something -- whether deference, admiration or sex."

By the 1950s, there were advice books for men about how to get women's clothes off faster during a date, Coontz said, and in 1962 Helen Gurly Brown's best-selling book, "Sex and the Single Girl," advocated that women use dates to make up for the fact that they're paid less than men.

"I heartily disapprove of it," Coontz said. "I think any time women give men who want to behave badly an excuse for doing so, that's no help to our gender and no help to the kind of relationships I think we want."

Sporty's story provoked online commenters because she was "using one set of gender stereotypes to her own advantage in ways that violate a lot of other gender stereotypes that are going to cause condemnation," Coontz said.

"Some people claim, 'Well, why not? It's empowering to women.' And I think that's dead wrong," she said. "The real long-term trends that empower men and women are increasing equality in relationships, particularly marriages of men and women. Women, when you look at polls, are much less likely to say they need to marry a man who earns much less than they do ... which is why it seems more shocking when a woman goes back to the old agreement."

But Sporty said her aim was never to scam guys out of a free meal.

"I would never do that," Sporty told "GMA."

After all of that dating, Sporty said, the whole process became exhausting.

She's now in a relationship with a guy she met six months ago. And no, she didn't meet him on Match.com.

"My boyfriend and I like to go out to nice dinners. And for the record, I do pay a lot," she said.

Guys Willing to Spend a 'Buttload of Money'

ABCNews.com spoke with another woman who said she currently goes on at least two dates a week after she joined a traditional online dating website about six months ago. But it wasn't until September, when she started subletting an apartment in Manhattan, that she realized how lucrative dating could be.

The 30-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous, will be referred to here as "Cindy."

"The Asian guys really like me," said Cindy, who is an attractive, petite Asian woman with long hair.

If they make at least $150,000 a year, she'll go out with them, even though, she said, "Asian guys just don't do it for me. I don't know why. I've always been like that."

As soon as men in her preferred income bracket began expressing interest, "It changed from 'I'm definitely looking for something,' to, 'Wow, there are a lot of guys who are willing to spend a buttload of money on me,'" said Cindy.

At least twice a week she goes out with guys who offer to pay for her dinner, dropping an average of $150 to $250 on each date. It's a fancy lifestyle for someone who currently earns less than $30,000 a year in a clerical job.

Her other friends who date online often split the bill, Cindy said, but that's because they don't create an aura of mystery.

When a guy contacts her -- and she said she receives several messages a day -- "no matter how interested I am, I always respond with a sentence or two that speaks to our common interest and another sentence that's super sassy with a wink at the end, and that's it."

And when it comes to one's profile, specific is always best, she said.

"It's like writing an admission essay."

She doesn't go on more than three dates with the same guy, warding off physical advances by telling her suitors she doesn't like handholding on the first or second date. Then she tells them she's open to that -- "once I really trust someone."

"They think, 'As long as I get past the first date part, there's this plethora of affection,'" she said.

After spending lavishly, "You'd think a guy would try to kiss you or get something back," she said. "I have yet to hold hands or let someone put their arm around me."

One time a guy did ask her to split the bill. That was not received well, she said.

"I just looked at him, in such shock," she said. "And he was like, 'Oh, or you could just get it next time.' Mentally I was like, 'No, never again, this guy is crossed out.'"

Cindy said sometimes she feels guilty and has "internal conflict" when she accepts a date with a wealthy guy who is, in her mind, only remotely attractive.

Jennifer Gibbs, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University who studies online dating, said these kinds of tactics can only go so far.

"In New York, people see the same people. The online dating community is more close-knit than you may think," she said. "If you are being deceptive like that and just using people for free meals, it will sort of come out."

And as relationship writer Kimberly Neumann said, "There's no such thing as a free dinner when you consider all the time investment."

Getting to the point where you agree to go out with someone usually takes "at least three emails back and forth and sometimes a phone conversation," she said, not to mention the time involved in the dinner itself.

Neumann equated it to "instant gratification."

"Even Carrie Bradshaw and her gang had some time in there where they weren't having cosmos every night at Butter," Neumann said.

As for Cindy, she said as long as she hasn't found Mr. Right, she may as well keep having a good time.

"It started off as really legitimately looking for someone and it kind of evolved," she said. "I'm not really finding anybody [to date long term] but these guys are offering me these dinners that I would not be able to afford in my life -- not until I'm middle aged, and it would have to be a special occasion.

Then it became, 'Oh, why don't I have some fun.'"