The act of trading sexual favors for non-sexual favors: Having sex with someone who you wouldn't want to have sex with "for free", or pretend
that you wouldn't have sex with "for free", in exchange for work, gifts, or similar. The whole thing may or may not be portrayed and/or perceived as really
being a form of prostitution.
This trade is usually a heterosexual affair with Alice trading the sex and Bob trading the services, and thus we use the names that way. However, it can just as well be the other way around (with Adam trading the sex and Beatrice trading the services) or between two or more individuals of the same gender.
This trade may be portrayed in a neutral manner, or it may portray either Alice or Bob as more or less a victim of the other. In either case, the act is often closely related to at least one other trope.
Neutral versions (As in, they are either equally good or equally bad)
"Unlucky sex-trader" versions
- Entitled to Have You: Bob just keep nagging her about sex that she doesn't want, until she finally give in with an "okay, but at least do something for me as well". Alternatively, he does something for her first, and doesn't reveal until afterwards that the help actually came with a price tag.
- Sexual Extortion: Sure, Alice is the one taking the initiative, but what choice do she really have if Bob is the only source of the medication her dying child needs, or whatever. (In regular Sexual Extortion, Bob pushes An Offer You Can't Refuse on Alice.
- Manipulative Bastard: Bob weasels his way into Alice's bed with promises he never intends to keep and might not even be capable of keeping.
- Drugs Are Bad: Alice is addicted and will do anything to get her fix.
"Unlucky services-trader" versions
- A Man IS Always Eager: Alice uses this to get whatever she wants.
- Manipulative Bitch: Alice makes sure to make eager Bob believe that he's getting sex, but she has no intention of going through with her end of the bargain.
- Bastard Girlfriend: Alice gets poor Bob all worked up, and makes sure to to keep him frustrated in a way designed to delight the audience.
- Henpecked Husband: They are married, and Alice uses "withholding sex" as a means to make sure that she have all the power in the relationship.
"Portrayed either way" versions
- Casting Couch: Actress Alice has to sleep with producer Bob to get the role. This is a Sub-Trope of Sex for Services, rather than a separate trope that can be used to portray it.
- Compensated Dating: Alice is dating Bob, who she probably wouldn't be interested in if he didn't give her so cool stuff.
For all of these variants, Alice is normally not a sex worker. Contrast Platonic Prostitution
, where Alice is
a sex worker and they don't
- In Preacher, Cassidy used to be a junkie. In one flashback scene, he is giving oral sex in exchange for some drugs... and then beats the living shit out of his girlfriend for catching him in the act.
- In the Swedish comic Elvis, the titular character often falls prey to the Henpecked Husband variant, with Elvis having to do all kinds of chores and concessions in return for the rare marital intercourse with his wife Hedvig. Also reversed (but still with Hedvig as the abuser) with a Played for Laughs case of the Sexual Extortion variant: Elvis is desperate for a new PlayStation, and Hedvig forces him to dance like Chippendales for her before she allow him to buy it.
- In Morbus Gravis, the protagonist Druuna has to endure the Sexual Extortion variant: Her boyfriend is very ill, and in her desperation for medication she begs a disgusting old doctor to have sex with her.
- In Whatever Love Means, traditional gender roles (man works, woman is housewife) are portrayed as effectively forcing women into a kind of prostitution. This is portrayed as destructive to both genders.
- Deadpool bought his friend Outlaw a new place after her old one was wrecked in a fight with The Punisher. She ends up doing this. Deadpool tells her that she doesn't have to, but she does anyway.
- In Chicago, Roxie comes up with a plan to use a fake pregnancy as a moral weapon against a possible death penalty. In her words, "I would just like to say that my own life doesn't matter now. It's just that of my unborn child." She's put up for medical inspection of course. She uses sex to convince the doctor to back up her story.
- In Duets, Suzi Loomis often uses sexual means to fund her cross-country trip, including a scene in which she needs to get a new paint job for a stolen car.
Suzi: "Sir, we're a little bit short on cash at the moment, but I would consider it an honor and a privilege to suck your dick."
- In Forrest Gump there is a rather loose variation.
Hancock: "Your mama sure does care about your schooling, son!"
- In My Life In Ruins, the man at the counter at the hotel offers Georgia this option in exchange for postage, but she's mortified.
- Perhaps the most triumphant example occurs in the film Dangerous Beauty, in which Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco has sex with King Henri III of France in exchange for French naval support in Venice's war against the Turks. After one night with her, he returns to his royal barge to leave the city, sits down very gingerly on a cushion, and tells the Doge "You'll get your ships." The entire Venetian crowd cheers wildly. Talk about doing your patriotic duty.
- Discussed in The American President when President Shepherd's election opponent implies in a talk show appearance that his girlfriend, a lobbyist, may have traded sexual favors for votes. Shepard calls him out on this specifically in a literal "The Reason You Suck" Speech at the end of the film.
- In Frasier, Bebe subtly insinuates that she will become Frasier's agent again if he sleeps with her. ("I'm just talking about having a little fun. After all, when I'm having fun, I'm happy. When I'm happy, I work harder. When I work harder, you become famous and powerful. Isn't that what you want? Fame and power?") He tries to bluff her by subtly enticing her with the possibility of sex, since he notes that she loves the chase, enough to make her want to take him on again in order to pursue him. He fails, badly, as a freak collision of coincidences makes her seem so much like the devil that he loses his head and runs screaming.
- In Mad Men, Joan does this with much angst in the episode "The Other Woman."
- Hanna's mother engages in this do get her out of shoplifting charges in the pilot of Pretty Little Liars.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harmony asks her ex-boyfriend, Spike, to shelter her when she assumes that Buffy is out to get her. (Harmony has sort of an unrealistic view of how much Buffy cares.) It takes Spike a bit of sarcastic hinting before she realizes what he wants in return. Her response is basically "oh, sure, whatever."
- Subverted in the official video for Madonna's song Material Girl: Madonna's character let the rich men buy her all kinds of expensive stuff, using their competition with each other over her as her convenient excuse to not kiss any of them - eventually sneaking off to kiss some guy who didn't try to pay her for it.
- In the official video for Studio Killers Ode to the Bouncer, lead singer Cherry has sex with a bouncer to get into a night club.
- An animal psychology textbook describe that this trope applies to some animals. For example, a male insect gives some food to the female, which generally takes 5-10 minutes to eat. This keeps the female occupied by eating, allowing the male to proceed.