Don’t have money to pay rent? Would you like to live for free with a male roommate for free? If you’re a young female tenant looking for houses in Australia or New Zealand, free rent may just be an option for you. But as always, there is a price. Are you willing to pay it?
One of the male fantasies is the exercise of the power dynamic in sex. This can take many forms, some of them being intimate relationships between teacher and student, boss and secretary, and landlord and tenant. In reality, wherever such a power dynamic exists, which may force one party to accept to sex against their wishes, the solicitation of intimacy is considered illegal.
But recently, there has been a proliferation in Australia and New Zealand of landlords seeking ‘rent free’ tenants. What do they want in exchange? They want the tenants to take care of their ‘intimate needs’.
Websites such as craigslist are now awash with landlords in Auckland, Christchurch, Queensland and the Gold Coast posting ads of this sort. Some are brazen and open about what they want; others are more discreet, using language such as ‘harmless fun’ to couch their intentions.
Is it illegal?
Surprisingly enough, apparently not, as long as both parties consent to the agreement and the relationship stays within the bounds of a normal sexual relationship without abuse creeping in. But the main problem is that many of these ad posters target international students whose first language is not English, so unless the language used in the ad is straight and frank, they may have trouble understanding the landlord’s intentions.
The issue of consent
Wherever there is a situation of sex between two parties, there is always the issue of consent. For instance, a person whose first language isn’t English, when reading a ‘rent free’ ad, may jump at the prospect, not realising that the ad poster means sex when he says things like ‘fun’ and ‘movie night’. An unsuspecting tenant may take it literally and then be surprised when the situation arises. With the unexpected nature of such advances, vulnerable women may end up giving in because they’re aware of the power imbalance.
Sex, it is often assumed, happens between two parties who wield no power over each other. Of course, this is not true in any relationship, but whenever such a power imbalance is clear for everyone to see, such situations prohibit sex from being sought. Think of situations such as teacher-student, doctor-patient, boss-secretary where one party may give in to the other’s overtures just because they think they have to. However, for some reason, landlord-tenant sexual relationships have not entered the legal parlance.
The deeper argument
And of course, it all comes down to whether or not the oldest profession in the world – the exchange of sexual favours for resources, in this case shelter – is right or wrong. Though it divides people right down the middle, in countries like Australia and New Zealand, it is legal, therefore this could be argued as another form of prostitution. Taboo? Yes. Illegal or immoral? No.