Sugar babies on the rise
When a university student runs out of money there are a few things they can do – get a job, beg their parents to bail them out, qualify for a scholarship, or find their way into Centrelink’s good graces. But now, there’s another option for the povo student: find a Sugar Daddy.
A growing number of students are turning to Sugar Daddies to fund their education. They are ‘Sugar Babies’: young women (mostly) who have relationships with older men in return for gifts and an allowance.
Most of this ‘sugaring’ is facilitated through websites. For a monthly fee, Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies (as well as the occasional Sugar Mummy) can post a profile, make contact with other users and set up meetings, just like a more traditional dating website.
The key difference – apart from the fact that, according to Seeking Arrangement, 41 per cent of Sugar Daddies are married – is that on their profiles, Sugar Babies are required to include measurements, a ranking of their attractiveness, what they’re up for, and how much they expect to be paid; the Sugar Daddies are required to post their net worth and how much they’ll invest in their new special friend.
It may sound unbelievable, but it’s not as marginal as you might think. Seeking Arrangement, the largest Sugar Baby website in the world, currently has 2.7 million members, including more than 125,000 users in Australia.
It is a practice that is booming in universities. The University of Sydney has the dubious honour of having the largest number of Sugar Babies walking its hallowed halls, and Seeking Arrangement boasts 42,000 student Sugar Babies in Australia and more than 1 million worldwide.
Leroy Velasquez, the PR manager of Seeking Arrangement, says that the arrangements are so popular because so many students are struggling to cope with rising tuition costs.
“The under-privileged have student grants, the over-privileged have their parents, the intelligent have scholarships, but what about everyone else? So this is an alternative way to help fund their education,” he says.
He adds that while many people respond to the concept with suspicion, Sugar Baby arrangements are “just a modern twist on something that has existed forever”. Velasquez argues that all relationships are “mutually beneficial” (a phrase Seeking Arrangement has trademarked), but that with Sugar Baby/Sugar Daddy relationships, the benefits are just pointed out more explicitly.
“When these people meet on the website, we tell them to be upfront and honest about what they desire, what they seek in these arrangements…The fact that there is money spoken about so directly is the reason why there are critics saying, this is just prostitution… [But] we believe that this honest approach is the modern take on online dating,” he says.
Seeking Arrangement reports that there are eight Sugar Babies on the site for every Sugar Daddy, and anecdotally it seems that arrangements last on average only a few months.
The company also reports that on average a Sugar Baby will receive $3,000 per month. However, when Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies talk about the reality of things, they point out that this figure is somewhat inflated.
“$3K median sugar is a fantasy,” writes one Sugar Daddy on an online forum. “My guess (based on some experience) is around $2K.”
Other Sugar Babies talk of less formal arrangements – a hundred dollars slipped into their jeans pocket after an afternoon in a hotel room. Others don’t get any money at all, but settle for a fancy dinner date and some gifts. Apparently these girls can get quite a bit of business on the websites.
“A girl who just wants to be treated well but doesn’t care about allowance can do really well. Just make sure you actually receive those gifts before you put out. Many a man who promises Prada will poof after sex, and you’ll be left NOT holding the bag,” one older Sugar Baby writes on a Seeking Arrangement forum.
Sex is an expected part of a Sugar Daddy/Sugar Baby relationship – it is often, as least partly, what the men are paying for. But Velasquez insists: “It’s not just money for sex. Obviously sex is something that men aspire to, but it’s not expected. It’s not like ‘here’s $3000 now have sex with me’. That’s not how it works on the website.”
When pushed as to what exactly the difference is between sugaring and prostitution, Velasquez says: “The difference is that here there is a relationship. Prostitution is transactional in every sense. [With sugaring] there needs to be chemistry, there needs to be a relationship, these two people are engaged in something that grows and prospers.”
For some, that seems to be the case. Velasquez says that every year Seeking Arrangement receives invitations to dozens of weddings of couples who have met on the website. And some relationships do develop into something more.
“I haven’t felt as bittersweet as when my first SB [Sugar Baby] moved back East to take her six-figure engineering job, or when she called to tell me she has met the man of her dreams and they were engaged. This was a girl that when I met her was inches from choosing to be homeless or escorting,” wrote one Sugar Daddy on an online forum.
But some stories are less sentimental. Such as this brutally honest self-assessment from Sugar Daddy, Ricklad101, also writing on a Seeking Arrangement forum:
“I primarily use the sugar for three objectives, 1. date average girls I date in IRL [in real life] with less time and energy. 2. The main reason is to date girls who are above average and super hot that I could never date IRL, these are the girls I spend 400-750 [dollars] per meet for, not average girls. 3 get average and hot girls to do kinky and sexual things they wouldn’t do if an allowance was not involved.”
Velasquez hinted that Seeking Arrangement was planning an advertising blitz in Australia in the next year or so, and so the amount of ‘sugaring’ on our streets could increase even further. So whether you call it ‘sex, fun, and perks with out any of the hard work’ (as Seeking Arrangement promotes on their website), or just prostitution under a different name, expect to see more sugar on campus.
Kate Lyons is University of Sydney Alumni and writes for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Daily Life. She is a former a former editor of student publication, BULL, and blogs at katelyons.net.
Photo: Liam Cameron, University of Western Sydney