Mr. Nice Guy: “You are quite a distraction and a very sexy woman.”
London Gent: “Send pics.”
Adult: “I am impotent so I cannot have sex. But I am looking for a strong woman to use and control me.”
Poetic Desire: “Send pics.”
Ten minutes after creating a profile on SeekingArrangement.com, my inbox began to flood with messages from potential suitors in the greater London area. Millionaires suddenly wanted to wine and dine me, fly me to the Maldives, lick peanut butter out of my belly button while I flogged them over the back — all the while being good philanthropists by putting a poor girl through Cambridge.
What brought me to this site, one of the most notorious meeting places for wannabe sugar babies and parents seeking a “mutually beneficial relationship,” was more of a curiosity than a serious financial need. Still, with my vaguely presentable appearance, slightly above-incomprehensible conversation skills and charming alias “Normal Girl,” you could say I made for the perfect sugar baby. After reading that Cambridge University — where I was studying at the time — had the highest number of female “sugar” participants out of all UK schools, I needed to get in on this.
Sugar babies everywhere were boasting lavish vacations, a life free of debt, Fendi bags — even chinchilla fur! Needless to say, I let my fear of missing out get the better of me and signed my ass up. Yes, I felt morally questionable in stipulating my “financial expectations” (substantial to high) as well as for planning get-togethers with faceless internet randoms. My main concern in entering this mystical “sugarbowl” was the fear of being kidnapped and held for ransom by a pseudomillionaire based in Geneva with a vendetta against female 20-somethings.
Needless to say, the whole process was creepy as shit. Countless “winks” from Viagra-using retirees coincided with incoming video calls from Qatar and Bedford. For every seemingly decent human with modest intentions, there were five lecherous perverts to compensate. Of course, I agreed to be seen with the first bloke who offered me £500 for dinner in Mayfair.
It was both of our first times, and he spent the majority of the meal shaking and stammering with discomfort. He eventually warmed up after sake shots — my idea — to reveal that he was married with two daughters about my age. To my further chagrin, he ended with an offer to go back to his hotel for “sexual games.” I kindly refused, but I couldn’t help feeling deeply saddened by the whole experience — not to mention relieved at having avoided what could have been my first foray into prostitution. On the Tube ride home, I sobbed into a handful of cash that, by his standards, I didn’t deserve.
While the mental picture of a man’s wife and kids and the dangerously thin ethical lines I was straddling were more than a deterrent for future sugar-dating, I didn’t want to give up that easily. I figured there must be a reason (not just) women everywhere are subjecting themselves to what would seem like glorified prostitution. Just two years ago, in fact, UC Berkeley had one of the fastest-growing sugar-baby populations among U.S. universities. According to Seeking Arrangement, the site’s increasing popularity is mainly attributed to the ever-rising tuition rates of universities worldwide.
In light of ongoing scrutiny of the legitimacy and legality of sugar-dating practices, similar sites have attempted to market themselves to college co-eds as a means of financial independence: Having a sugar parent should supplement higher education and what is already a promising future. Unlike prostitution, the site claims, being a sugar baby is not a profession but a relationship “minus the proverbial noose of traditional dating.” This explanation seems fine on the legal front, but the reality is that being financially supported can indeed be a career goal for some.
Like any online dating site, the potential for legitimate chemistry is high. I won’t deny that sugar-dating facilitates what may already be the main goal of traditional dating for many people — its pragmatism perhaps being the main appeal. Coming from my own experience, though, I feel that there is something deeply wrong with entering any relationship on the pretense of commercial exchange.
Once potential daddies found out I was “not looking for sex,” I was instantly ignored. One person even scolded me, as “trying to make something off limits in a relationship only causes friction.” Thanks, “Rich&Bored.” After a while, I ended up finding a sugar daddy who seemingly fit the bill, so to speak. Tall, dark, French, Stanford: We went for ice cream at the St. Pancras Hotel. He must be a serial killer, I thought, too sexy to be normal. Actually, he was just married.
When I finally left England, I decided to put my sugar-daddy game to rest. While as exciting and glamorous as ever, I felt incredibly overwhelmed. Levying cash for company is a risky business, and it’s obviously not for everyone. So if you do decide to venture into the bizarre world of “sugar,” I highly suggest you do so out of curiosity over necessity. Being in a place of financial vulnerability is incredibly dangerous without knowing your limits, and no amount of money is worth compromising your personal integrity.