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Sweet Dreams: Lifting the veil on sugar babies

Beatrice Smith

Until recently, sex and money have existed in black and white, the lines clearly drawn.

You’re cheating or you’re faithful. You’re engaging in sex work or you’re not. But with the rise of the Sugar Baby/Daddy dynamic, the lines are becoming blurred.

For the uninitiated, a Sugar Baby is someone of any gender identity who engages in a platonic, romantic or sexual relationship with a wealthy—usually older—Sugar Daddy or “Mommy” in exchange for favour, money or gifts. This will usually be a contractual agreement, with terms and amounts set before anything takes place.

For Regina*, a 22-year-old Canberra-based university student who was introduced to the lifestyle by a friend, becoming a Sugar Baby was first and foremost a pragmatic financial decision.

“It is the fastest way to make money in a short period of time. Though I have no intentions of this being my sole income, 
it alleviates financial struggles and permits more time to focus on my studies. Contemplating past questionable one night stands, I figured a lucrative one was more beneficial for all involved.”

Reading the experiences of Sugar Babies, this is a common logic. If you’re single and prepared to go on dates, send selfies and have one-night stands and receive nothing in return, why not create an agreement where you will?

“After learning of a friend’s double life 
I became intrigued,” explains Regina. “Another friend and I combed through copious movies on the topic, debating the pros and cons of jumping on the bandwagon. We imagined all the possibilities that came with such vast sums of money.”

For many Sugar Babies, engaging in conversation with their Daddies is truly a lowest effort to highest reward equation. In a first-person account called ‘Confessions of a Sugar Baby’ published in Australian National University student publication Woroni, student Phoebe* explained that she saw the arrangement as “an enticing solution” to fund her preferred lifestyle.

While the concept may seem foreign (and distinctly unenticing) to some, Regina says Sugar arrangements are far more common than you might think.

SeekingArrangement.com, the foremost website for ‘Sugar arrangements’ estimates five Canberra Sugar Babies for every Canberra Sugar Daddy, with both parties receiving an average of 13 messages per day. It also states that the average ‘allowance’ offered to Sugar Babies sits at just over $5,000 per month.

Regina has now been on SeekingArrangement.com for three years but says that she spent the first year only emailing her first ‘Daddy’ before they finally met in person. She describes him as “fascinating” and says they shared many similar interests.

“In comparison to sites like Tinder, those whom I have affiliated with are smart, accomplished men leading perfectly normal lives, engaging in occasional escapism.

“Above all else, the networking opportunities looked promising,” says Regina, adding that the men she spoke to were “very different from what I anticipated. [They] were respectful and interesting. We spent the majority of the time talking about anything from current affairs to personal interests.”

That being said, Regina currently only has one Daddy and has only engaged with two in total, describing her relationship with them as “friendly” as opposed to platonic, romantic or sexual.

“I have reservations and am rather selective with my choices,” she explains. “Whilst I haven’t had a bad experience, I also haven’t had many. I have been on the website for maybe three years now but use it sporadically and usually stick to the same person.”

As for what sort of ‘arrangements’ one could expect by becoming a Sugar Baby, gifts range from cash to designer clothes and accessories to cars and in Regina’s case, a fully funded overseas holiday.

“He kindly paid for a friend’s flights as well as I did not feel comfortable going alone,” says Regina.

“We met for approximately five minutes when he greeted me at the airport, only to hand over the agreed upon sum of money and say that he wasn’t feeling well. He sincerely apologised for the inconvenience and said he hoped to meet again another time. I never saw him again, but my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the vacation.”

While there are obvious differences between being an escort—whose clients are determined by a brothel or other employer—and a ‘Sugar’ arrangement where the stakes are agreed by both parties, there are also undeniable shades of grey.

If the act of engaging an escort is paying for sex, then what is paying someone for
a naked photo? Is it cheating if you’ve never met in person? Is it sex work if you’re simply going on a date with someone where sex is out of the question?

The Terms of Use section of SeekingArrangement.com explicitly forbids escorts or prostitutes using the website to solicit clients, but it is certainly the view held by many that Sugar Daddies are seeking a round-about way of paying for sex.

However, Regina would disagree with that stereotype.

“Most men are not seeking sexual interactions,” she asserts. “They simply want company; someone to go to the theatre with, to eat out with. Those that do use this as a full-time job enjoy the best money can buy. They live lavish lives whilst achieving what they desire academically.”

Regina explains that she doesn’t walk away from her interactions with her Daddies “feeling degraded”. Instead, she says it’s “somewhat empowering” and says she’ll most likely continue to be a Sugar Baby until she’s finished her studies.

So are Sugar Babies essentially escorts with long contracts? Not according 
to Regina.

“I think people foreign to the concept have an image of Sugar Babies not dissimilar to that seen in Pretty Woman,” she explains. “In reality, they are often intelligent women that see a market worthy of exploitation.”

However, Regina cautions that while the industry may be misunderstood, it’s neither perfect nor infallible.

“This industry can be easily glorified but it is one that should be entered with great caution. While I have not had an unpleasant experience, I am certain ones exist.”

She explains that she protects herself
 from these kinds of experiences by being open with friends about her activities and making sure they’re aware when she’s out with one of her Daddies.

“I am fortunate enough to have friends 
I can trust,” she says. “I tell them precise details of the person I am meeting, location etc. I have them on standby should anything go wrong.

“Even when I am meeting someone I have met before, I will ensure someone is aware. I think this is the most important part of these vices.”

* Names have been changed

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Home for Autumn 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author

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