By Kirby Evans
Over 20,000 students in the UK are earning money from sugar daddies. This involves everything from a walk in the park, to dinner dates to weekends in Miami and everything in between. This number of students is increasing every year; last year alone it increased by 40%. To bring it closer to home; USW is the third biggest student base for sugar babies.
The concept of a sugar daddy-baby relationship is relatively simple. Often called an ‘arrangement’, in its most common and basic form, sugar dating consists of an older rich man dating a younger woman, and supplying her with an allowance alongside this. There are other more platonic and erotic versions of this. Some women merely go to dinner with a ‘daddy’ once a month and receive a hefty pay cheque, whereas others may be inclined to go on three hotel-bedroom-based dates each week. Some fall in love and marry. It’s a spectrum.
Although an area of controversy and divided opinions, given the number of students leaning towards sugar dating to fund their lifestyles, it suggests that either sugar dating isn’t the dangerous sex work that the media portray it to be, or that students are being subject to extortion and unfair fees.
One student from Cardiff, who chose not to be named has given a brief description of her time as a sugar baby. “I was struggling to balance bills, rent, food, socialising, transport and everything else the student life entails, and whilst I already work part time, it doesn’t cover half of my expenses. I wasn’t going to sacrifice my degree for the sake of working until 3 am every day, so I signed up to ‘Seeking Arrangement’. I created a profile, and pretty soon the offers came flooding in. My profile was clear and I stated I wanted something simple as I was apprehensive, and despite a few very odd messages, eventually a nice 38 year old Robert popped up. We chatted for a while and finally agreed occasional meets (dinner or a movie) for £50 a go, and all expenses paid for. The first few dates were fine, we had dinner or whatever; he seemed like a perfectly lovely guy who was clearly lonely and just needed some company. A few dates in he kissed me, and I was definitely taken aback. On the way back to my flat I mulled it over and decided it made me too uncomfortable, so I called it off, no hard feelings. I suppose ultimately, a level of physical connection is required in dating, and I hadn’t really thought about that. I’ve not since been on any more dates, but when my rent goes out next month I might log back onto my account.”
A story that is reasonably innocent, although as this student pointed out, dating often comes hand in hand with a level of intimacy; which may be why the BBC feels its ok to call sugar babies part of the sex industry. A tag that comes with connotations and criticism, likening sugar babies to prostitutes or escorts, a label that any sugar baby will most likely tell you is incorrect.
To some, free holidays and financial help are the payment for providing a service which is liberating and even empowering to them. And others may find they feel morally compromised or in situations they would rather not be in. And of course there is an extent to which meeting anyone over the internet is dangerous, whether it be for money or not.
With all of this being said, I can’t help feeling that if university fees weren’t so extortionate and accommodation wasn’t so expensive, then sugar dating websites wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular with students.