Seeking Security: Students Being Paid as “Sugar Babies”

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SeekingArrangement, a website that allows users to pay for romantic encounters, is changing the way some college students make money. While most would choose to walk dogs or serve espresso, SeekingArrangement offers an alternative source of income in exchange for paid dates. The website has a membership of over one million college students and has proven to be a tool for those looking for quick money.

 

For those unfamiliar with the site, it is not unlike Tinder or other online dating tools. You create a profile, add a picture and write a bio. But there is one small difference. You ultimately choose before you complete your profile if you want to be a sugar baby or a sugar daddy. The sugar daddy is the one that provides money to the sugar baby in exchange for companionship and sometimes sexual favors.

 

Two USF students offered their own experiences as sugar babies on SeekingArrangement. Both students requested anonymity.

 

“…It was wonderful.”

 

John (a pseudonym), who is a junior media studies major, found SeekingArrangement after hearing about the site from his brother’s friend. John ended up making a sugar baby account and met up with Ken, a sugar daddy, in the Marina on the night of the 2016 election. After a sexual encounter, John didn’t expect to be paid, but Ken insisted. “He gave me $150 that night, which was fine with me,” said John.

 

Over the course of three interactions, John would end up receiving a total of $400 from Ken. “It was wonderful. Practically prostitution, I guess,” John reflected.

 

Over the course of ten months, John would interact with five men on SeekingArrangement, and estimates that he earned between two and three thousand dollars. Sometimes he was taken out to dinner. Other times he was bought drinks at bars. The dates consistently included sexual acts. In one instance, John was offered five thousand dollars per hour. “That’s a lot, especially for someone like me in college and broke,” John said. He wasn’t attracted to that sugar daddy, so he declined the offer.

 

 

Did John feel SeekingArrangement’s users were exploiting his financial situation? “Not on purpose,” John said. “But, like, exploits the fact that we’re looking for money? Yeah. There are people out of college who still use it I’m sure,” he said. “But, I think the primary age of people that I’ve seen are like…18 to 24. Yeah, that little in-between stage when you’re learning how to be independent, and you’re like, ‘oh my god, I need support.’”

 

“I don’t feel ashamed about it.”

 

Another USF student, a junior media studies major named Lindsey (a pseudonym), found SeekingArrangement while scouring YouTube during spring semester of her sophomore year. Her first interaction was with a sugar daddy named David in his mid-50s, who she recalled was an owner of a construction company. The two went out to dinner at Fogo de Chão, an upscale Brazilian steakhouse in SoMa.

 

“The conversation was really, really normal. He was asking me what I do, where I go to school where I’m from. I made up everything because I didn’t want it chasing back to me,” said Lindsey. After the dinner, David had a proposition. He would give Lindsey $450 on the spot, or $700 if she came home with him. She chose the $450. “That was all the money I needed at the time, and I just wanted it to be over,” she said.

 

Lindsey met with two more sugar daddies, including one in the summer when she was home in San Diego. They met four times, sometimes walking on the beach, other times cooking at the sugar daddy’s house.

 

Over the course of six months, Lindsey believes she earned approximately $3,000 between all the interactions, even though none of them included sexual favors. She said throughout the times she met with a sugar daddy, her primary motivation was to make money, either to pay a phone bill or fix her broken down car. Lindsey insists that SeekingArrangement is better than most jobs, and doesn’t affect her self-esteem. “…You know it’s easy, it’s not hard labor,” she said. “I don’t feel ashamed about it […] I wouldn’t judge anybody for it.”

 

Lindsey’s views differ from John’s when it comes to SeekingArrangement encouraging prostitution. “I didn’t do anything sexual. And I think I look at prostitution as something that is merely sexual and that has a lot of risks involved because of the negative stigma that gets attached to it,” she said. When it came to SeekingArrangement’s users abusing her financial situation, she felt the same as John. She mentioned how many of the sugar daddies had experience with college students, and that offering them money to continue going on dates with them was “like a dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit.”

 

Sugar Baby University

In response to claims of SeekingArrangement encouraging prostitution, Brieanne Christian, a representative from the company, was quick to dispel the idea. “SeekingArrangement in no way, shape, or form supports escorts or prostitutes using our website for personal gain. Profiles suspect of this usage will be addressed by the SeekingArrangement Misconduct Team and banned from our website,” said Christian, who also included a link to a blog post created by the company titled, “Four Differences Between Sugar & Prostitution.”

 

Christian acknowledged the site’s popularity among college students openly. “SeekingArrangement is a brand that appeals to users of all age groups, however, the college age group is most popular based on the many costs associated with earning a degree and starting a career,” she said. “With forty million Americans drowning in student loan debt at an average balance of $35,000, more students are seeking alternative means rather than take out crippling loans.”

 

SeekingArrangement even has a section of their website devoted towards sugar baby college students, called “Sugar Baby University.” There is a student debt clock, and a list of universities with the fastest growth rate in sign-ups. Temple University ranks number one, with San Francisco State University coming in at 17.

 

Featured Photo: Students are now using SeekingArrangement to make money from romantic encounters. John, a USF student who uses the site, searches for a meetup. RACQUEL GONZALES/FOGHORN

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