As new forms of relationships are becoming more easily accepted, the sugar world is being thrust into the mainstream.
It’s a warm afternoon and I’m sitting in Wholefoods, waiting to meet Lauren*. Lauren is a 19-year-old psychology student, and she’s also a part time ‘sugar baby’. She looks just like the photos on her profile, a girl-next-door type, and I don’t have any trouble in spotting her straight away.
A sugar baby is a term that’s drawn much attention in mainstream media. In return for gifts, which are most often money, the sugar baby will provide the ‘sugar daddy’ with intimacy. This intimacy can range from simple dates, all the way to sex, depending on what rules the sugar baby decides to set.
After a few weeks of texting back and forth with the sugar daddy, Lauren will arrange to meet up somewhere low-key, often a bar. Sometimes the sugar daddy fears he’ll see someone he knows.
“There was a lot of pretending that I did, it’s a pretty artificial type of relationship” Lauren admits, “They’re mostly men who are dissatisfied with their lives, dissatisfied with their wife, and just want someone to vent to”.
On Lauren’s first date as a sugar baby, she was shocked to meet a man whose profile photos were more than fifteen years out of date. She first expected to meet a dark haired, reasonably attractive man, but was greeted by a worn-out, pudgy 50 year old with greying hair. I naïvely expected these men to be Christian Grey types, just past their prime. These expectations were swiftly shattered, Lauren admits.
She listened to him talk about how disappointed he was with his life (Christian Grey broods and complains…), and his plans to leave his wife and child (Christian Grey has weird commitment issues…).
“He was a complete asshole”, she adds with a sigh (I was right, it is Christian Grey!).
Apart from venting, apparently it’s expected that the sugar daddy will attempt to angle for sex at the end of the date. Lauren makes it clear that she isn’t interested in having sex and she’s quick to label that as “glorified prostitution,” she tells me it’s not quite the same, as there’s an emotional element involved.
The core platform to the sugar baby industry is web service SeekingArrangement. According to the site, there are nearly 100,000 sugar babies, including 230 Monash students. 87 of these students signed up in 2016. SeekingArrangement is the key website dedicated to helping sugar daddies find their sugar babies. Membership for students is free, obviously to encourage their primary sugar baby demographic, in the age group of 21-27 year olds.
Everyday expenses, relentless bills and looming HECS debts are just a few financial drivers behind the average student’s attraction to the lavish ‘sugar’ lifestyle.
After having to move out of home, Lauren found it’s an incredibly lucrative way to make money fast. “It’s a useful source of income if you do find that you’re lacking in money, especially for people our age,” she said. When sugar babies can make several hundred dollars a date, it’s an undeniably attractive solution to money problems.
The sugar dating scene is much more straightforward than what you may expect, not resembling the current attitude towards strictly casual dating – no games to navigate, no risk of wasting your time.
Sugar babies have the power to “go after exactly what they want,” and consistently benefit, without risking their own priorities. “From the very first message you receive, it usually outlines what they’re after, and if our intentions don’t match up I don’t bother talking to them,” Lauren explained.
My own obvious dissatisfaction with the dating scene gets me wondering whether there’s a male sugar baby equivalent I should investigate for my own purposes… *Note to self, google it later*.
The sugar daddies seemingly hold all the power: they have the money and the age – using both to achieve arguably pornographic wish-fulfilment. But, both parties are consenting adults coming to an arrangement that aims to benefit one another. However, I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s a form of empowerment, like Lauren and many others believe, it’s strictly business.
As new forms of relationships are becoming more easily accepted, the sugar world is being thrust into the mainstream. Losing some mystery, but remaining undoubtedly thrilling to investigate what’s still such a secretive world.
Words by Nicolas Zoumboulis
Art by Cassie Stevens
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.