The UKSugarDaddy.co.uk (which “pairs rich older men with attractive young ladies”) promises to help you “find your perfect arrangement faster and easier, be it a young, beautiful woman (sugar baby) that is craving for some love and attention, or a successful man (sugar daddy) able to love you, respect you and provide for you if necessary.”
Sugar daddy dating is not meant to involve the exchange of sex for money. Its websites go to great lengths to make out that the ‘arrangement’ is between two parties with equal decision-making powers, consensually trading financial support for emotional intimacy. It’s made out to be glamorous, safe and win-win for all involved and there’s often a hard sell directed towards younger, lower-income women who are lured in with hints of easy money and a glamorous lifestyle.
But the reality is often far different. And far darker:
The myth of equality
The mutual benefit of sugar daddy arrangements should never be confused with equality.
“The reality is that any relationship predicated on the exchange of money or material provision for sexual intercourse creates a dangerous power imbalance and is not a relationship at all.”Jake Roberson, National Center on Sexual Exploitation1J.Roberson, NCOSE (25.09.2019) The Dangers of Sugar Dating and Sugaring, Explained
If a wealthy, older man gives payment for a younger, lower-income woman, it stands to reason that she is in his debt. Of course, in return this man may simply want companionship. But people don’t ‘pay’ for friendship – the point is that, where there’s a genuine connection, the relationship is its own reward.
“…I couldn’t really talk about my personal problems because he had enough of that from his job and family. He hated whiners. So, when we hung out, I had to be like, ‘Oh! Everything is sweet in my life!’ It requires commitment.”Anonymous “Sugar Baby”2D.Emanuel, BuzzFeed, (27.01.21) 16 Eye-Opening Sugar Baby Testimonials
The ‘relationship’ in this context is in danger of being unnatural and superficial, that of the master / subject where the wealthy, older man is flattered and above challenge and criticism.
“Lots of people on there feel like they can say or do what they want. It is also often men who are really successful in their careers – some of them have done really well in their lives – and they think they deserve it. Some of them are so entitled. You would feel dirty after even just talking to them because they were just so horrible, sleazy and arrogant.”Zoe, on her Sugar Baby experience3M. Oppenhein, The Independent (26.12.2018) Student who did sugar baby work reveals dark side of university life
In reality, sugar daddy dating often involves a sexual element. Again, maybe just looking at the beautiful young woman, parading her as arm candy or presenting her as a ‘trophy’ in public is all the daddy wants in return – although let’s not pretend that this is ‘empowering’ for the sugar baby – or indeed, for women in general.4Reddit (2017) Scary “sugar daddy” encounter: LetsNotMeet
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
In the sugar daddy dating world, men get to set their own profiles and can create an illusion of charm, sex appeal and generosity and so women often complain that it’s almost impossible to tell whether the profile is accurate – or in fact whether the promises he makes will come good.
“With time you would realise that a lot of the men on that website were full of shit and were just lonely trying to get a quick date that didn’t make them feel like complete losers.”Anon, Reddit Forum5Reddit (2017) Scary “sugar daddy” encounter: LetsNotMeet
“In the end I ended up finding out that he was literally not who he said he was at all and everything he had given me was fake. When confronted, this nasty human being came out being extremely disrespectful and making it pretty clear that he never had a single ounce of good intention towards me.”Anon, Reddit Forum6Reddit (2017) Scary “sugar daddy” encounter: LetsNotMeet
Needless to say, not every sugar daddy will act the gentleman. Some (known as ‘Salty Daddies’) offer money for sex but never deliver. Others get a sense of power and entitlement from the gifts they give; wanting to get their money’s worth out of the exchange, they call the shots and feel justified in being pushy and coercive.
“He reminded me of the AmEx card and told me he was going to get what he paid for. In the end, he did. After he dragged me to his bedroom, he took what he wanted, and when it was all over he went to sleep. I spent the rest of the night on his couch cursing myself for being so stupid.”Alex Page, Former “Sugar Baby”7F.Chung, Sunshine Coast Daily (2.10. 2017)‘He dragged me to his bedroom’: Dangers of sugar babying
And ultimately, if the sugar baby wants to get paid, she’ll feel under pressure to give the man what he wants. Maybe she has bills to pay: college fees, rent and childcare bills, for example. Or maybe she simply feels indebted and doesn’t want to feel like she’s been ‘leading him on’. It’s hardly a surprise that stories of sugar babies who’ve been subjected to sexual harassment, assault, rape, sextortion and trafficking abound.8M. Oppenhein, The Independent (26.12.2018) Student who did sugar baby work reveals dark side of university life
Left high and dry
The entire business model of sugar daddy dating sites facilitates dangerous and exploitative situations which leave countless women injured, degraded or scammed. However, because all the details of the arrangements are left to the individuals involved, if anyone breaches the terms and conditions (which prohibit all sexual activity), the companies are often able to effectively wash their hands of the victims and refuse to offer support, compensation or even sympathy.
“Unlike in a licensed Nevada brothel, there is no legislation ensuring for the safety and health of the young women and men who connect via sugar dating websites. I learned the hard way that no one had my back as a sugar baby, and that I was totally alone and vulnerable without any industry standards or practices to support me.”Alex Page, Former “Sugar Baby”9F.Chung, Sunshine Coast Daily (2.10. 2017) ‘He dragged me to his bedroom’: Dangers of sugar babying
And unfortunately, because the public is deceived about the inherent harms of such arrangements, there is sometimes a wider lack of sympathy for the young, low-income individuals exploited through sugar daddy dating. They are often judged for being stupid or greedy, or as getting what they deserve for placing themselves in high-risk situations.
“If you are meeting men for money, they rarely want to just hold your hand. What did you think could happen?”Anon, Reddit Form10Reddit (2017) Scary “sugar daddy” encounter: LetsNotMeet
Sugar daddy dating is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among college and university students looking to finance their tuition fees or fund a high-end lifestyle. But it’s vital that we recognise that these arrangements are far from fun, safe and no strings-attached. As Jake Roberson, of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, observes: “the reality that is coming to light as a result of the increase in “sugar dating” is an ugly one filled with harassment, sexual assault, and the manipulation of financial arrangements in order to coerce unwanted sexual action — also known as rape.”11J.Roberson, NCOSE (25.09.2019) The Dangers of Sugar Dating and Sugaring, Explained