When College Students Turn Sugar Babies

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What young woman doesn’t dream of being taken out in style – with dinners at some of the fanciest restaurants and vacations in private islands. For college students who have the assets like youth and sexual attraction, finding an older, successful man can not only guarantee a luxurious lifestyle, but also a more practical purpose of paying tuition fees and even a professional godfather perhaps. It is for this reason that the trend of college students turning into sugar babies is becoming increasingly common even though this like any other personal equation, has its own pros and cons.

The practice is known as 'sugar' dating where college students find a wealthy, older partner who is interested in both dating them as well as giving them a monthly stipend. Though the arrangement typically involves a mature gentleman known as ‘sugar daddy’, who may even be married, and a younger woman or 'sugar baby' sometimes it may even a young college-going guy and an older richer woman known as 'sugar mommy'.

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Among the most popular resources of sugar dating is the internet where a plethora of sugar dating websites has surfaced. Within the subculture of such “sugar” dating websites, one of the best known is Seekingarrangement.com. The site claims more than a million worldwide members and has been profiled by numerous national media outlets, including ABC’s 20/201. College students make up about 40 percent of the Sugar Babies, according to Brandon Wade, founder and CEO of Seekingarrangement.com. When he compiled a list of the colleges that represented the biggest source of signups in 2011, three Florida schools were among the top twenty ; these included the University of South Florida at No. 7 with a total of 93 signups, followed by the University of Central Florida at No. 14 with 67 signups and finally South Florida’s own Florida International University at No. 20 with 59 signups. While New York University occupied the No. 1 spot, even the haloed Harvard University figured among the top ten.

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Though sugar baby profiles on the website rarely list a specific college or university, Wade claims to be able to track them by the number of users who join with college-based “.edu” email addresses. In fact as college students have become a larger share of their customer base, sites like these have stepped up efforts to court this demographic through targeted advertising and other perks like free membership upgrades. The arrangement suits the students too since they qualify for certification as a “College Sugar Baby” on their profile and according to Wade, profiles with that official college certification receive three times as many inquiries from potential sugar daddies.

What about the people who sign up as sugar daddies on these sites? Most are successful professionals like financers and lawyers as well as rich businessmen and entrepreneurs who can afford to take out the nubile college students and also afford the steep membership fees at sugar dating sites. The men are usually well into their forties and more.

Expectations from both sides in this phenomenon of sugar dating vary widely. While some sugar baby profiles can be quite racy, others may specifically mention shared interests like travel and opera besides expecting help with tuition fees. Again some of the men may be looking for "arm candy" to accompany them to formal events while others may be angling for one-night stands. Most often the sugar babies are quite dollar-specific about what they are seeking from their wealthy dates – ranging from as much as $10,000 a month2, or more, to date a certain well-heeled man to  a more modest $100 to $500 per date. Sugar daddies, can expect to pay on an average $2,500 for membership at sugar dating sites but some are even willing to fork out $10,000 to $20,000 per month to date younger women who want to be supported financially in exchange for their companionship.

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But then "companionship" could mean different things to different people. The term is not necessarily a euphemism for a sexual relationship; some sugar babies, though, say sex is part of the deal. More often, according to these young women, sex isn’t part of the given nor is it tied to the money. It usually varies from one guy to another – some may simply put in an envelope containing money when his date is not looking while another may ask a circumspect question about her needing anything else. Most sugar babies let it be known that while sex is not part of their expectation, it isn’t out of the question either.  

Little wonder then that according to critics, sugar dating is little more than thinly veiled prostitution. However sugar dating sites reject the notion they functions like a glorified escort service — escorts, in fact, are specifically barred from joining. Even then membership is strongest in big cities, as opposed to college towns as would be expected if strictly college students line up to become sugar babies. At the same time, the trend could be due to the higher cost of living in metropolitan areas, or the more-sizable supply of wealthy Sugar Daddies living there.

The main reason why so many college students are attracted to sugar dating is surely skyrocketing tuition costs even as governments proceed to slash subsidies on education. Every year, colleges raise their course fees which leave many students grappling to meet expenses; even after maximizing their education loan limit, more than a few find it necessary to work two or even three part time jobs to fend for themselves. At the end of the day, they are exhausted, unable to study for their courses and no nearer to meeting their expenses. Such students find the option of sugar dating an appealing one. The sugar daddies are not complaining either. Most of them believe it is a win-win arrangement - to help somebody and give them a better life and in turn, experience the joys of a fun, no-strings attached relationship that may not be possible otherwise.

On the face of it sugar dating seems remarkably similar to dating in the real world – in both financial position of the male partner and his capacity to spend on a partner are important considerations however the distinguishing characteristic of a sugar baby-sugar daddy relationship is that the financial component is the focus of the relationship.

Reference:

  1. ABC News - Aspiring Musician Becomes 'Sugar Baby' to Pay for Tuition
     
  2. The Miami Herald - ‘Sugar Babies’ seek friendship … and help with tuition