Navigating the Sticky World of Sugar Dating

SCREENSHOT FROM SEEKINGARRANGEMENT.COM

SCREENSHOT FROM SEEKINGARRANGEMENT.COM

Let’s face it, courtship is rough. In the age of the iPhone and the growing social ineptitude of many of our peers, it is almost impossible to attract a mate without the aid of some form of internet matchmaker. In recent years, apps and websites such as Tinder and OkCupid have gained mass appeal and a great deal of the “internet dating is for losers” stigma has faded away faster than AOL chatrooms. However, lately, there has been a new trend amongst the interweb for people looking to do more than to just narrow their search results by income level in OkCupid, it’s called “sugar dating.”

Sugar dating is a controversial new internet phenomena promoted by websites such as SeekingArrangement.comsugardaddie.com, and mutualarrangements.com. The most popular of the above mentioned is SeekingArrangement.com which bills itself as “the leading Sugar Daddy dating site where over 3 million members fuel mutually beneficial relationships on their terms." These mutually beneficial relationships are generally between that of older wealthy men (the daddies) and young attractive women (the babies). There are options for people of both male and female (sorry no gender neutral option) to sign up as either a daddy or a baby, however heteronormativity and tired gender roles do ensue. Less than one percent of the site’s members are actually sugar mommies. Two thirds of the sites memberships are babies, one third are daddies. The daddy benefits may come in the form of an allowance, the payment of student loans, shoes, expensive dates, cars, or some even claim, mentorship. The baby benefits can be in the form of mere companionship or a more “intimate relationship” i.e. fucking.

Critics of sugar dating bash it as a “socially acceptable” form of prostitution. Many sugar dating sites attempt to squelch this idea as much as possible. As a staunch third-wave feminist and a supporter of sex worker rights in every form, I felt that even if this was merely a form of legalized prostitution, for the sake of journalistic wealth and social curiosity, I would be alright with it.

THE HUNT

I set up a premium membership (which is free for sugar babies, and $49.94/ month for the daddies). I kept my description short and sweet, partially out a desire to keep myself elusive and mysterious, but mostly out of laziness;  “A 21 year old senior at an all girls school seeking excitement and adventure.” Something about being at an “all-girls school,” made me that much sexier, not sure why. Plus, many of my suitors were probably around when this was true. Under the “What I’m Looking For” section I wrote: “New experiences! I don't care about fancy things. I'm also of course looking for someone who is funny and down-to-Earth and can hold a decent conversation.” I’m not swayed by Prada heels, but I will accept four hundred dollar vegan dinners, just saying. Ya girl needs to eat. 

Not soon after I entered my sentence-long description, I was bombarded from messages from interested daddies. I have a feeling it had more to do with the revealing pre-rave sports bra clad photo from when I was 18 and still cute and little to do with my overwhelming intelligence.  

Many of my suitors were not shy about flat out asking for sex in exchange for money. To which I kindly responded that I was not a prostitute and I hoped they drowned themselves in a steaming vat of shit (Nothing against prostitutes. I respect any woman who works hard for her money – however, that was clearly not the angle I was going for). However lots of them just seemed legitimately lonely, pathetic really, looking for companionship in the form of finance. Many of them stressed that we could share an intimate evening “based on mutual attraction.” As if the “allowances” and “shopping trips” had nothing to do with it. One potential sugar momma contacted me, a 45 year-old gym Barbie, newly divorced and stoked on the kinkier side of life. She had a laundry list of demands and proclaimed NOT TO BE FOR THE FAINT AT HEART. Unfortunately, I don’t think I met the very high bar. 

I had a good thing going with one guy who offered me $200 for our initial meet up and $500 if it turned into “a night of romance based on mutual attraction.” I figured the $200 wouldn’t be so bad to go to a bar and laugh at some Wall Street tool’s bad jokes and disposable income. However, he insisted on only taking me out to “high-end strip clubs.” While the thought of being surrounded by a bunch of rich, drunk, horny, white, middle-aged men might be a once in a lifetime experience, I had to pass. 1 a.m. on Wednesday nights is generally past my bedtime. 

I found my match made in Heaven with Rick*, a balding, portly, middle-aged divorcée, whom renovated celebrity’s homes for a living. According to his profile, his net worth was $4 million and he made $500,000 yearly, I could dig it. He didn’t offer me any money for the initial meet-up and legitimately seemed to be on the site to meet someone who was interested in having a meaningful relationship, in which he would cover all the costs coincidentally. Although, I was hoping to make a quick buck with this little social experiment, the deadline was getting closer, and he seemed a lot more sane than any of the other guys on the site whom had treated me like a vending machine, hoping to put in some spare change and get back a blowjob. We shared an interest in travel and Korean food, so I figured the date would at least be tolerable.

THE DATE

I met Rick at the lobby of the Ace Hotel for drinks. The crowd was young and hip- composed more so of young professionals than sugar daddies, but who am I to judge? I was oddly nervous, and the first thing I said to him was “Are you Hillary?” He laughed it off, shook my hand, then offered to get me a drink. At first I said beer, then quickly realized that this would be my first – and perhaps only – opportunity to order a $20 cocktail. 

“I’ll have the fig sour, two of them,” I said, anxious to grasp every low-hanging fruit of sugar dating that I could. 

The conversation was essentially quite dull, and unsurprisingly centered around him. I heard mostly about his young son, his fears of placing him in a “socio-economically diverse” public school and what a bitch his ex-wife was. I asked him how his experiences with sugar dating had gone thus far. He admitted that I was the youngest girl he had ever met on the site and the fact that I had armpit hair fascinated him. Apparently he dug my “naturalist essence,” whatever that means. I took another shot, I figured I would need it and he picked up the tab as expected.

When we moved on to dinner. He was quick to order a bottle of Korean rice wine with a 20% alcohol content. I made it clear that I had a class in the morning and would have to make it back around 11 PM. He accepted this, but showed a bit of disappointment. I requested that we opt for a tofu stew, rather than the typical Korean barbecue fair because I was a vegan- to which he responded, “So…do vegans eat fish?” This is a man who is making a six figure salary. I repeat, a six figure salary. We continued discussing our previous subjects. He told me mostly about his houses, one in LA, one in Malibu, one in the Hamptons. And then went on to say how Chelsea had become too bourgeois and he was hoping to move to Greenpoint, because “it had more soul.” Rich people literally fascinate me. 

Overall, throughout the night I felt that he was far more awkward than predatory and more in search of deeper companionship than simply a young hot girl to be seen with. He challenged a great deal of my preconceptions regarding sugar daddies, and exceeded a few of the others in a lot of areas. At the end of the night, he bid me goodbye, handed me some cash for transit and put me in a cab. I left feeling tipsy from the rice wine, pleased with my courage, and strangely sad for him. I pictured him trotting back to his empty High Line apartment in his Nikes and button down shirt, getting a call from his ex- wife, arguing about his son, taking another shot of whiskey, passing out alone and waking up at 8 a.m. the next day to do it all again. 

DECOMPRESSION

As my previously mentioned sugar momma insinuated, I feel that sugar dating is certainly not for the faint at heart. At the end of the day, trying to please men whom I would quite honestly rather crush under a bulldozer for a chunk of change is not my talent. I hate to admit it, but I’m a sucker for romance. I like to believe in a world where relationships are built on a shared understanding of one another and a legitimate attempt to feed each other’s souls and become the best possible version of yourself – not on a number in a bank account or shoes, or credit cards, or expensive lingerie. To the strong women out there who are using sites like these either to pay off their loans or to get a new set of boobs: more power to ya! Hopefully one day we can all get what we’re after, whether it’s love, companionship, riches, or a free cocktail that is worth $20. At the end of the day. the world is just as mixed up as it ever was – the internet is just more explicit proof of that. 

By Hillary Bernhardt ‘15

*Name has been changed in order to ensure privacy. 

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