Is Being A Sugar Baby The Answer To The Student Loan Crisis?
If you don't look like money, he's not going to want to spend it on you.
It's an uncharacteristically cold and dreary day in Los Angeles when we meet up with Julia*.
She's everything you'd expect from a Bay Area girl and dressed perfectly for the weather: tall, beautiful, rocking a black leather fur-lined biker jacket and black-on-black everything.
She's confident and seems to know who she is, even at the young age of 20. That is clear from her agreeing to meet us and share her story with the world. Julia is also clear on what she wants and what she expects from a man as well... because she is a newfound Sugar Baby.
I was attracted to the idea of men who had busy lives and wouldn't lean on me too much for support... these men have their sh*t together, basically.
She's driven all night from Berkeley to join us in LA for the gathering of sugar babies, brought together by the wildly successful site, Seeking Arrangement.
The site, which caters to women looking for successful men and successful men looking to spread the wealth for $70 a month, launched in 2006. Its founder, Brandon Wade, says he was the site's very first customer.
I launched the website 10 years ago because I was having such a difficult time dating. I was shy. I grew up a really shy nerd, my mom would tell me 'study, focus on your school, don't worry about the women and some day you'll be successful and generous and women will flock to you.'
My concept of love has sort of changed over the years. I'm quoted as saying, 'love doesn't exist,' or 'love is invented by poor people,' and in a way it's true because the love at first sight, the infatuation sort of love, the ones that make you tingly on your spine, that doesn't really exist. That's not real love. Real love is grown by being completely honest with someone and being happy with them.
To date, the site claims to have more than 5 million active members. One million of those members are said to be sugar mommas and daddies looking to pair up. About 40 percent of them are also reportedly married.
The marriage part, however, has gotten at least one sugar daddy in serious trouble. In 2014, one "daddy" was murdered by his alleged Seeking Arrangement baby.
As CNN reported of the crime,
Authorities say [Alix] Tichelman gave [Tim] Hayes an injection of heroin and then, as he began to die, she sipped her wine, gathered her belongings and walked away.
Two months before Tichelman's death, Hayes' previous boyfriend also died of an alleged heroin overdose.
And while the idea of being a side chick may not sound appealing to most women, it's exactly what others are looking for.
Watching the women file into the Seeking Arrangement event is more akin to a fashion show than conference. The women all look dressed to impress, many wearing Christian Louboutins, which are apparently quite popular among the sugar baby crowd. The shoes, which range anywhere from $600- $30,000 are one of the most popular gifts many babies receive from their daddies.
But what is even more remarkable than the outfits are the women themselves. Most do not appear to be desperate for a man to help them out of debt or solitude. Most are here to learn about their very serious business.
In fact, one of the speakers, Candice, says her sugar daddies (plural) paid not only for her law school education at Villanova, but also continue to pay her rent and provide her with a regular allowance.
Looking at Candice, it's easy to see why men would want to be around her. While petite, her confidence greatly outweighs her tiny frame. Speaking to her makes it all the more clear that Candice, like Julia, knows exactly what she's doing and appears to have never had a second thought about it.
None of the arrangements that I've had have ended on bad terms or anything. Everyone is pretty mature about things and that's what makes having an arrangement different than a typical dating arrangement where things may go up in flames.
And remember, all this extra cash is off the books, as receiving gifts of cash and goods remains tax-free in the United States. It's up to the daddy what he declares to the IRS.
But, as the women speaking at the conference can also attest to, not all daddies are ready to part with their cold, hard cash in the form of an allowance. So what do they advise the women to do to earn a little something? "Be their vacation," Candice tells the ladies.
Another speaker, JeaneMarie, adds, "You don't want to be a brat. You don't want to be entitled."
All the ladies, however, do agree that one thing women can be is assertive in seeking an arrangement. JeanMarie explains, it's OK for women to make the first move, even in a dynamic like a sugar baby/daddy relationship. She tells the ladies to message first saying,
I'm interested. I want to meet you. We both like wine. Let's do this.
She adds that it's also important to be your sexiest self, however,
Sexy is different to everyone. Confidence is sexy.
When one woman in the crowd asks if it's OK to lie about your age, JeaneMarie seems almost shocked at the notion that older, successful, possibly married men would only be interested in some pretty young things.
There is no age. A Lot of guys on the site tell me 'you're too young.' There is no such thing as too young or too old.
There isn't, so long as you are "adding value to someone else's life." And that value comes at the cost of the babies not really ever being in control of the entire relationship. The only thing they can control is using the daddy for maximum personal gain, whether that be financial or otherwise.
And like Candice, many sugar babies are in it for an education. As Seeking Arrangement explains,
College Sugar Babies receive an average $3,000 per month allowances and gifts from Sugar Daddies. Don't waste precious study hours at a minimum wage job. Connect with generous benefactors on SeekingArrangement.com.
That average monthly allowance equates to "earning $20,920 more than a student working full time at the federal minimum wage."
To date, the site claims more than 2 million college students have signed up to start sugaring. Those babies who do have "benefactors" also reportedly spend 36 percent of their allowance on tuition, 20 percent on books and 23 percent on rent, with the rest split up on clothing and "other."
The fastest growing schools, according to Seeking Arrangement, are New York University, Arizona State, University of Texas, Temple University and Kent State.
Still, even with helping millions of women receive an education debt-free, the site and concept have many detractors.
Joanne Belknap, ethnic studies professor at CU, recently told the Pioneer Press,
You have the huge power imbalance with gender, age, class and sometimes race. Are they consenting, or is this just, 'I really need to get a college degree, and I can't do that working at Starbucks a few hours a week.' Yes, legally, they're adults, but it just seems highly exploitative to me.
However, Belknap did pull back a bit on her critique of the sugar profession, remarking on how unfair life already is for women.
I don't want to blame the women because I feel like it is a way to get a college education, which I feel really strongly about. We live in a culture where women are paid so unfairly compared to men. It's not surprising that women would do this when you think of the level of sexual harassment women have to put up with at their jobs that pay a lot less. It's a sad state of where we're investing money in this society.
This very concept is exactly why the next speaker, Jordan, entered the sugar baby world.
"It's revolutionized and changed my entire life. I am so happy. I feel so empowered," Jordan says adding,
This, finding out about Seeking Arrangements, finding out about the sugar baby lifestyle, really opened up opportunities and possibilities for me to be in the diver's seat.
And it's not like Jordan can't make it on her own. As she says, she's currently attending Yale, is running for congress and hosts her own Facebook reality show. For her, it appears, it's just about getting even and getting what women deserve.
For our baby, Julia, it isn't about education, clothes or even really money. As she explains several times throughout the day, she's really just looking for a mentor to help her reach her goals.
"For me, it's not 100 percent about money," Julia says, "I want to feel comfortable."
You want to have a genuine connection, that's kind of what I'm looking for as well. You can't just offer me money. I think that's what makes a difference between an escort. It's not a job for me. It's more, I'm attracted to successful people.
When asked if she ever feels ashamed of her mutually-beneficial relationship status, Julia says,
If you are comfortable with yourself and you feel you're respecting yourself then there is no reason to feel shame.
In the end, entering the "sugar bowl" isn't for everyone, as all the ladies explain. Before joining, you must consider what you want and how far you're willing to go to get it.
*Only first names are used in this article to protect the women's privacy.