The Rise of Sugar Dating


The Rise of Sugar Dating

Sugar Dating is like sex work, but with the added layer of a real relationship, which can make ‘sugar babies’ vulnerable to manipulation.

When it was asked in a girls’ college if they were familiar with or knew someone who was “sugar dating”.

Every hand in the class went up, but the teacher had never heard of it. And sugar dating is probably still a pretty new concept for many teachers, guidance counsellors and parents.

For the unknown, sugar dating is a mutually beneficial relationship, where money or gifts are given in favour of sexual intimacy. “It’s a euphemism for commercial sex work. ‘Sugar Babies’, people who provide sexual services, often aren’t identified as sex workers, mainly due to the stigma attached to it. And the ‘Sugar Daddies’ will not accept that they’re in a relationship with sex workers.”

Vixen Temple, a 25-year-old stripper from Auckland who has been working as a sugar baby for two years, is familiar with the sentiments of sugar daddies. She said I’ve had sugar daddies tell me that they’ll happily have sex with me, but they had never considered going to a brothel and having sex with, in their words ‘one of those dirty whores.’

The idea of sugar dating always attracted Temple, and once she started stripping, she was frequently asked to meet up with her male clients after hours. She laughingly said that “I watched The Girls of the Playboy Mansion and I loved the idea of dating a Hugh Hefner type.”

And she found plenty of sugar daddies who were much older with wives, and ‘boomers’ in marriages where their love has faded out, she explains. Most of the daddies want sex but some of them don’t, and while the money is great, I have felt like an on-demand girlfriend who has to have her phone by her side in case a sugar daddy texts to meet up. She said sugar dating includes a lot of emotional labour!

Hanne Rachael who is 28, started sugar dating in 2017 and now has an online platform and Facebook group for sugar babies and other sex workers “The Slut Project 2.0.”

“Back then she was working in bars and mentally was not in a good place. If she didn’t get many hours in a week she would get anxiety, which would impact her showing up to work, it was rather a vicious cycle,” says Rachael. “So, she signed up on a site which everyone uses to sugar date.

Rachael says she dated this way for several years and enjoyed the different men she met. “A lot of the clients were respectful and a complete gentleman,” she said. They would take me on dinner, on holidays, and I have had experiences that I would have not experienced otherwise and I honestly enjoyed spending time with them. Some sugar daddies were older, but one of them was 24, the same age as me.

Both women have made arrangements that suited their individual needs – whether it is money (Temple says earnings can be around $1000 to $10,000 a week, with them often dating multiple daddies at once) or gifts or whatever you want. One man gave me access to his Uber password and I could travel anywhere and order any amount of food I wanted at his expense, says Temple. This job is not limited to what you can earn, and you are the one calling the shots. Now that I’ve experienced this lifestyle, I have never thought of working for minimum wage. I want a comfortable lifestyle.”

But the industry is not without risk. It’s the issue we have discussed on The Slut Project, Rachael says. Unfortunately, there are many men out there looking for girls who don’t know much and they can pay them less than they pay what they deemed a typical escort. There is a lot of predatory behaviour out there. I too have been scammed and not paid what I was owed, and was manipulated into having sex without a condom.”

Temple believes some sugar daddies think taking girls on elaborate dates is a “down payment” on sexual services they have received and they never communicated it. Or they think that one day you’ll fall in love with them and then they can stop paying you. This sort of manipulation starts with little comments that they don’t enough money this week and they’ll pay you next week. Or we have been doing this for a long time and I am starting to catch feelings for you.

And that manipulation is something everyone is concerned about. When there is an older person who has had life experience and plenty of disposable income and when they date a younger or more naive person, there occurs a power imbalance. Many issues are related to non-payment in exchange for the services received. Young people will easily trust their clients, and give them the service, but the money never comes through. The big issue is assault after girls refuse a specific sex act, there have been threats about rape, bankruptcy, and clients using the Consumer Guarantees Act as a threat to have sexual consent.

Sugar daddies often throw legal jargon and contractual law at young girls who have changed their minds about sexual consent, just to freak them out. Then they start to believe that if they have promised certain sexual activity in a text message, they’re bound to do it.

They most feel threatened by being exposed to their family. When the sugar baby doesn’t want to see the sugar daddy anymore, they can likely threaten to tell their parents or leak their sexually intimate images to them.

There are also the risks involved in meeting strangers for dating or sex, although Rachael says that it’s not greater than when you meet them on Tinder, Bumble or another dating platform. It is important to tell someone you trust about your whereabouts, what you’re doing and who you’re with,” she explains. “I’ve informed my family about my work, so I asked my mother if she wanted to use a tracking app. And lastly, always listen to your gut feeling, and walk away from the situation if something doesn’t sit right with you.

Temple has had the experience of being assaulted by a client. She says “Never compromise on your safety for a man. If one doesn’t work out, there will be 10 more waiting for you. And always use a condom.”

 Sugar dating is a growing sector of the sex work industry. If you ask any young woman over the age of 16, they probably know about sugar dating and have a friend who has a profile up or knows someone who has gone out on a date.

Social media also plays a role here with potential daddies messaging young people through their Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram offering money in exchange for dates. Sometimes a young person may feel into the trap and arrange a date for some cash without consciously deciding to do sex work.

So, what should someone do if they’re worried about their friend, or child sugar dating? First, don’t be judgmental. And you should be realistic about it, it’s not just the ‘bad’ kids doing this, this exists across all social groups. It’s normal for young people to experiment with their sexuality.

Vixen Temple agrees. You should give them a chance to explain why they started this work and how is it appealing and beneficial to them. Lots of sugar babies work because it feels empowering to them, they’ve put a price on something that men have expected for free.

Some would like to see sex work – and sugar dating especially – included in the sexual health curriculum at high school. They believe it would be great if young people have information about sugaring stuff. They all know it exists and some are doing it. Teaching people about their rights means if something goes wrong while sugar dating, they have a platform to talk about it.

Rachael agrees that secrecy is where shame hides and where manipulation can thrive.

Sugar dating can be amazing and exciting but it is important to know your rights.

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