By Erica Wong |Foreign Correspondent|
As online dating gained popularity in recent years, some people have begun to exploit their services for reasons other than just finding their significant other.
Last spring, we covered the growing ‘mutually beneficial arrangement’ dating industry with the ‘sugar’ dating site Seeking Arrangements (SA) and interviewed student Annabelle (her pseudonym) about her life as a sugar baby.
Annabelle has had three sugar daddies in the past year. While she’s still in school and trying to stay on top of her bills, her current sugar daddy now provides her $1500 per visit.
As SA’s popularity has grown, now with over 3.6 million members, other dating sites have popped up as well.
With sites such as Ashley Madison, What’s Your Price, and Carrot Dating, girls looking for sugar daddies have more options now than ever.
Ashley Madison is a site catered specifically towards “married dating and discreet encounters.”
There are even more unconventional sugar daddy sites, such as What’s Your Price and Carrot Dating that use an auction system to set up dates.
What’s Your Price was also founded by SA’s CEO Brandon Wade, who himself relied on scholarships to fund his MIT education.
As these arrangements fall into a legal grey area, there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of both of Wade’s sites saying, “Escorts are not welcome,” and “An arrangement is not an escort service.”
Even notorious hook-up app Tinder has a slightly higher-end sibling called Luxy, with only income verified members such as CEOs or celebrities in its exclusive dating pool.
Does this boom in the sugar industry mean there’s a new social acceptance for sugaring? Not necessarily.
“Of the 21 million students expected to attend American colleges and universities in the Fall of 2014, 60 percent will graduate with an average debt of $27,300,” according to Angela Jacob Bermudo, SA’s Public Relations Manager.
Bermudo attributes last year’s one million new members to the startling increase in college fees.
“College students don’t have much to look forward to after graduation, aside from almost guaranteed debt and a 50 percent chance of under- or unemployment,” said Bermudo.
People may still be critical as ever of this way of making money, but as tuition and expenses continue to increase, more students are seeking benefactors to fund their education.
“While other countries seek to create opportunity and provide a better start for students by abolishing tuition fees or lowering them to reasonable amounts, Congress continues to ignore the problem,” said Wade in a statement released by Bermudo. “The average debt is more than what most of these new graduates will make in a year.”
However, not everything is always sugar, spice, and everything nice in the sugar bowl.
Annabelle shared the darker side of her sugaring experiences while packing for Mardi Gras with her current sugar daddy.
A man she dated for a short time was very racist, made her feel uncomfortable, and inconsistent with her allowance, withholding it from her or only giving her small bits here and there.
The only reason Annabelle stayed, however, was because she had just moved into a new apartment, wasn’t working as much, and didn’t have the expendable cash she was used to.
“I felt desperate, scared and alone. I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it because no one knows about this other life I lead,” said Annabelle.
The last time Annabelle saw him, however, he followed her to her hotel room and forced her to perform oral sex. When he tried to force intercourse with her, she managed to get him off of her and left the hotel.
Annabelle remained silent about her sexual assault, however, because she didn’t know how she would explain it to the cops, worried about being arrested for prostitution.
“I felt dirty and used and disgusting. I know that people already assume the worst of me for dating these men, who are sometimes married, for money, but no one deserves to be violated,” said Annabelle.
How far would you go to pay off your student loans?
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