By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|
Dating sites are used to satisfy all sorts of kinky and romantic pursuits. But what about trading time for money?
Higher unemployment rates and lower starting salaries are making some college students and recent graduates increasingly desperate. So much so, that many are resorting to selling themselves to relieve their debt in this failing economy.
“I made an account on Seeking Arrangements because I was two months behind on rent and up to my eyeballs in credit card debt. My two jobs just weren’t enough,” said Anabelle, CSUSB student.
Seeking Arrangements (SA), is a dating website for sugar daddies and sugar babies. Brandon Wade, the sites founder, explains it as one that “facilitates mutually beneficial arrangements.”
The services solicited on SA fall into a legal gray area, as sugar babies are providing their sugar daddies with companionship and a confidence boost in return for not only money, but vacations and shopping sprees as well.
According to California penal code, prostitution is only when someone is directly paid a fee for engaging in sexual activity.
The website is not strictly for heterosexual relationships, however, there are sugar mommies, but majority of the users are female sugar babies and male sugar daddies.
Anabelle is a pseudonym for a CSUSB student who uses this name when meeting wealthy men online. This is used as the name for her false persona in order to protect her identity.
Anabelle’s current sugar daddy is on the website because his wife has multiple sclerosis and the physical attraction just isn’t there anymore.
“Married men account for at least 40 percent of the sites sugar daddies,” Wade told Huffington Post.
“I get $2,500 to see him three or four times a month,” said Anabelle. This averages to about $600-700 per visit.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the national monthly income for a college student is $1,600, which is usually supplemented by financial aid and scholarships.
When initially signing up for the site, Anabelle juggled 16 units and two serving jobs. With her income from being sugar baby, she’s been able to quit one of those jobs to have more time to focus on school.
According to Anabelle, her sugar daddy doesn’t want her to work, but she’s hesitant about being completely financially dependent on their arrangement.
Stranger danger is a very real concern for sugar babies.
Anabelle takes many safety precautions before meeting men online, such as texting a friend her location and a time that she’s expected to leave.
She meets men in public places such as restaurants and coffee shops for the first couple of dates, always taking her own car until she’s comfortable with them.
Anabelle uses a third party app to text potential sugar daddies (referred to as POTs), and she keeps her personal social network profiles very private, in case they Google search the pictures she sends them.
According to Huffington Post, in 2011, the site had over 800,000 members and Wade estimates that 35 percent of its users are college students.
SA pays for their advertisements to show up when someone searches for terms like student loans or college financial aid.
At request of Huffington Post, SA compiled a list of the top universities attended by sugar babies on the site. NYU is at the top of the list with 498 sugar babies, UCLA is No. 8 with 253, University of California at Berkeley ranks No. 13 with 193 and University of Southern California ranks at No. 15 with 183 college sugar babies.
Students who use an “.edu” email address are rewarded with a free upgrade from basic membership to premium membership, allowing them to send unlimited messages and access to the sites VIP sugar daddies.
This allows them to have a complimentary stamp on their profile, certifying them as a college sugar baby.
Sugar daddies are required to pay $50 per month for membership. They pay an additional one-time fee to have their income verified by the site, earning them a badge to let sugar babies know they’re legitimate.
There’s a whole online community called the sugar bowl, where seasoned sugar babies give newbies advice and ways to protect themselves or how to bring up the delicate topic of an allowance with their sugar daddy.
Is sugaring really something that’s so immoral and shocking? Evolutionarily, men are wired to seek younger, pretty women and women prefer older men that can provide for them and ensure security.
Relationships with a financial component is nothing new, but the transparency of arrangements on SA makes many people uncomfortable.
“It’s a business, but at the end of the day you have to take into account your own morals and how your decisions affect your life,” said CSUSB student Deja McAlister.