At first, Victoria only needed a “quick hundred bucks” to fix her broken cell phone.
Her parents wouldn’t give her the money and the typical job application process was too slow, she said. The freshman social work major’s solution was to become a “sugar baby.”
Sugar babies are young adults who agree to provide companionship and other services to older partners, called “sugar daddies” or “sugar mommas.”
To connect with sugar daddies, Victoria created an account on the website SeekingArrangement.com. The site allows sugar babies to view sugar daddies’ profiles and exchange messages.
As of Feb. 9, Temple had 1,068 students registered on the site, ranking it fifth overall users among U.S. universities. Temple is also number one for the most new sign-ups in 2016 with 296 new members, according to Alexis Germany, the website’s public relations specialist.
SeekingArrangment differs from traditional dating websites in that it encourages couples to treat the relationships as business arrangements. Right away, sugar daddies or mommas explain what they want from the babies, who decide what they are willing to do and what they expect as payment.
Germany wrote in an email that the site is “geared for people who want to engage in mutually beneficial relationships” that can “vary from platonic mentorships to marriage.”
While every relationship on the site adheres to different terms, sugar babies are typically taken out on expensive dates or trips and given money allowances or gifts. A sugar baby’s obligations can range from simply spending time with a sugar daddy to engaging in sexual activities with them.
Victoria typically goes on dates with men in exchange for cash or bottles of alcohol.
“You have to be assertive,” Victoria said. “You just have to be like, ‘I need $100 in cash upfront if you want to see me.’ Meet them in a public place, go to a restaurant. I’ve gotten lunch with some and the worst I ever had to do was make out with one in his car.”
Ally, a freshman communications major who joined SeekingArrangement last summer, often receives $200 to $300 for going on dinner dates with her sugar daddies.
One of Ally’s sugar daddies, who lived in Indiana, was interested in having sex with her. He flew Ally and a friend to Indianapolis, booked them a room in a five-star hotel for the weekend, took the girls out to restaurants and gave Ally $600 spending money.
She said she ultimately decided not to sleep with him.
“Even though there’s money involved, it’s not like you can’t say no,” Ally said. “[Sugar daddies] can spend however much they want on you, they can give you everything you want, everything you desire, but you’re still allowed to say no. It’s a really fun, interesting power balance, because the [sugar daddies are] older and they have more money, but you’re the one in control.”
“You’re trying to sell a product, but the product is yourself,” Ally added.
While it’s odd to put a price on her time and energy, Ally said her work as a sugar baby has ultimately bolstered her confidence.
“It’s helped me become a lot more comfortable with myself, because I never really liked my body,” Ally said. “I got bullied a lot for it in high school, so to have these older men think I’m beautiful and treat me as such is really empowering.”
Victoria, on the other hand, says flirting with older men is “taxing on the body and the soul,” because she doesn’t enjoy spending time with these men and is purely in it for the money.
Aside from the draw of extra spending money, Ally said word-of-mouth has created interest among Temple students in SeekingArrangement.
The office of the Dean of Students declined to comment on the number of Temple students using the site.
Ally said with the influx of Temple students using SeekingArrangement, she hopes people don’t jump to the conclusion that all sugar babies are sex-workers.
“I know a lot of sugar babies are judged because [people think], ‘Oh, that’s just being a prostitute for older men,’” Ally said. “And maybe you can be a prostitute for older men, but you don’t have to. It’s all up to you. There’s so much power and personal choice in being a sugar baby.”
Alexis Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.