by Mallory Culhane
Freshman year of college is a year filled with new experiences, new people, and self-discovery. An anonymous University of Tampa alumna, who graduated in May this year, discovered the world of sugar-dating.
Sugar-dating or sugaring is a largely misunderstood practice that has exploded in popularity among college students in the U.S. In sugaring, a male or female – the sugar baby – has dates with older, successful individuals – the sugar daddies or sugar mommas – in exchange for gifts or a monetary allowance. The “dates” are usually referred to as arrangements.
“My roommate used this site called Seeking Arrangement and she found this guy who would take her out on fancy dinners and get gifts so I asked her to help me set up a profile because I wanted to be spoiled like that,” said the alumna.
Seeking Arrangement is the most popular site for sugaring with over 8 million sugar babies and over 2 million sugar daddies and mommas. More than 4 million of these users are college students.
Though it seems like sugaring is very unknown and underground, it’s very much alive in Tampa.
“My roommates and her friends were the ones who introduced [sugaring],” said the alumna. “I’ve met friends who later on told me that they do it too.”
A Tampa sugar daddy who has been on Seeking Arrangement on and off for about 10 years has met several girls from UT on the site and said that, “there are tons of UT girls on [here].”
Seeking Arrangement has a page dedicated to college students, called “Sugar Baby University.” The page emphasizes the aid sugaring can have on college debt. There’s a live student debt clock and the words “say goodbye to debt” displayed at the top of the page. Users that sign up with their .edu email address receive a free premium sugar baby membership, typically priced at $19.95 a month.
The alumna was low on money at the time with no job and struggling to pay for things while in school, which is why she resorted to sugaring. After setting up the profile, she received several messages from older men, typically in their 30s and 40s. She went to each profile until she found one that “sounded normal and looked decent.”
“I was super nervous and took three hours to get ready,” she said.
The sugar daddy sent an Uber to Austin Hall and they met at a restaurant in Tampa.
“We had normal conversation at first like what my major was [and] career interests and then he started asking me if I ever had an arrangement before,” said the alumna. “I said no and he went on to tell me the specifics of what he was looking for…basically a companion to accompany him on dates [and] events and in return he would give me a set allowance with gifts.”
In an arrangement, the sugar baby and daddy decide on specific terms. Terms can include the physical boundaries for the arrangement such as no sexual activities. The terms also lay out the monetary allowances and gifts for the sugar baby. In addition, terms include what the relationship will be of and how often the two will interact.
Each arrangement is different; some don’t go further than a facetime call, while others go out in public several times a month. Some sugar daddies give a set amount for one date while others will send a monthly allowance or ship gifts like shoes and clothes to the sugar baby.
“It sounded too good to be true…after dinner he invited me back to his place and I knew what that meant so I told him next time because I didn’t feel comfortable,” said the alumna. “That’s when I realized that sex would be included in the arrangement and I wasn’t comfortable with that so I stopped seeing him after that date.”
Users are able to put as much or as little information about themselves as they want. Most put what they’re seeking on their profile, which vaguely outlines their terms for an arrangement. They can also include basic information such as their height, race, and relationship status – most of which are listed as single, though married sugar daddies are not unheard of.
“Honestly, I try to hope that they’re not married but I later came to find out most of them usually are and they just hide it really well,” said the alumna. “But I didn’t see a ring.”
Reasoning why men and women become sugar daddies and mommas, varies just as widely as arrangement terms do.
“As far as guys I’ve actually had arrangements with, they’ve all been pretty normal and emphasize on the fact that they’re only on the website because they don’t have the time for a traditional relationship,” said the alumna. “They want more of a stress relief rather than an equal balance of give and take.”
The last sugar daddy she had, gave her allowances for a few dates and occasionally weekend trips. The money helped with groceries, bills, and sometimes rent for her off-campus apartment.
“His job ended up making him less available and…didn’t want to stop getting [the allowances],” she said. She ended things this past summer with him. “I don’t do it anymore but sometimes I’m tempted.”
Sugaring isn’t always long-term. Sugar babies can go on one date with one sugar daddy and a different one the next. Especially since it can be hard to gauge what a person is like online, things can be very different meeting in person.
“This older man, a realtor, found me on Instagram and sent me a DM saying that I was pretty and he was interested in taking care of me,” said an anonymous UT student. “I was working part-time and wanted extra cash…I messaged him asking what the terms were and he explained that nothing sexual would happen he just wanted a companion.”
The student received $500 for dinner at Jackson’s in Tampa and a simple conversation. The student ended things after that first date.
“He asked me what I was doing after dinner and grabbed my butt, which I wasn’t going for,” said the student.
A common misconception about sugaring is that it’s prostitution and always includes sex. However, usually arrangements are simply going out to dinner or going shopping, sometimes just a phone conversation.
“I like going out to nice places and having good, intelligent conversations and some laughs; it’s not all about sex for me,” said the anonymous sugar daddy. “I’m not looking for anything but a connection.”
In fact, Seeking Arrangement has written in the fine print on the log in screen: “If you are an ESCORT, DO NOT use this website.” The site will actually ban users if they suspect an individual is using it for prostitution.
A big question people tend to have about sugaring is the legality. There is no law specifying that sugaring is illegal, especially since it’s typically just for companionship.
Despite being legal, however, a misunderstood arrangement has led to several lawsuits in the past. Those interested in being a sugar baby and meeting sugar daddies and mommas online should be cautious.
Still, more and more college students are signing up for Seeking Arrangement and getting involved in the world of sugaring to help pay bills or just have extra cash on the side.
“As bad as it sounds, [the money] was the only motivating factor,” said the student. “For the right price, I would definitely try it again.”
Mallory Culhane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org