‘Need a Summer Job? Date a Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ read two advertisements for Arrangement Finder, one of the many sites dedicated to matching young women to older, wealthy men. These ads are relatively tame compared to a more provocative one that blatantly encouraged women to view their sexuality as their most important asset in the job market. Another advertisement on Seeking Arrangement promoted the ‘Sugar Daddy Insurance Plan,’ encouraging twenty-something women who are not signed under their parents’ insurance to find a Sugar Daddy rather than worrying about enrolling for ObamaCare.
An increasing number of college women are seeking older men to help pay their tuition and buy them designer duds. While a quick internet search will generate how-to articles for finding a Sugar Daddy, websites like Arrangement Finder are becoming increasingly popular. There has been a 58 percent rise in coed memberships to sites dedicated exclusively for Sugar Daddy arrangements. On Seeking Arrangement, another such site, 44 percent of users are college females, most between the ages of 19 and 21. In contrast, the average age of Sugar Daddies is 39, and thirty-three percent are already married.
The increasing number of educated women who are seeking a Sugar Daddy can partly be explained by the rise in student loans, particularly in this poor economy. Finding a Sugar Daddy is a seemingly harmless pursuit for young women who are active on these sites. These women are often under the impression that they will have a no-strings-attached companion to support them financially, particularly because many of these men are already in relationships. Some women have even stated that having a Sugar Daddy who is already married is not cheating as long as they do not sleep with him. However, they often meet men who are looking for a sexual relationship in return for the provision of an average monthly allowance of $3,000. To no surprise, women have reported instances of sexual assault after meeting men from these sites.
Having a Sugar Daddy ultimately creates a power imbalance. Relying on men strips women of their independence, and reinforces the notion that a woman needs to rely on male partners for success. While it may seem like a stark comparison, there is considerable overlap between Sugar Daddy relationships and prostitution. In both situations, men pay women to be sexually available. However, Sugar Babies are under the impression that they have autonomy within these relationships, particularly because they are getting designer goods and paying off student loans. In reality, Sugar Babies ‘make themselves commodities in order to earn commodities.’
Sugar Daddies do not partake in these relationships because they value a woman’s worth as a person. This power imbalance benefits the Sugar Daddy a lot more than the female by fostering a dependency on the male. By building a relationship around pleasing a man, Sugar Babies compromise their independence and start losing their sense of self. After even a short period of time, this has lasting psychological implications, including shame, anxiety, and depression – the same emotional turmoil that female sex workers experience.
While the odds of meeting a future husband through these websites is minuscule, rare instances in which this has occurred motivates some women to sign up.
Promoting these relationships sends the message that they are devoid of risk, and reinforces the White Horse fantasy that has been sold to women for decades. While having a Sugar Daddy seems like an easy way out of a sticky financial situation, it is an unhealthy relationship that compromises a woman’s independence and self-worth. The delusion of autonomy that lies in having a Sugar Daddy is exactly what makes it so risky.