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Dating for Dollars

For some college students, procuring a sugar daddy is the one extracurricular activity that can pay the bills

by Natasha Scully on February 13, 2014


After 53 years, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, an iconic movie about a woman who is, among other things, a sugar baby, is making its way back onto the streets of New York. This time however, there will be no production, no cast or crew, and no Audrey Hepburn. There will, however, be money, and a lot of it.

With college tuition growing and the hiring market dismal, many young college women are looking for a way out of debt. A number of women have found a solution by asking one simple question: “Who’s your daddy?”

Sites such as seekingarrangement.com are making it easy for young college women to find “old men who need arm candy and are willing to pay $3,000 to have that candy,” says 21-year-old New York University student Kathy S.

“It’s the normal thing to do to pay for loans,” says Kathy. “I don’t think it is something bad, a lot of people have done it. One of my friends recently told me that is how she paid for studying abroad, and one of her friends paid off her students loans, which is impressive given NYU tuition is $44,848 a year.”

Becoming a sugar baby takes a matter of minutes on sites like seekingarrangement.com, which is free if you use your college e-mail address. Premium packages offer advanced searches, used by “babies” to pinpoint their perfect sugar daddy or sugar mama. For any package, babies must create a profile. Sugar babies, and sugar daddies or mamas, need a profile that is not just height, eye color, age and interests; participants also must be willing to disclose some pretty personal information such as height, weight and annual income, as well as your expectations from a relationship. Once you have disclosed your personal information, the search begins.

“Among the NYU community it’s kind of normal,” says Kathy. But the sugar-baby business is not just sweeping the streets of Manhattan–it’s reaching college students across the country, such as 20-year-old University at Albany student, Ashley, who just signed up for sugardaddyforme.com. Ashley is not the only sugar baby in Albany. In fact, her roommate Veronica also finds being a sugar baby a much better alternative than a minimum-wage job.

For Ashley, being a sugar baby is much more than just going on dates and being spoiled. “You’re a therapist to them. You have to listen to their problems about their wives, their children and their stressful work day,” says Ashley.

Some people may consider a young girl talking, flirting, and perhaps getting physical with someone for money to be a shady way to pay off school loans, but for the modern-day Holly Golightly, it’s a no-brainer. When Kathy first heard about it she was skeptical, but a year later, the most negative thing she can recall is a story a fellow NYU student told her about a sugar daddy in his 60s who was willing to pay for the airline ticket if she accompanied him to an event in California.

Still, a number of recent magazines and websites, such as the Huffington Post, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan have all run articles bashing sugar babies. Ashley is especially keen on picking out a Maria Claire article, which told readers the real reason girls get sugar daddies is to go shopping and live the luxurious life. Ashley admits there are some babies like that. “I’ve seen some women on the site looking like trophy wives, makeup and hair done, there is always going to be that type, but then there’s the ones like us who need this money for college,” Ashley says.

The Cosmopolitan article on sugar babies, which portrayed them as spoiled and ditzy and being “like porn-star-wannabes with pouty lips and boobs squeezed into too-tight tops,” hit a sore spot for Ashley. Shaking her head with distaste, she says, “I’ve been working the minute I graduated high school. I’ve been on my hustle my grit and my grind. It’s not like I’ve always had things come easy to me. It isn’t like we don’t understand the definition of hard work.”

For Ashley, working while in school and balancing a social life was not doable. Her first year at UAlbany, she was barely around enough for the college experience and barely kept up with schoolwork. In order to have a life in the present and in the future, Ashley finds being a sugar baby is the way to go. “I work just as hard as regular working people, it’s just I choose not to get paid $7.25 an hour for a job where I’m not going to get that many hours,” says Ashley. “A lot of these college girls are looking for that option [of being of sugar baby] because they have loans, they have textbooks to pay for, they have grad school, there are study-aboard trips they want to go on, and by being a sugar baby it opens the door to these activities.”

Also taking offense at the media portrayal of sugar babies, Veronica says, “We’re not these glitz and glamour type of girls. I’m very casual. I’m not into all the makeup and high heels.” Pausing for a second to add emphasis, Veronica leans in, slapping the back of her hand to her palm. “No, I need my loans paid, I need money for my car, I’m really a go-getter and shit, I’m not fucking around just to get money, just to go out and buy some beers, hell no! I’m in this shit for like this big money. I don’t want to come out of school to worry about loans.”

Hurt by remarks such as, “If being a sugar baby isn’t prostitution, the two unquestionably overlap in the sexual-politics Venn diagram,” in Cosmopolitan, Veronica says, “I wouldn’t say prostitution, and not really like an escort cause we kind of develop a relationship with these dudes. We talk to them, we put our time into it, too. At first it’s like a business thing, but I always put the option out there that I am open to a relationship.”

And while sex is certainly present in some sugar-baby relationships, there are men who are looking for something else. Pulling up her profile, Veronica points to one guy. “In his profile, it says in capital letters ‘I JUST WANT COMPANIONSHIP NOT SEX.’”

Like Veronica, Kathy has heard that a lot of guys on the sites are just looking for a younger girl to show off at a fancy event as arm candy. “Maybe a kiss, I guess, but I’ve never heard of anything more developing,” Kathy says.

Overall, Ashley says, “Recent articles are portraying sugar babies all wrong, basically pimping themselves out, but I feel it’s more empowering instead of us going out with these college guys who break our hearts or they just want a girl to hook up with for the night. Why waste our time when we’re trying to invest time and money in ourselves. We’re so busy with school activities and organizations and applying to grad school and getting our GPAs up while at the same time having a social life. It’s really stressful.”

At the moment, Ashley is in a “relationship” with a man in his late 40s who has a wife and two kids. Their first meeting took place at Starbucks, where they talked for 20 minutes. From that meeting alone Ashley walked away with $50 and a free Starbucks beverage. On her second date she pocketed $1,000, in addition to pancakes at I-Hop. When they are not meeting face-to-face, the two will exchange short texts in the morning and early afternoon. After 4 PM is off limits though: “This is his family time,” according to Ashley. “He has to be home for his kids and wife.”

Lexi, who has refused to join the sugar-baby community, feels slightly different about the whole arrangement. “I think they are crazy,” says Lexi. “My take on it is, I feel like these guys have lives, they worked hard for their money and if they don’t mind giving it away, why not, but they do have a wife and kids and stuff like that, so still it’s kind of biased, because you’re giving money away to someone you barely know when you could probably use it to take your family on a trip here or there, use it for their college savings funds. But at the end of the day, people do want to feel youthful again and when, say, you’ve been married for 20 years, maybe you don’t want to have breakfast with the same face every day.”

Lexi adds, “Yeah, the guy gave her $1,000 for having breakfast, I have breakfast every morning.”

The NYU community, according to Kathy, views being a sugar baby just like working a job at McDonalds, with the only difference that being a baby pays more than flipping burgers. Despite the acceptance of listing sugar baby as your job title, a lot of babies are not in a rush to tell their parents. This is the case for Ashley, who says, “My mom is so strict and religious she’d kill me. She’d probably crucify me on the cross or something. I’m scared of her.”

Although Veronica has yet to tell her mom, she claims her mom would be open to it as long as she was being safe, and Veronica and Ashley are making sure to do just that. “It’s not like we just go in there, whatever, no one of us is going to know what’s going on and where we’re at,” says Veronica. But for their friend and fellow dormmate, Lexi, they could take all the precautionary measures in the world but that does not mean they are safe.

An early scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s shows a man who has parked his car outside Golightly’s residence awaiting her return after a long night, and instantly he pushes himself into her residence. This is the kind of scene that leaves Lexi saying, “My only worry for them is just one day they might go on a date with one of these guys and I might never see them again.”

Despite the “money is money” attitude Veronica displays, she tries to stay away from sugar daddies older than 45. “My mom is 54, I thought about it once, if I’m talking to a guy that’s 53 he could actually be fucking my mother. Oh my god, I could be fucking a guy that could be fucking my mother. So that kind of just threw me,” says Veronica.

Unlike Veronica, Ashley does not mind the age gap. “I personally have always been attracted to older men, ever since I was little. Girls are always saying they want their guy to be like their dad, so I enjoy saying ‘I’m going to call my daddy.’ I don’t really mind the age difference ’cause it doesn’t matter to me ’cause I can always find a feature about someone that’s beautiful.”

Sure, Ashley is taking money from these men but she feels as though she is giving them something they never experienced before, too. “I’m black and I feel black sugar babies are sort of like an exciting thing these older men never got to experience when they were our age, so they are just like ‘I’ve never meet a black girl before, I’ve never gone on a date with a black girl,” and I’m giving them that experience,” says Ashley.

Veronica likes to think of it like any business transaction, at least at first. “My main objective is of course the money, so, that’s where the actress comes in and I have to go along with the flow.”

And when does sex enter into the equation? “I always put the option out there that I am open to a relationship. Before the sexual or anything happens I tell them I need to have an attraction to you emotionally, physically, mentally.”

Owners and adherents of websites such as seekingarrangement.com are adamant that any sexual relationships that develop are not prostitution, because it isn’t straight-up money for sex. Veronica agrees: “I wouldn’t say it’s in a prostitution kind of way, and not really like an escort, ’cause we kind of develop a relationship with these dudes, we talk to them, we put our time into it too.”

“It’s the same thing as sex with benefits—lots of benefits!”

When babies are creating profiles on sites such as SugarDaddyForMe.com, MutualArrangements.com or seekingarrangments.com., Veronica says, “It’s important to post how much you want for allowance,” which is a monthly payment from your sugar daddy or mama. Under “lifestyle expectation,” you can enter “negotiable,” which means you are open to any amount. But if you are looking for more you can put in high, which could be more than $10,000 a month.

After a year of being a sugar baby, Veronica says: “Honestly, another reason why I’m doing it is because I know my mom has financial problems too, and that’s always in the back of my mind even though I’m in school and I shouldn’t be worrying about that. So eventually once it starts getting up there and I know I’m good, this is going to be a part of her too.”

In order to fulfill her future dreams of going to grad school to be a sex therapist or counselor, Veronica says, “Right now, this is what I plan to do for the next five to 10 years. This is what’s paying my bills.”

Ashley, a junior like Veronica, says she too plans to attend grad school. “I want to be a therapist one day. I think this is a great consideration, and I think it’s great background experience too because I’m a communications and psychology major and if I ever want to get older and have my own sugar daddy-sugar baby consulting service, I can also do that ’cause I have experience and a background.”

These modern-day Holly Golightlys, similar in so many ways, are also quite different. Perhaps like Golightly, a taxi drops them off in the early morning hours, but these young women aren’t window shopping for Tiffany jewelry—they’re window shopping for an education and a debt-free future.