Sugar Babies in School are Skipping Out on Student Debt

How sites like SeekingArrangement are making waves in the world of post-secondary students

(Braden Klassen)

“You + SeekingArrangement = No Student Debt”.

So says the advertisement for Sugar Baby University, the collective of post-secondary students using the sugar dating website SeekingArrangement. And apparently, in many cases, that equation adds up.

According to the site, over 4.2 million students worldwide are on SeekingArrangement to find sugar daddies and mommies, and the number one occupation for Canadian sugar babies was “student,” followed immediately by “teacher.”

In these arrangements, younger people spend time with older and almost always wealthier men and women for some sort of compensation, whether it comes in the form of gifts, money, mentoring, or other means.

The average monthly allowance for student members is $2,925—“among other benefits, including networking opportunities and career or business advantages,” the site reads.

And for anyone who knows how it feels to pinch pennies, the allure of pocketing that much extra money is hard to ignore.

Because of the nature of sugar dating, however, it’s still largely considered taboo, and it’s certainly not for everybody. Many people who use the site keep their sugar dating lives secret, even from friends and family. Others wear it on their sleeve and deal with any potential judgement or repercussions they may face. The majority of people who attend university won’t get involved in sugar dating at all, but the fact remains: the post-secondary community is largely overrepresented on these platforms.

Is it because we’re broke, or because we’re youthful? Maybe it’s because, with today’s competitive short-term job market and high cost of living, it’s hard to make a buck as a full-time student. It could be because we’re more open-minded than past generations. There’s no one answer, but the number of students sugaring continues to grow.

“I’m young, I’m cute, I’m educated,” says Jasmine, a sugar baby from Vancouver who started using the site when she was a 20-year-old student. “It works, but I’m not doing it professionally. I’m not doing it to support myself. It’s not my sole source of income.”

She continues, “I am my age and I don’t have any debt, I own a condo, I own a car. I think I have a phone bill that I pay and an internet bill I pay, and shopping, but I don’t even need to pay for that with my own money.”

Jasmine has been using SeekingArrangement on and off for the past seven years. She says it took her a year and a half of being on the site to pay for her schooling. Then, after a break, she recently started to use her account again.

Throughout that time, she’s shared the details of her dating life with very few.

“It’s definitely a little secret. No one talks about it, and I think people like it like that,” she says. “You can be a girl who depends on the site, or you can be an independent woman and people will still look at you the same way.”

Lola, who authored the Toronto section of SeekingArrangement’s “sugar dating guide,” also used the site to help her pay for her degree.

The guide is “written by local brand ambassadors” about “where to eat, where to meet, and what to wear when sugar dating in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and London.”

“It’s hard being a full-time student and working full time to provide for yourself. For me, I found it was a way to get financial help without sacrificing too much time,” she says. “Since then, things have been good. I was able to save up, move out on my own.”

She now works full-time as a social media coordinator for a mortgage company, but continues to sugar so she can live “stress-free” financially. Still, she emphasizes the importance of being careful in the business and making sure that you don’t get scammed, underpaid, or put in harm’s way while starting out as a sugar baby.

“When meeting some of them for the first time, I would advise people to avoid the ones who do not want to meet in public or are adamant on going on a date,” she says. “And I don’t believe in online arrangements. There are scammers on there, and there are people taking advantage of people. Some of them are not on there for the right reason.”

The Sweetness (and Sourness) of the Deal

To get an idea of the numbers behind your average sugar baby’s salary, consider that Violet, a 23-year-old KPU student who says she has between 10 and 15 sugar daddies, charges $500 to $700 per date. That rate fluctuates based on how long it takes, whether it’s an overnight date, and what the expectations are.

For Violet, being a sugar baby is second nature, but she stresses that she’s uniquely comfortable with the role.

“Honestly, my sugar babying started from my first memory as a child in a generic sense. I knew which relatives to be nice to to get money from them,” she says. “I really like that kind of attention, where people are giving me money for gifts or to achieve my dreams.”

She still gets a thrill from it today, and says that she finds being able to set her own rules and rates as a sugar baby empowering. While sugaring, she “doesn’t ever feel like she’s being pressured into anything.”

“I have a set of rules and guidelines that I go by, and that’s why I love this job. I can set my own rules and change them any time I want,” she says. “I don’t waste my time because time is money, and I can literally get another date within five or 10 minutes if one doesn’t work out.”

But, she continues, “To anyone reading this article, I don’t think they should take it as me promoting sugar babying. I have a very specific personality for this, and I think it could hurt a lot of girls.”

Violet also works for her family-owned company, does nails professionally, cleans houses, and manages other occasional gigs on the side. She’s currently living with her partner and going to KPU full-time.

Jasmine, who says she has enjoyed extensive mentorship and networking through her arrangements, also warns that those who are just starting out in sugar dating should proceed carefully.

“When it first started, I went on a few dates. Some were good dates. More than half of them are awful dates. We call them Splenda daddies—that’s what you kind of run into in the beginning—but you learn to eventually find the good ones,” she says.

“A Splenda daddy is someone who poses as a guy who is successful financially, in a position of power and seniority. He’s not unfortunately, and he’s kind of a time-waster.”

She estimates that, “for every five or six guys you meet, there’s probably one actual real sugar daddy that comes out of it.”

During her time as a sugar baby, she says she has had meaningful connections with men from all over the world. She even had one propose to her when she was 20 and he was 43.

“You can try to find a husband if you want to. You can try to find a part-time boyfriend, or you can find someone to see once or twice a week,” she says. “I genuinely do seek connection in this and I tell people that.”

An English student at SFU, Liz, feels the same way. She started sugar dating in her senior year of high school and continued into her first year of university, but not to pay student debt. She already had a part-time job and support from her parents to pursue her career.

“Right before this I had been on Tinder, just hoeing around, and it was like, well I can just do what I’m doing on Tinder but get paid for it,” she says.

“One of them I only met for coffee once. It might have been the first date that I tried. I wasn’t a fan of it. I can’t remember exactly why, but it was like, ‘No, not right, keep looking.’”

“The second person was a surgeon, I believe. I saw him a few times, slept with him a few times. He was very nice and everything, but by the end of it I’d be like, ‘I have to go,’ and he’d be sort of forceful and would be like, ‘Stay, stay.’ And then I was sort of uncomfortable,” she says. “The third one was the one who I saw for an extended period of time.”

Liz would usually go visit this long-term sugar daddy on his boat in a downtown harbour. They would drink, talk, and in most cases, sleep together. Afterwards, she would get between $400 and $500 in cash. They did this once or twice per week for around six months, until Liz entered a relationship with someone who didn’t feel comfortable with it.

Still, she says she reflects on their arrangement with fondness.

“It’s all good memories, age gaps and all,” she says.

“It wasn’t a romantic connection but it was definitely the kind of scenario where you have a deep respect and understanding of the person. You care for the person. That’s what was happening with that one person, was he cared about me and that I was doing well and had enough money. He knew I didn’t need it.”

All of these women agree that finding a sugar daddy that’s right for you is possible, but not always easy. It’s important to stay safe, take it slow, set your terms, and stick to them. It’s also important to listen to yourself and respect your own comfort zone. If sugar dating isn’t for you, you’re in with the majority of society, regardless of how heavy of a burden student debt may be.

Although she was not in school at that time, current graphic design student Ella tried participating in an online arrangement before deciding it wasn’t for her.

It started when he bought one of her band’s songs off Bandcamp for $100. She messaged him about it, and without being prompted to, he bought their album for another $100. Eventually, he asked her if she wanted to sell him nudes.

“After a while I sold him a couple pictures, and I was really careful about it. My face wasn’t in it, my tattoos weren’t in it … and he gave me $100 for each picture I gave him,” she says.

“I did that a couple more times and was fine with it, and then the voice in the back of my head was like, ‘Okay, that’s enough. This is weird and I’m not super comfortable with it anymore.’”

Then he asked her for coffee. She refused, but he kept asking, so she did a little research on him and was told by a mutual friend in sex work that he made her uncomfortable on the job. She didn’t exchange anything with him for a while—although he continued to offer—until Ella’s close friend needed to pay for something urgently and didn’t have the means.

“I decided again to sell a photo to him because she was really struggling with buying groceries, so I contacted him about it and was like, ‘Hey, can I sell you one picture again? I just really need some money.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll send you $30.’ I was like, ‘Okay. I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds me. I’m not going to send you a picture of my naked body for $30 so I’m good,’ and he said, ‘I’ve done so much for you and you’re not even going to come and meet me?’”

She continues, “It was like he was trying to con me into meeting him, and I instantly got really bad vibes, so I was like, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Ella hasn’t tried to set up anything similar, nor has she used SeekingArrangement, since then.

Even Violet, who truly enjoys her job as a sugar baby, admits that it can be challenging at times.

“Once I took GHB and woke up and my date wasn’t there. I’ve been threatened,” she says. “And I don’t like kissing people. I guess that’s something a normal 22 year-old would not be feeling. I just kind of skip that part for most people. I guess you could say the romance is gone for me.”

She continues, “A lot of sugar babies get into it and can’t do it without the help of a substance …. It’s when reality sets in and you look up and there’s some fat hairy dude there, it can make you question your worth, but for me it never really does. I think it’s making me appreciate other people’s bodies.”

She feels that the main difference between sex work and sugar dating is that, with the latter, there is a good deal of importance placed on personal connection.

“You can forget that it’s a date with a sugar daddy. It’s just someone you’re having a conversation with. They want to see you again and maintain that relationship,” says Violet. “I really don’t see myself ever stopping. I want to do this forever.”

Note: the names of some interviewees published in this story have been altered for confidentiality reasons.

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