The “sugar relationship” culture is a controversial, touchy topic. This is partly because it is rarely understood unless from a firsthand experience.
A sugar relationship, be it with a sugar daddy or mama, is an exchange of “sugar” from each party. The sugar baby will come to an arrangement with the sugar daddy or mama in regards to what each person wants out of the relationship. Typically, the sugar daddy will provide financial assistance to the sugar baby in exchange to whatever the agreed transaction between the two people is. They can be intimate, extend to going on dates and trips or just spending time together. Each relationship is different depending on the people and the arrangement.
Seeking Arrangement, a popular site for sugar relationships, attracts about 10 million users, with more than half of users identifying sugar babies. Tuition at Texas State, on average, can cost about $4,000 a semester. That amount of money can easily add up. Often, students have to work multiple jobs and balance being a full-time student. However, by seeking the help of a wealthy benefactor, sugar babies get the financial support they need in order to live how they choose.
College students seeking out sugar relationships are on the rise. More than three million students have registered for an account on Seeking Arrangement, and if users use their student email address, they get access to a premium membership. According to Leroy Velasquez, from SeekingArrangement.com, Texas State is one of the fastest growing schools on the site. In 2017, about 850 sugar babies from the school had an account, which was a 30 percent increase from the year before. Each year since, that number has grown and stabilized to about 100 new signups a year.
There are a lot of issues people have with this kind of relationship. Some may wonder, “why can’t that girl support herself?” Or think the typical, common age gap between the two people is inappropriate. It is often believed these arrangements fall under the definition of prostitution. However, that is not the case. There is no guarantee money will be exchanged for sex. Each relationship is different and completely up to the parties involved. Some may choose to be strictly platonic, while others might evolve into an actual romantic relationship.
The common thread between all sugar relationships is a consensual relationship between two adults. What two people do in the privacy of their homes and in the intimacy of their relationship is their business and not a sufficient reason for stigma or contempt.
Sugar relationships should be thought of as mutually beneficial, and a way to help each other out. It is no surprise the relationship between rising tuition and college students registering to be sugar babies seems to be positively correlated. Having to obtain a sugar daddy should not reflect negatively on the sugar baby. Each woman who seeks out financial aid from a wealthier, more established person is not her cry for help. Everyone has different reasoning for being on a site that matches sugar babies to sugar daddies/mamas. Taking part in such arrangements should not only be destigmatized, but attempted to be better understood.
During the 2017-18 academic year, only 45 percent of students were able to finance college education on their own; 51 percent of students who could not finance it dropped out. If a sugar relationship is how a particular student finishes their education, this arrangement should be preferable to dropping out. Students who elect for this option should not feel shame for getting an education on their terms.
Sugar relationships are not inherently abusive or strange. The stigma surrounding these consensual exchanges is unbecoming. Many sugar relationships turn into stable, long term relationships, including marriage. Instances where the arrangements become abusive is not the fault of the sugar component but because of the circumstances which make any relationship abusive. The inclusion of a transaction is not to blame for this. Stigmatizing sugar babies would only heighten the threat of abuse and violence anyway because the individual would have fewer resources and less support to improve their situation if the relationship becomes abusive.
Students should not be looked down upon for doing what is necessary to survive and get an education. Even if the sugar relationship is a choice not born out of necessity, the individual is still deserving of respect. Autonomy to get paid on one’s own terms is liberating and sugar relationships are just one of many ways to do just that.
– Bayley Bogus is a journalism junior