Sugar dating is generally characterised by an older, wealthier person dating a younger person in need of financial assistance.
For the most part, sugar dating tends to cater to older men seeking younger companions to support financially with the expectation of varying favours in return. Whilst women do take on the role of ‘sugar mama’, it happens much less frequently.
There are specific sites and apps made for facilitating sugar dating. Seeking Arrangements is the largest sugar dating site in the world, with 22 million members worldwide. Their “direct approach to dating fits modern needs and continues to grow our community of like-minded adults who believe happiness is more important than traditional dating milestones.”
The average sugar baby is 24 and has a monthly income of £2,145 whilst the average sugar daddy is 42 with an annual salary of £191,525.UK university students make up more than 500,000 of the sugar babies using Seeking Arrangements. According to the 2020 Sugar Baby University (SBU) press release, University of London has the biggest population of sugar babies, with 840 students using Seeking Arrangements. This is followed by the University of Portsmouth with 750 students, and ‘the University of Salford in third with 670 students’.
Lauren* is a 22-year-old student sugar baby from West London. She has been sugar dating since she was in her first year of university: “I was 19 and struggling financially after a spontaneous decision to move out. I was looking for a part-time job for months without any luck, and during this time money was becoming an increasingly worrying issue.”
In 2020, graduates of English universities face an average of more than £40 thousand of student loan debt. Annual tuition fees are £9,250, and maintenance loans range from £3,410 to £11,672 depending on living circumstances, with the average loan being £6,859 a year.
Students living in London are eligible to receive the maximum loan to cover the expenses of living in the capital. However, in a lot of circumstances, the maximum loan does not cover all of the necessary expenses; therefore, a part-time job or additional income is essential.
“Student’s understand the importance of a degree, but with the magnitude of debt that may follow them after graduating, they are being forced to find alternative methods to finance their education,” says founder and CEO of SeekingArrangements Brandon Wade. “Sugar Daddies not only provide financial relief but mentor these students on how to manage their finances and elevate their typical uni lifestyle.”
Since her first date in 2018, Lauren has had several sugar daddies who have all approached sugar dating differently. Typically, “the first encounter is online, I have heard stories of people meeting in clubs or bars, but that’s never happened to me personally. I’ve used Instagram and Seeking Arrangements to find potential sugar daddies,” she told us.
“On Instagram, it’s always by chance; a guy will message me asking if sugar dating is something I would be interested in, (because it’s not something I advertise publicly). It doesn’t often happen though, most of the time, I use Seeking Arrangements.
“A bit like Tinder, you chat over message for however long you need or want to, before agreeing to a date. Not everyone is going to be right for you and vice versa, so [that] it can be quite a time-consuming search. Once you’ve agreed to a date, it’s just a matter of going, getting to know each other and discussing what you both want from the ‘arrangement’. It’s good to be clear and upfront at the beginning to avoid wasting your time and his. From there, it’s like any other dating relationship. The only difference is the ‘payment’ or what you get in return for your companionship.”
“Sugar dating isn’t exactly a profession you can get a self-employment grant for.”
Payments vary wildly depending on the relationship. Some sugar daddies pay-per-meet, give gifts and pay for meals out, whilst others provide an allowance on a monthly or weekly basis. “Some sugar daddies enjoy gift-giving, whilst others prefer providing monetary supplements. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin, and don’t really have a preference. I think the best way to do things is to have a little bit of both.”
Typically, Lauren would see three sugar daddies regularly from whom she would collect her payments or allowance during dinner dates and other excursions – this would usually add up to £1,500. However, due to the pandemic, her sugar daddies are facing both financial and medical stresses, so cannot continue their arrangements in the same manner.
“During lockdown, it was really difficult. I basically couldn’t work, and sugar dating isn’t exactly a profession you can get a self-employment grant for. It was a huge adjustment for me financially and personally.”
Lauren had to adapt and find new ways of dating and making money. Lockdown meant that online dating temporarily became the new norm. In their analysis of dating during the pandemic, YouGov states that “a fifth of single Brits who had an active love life before lockdown are spending more time on dating apps. As one would expect, this figure is higher among younger people, with a quarter of those aged 18 to 24 now swiping more.”Popular dating apps have seen a rise in traffic throughout the pandemic, for instance, “Tinder reported the highest number of swipes ever on March 29th,” and Hinge even added a new ‘video call’ feature which enables potential couples to have a virtual face-to-face date within the app.
“My whole life pretty much moved online. That was the only way I could maintain some income whilst remaining indoors. It was also a massive lifestyle change. I’m an extrovert, it comes with the nature of the job, so pre-lockdown I was used to going out four-to-six days per week. Adapting to not going out at all and spending a lot of time on my own was really hard, as it was for everybody,” Lauren said.
“I went on quite a lot of virtual dates. Funnily enough, it actually made a lot of sense. I don’t know why I hadn’t done it before. Sugar dating often happens when people are lonely or don’t have enough time to date, so virtual dating is quite perfect in those situations.”
Lauren has been using Zoom and FaceTime to stay in contact with her sugar daddies throughout the pandemic. “Sometimes we have a quick chat to catch up and see how each other is doing; other times it’s a full-on production, and I have my phone set up, a dinner setting and atmospheric music playing in the background. It depends on what the individual is looking for.
“The restrictions put a limit on what I can do with my clients. Some are unwilling to meet in person at all, whilst others have very strict rules on what we can and can’t do. It means that during face-to-face dates, I’m just constantly worrying about putting them at risk, which means the dates tend to be much less enjoyable.
“This also makes it very difficult to make a living. Not only am I limited date-wise, a couple of my sugar daddies have seen a major reduction in their income, so are becoming more and more reluctant to spend their money on a sugar baby. It is a huge concern of mine and might mean that I have to find another part-time job to see me through university.”
Generally, with her primary sugar daddy, Lauren would go on one or two dates a week before heading back to his flat. These dates would last anywhere between one hour to a whole night. But, with the outbreak of coronavirus, her older companions are often hesitant to meet in person, so to prevent the potential spread of the virus, Lauren is avoiding contact with all clients.
Whilst the internet has become an essential tool for modern dating and relationship. It doesn’t take away from the importance of face-to-face intimacy and in-person connections.
In the meantime, Lauren is doing what she can online: “Currently, everything is very uncertain. My income rests solely on virtual encounters that may not be of interest as time goes on. I don’t know when I will next be able to go on dates and return to normality. I guess it’s just a waiting game, and until then, my life will remain in the internet world.”
* The interviewee’s name has been changed to protect their anonymity.
Featured image courtesy of Seeking Arrangements.