I'm a sugar baby. Here's what it's like (and how much money I make)
Late last year I was strapped for cash, in classic underemployed millennial fashion. I had been working part-time in marketing for a few months, and gradually circling the drain of a return to school.
The idea of selling our bodies for money had been a longstanding joke amongst my friends, but I started to consider the idea more seriously.
Some shit to consider before becoming a sugar baby
There were some strong deterrents: the potential of violence, first and foremost. The prospect of explicitly offering myself and my body up to the male gaze gave me pause; in my day-to-day life I attempt to resist objectification with the aid of oversized sweaters, earbuds, and a carefully cultivated resting disdain face. As a firmly sex-positive, third-wave feminist, I rallied my intellectual arguments in support of the validity of sex work, but hundreds of years of social shame and stigma regarding “loose women” are not always easy to slough off.
In interrogating myself, I felt a bit like everyone’s favourite sexy narcissist, Carrie Bradshaw: Could I be comfortable exchanging sex for money? Would selling my charm and my body demean me...or empower me? Would I come to see myself through their eyes?
After letting it percolate in the back of my mind for a few months, I spent a night avidly researching the not-so-lurid tales of sugar babies on r/AskWomen. These folks were grossed out and proud, ashamed and elated, and all in control of themselves and their decisions.
I learned some tips: some specifically applicable to the sugar bowl, some unfortunately things that femme people have to learn the world over.
Stuff I leant on Reddit about becoming a sugar baby
Here's what I learnt.
- Meet in public.
- Use a fake name.
- Use service to block your phone number.
- Tell friends where you’re going.
- Practice asking for your allowance from some daddies you don’t care about, so you’re more confident in your ability by the time you reach one you’re interested in.
- Above all, trust your instincts.
Shutting off the blue light of my laptop in the wee hours, I decided it was time for my own foray into the world’s oldest profession.
Actually becoming a sugar baby
The following night, sitting around the living room with my roommates, I used a fake email address to create a profile on Seeking Arrangement, the most prominent sugaring site. It opens with an arresting image: a svelte, silken Asian women arches her well-dressed back in the hand of a grown-up hipster (suit, trimmed beard) who gazes at her with romance-novel- level steaminess. Every time I open the Seeking Arrangement app, I’m faced with the same photo, and it both inspires and reminds me: you hold the power. The wannabe sugar daddies and mommies on this site have money, with which they buy your attention, time, and affection. The forms this affection takes - that’s the arrangement.
Newly invigorated by this validation of my own disinterest, I uploaded four former Facebook profile pictures, being careful to set them to “friends only” on Facebook in order to avoid reverse-Google image search bearing out my public personal life. I wildly overestimated my “lifestyle budget” (the amount I generally spend per month) at $3,000. This, I later found, made me a “Practical” baby in the world of those seeking arrangements, who can set their expectations as high as $10,000/mo.
Aside from basic demographic data (age, occupation, ethnicity, body type, as well as net worth and annual income for prospective sugar daddies and mommies), and photos, which can be either public or private, Seeking Arrangement profiles include two informational sections: “About Me” and “What I’m Looking For.” I kept mine relatively short, emphasizing my status as a student looking for some ongoing financial support.
Seeking Arrangement screens profiles for nudity, phone numbers, and email addresses before they become public. Once your profile has been approved (generally a 24-hour waiting period), you can start receiving two types of notifications: “Interests” (anyone that has viewed or “favorited” your profile) and “Messages.” When I first logged with an approved and public account, I had 15 profile views, five “favorites,” and five messages, ranging from the Tinder classic “hey, how are you” to “you’re hot. do you have a bubble butt?” to a multi-paragraph treatise on the decline of the contemporary gentleman.
For about a week, I was obsessed. Seeking Arrangement surpassed Instagram as my toilet- time-scrolling-activity of choice. I felt a little rush of validation from each new view and message, and I checked them constantly.
In some ways, I felt a bit like a virgin all over again, new as I was to the norms of having sex for money. I scoured sugar daddy profiles, and began to accustom myself to the language of the site. Like any community, online or otherwise, people seeking arrangements use a variety of social cues and codes. I tweaked my profile to better reflect what I wanted - a monthly allowance from someone I liked and wouldn’t mind fucking. (Of course, expressed slightly more delicately.) I reached out to those that interested me, or those that viewed my profile but hadn’t sent a message. When writing to dudes, I made jokes and referenced their profile info when at all possible. I requested access to their onsite private photos.
Meeting the sugar daddies
And I began to set up meet & greets. I met guys for meals, for nice drinks, for afternoon coffees. These meetings follow the pattern of a standard first date, except half the time I don’t know what the guy will look like. We make awkward small talk for a minute or two about the weather, then I settle in and work my charm to transition us to some more interesting topic - music, politics, my psychological studies, or, for the least interesting among them, travel and/ or good restaurants in town. Everyone can talk about places they’ve been.
At some point, the conversation always turns to one’s experiences on the site, usually by means of some allusion to “well, we met in an interesting place...” or more directly “How long have you been using the site?” Underlying any approach is the fundamental anxiety: “Are you a ‘normal’ girl?” I opt for a casual approach, mentioning a fictitious friend that has had an ongoing sugar relationship. I mention that I like to have fun, meet interesting people (“guys my age are so boring”), and keep things casual. But of course, you gotta talk money. Having confronted my share of hesitation around a monthly allowance (for which I ask $1,200), I now also have a ready per-date quote ($300).
For those of us that have been in the app-centric world of urban dating in the last few years, Seeking Arrangement is nothing new, just a higher proportion of older men and a higher incidence of the words “intimate,” “spoil,” “generous,” and “discrete.” Certainly, I’ve received my fair share of distasteful, cringeworthy, strange, or just plain lame messages... but Snapchat has also served me unsolicited dick pics.
Our society trains people categorized as ‘women’ to perform emotional labor almost constantly.
We listen, we empathize, we validate, we concern ourselves. We remember life events and interviews and minutia. We are generous with our time and our bodies. Let me be clear: I enjoy participating in these small acts of love for my friends and family. But even strangers consider themselves entitled to our smiles. And I realized that if I’m going to perform this work for these unknown men...well, I might as well get paid.