The Sugar Baby Lifestyle: Easy Money or Asking for Trouble?

Since the beginning of the internet, young hustlers have been using the web to find new ways of making a quick and easy dollar. Some chose to invest in Bitcoin, while others sell old clothing on second-hand apps like Depop or Poshmark. However, a new promise of easy money has gained an overwhelming amount of online popularity in recent years: sugar dating. Is this another “get rich quick!” scam we’ve witnessed ruin the livelihoods of many throughout history? Or could this be an opportunity for empowered women to market off the unsolicited sexualization endured from men since the beginning of time?

For starters, let’s squash some of the misconceptions about what being a “sugar baby” means. A sugar baby is someone who joins a transactional relationship for financial security in the form of cash, or gifts. The boundaries for what a sugar baby is comfortable doing is entirely up to the individual; in fact, many never even meet their clients in person.

With minimal research, you’ll encounter thousands of individuals with first-hand sugar dating experiences. Some have found enough success in the industry to pay off their student loans, credit card debt, or even make it their primary income source. 27-year-old Lara, a self-proclaimed successful sugar baby, says she took an interest in this unconventional dating method after several months of struggling to pay her rent. “He also paid for me to spend a month each in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Greece, and for my yoga teacher training course.” In unique cases like these, however, it can lead to even more than just financial gain. After sugar dating for nearly three months with ten different sugar daddies, Lara found love with her last one, a 36-year-old financial worker. Pexels Despite the glamour on the surface, it’s important to remember what exactly these women are doing: interacting with strangers on the internet. Doing so can leave them susceptible to a variety of consequences, even more so when these online interactions become in-person encounters. While some sugar babies enjoy their lifestyle of luxury, others struggle to pick up the pieces after finding themselves scammed out of thousands of dollars, blackmailed, and tricked into committing fraud. Or worse, subjecting themselves to becoming victims of sexual assault or sex trafficking. Many sugar babies claim to have been pressured into doing more than they’re comfortable with due to the promise of money held over their heads. “There’s an expectation that the buyer can do whatever he wants, so very often we hear there’s extraordinary violence when the door gets shut on his requests,” stated Lauren Hersh, national director of anti-trafficking group World Without Exploitation, when asked about the dangers of sugar-dating.

Although many sugar dating websites advertise the experience as “being spoiled and valued,” it's proven to be much more complicated. Most things that sound “too good to be true” often are, and the sugar baby lifestyle is no exception. The reality is that any relationship predicated on an exchange of money is not a relationship at all, but rather, a glamorous disguise for what could be a life-endangering power imbalance.