There’s a fine line between “sugar baby” and sex worker, but controversial dating website SeekingArrangement.com, does its best to explain the difference.
Have you ever wondered what dating would be like if we were honest about what we want out of a relationship instead of hiding our agenda during those initial first dates? Well, that’s the general premise behind dating website SeekingArrangement.com, which recently hosted its second annual Sugar Baby Summit in Hollywood.
What I initially thought was a matchmaking service to facilitate arranged marriages for Indian parents and their single children turns out to be the world’s largest dating website for wealthy benefactors, also known as sugar daddies who are in search of “mutually beneficial relationships” with attractive beneficiaries.
The summit was sponsored by LetsTalkSugar.com, a lifestyle blog that claims to be the ultimate sugar baby resource guide. It attracted women of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. Some even traveled across the country to be there—eager for tips from successful sugar babies so they too could negotiate the best arrangements possible without compromising their values or personal integrity. At least that’s how it was presented.
Decked out in form-fitting dresses, stylish pant suits, and strappy heels, the modern sugar baby describes herself as an empowered woman looking to upgrade her dating life. As the song “No Scrubs” by TLC played in the background, it was clear these ladies were primarily interested in dating up and trading in the average scrub for a wealthy snub—provided there was an authentic attraction.
“You have to think of yourself as the treasure and a treasure never does the hunting,” said 26-year-old Shari from Philadelphia who works full-time in retail. Shari is the epitome of what most women hope to get out of these arrangements. She said her goal was to snag a “big fish” and get off the website because then she’d possess the full package: looks, personality AND wealth.
In the meanwhile, she said she’s looking for strictly platonic arrangements that would involve spending time together in exchange for a new car, diamond earrings and fully-funded vacation in the Dominican Republic, to name some of her best experiences. She said she came pretty close to catching her “big fish” when the 37-year-old sugar daddy she was dating proposed a year and half into their relationship. Right before he popped the question, she discovered he had lied about his age and ended their arrangement. He was actually 52.
Like regular dating, arrangements have their share of challenges. People don’t always look like their photos, some lie and others are what the sugar baby community refers to as “salt” daddies. A salt daddy is the antithesis of a sugar daddy. The sugar experts at “Let’s Talk Sugar” described a salt daddy as “someone who’s not willing to gift and spoil, but pretends he will just to get in your pants.”
Iggy, a male sugar baby from New Jersey, said that he thinks 40 percent of men on the website were gay or bi-curious. He was definitely in his own category at the summit being one of two male sugar babies in a room full of female attendees. The muscular 22-year-old said he found his first sugar daddy within three months of joining SeekingArrangement. “I’ll be moving to San Francisco for a marketing job thanks to my sugar daddy,” he proudly said.
My conversation with Iggy was cut short as Brook Urick, host of “Let’s Talk Sugar,” came out for a brief introduction of the day’s course agenda: six progressive workshops with topics that ranged from how to create a captivating profile, keeping your sugar daddy happy and how to manage your sugar finances.
One speaker was a petite, pear-shaped Persian woman with long dark hair who recently graduated law school. Her claim to sugar baby fame? She had her tuition paid in full thanks to her arrangement. She covered first date attire—dresses and heels for the most part—conversation tips, the art of seduction, and online dating safety. She discouraged having sex with someone who has yet to prove himself. “Men will try to get what they can get from you,” she said, “so it’s up to you to regulate.”
SeekingArrangement.com founder and CEO Brandon Wade said there is a distinct difference between traditional romantic relationships, sugar relationships and prostitution. He admits that roughly 40 percent of the sugar daddies on the site are married and otherwise emotionally unavailable.
“In traditional relationships, we tend to dance around a lot, we beat around the bush, and we present a version of ourselves that we think our partner will like—not necessarily our true self. A lot of agendas are hidden, and that’s a big problem,” he said. “If you’re married, say you’re married. If you want a guy to just take you out and buy you stuff, say it—whatever it is, just say it because you’ll be surprised that when you’re willing to be honest, people will appreciate your honesty.”
He defined an arrangement as a more honest version of a traditional relationship. “If two people in a traditional relationship were to sit down when they first met and say, ‘Hey, what do we want from each other? What can we expect from each other?’—if they could just be completely honest about that—that would make it more of an arrangement.”
But when daddy wants a physical arrangement and is willing to pay for it, how is that not a form of prostitution?
“There are hard set rules on the website,” he said. “If you ask somebody for money for sex, we’ll kick you off.” According to Wade, roughly 200 profiles are removed every day because of suspected sex worker shenanigans. “But romantic relationships also involve money,” he added. “Those two components are integral to a marriage, to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, and obviously to prostitution as well.”
It all boils down to how you frame it, he explains. If you were to tell your friends that a millionaire is paying you to date him, then they’ll compare you to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. But if you were to tell your friends that you’re dating a successful millionaire who treats you really well, your friends would ask if he had any brothers.
The fourth speaker of the day was a tall, androgynous looking blond woman named Jessicka Chamberlin. She discovered arrangements through her initial career as a stripper. Through the mentoring guidance of her wealthy benefactor, she was able to start a new career as the CEO of her own company, Creative Human Capital. She talked about the difference between demonstrating value and being demanding.
“Men will dote on you if you can give them something they value,” said the exotic dancer turned business consultant. She cited time, attention, affection, conversation and compassion as the hottest commodities in the sugar game. “It’s all about how much value you can add to someone’s life,” she said.
The fifth speaker was Jordan Hasty, a vivacious African American sugar baby who discussed the art of negotiating an allowance. She went over specific verbiage sugar babies could use when discussing an allowance with a potential sugar daddy. Hasty further justified the gold-digging (er, I mean sugar baby) lifestyle by highlighting the disparity of pay between men and women and how that was offset by sugar daddies “giving back” to sugar babies.
“Being a sugar baby is a good way to snatch back your wage,” she said with a sense of empowerment. She also reinforced the notion that not all sugar daddies are interested in allowance arrangements and prefer to spoil their sugar babies in other ways.
Last, but not least was Ileana Zayas, a slender, dark-haired financial planner who covered the basics of managing your sugar finances. Aside from common sense stuff like creating a budget and retirement planning, attendees learned that “allowances” are considered gifts, making the donor of the gift responsible for paying the gift tax if the amount exceeds $14,000.
Closing out the event was a panel discussion featuring two sugar daddies, including chief sugar daddy Brandon Wade, and two sugar babies, including SeekingArrangement spokesperson Angela Jacob Bermudo.
By the end of the $100 per ticket workshop, aspiring sugar babies walked away feeling a sense of empowerment, excited to mingle with potential sugar daddies at SeekingArrangement’s 10th year anniversary masquerade ball held later that evening. My parting thoughts were that as appealing as the sugar lifestyle may be, women are still left with the same challenges they’ve always had on dating sites: putting their “sugar” on the line like a carrot dangling from a stick.
Copyright © Niki Payne/2016 Singular Communications, LLC.
SingularCity member Niki Payne is an aspiring author and motivational speaker for young women. As a dating and relationship writer, she offers unique insights that aim to challenge existing relationship paradigms. She has a deep passion for helping her fellow singulars make peace with single life while making better relationship decisions. You can visit her website at www.nikipayne.com.