There are two players in the sugar dating market: the sugar daddy and the sugar baby. Sugar babies are typically young, attractive people who are looking for older, wealthier partners to pamper them with a luxurious lifestyle. According to the world’s largest sugar daddy site, SeekingArrangement, the average Australian sugar baby is between 21 and 27 years old and has a monthly allowance of $2,600 [i]. In contrast, sugar daddies are rich and ‘successful men and women’ willing to financially support sugar babies in return for companionship [ii]. On average, the sugar daddy is a 41-year old who earns $259,000 annually and is willing to spend $3,000 a month on his sugar baby [iii]. Sugar dating websites describe the transaction between the two parties to be a ‘mutually beneficial relationship’ [iv]. In the exchange, the ‘pampering’ of sugar babies can involve financial payments, gifts and exotic trips whereas the ‘companionship’ sugar daddies receive can range from a sexual contract, to casual dating, to either a monogamous relationship or another partner for the married sugar daddy.
On their profile, sugar babies typically specify their physical attributes and desired allowance from a sugar daddy, auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder [v]. Once sugar babies have found a sustainable source of ‘sugar’, they can increase their allowances in the long-term by renegotiating [vi] One can expect that the agreed allowance will be somewhere above the sugar baby’s minimum desired allowance but also equal or less than the maximum amount a sugar daddy is willing to pay. The sugar dating market is optimised through the ‘coordination of mating strategies’ [vii].
There are economic incentives that prompt sugar daddies and sugar babies into such relationships. The benefits for sugar daddies in the ‘business partnership’ are often more social than monetary. Sugar daddy sites claim that they facilitate arrangements in which members can be upfront and immediately state, in their terms, what they want out of the relationship [iv]. This aspect of sugar dating can be attractive for wealthy individuals looking for sexual arrangements and companionship with a ‘baby’ who wants money without drama or unrealistic expectations [viii]. For such people who would like a relationship but don’t have the time for courtship, the sugar dating lifestyle can meet their needs. In contrast, sugar babies are likely to derive higher utility from a partner with increased wealth, rather than better looks. While the average sugar baby earns $2,600 a month, it is possible for them to get paid from $1,000 to $20,000 depending on their attractiveness, popularity and what they are willing to offer in the relationship [iii]. Sugar babies can also receive mentorship, networking or job opportunities, and may even fall in love in the process [i].
The competition among sugar babies for ‘daddies and mummies’ is high. As shown in Figure 1, there are 186,000 sugar babies and 17,600 sugar daddies and mummies in total, resulting in a shortage of sugar parents by 168,400 [ii]. For every heterosexual sugar daddy there are 11 female sugar babies for him to choose from – or even date at the same time. The odds are clearly in the sugar daddies’ favour.
Aside from the numerous benefits, the sugar dating lifestyle is not for everyone. There has been ongoing debate in the media on whether sugar dating qualifies as prostitution. While some people have the view that exchanging money for sex must be prostitution, a counter argument is that laws against the practice may also outlaw marriage, as it could be defined as ‘intercourse for financial support’ [ix]. It has also been proposed that the trouble is with the stigma surrounding the transactional relationship, rather than the transaction itself [x]. Other ethical dilemmas in such a relationship include: the concern of connecting intimacy with money; the secrecy involved in a sugar relationship; and the inclusion of married sugar daddies [iii].
Ultimately, everybody is different and it is up for each individual to decide whether sugar dating is for them. Like in all relationships, the success of the sugar partnership amidst social taboos depends on the ability of participants to be honest and open with their partners. Perhaps the sugar dating dynamic is living proof of trickle-down economics. Regardless this is absolutely clear: there will always be a craving for sugar.
[vi] Brooke. (2014, January 1). A Beginner’s Guide to Sugar [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.seekingarrangement.com/2014/01/21/beginners-guide-sugar/#comment-485157