Sugaring May Not Be So Sweet
Sugar dating, when someone receives gifts or money in exchange for a dating-like relationship, once taboo has become more readily discussed over the past decade. It’s not uncommon and far too easy for college students to turn to websites to find someone willing to pay for their tuition; at Tulane as many as four percent of its female students are members of these websites(*1). These websites market themselves to young, vulnerable people, as over a third of their registered users are college students and one website sends out a press release every January promoting themselves’ as “an alternate method of financial aid.”(*2) A new sugar baby described her experience as “being pamper and valued,” but this sort of relationship can sour quickly due to the unequal power balance in these type of relationships.(*3) “The reality is that any relationship predicated on the exchange of money or material provision for sexual intercourse creates a dangerous power imbalance and is not a relationship at all.”(*4)
The power imbalance in these “relationships” makes the sugar parent feel entitled to do whatever they please. Lauren Hersh the national director of World Without Exploitation, an anti-trafficking group, has said that very often they hear extraordinary violence takes place when the door gets shut.(*5) An international student who did not have a visa to work, turned to being a sugar baby to make ends meet. After complying with her sugar daddy’s request to have sex with him for $1,000, he refused to pay her and instead “took his T-shirt off, wrapped it around my head and tangled it around my neck. … I really thought he was going to keep me hostage.”(*6) These websites are closely monitored by undercover law enforcement to identify relationships that cross over into sex work, especially with the legislation like Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA).(*7)
Georgia State University has been listed as another institution with a high number of registered students as sugar babies. The university takes this information seriously and is working to provide more safety information regarding the dangers of sugar dating. Follow our Instagram and Twitter pages @gsu_odos for more information about sugar dating and be on the lookout for a virtual human trafficking simulation in October as well as additional information and events about safety during National Campus Safety Month at safety.gsu.edu.
(1)Lopez, K. (2011, Oct 18). College "sugar babies" use dating website where "sugar daddies" can help pay thier school tuition. McClatchy - Tribune Business News
(3)Zoeller, S., & Projects, S. (2014, Dec 08). Students turn to sugar dating to fund university education. University Wire