Sugar dating, also called sugaring, is a pseudo-romantic transactional sexual relationship between an older wealthy person and a younger person. Payment can be received by way of money, gifts like designer goods, jewellery, support or other material benefits in exchange for companionship or a dating-like relationship. The person who receives the gifts is called a sugar baby (or in the case of men, traditionally a gigolo), while their paying partner is called a sugar daddy or sugar momma (also spelled sugar mama).
Sugar dating is especially popular in the online dating community due to the easy access to specific niches and desires.
The phenomenon of powerful men using their money to attract women is old. At the end of the 19th century in the United States, in a phenomenon known as treating, women with low-paying jobs relied upon men to provide them with money in exchange for being an escort.
With the rising costs in tuition, cuts to scholarships and bursaries, as well as the increasing pressures of student debt, sugar dating has become prevalent among students. Research suggests that there is a growing phenomenon of female university students working in the sex industry to pay for their post-secondary education. Due to the nature and stigmatization of sex work in the marginalized and hidden population, there is limited information for the percentage of students participating in these types of relationships. Those that decide to participate in sugar often use various websites to come in contact with these people. Membership on one site in 2016 was $70 per month for sugar daddies or mommies, but free for sugar babies.
Legality and comparison to sex work
There is debate about whether this practice can be considered sex work, i.e., purchase of intimate attention, sexual or otherwise. In an article from Deutsche Welle, the CEO of SeekingArrangement denied that the site played host to prostitutes and their customers, saying that "escorts and their clients are never welcome on our sites".
- Pardiwalla, Anahita (20 April 2016). "Sugaring: A New Kind of Irresistible". Huffington Post.
- Recio, Rocío Palomeque (January 2022). "Blurred lines: Technologies of heterosexual coercion in "sugar dating"". Feminism & Psychology. 32 (1): 44–61. doi:10.1177/09593535211030749. ISSN 0959-3535.
- Nelson, Rochelle (6 November 2014). "'Sugar Baby' Reveals Why Married Men Cheat with Her for Thousands of Dollars". Huffington Post.
- Motyl, J (2013). "Trading sex for college tuition: How sugar daddy "dating" sites may be sugarcoating prostitution". Penn State Law Review. 117 (3): 927–957.
- "Meaning of sugar daddy in English". Cambridge Dictionary. 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- "Sugardaddie.com Dating Blog Meeting Online: The Past, Present and Future of Dating | Sugardaddie.com". 13 April 2018. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
- Krantz, Rachel (24 July 2018). "Professional 'sugar babies' share what it's really like to get paid to hang out with rich guys". Business Insider. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
- Ross, Terrance F. (15 January 2015). "Where the Sugar Babies Are". The Atlantic. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
- Cordero, Brittany (2015). "Sugar Culture and SeekingArrangement.com Participants: What it Means to Negotiate Power and Agency in Sugar Dating". California State University.
- Daly, Sarah (2017). "Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies: An Exploration of Sugar Dating on Canadian Campuses". Carleton University: 9–15.
- Hernandez, Elizabeth (13 May 2016). "Colorado 'Sugar Babies' Use Online Dating to Cover Soaring Tuition". The Denver Post. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
Local law enforcement agencies say that because the site was set up like a dating website and advertised as facilitating consensual connections, it is not illegal.
- Juan Fernández, Jorge de (2019). "El fenómeno sugar babies". 21. La Revista Cristiana de Hoy. 1029: 38–41.
- Sex work or companionship? 'Sugar Dating' is growing in popularity, from Deutsche Welle
- "'Sugar Dating' Is On the Rise In Malaysia. Naturally, It's Being Banned". www.vice.com. 16 February 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
- "Sugarbook dating app maker arrested over 'promoting prostitution'". BBC News. 18 February 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
- ONG, JUSTIN (16 February 2021). "Banned in Malaysia, Sugarbook launches alternate website to circumvent MCMC". Malay Mail. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
- Lawson, Leidra (2002). Sugar Daddy 101: What You Need to Know If You Want to be a Sugar Baby. Sugar Daddy 101. ISBN 9780972760805.
- Agrell, Siri (19 July 2007). "Sugar daddies finding sugar babies". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 September 2019.