Sugar daddy website sets up sweet arrangements for students

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Sugar daddy website sets up sweet arrangements for students

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“Men come to me and think I am amazing. They literally pay to spend time with me. Like not even necessarily to be intimate with me — just to spend time with me. I’m exalted.”

This is Phoebe* — a 19-year-old sophomore at Tulane. Last October, during her freshman year, she signed up for Seeking Arrangement, an online dating platform where, according to the website, “beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships.”

Phoebe’s interest in the platform spawned, and she delved into YouTube documentaries and coverage in the mainstream media to learn more about it. After making an account and swiping through various profiles, she liked what she saw. In the same month, Phoebe met her first “sugar daddy” in person — a Hollywood producer who was in New Orleans shooting a new television show.

“He was cute,” she said. “I liked talking to him. He had a pretty interesting job. We just went out for drinks one night, and for the six weeks he was here in New Orleans filming a pilot, I would see him like every weekend.”

Phoebe is not the only Tulane student involved in this phenomenon. Back in 2011, Tulane ranked Top 20 for the number of students who had signed up for SeekingArrangement. Though the ranking has since dropped to #118 on the website’s list of fastest growing schools, the number of sugar babies has almost doubled to 360 students.

“Many students on Seeking.com are looking for a relationship on their terms, where they can spend time with someone who can mentor them and help support them while they’re in college,” Spokesperson for SeekingArrangement Kimberly De La Cruz said.

Some people might wonder what contributes to this rise in “sugar daddy” arrangements. But as student debt continues to rise with increasing college tuition, students like Phoebe are finding new ways to support their lifestyles. The idea of arrangements like these, however, is not entirely new.

The first recorded use of “sugar daddy” was in 1926 as a slang term used to describe a man who gives money or gifts to a significantly younger woman in exchange for companionship.

Though the phrase never went away, the rise of sugar daddy/sugar baby relationships took a spike when Brandon Wade created the SeekingArrangement website in 2006. Since its founding, the website has boasted over 10 million active members, with four sugar babies for every one sugar daddy or mama.

Courtesy of SeekingArrangement

According to SeekingArrangement, an arrangement is “where people are direct with one another and stop wasting time.” It also claims to give users the opportunity to have a relationship on their own terms.

Similar to most dating apps, users are able to describe exactly what they are looking for in a partner. Most put their expectations directly in their bios, along with their net worth and physical descriptions. Sugar babies, however, get the advantage on who can contact them.

It is for this reason, Phoebe says, that many people use the site.

“You’re actually in charge of who you see and who you meet and even in charge of who can message you,” she said. “No one can message you until you approve them … That’s why I think most people I think do it because it is like running your own business.”

Despite the sentiment of an arrangement being mutually beneficial, many people still frown upon the concept. In 2011, The Times-Picayune noted a movement within the Tulane Greek system in which several sororities offered “informal counseling” to provide members with other options to “make ends meet” other than seeking an arrangement.

Tori Buckley, a New Orleans based master’s level provisionally-licensed professional counselor, says the discussion around the topic is usually attributed to the bigger conversation of gender and sexuality.

“As for why this arrangement is so taboo, there is always a lot of controversy around women who utilize sexism, the patriarchy, and the objectification of women to exploit men,” Buckley said. “Furthermore, the sugar baby/daddy arrangement can be categorized within sex work, as it is a relationship by hire.”

There is a long history of sex work in New Orleans. In 1879, a red-light district called Storyville formed in order to regulate prostitution and other illegal activities. Though prostitution was not legalized in Storyville, it was prohibited by law in every other area of New Orleans, therefore making the small area, lined with brothels and saloons, the perfect place for illicit activity. The district was shut down in 1917.

Still, New Orleans’ reputation as a “loose” city precedes itself. Though there is no official data on the SeekingArrangement site on the number of sugar babies or daddies in New Orleans, the site does give statistics by state. According to the Sugar Dating Heat Map, Louisiana ranks No. 15 for the number of sugar daddies — 2.94 sugar daddies per 1,000 adult males. Additionally, it ranks No. 22 for the number of female sugar babies — 12.90 per 1,000 adult females.

“Lots of people come to New Orleans as tourists and New Orleans is known as a sex tourism place. Lots of people come to New Orleans for conventions and so the wealthy men would be coming here, it’s not their home.” Mimi Schippers, a professor and chair of the department of sociology and gender and sexuality program, said.

Tulane is the perfect cross-section of both of these high-appeal markets, given its New Orleans location and student population.

“And as far as I know it’s also about a desire to spend time with a significantly younger woman, who’s more educated, and smart and confident,” Schippers said. “And so there are particular locations — universities probably that would have a reputation where it would be more likely that you would find that kind of younger woman.”

The business, Phoebe says, is worthwhile. While her parents pay for her college tuition and living expenses, she uses the extra cash she earns from her arrangements for recreational activities. When choosing which potential sugar daddies can contact her, she makes sure to look at their net worth to ensure the companion can actually pay her allowance rate — which is $600 per week.

“I feel like I don’t need to do this work,” she said. “I’m just doing it to make some extra money. It’s easy, it’s low-time commitment. So you know if they’re not going to meet that I don’t even need to see them.”

“What I’m doing in my free time it will not hurt you. It just won’t. It simply will not. I don’t do anything illegal. So I shouldn’t be treated like I do something illegal.” Anonymous, Tulane University sophomore

Ultimately, Phoebe says those paying to spend time with her are not paying her for a sexual relationship. Out of the three arrangements she has had, only two of them were intimate, and sex happened farther down the line. This means what she does is completely legal, and she wants people to understand this.

“At the end of the day, you should let people do what they want to do and recognize that even if it is something that is startling to you, on a very basic level it will not impact your life,” she said. “What I’m doing in my free time it will not hurt you. It just won’t. It simply will not. I don’t do anything illegal. So I shouldn’t be treated like I do something illegal.”