It was a warm April 2017 when they started talking. By May, they had already set up an arrangement. 

This was her first “sugar relationship”—that is, a relationship defined primarily by its financial component, usually in exchange for the relationship itself, which could include companionship, sex, or more. 

When Jane* first met him, she was 18. “I felt nervous. It was the first time I was doing something bad, like breaking the rules. I skipped class to see him sometimes, which was something I would never do.”

She met her Sugar Daddy on Seeking Arrangement, a site created by an MIT grad whose slogan is “Relationships on Your Terms” that boasts, “Where beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships.” 

College is expensive, time is of the essence, and an increasing number of students are entering sugar relationships to help balance their finances in a way that is more convenient for a loaded schedule. Furthermore, student debt is a major issue and growing epidemic. As stated by one of the largest Sugar Daddy dating sites, “Since 2006, more than 7 million students have joined, the world’s largest Sugar Daddy dating site, to meet wealthy benefactors.”

Under U.S. territory, the University of Arizona is actually leading in Seeking Arrangement’s top 20 fastest growing schools in terms of registered students. Sugar students who maintain a successful relationship are promised an average of $2800 monthly to help in payment for their education, with the promising “No minimum GPA requirement” tacked towards the end of the statement to seal the deal.

Although a depiction of a crude reality—that of increasing costs of education and student debt, and of a systemic inefficiency to handle it—Seeking Arrangement and sugar relationships have a whole range of purposes, also serving as a portal for anyone interested in being a sex worker. There’s also the reality that many users are simply checking the site out, or truly interested in meeting someone.

Finances aren’t everything, and at the end of the day, sugar relationships are a form of dating. “I told myself I would never be with someone that I wasn’t attracted to in the first place, so the financial aspect was mostly just a plus. I was attracted to him,” Jane shares. Thus, the agreed upon factor of sex didn’t feel like work, a job, or a chore, but rather a pleasure like any other, with the addition of monetary compensation. It’s important to note that a sugar relationship is unlike prostitution in the sense that there are components of the relationship that need not be sexual in nature, but rather for companionship instead. There are real connections, along with the possibility of romance. 

As in any relationship, there is flexibility. Arrangements can sometimes be set daily, weekly, monthly. Meetings are regular, or not, depending on schedules. In her case, she had started to develop feelings that went beyond the business aspect, and it became more than just a deal, more than just an exchange. “Because I really liked him, it would be sometimes twice a week. Sometimes I would spend the night," Jane explains.

Sugar babies are still a more modern concept and can thus be marginalized. Nonetheless, she shared her relationship with her friends and family. “My younger cousins knew, they helped the cover–up a few times. My friends did as well, they were very supportive,” she says. As a new generation, there is a newfound open mindedness regarding situations like these. 

Yet, the maturity required to deal with sugar relationships is sometimes hard to maintain. “I did things that I would not have been comfortable with had I not been trying to please him all the time,” Jane recalls. To her, he was this “experienced man,” someone who seemed to have so many other options, and she often didn’t feel worthy. Or, even more, she felt like she was constantly compensating.

Though, to be fair, this sounds like an issue that’s plausible in any relationship. Thus it begs the question: did it surge because of the nature of the relationship, or because of the person she was in an arrangement with? Or was it exacerbated by the stark power imbalance present? She agrees that it was a combination of all of these three factors, but mostly the latter two. 

This relationship lasted for two months. Jane noticed that the toxicity of the person she was with was not tolerable, and so she moved on.

She would do it again, but she offers a piece of advice: “Be confident in who you are, and know that you are worthy enough because some people will try to exploit any minimal insecurity that they might see.” 

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity of the source.