Selling Sex to Pay for College: A Look Into Sugaring

By Andrea Colombel on August 18, 2017

Student loan debt is perhaps the most burdensome issue facing college students today, with the average graduate having $27,000 to pay off. In response to this dilemma, some are going to an unconventional source of financial relief: sugaring.

Sugaring is when a young, usually 20-something “baby” spends time with an older, usually well-off “daddy” or “mama” for a price. It is a lucrative side hustle, with many of its collegiate participants professing to how quickly and easily they could pay off their debt. But the question remains, is it worth it?

Sugaring is highly stigmatized as people tend to associate it with prostitution, and many babies must cope with the psychological issues that come with having a double life. But as the price of tuition continues to go up, so will the number of college students turning to sex work to acquire their piece of the American Dream.


There are several websites that cater specifically to sugar daddy/sugar baby relationships, but the most popular is, which has over 300,000 registered members. Babies join free, while daddies pay $44.95 per month. Since nearly 50 percent of daddies are married, there are many who pay an extra $5 to have the website’s name not to appear on their credit card statements.

If a daddy wants his income and net worth at the top of the website’s homepage, he can pay an extra $1,200 a year to become a Diamond Club member. Babies out number daddies 10 to one, making it an ideal fantasy for middle-aged men in their 40′s and 50′s: young, attractive women competing for their time and attention. Typically, once an arrangement is made, daddies provide babies with monthly allowances, shopping sprees, gifts, and travel. In return, babies provide sex and ego-boosting admiration.

College students make up 44 percent of the babies on and that’s no coincidence. The CEO Brandon Wade pays for the company’s ads to appear in search engine results whenever someone uses the key words “student loan,” “tuition help,” or “college support.”

Students who use a .edu email address to register on Seeking Arrangement automatically receive an upgrade to their membership, turning it into a premium one. The premium membership allows students to send unlimited messages, gives them access to the VIP sugar daddies, and adds a complementary stamp on their student profiles to identify them as “college sugar babies.”

The universities with the most sugar babies are New York University, Harvard University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Southern Florida, Tulane University, UCLA, USC, and UC Berkeley.


The World Health Organization defines sex work as the provision of sexual services for money or goods, and sex workers are individuals who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who define those activities as income-generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation. People tend to think of sex work as only including prostitution, but stripping, sugaring, and starring in a pornographic film also fall into this category.

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist Dr. Barb Brents studies sex workers in the United States. In her research, she found that women turn to sex work when they have trouble making ends meet in socially approved occupations. In her studies, Brents found that nearly all the women she interviewed described what they were doing as temporary, part-time work and that they didn’t view themselves as being part of the sex industry.

“These college students don’t see themselves as sex workers, but women doing straight-up prostitution don’t see themselves that way either,” Brents said. “Drawing that line is necessary psychologically, but in reality, it’s quite a blurry line.”

If someone is paid for something other than sex, then it isn’t prostitution. Some sugar babies even argue that women who stay in miserable marriages for financial security are more like prostitutes than they are. But social science experts disagree.

Dr. Elizabeth Bailey is a historian that studies courtship at Temple University. She says that even though heterosexual relationships have always involved economics, it is the reasons behind the economics that creates the distinction between a sex worker and a partner. Historically, a man would provide financial support to a woman in return for her sexual virtue and fertility. For a relationship or interaction that was only for sexual entertainment, he would turn to a prostitute or exotic dancer.

Though sugar babies are not legally considered prostitutes, they share the commonality of being bought for their sexual availability. But unlike prostitutes, sugar babies have a false sense of autonomy because they believe that whatever luxuries or goods they receive make up for the dignity and self-worth that they are giving away.


Continually exchanging sexual services for money can take its toll psychologically. Sugar babies turn themselves into commodities in order to obtain commodities. Auctioning oneself compromises an individual’s independence at an emotional level and leaves the person feeling as if they don’t have their own sense of self at all because everything they do in a relationship revolves around pleasing someone else and providing for their needs.

Another predicament of sugaring is attempting to leave the lifestyle behind and establish a mainstream identity. Unexplained gaps on resumes and the shock that comes from perhaps making less money in a regular job makes it difficult for sugar babies to leave the sex industry. There is also the fear of running into a client later in life.

Dayanara, an economics major at Florida International University, expressed this dreaded possibility in an interview with the Huffington Post: “I’m afraid that I’ll run into one of my clients later down the road. If I get found out I will never have a career in the financial industry again.”

A sugar baby/sugar daddy relationship can also jade a young woman’s perspective on relationships as the setup strongly favors the man. The woman’s lack of life experience and financial desperation make her dependent and easily manipulated.

Kerry, a student at a university in the South, can testify to the unequal leverage a sugar daddy has in the relationship:

“I was seeing a psychologist I met … who flew me out to San Francisco to meet him. After I was with him for a few nights, he pressured me into having sex with him without a condom. I complied because I thought that if he had a good time, he would want to see me again and be willing to support me financially. But I just left with a bad feeling. I realized the power dynamic would always benefit the guy more than it did me. I’m done with sugaring, even if it means that I will have to delay my education longer.”

Even once someone decides to abandon the life of a sugar baby, it follows them in their future relationships.

Alicia, a UT Austin graduate, encountered this when she revealed her former lifestyle to her fiancée:

“One day, I told him the truth about my ex-boyfriend, thinking we would still get married. He called it prostitution and it became a deal-breaker in our relationship. I was devastated about the breakup, and it makes me uncomfortable knowing that he knows that about me. I’m always worried that he’ll tell my coworkers since we work together.”


Modern-day sugaring is an ironic paradox. In the feminist pursuit to achieve her independence, a woman is also willing to make herself dependent on a man. It is foolish to tell yourself that you are in control when someone with far greater economic resources and 20 to 30 more years life experience is involved.

Youth is partly about making mistakes and learning from them. Often, young people cannot see how something will affect them years from the present. They can only see for today. But selling yourself for something as materialistic as money is not a regret that you want to look back on and cringe at.

Here is one way that you can decide whether or not to get involved in something: if you can’t put it on a resume, you have to constantly justify it, and you can’t tell your family and friends about it, it’s probably not worth the trouble.



Follow Uloop

Apply to Write for Uloop News

Join the Uloop News Team

Discuss This Article

Back to Top

Log In

Contact Us

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Add a Photo

Please select a photo to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format