Seeking Arrangement named Georgia State among the top 20 universities when it comes to participation on “sugar daddy” websites. While having a “sugar baby” may seem like a quick fix to get tuition paid, that “fix” does not come without a cost, often leaving students psychologically damaged.
Georgia State holds the title as the fourth fastest growing “sugar” college for 2016 with 188 new sign-ups, a decline from its former title as number one in 2012, with 292 new sign-ups. However, the total engagement from Georgia State for 2017 is currently 746 and rising.
Marriage and family therapist, Jessica Stebbins posted about the emotional effects of “sugaring”, saying they can often be the same as those of prostitution. She said the trend of people involved in “sugar daddy” relationships is shifting from young girls in the juvenile justice system to middle class girls seeking to afford luxury items and pay bills.
Georgia State student Johnny Williams*, who is currently involved in a sugar daddy relationship with a man he found on a dating website, said his “sugar daddy” not only buys him basic material possessions, but also luxuries.
“My sugar daddy wants to take me on vacation to his Florida beach house and he buys me food,” he said.
According to Seeking Arrangement, the difference between being a “sugar baby” and a prostitute has nothing to do with the monetary or material transactions they make, but are distinct due to the relationship the two people form.
Though it is assumed that these transactions are purely sexual, in most cases, they are not. Williams said he does not cross those boundaries at all.
“The boundaries I have are definitely no sex. I don’t care what they’re offering, but I don’t hook up with people,” Williams said.
According to a CBS interview with Clark Atlanta University psychology professor Kanika Bell, these relationships cause “sugar daddies” to create a perceived ownership over their sugar baby, thus warranting an emotional risk.
Williams said sometimes the “hosts” do become emotionally invested, and as a result, he is very selective and cautious about whom he speaks to online.
“I see them as companions, but I know for a fact they get emotionally invested. I’ve had men yell at me like an angry boyfriend for not communicating with them,” Williams said. “When I first start talking to people on websites I’m kind of apprehensive. I always like to proceed with caution until intentions are made clear and trust is established.”
CBS stated that “sugar daddies” are usually between the ages of 30 and 60 years old and make about $250,000 a year.
Ramsey said that the usual age difference between the “sugar daddy” and the “sugar baby” is likely to cause them to be unable to relate, potentially resulting in a loss of identity.
“At this age individuals are trying to ‘find’ themselves and discover what they want in life. The influence of dating beyond their age group can alter their sense of self,” she said.
Williams said that the inability to relate can cause the relationship to be a little difficult.
“Most of the older men are lonely and very generous, so getting things is the easy part,” said Williams. “The hard part is keeping the conversation going most of the times.”
The long term effects of “sugar daddy” relationships could not only affect the two involved in the relationship, but also those around them, according to Ramsey.
“While these relationships could expose them to a lifestyle they may not have known otherwise, they could potentially make it more of a challenge to reach individual goals, such as being a parent,” Ramsey said. “And most times, they are not accepted by each others’ friends and families and for some, that is emotionally hard for them to handle.”
Besides getting tuition and bills paid, clinical psychologist Dr. Natasha Ramsey told the Signal there are other emotional reasons students feel the need to foster these types of relationships.
“Many students do develop these relationships for financial support, but they may also get involved with these older mates due to the unresolved parental issues or the simple lack of companionship,” Ramsey said.
Williams said that although these relationships are becoming more accepted, some still see them in a negative light.
“It seems like they are becoming more normalized now, eliminating the stigma,” said Williams. “But I know a few people that still see them as a negative thing due to the fact that you are essentially exploiting people in exchange for attention and company.”
A research study conducted at Wilfred Laurier University about intimacy in sex work states that the “bad stigma” that comes from sugar daddy relationships not only derives from the act of participating in these relationships, but also the way it socially defines the “sugar baby’s” identity.
Ramsey said these types of relationships could ultimately affect the “sugar baby’s” relationship with others, as well as themselves.
“They’re developing a sense of self that is being shaped by experiences that are not natural. They are dating outside of their peer group, delaying their development of true self,” she said.
*Names in article have been changed to protect the identity of those in this story. Names used are aliases.