Who’s your daddy

Tori first met her sugar daddy at a hotel restaurant wearing her best dress and little makeup.

When they sat down at the candlelit table, she laid down some ground rules, like no sex on the first date.

“I told him that this was really nice and I know what kind of arrangement this is, but that does not mean I’m going to have sex with you on the first date.”

She didn’t have sex with him on the first, second or third date.

“I have a rule that there needs to be at least three weeks of messaging before we ever meet,” Tori said. “None of the other guys I was messaging ever made it through the three weeks. The sugar daddy I’m with now was the only one that did.”

Tori, who turns 20 next month, is among the nearly 900,000 women currently registered on SeekingArrangement.com, a sugar daddy and mommy/ sugar baby dating site that allows wealthy men or women to seek younger men and women for companionship–sometimes for a price, sometimes for a gift, sometimes for an advancement opportunity for the sugar baby’s prospective career.

The site, launched in 2006, has gained popularity and controversy ever since. Now boasting nearly 1.1 million users, with college students as the largest (and most active, at 40 percent) demographic on the site.

Seeking Arrangement released a Top 20 list of national universities with the largest number of sugar baby signups in 2011. Georgia State came in number 11 with 74 new members. The University of Georgia arrived at number two with 155.

There are currently more than 100 Georgia State students registered on the site, although this only includes those who have used their .edu email address for the Sugar Baby College Certification.
For some students like Tori, the goal is to get their sugar daddy to pay for school.

Tori attended the Art Institute of Atlanta for a year and lived in an apartment with a couple of roommates. About a year ago, her mother split from her father and moved into a house where Tori and her sister could live.

Tori finished out her quarter but ultimately decided to leave the Art Institute due to the tuition costs.
While applying to Georgia State and Georgia Perimeter College, she tried to get her transcript but was told by Art Institute officials that it had to be withheld until her debt was brought down to $3,000 from the $8,000 she owed. They said she could reenroll but would have to pay $4,000 first.

“So I could pay $1,000 to never come back here again, versus save $1,000 to gain more debt. So I said ‘screw it.’ And that began it for me.”

About six months later, Tori took on a part-time dominatrix job, working a few weekends a month. Her mother wasn’t happy when she found out about it, which prompted Tori to keep the sugar baby role and her new phone sex operator job a secret.

“My mother has always known I had a kinky side,” Tori said. “When I was 15, I bought my first whip and my sister showed it to her. She knows, she’s not stupid, but I just don’t fill her in on the details. I try to keep that part of my life as far away from my mom as possible.”

She first learned of Seeking Arrangement when a segment covering the phenomenon aired on “20/20.”

“When I saw it, I thought it was awesome,” Tori said. “I registered almost right away and started browsing and messaging guys and just starting the courting process.”

Rewriting the book on dating

Brandon Wade, founder and CEO of Seeking Arrangement, points to the poor economy and pop culture when explaining the rapid growth of the lifestyle.

Celebrities like Jim Carrey, who flies his 29-year-old college student girlfriend from New York to Los Angeles and Jennifer Lopez, who gives her young dancer boyfriend a weekly $10,000 allowance, are now considered “modern sugar daddies and mommies,” Wade said.

Popular reality shows like “The Bachelor” and “Millionaire Matchmaker” are also a testament to the trend.

“There are obviously still some people who are willing to participate in the lifestyle, as long as they remain anonymous,” Wade said. “Because, at the end of the day, there is still that certain negative stereotype that is associated with that lifestyle.”
But how safe is it?

“It’s as safe as any other dating website, so we have a blog write about the lifestyle and what people should do to avoid the pitfalls,” Wade said. “And members are sharing their experiences on our blog. Hundreds and hundreds of people are communicating on this blog, providing their own tips for safety and ensuring an enjoyable experience.”

He has also written a book, “Seeking Arrangement: The Definitive Guide to Sugar Daddy and Mutually Beneficial Relationships,” which expounds on the options people have instead of traditional relationships.

“The way we see it, the sugar daddy and the sugar baby relationship is like a boyfriend and a girlfriend, except the boyfriend happens to be wealthy and willing to spend money on the girlfriends,” Wade said. “And we don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Wade himself was no stranger to dating websites, as he frequented sites like match.com in hopes of finding a suitable partner. But he found that there were more men than women roaming the sites and responses from prospective mates were few and far between.

“I would spend hours and hours writing hundreds and hundreds of emails in order to just get a few responses,” Wade said. “So I was thinking back to what my mom told me, which was ‘study hard and when you’re successful, you can be generous and all the women will be there.”

This led Wade to launch Seeking Arrangement. Eventually, he would marry his first sugar baby, Yulyia. They currently live in Las Vegas with their Chihuahua.

“Seeking Arrangement is really turning the tables around,” Wade said. “Women can be scantily clad–they attract attention that way, and, so, as a man, what means do I have if I don’t have huge muscles to flex? I have my wallet, so if I am willing to be really generous, then the odds can really be in my favor.”

Wade said the average age of a sugar daddy is 38 years old while the sugar baby population averages 26 years old.

Tori’s sugar daddy is 47, but dating older men was not new for her.

“I’ve dated older men before,” she said. “When I was 17, I dated a 30 year old. I prefer mature men.”
So she wasn’t nervous on her first date. The correspondence she shared with her sugar daddy leading up to the date made her feel comfortable enough to give him a chance.

“I know that he might have been spouting a bunch of lies while we were chatting, but at the same time, I kinda need this.”

They arranged to meet up once every two weeks, perhaps more. He’d take her out to a nice dinner and pamper her with clothes, makeup and anything related to her upkeep for when they are together.

“I haven’t told him yet about how I need a bunch of money to get back into school,” Tori said. “I’m trying to work my way to that because I really want to be classy about this, especially since we’re just in the dating process right now.”

Now that they are several dates in–they didn’t have sex until the fourth date–Tori has been able to get a better grasp of her sugar daddy.

“He treats me really nice,” she said. “He’s a really sweet guy.”

Sexuality as a commodity

The Signal conducted a small-sample survey of 50 women and 50 men to roughly gauge Georgia State students’ take on the subject. The study found that 28 percent of women from 18 to 22 years old would consider becoming a sugar baby–depending on the situation. Forty percent of women were sympathetic to the concept of sugar babies but not by much, as 38 percent felt that it was wrong.

The men, on the other hand, showed more curiosity. Thirty-eight percent said they would consider becoming a sugar baby, along with 30 percent saying they don’t mind the concept.
Asked whether the current culture objectifies women, about 80 percent of both genders agreed. A majority of the students also agreed that websites like Seeking Arrangement should be legal.

An associate professor of the Communication department, Dr. Marian Meyers, who specializes in feminist media studies, agrees that pop culture and a poor economy have played a major role in the hyper-sexualization of women.

However, she disagrees that the sugar daddy concept is merely a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with benefits.

“It’s a form of prostitution,” Meyers said. “And it’s becoming increasingly acceptable. In an economy where there are not a lot of jobs, especially for college students, this is a way for them to make money.”

However, the economy is not the only driving force, she said.

“Women are valued for their sexuality—not their intelligence, not their achievements or their personality but for how hot they are,” Meyers said. “And that sexuality becomes a commodity you can bargain.”

And with that bargaining chip growing more common and women still struggling to receive the equal pay of their male counterparts, Meyers said it’s not surprising that so many women have turned to the sex industry for jobs.

“Women realize that there aren’t a whole of other options,” Meyers said. “And if this is the best we have to offer our college students, we have a serious problem.”

However, Tori doesn’t have a problem with the stigmas that accompany her line of work.

“I’ve never had a problem with escorts or the idea of prostitution,” Tori said. “Now, if it involves a woman having to answer to some violent pimp and getting the hell beat out of her, that’s a different story and that’s a problem. I’ve met real sex workers, and they’re some really nice people.”

Her close friends have been more reserved but very respectful of her decision.

“They know me and have accepted who I am,” Tori said. “As we mature as friends, things like this don’t really matter anymore.”

Tori said she doesn’t plan on looking for another sugar daddy, as long as this one continues. And, even though her sugar daddy is nearly 30 years older than her, it was more important that he was single.

“That was one of the stipulations I placed on the men I messaged,” she said. “I’m no home-wrecker. I’ve seen how that tears families apart, even ones in my own family.”

Tori still hopes to enroll at Georgia State, where most of her friends attend but will have to finish some core classes through the College-Level Examination Program as she continues to pool together enough money to pay off her debt.

As for her sugar baby lifestyle, Tori has no qualms about the way society views her.

“If you’re going to do this, then just be prepared for what could come with it,” Tori said. “If not, then don’t do it. Because if you’re going to deny it, then you have no business doing it.”