- A freelance writer in her early 30s is sharing her experience as a "sugar baby."
- The writer, who has been granted anonymity to protect her identity, said sugar daddies pay her upwards of $500 (roughly R7,5000) for a date with her.
- She also receives gifts like shoes and clothing, trips across the US, and access to five-star hotels and fancy restaurants.
- Read on for a firsthand look at what it's like to be a sugar baby, from the way she vets potential sugar daddies to how she spots a scammer online.
- Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.
Six months ago, I decided to become a sugar baby.
My reasoning was simple. I'd grown frustrated with dating men in my city - maybe I'd just had one too many Tinder dates end in mediocre conversation. My day job offers me control over my schedule, since I don't work a traditional 9-to-5. I wanted to supplement my income and have some fun doing it, so I decided to try finding a sugar daddy.
For the uninitiated, "sugaring" is a form of dating in which one partner financially supports the other, often in the form of cash or gifts. As a woman in a major city with an appreciation for societal deviance, I figured the lifestyle might suit me well.
Whether it was exhaustion of millennial swiping, or maybe the thrill of experiencing life outside my usual means, I found myself creating a profile on the primary website for sugaring connections - SeekingArrangement.
In the half-year since then, I've met some highly interesting people - not to mention I've received thousands of dollars in cash, trips across the country, access to five-star hotels and restaurants, and expensive gifts like shoes and clothing I never could have ordinarily afforded.
Read on for a firsthand look at what it's really like to be a sugar baby.
Before I found my first sugar daddy, I needed an idea of why I was sugaring
Like with regular dating, if you dive into the sugaring lifestyle without an idea of what you want, you're likely to be disappointed.
Do you want a cash allowance, and do you have a set amount in mind? Is it certain bills you want covered? Do you want gifts, shopping, and travel? Having a clear idea of what kind of "sugar," or exchange, you want for the relationship is key.
How about the actual dating part - do you like dating older men? Because sugar daddies tend to be older than the women they date. How much time do you want to spend with your sugar daddy? And does your current lifestyle give you the freedom to do so?
In my short time as a sugar baby so far, men have paid me $500 (roughly R7,500) per date and bought me designer clothes, $400 (roughly R6,000) dinners, and stays at 5-star hotels I could never afford on my own
In the six months since I became a sugar baby, I've started relationships with men who pay me $500 (roughly R7,500) per date and have purchased me shoes and outfits from designers I could never afford on my own. I dined at restaurants where the bill was $400 (roughly R6,000), and we'd still leave hungry. I spent weekends tucked away in five-star hotels, lazily ordering room service with cringeworthy markups.
While I enjoy expensive dinners and staying in fancy hotels, ultimately I was searching for a friendly relationship that provides a cash allowance. Some men don't wish to provide an allowance, and I avoid meeting and dating those men, often called "experience daddies."
It's worth noting you should never become a sugar baby just for the money
If you're considering sugar dating solely for the money, it will be much more stressful, since it'll become a second job.
Sugar dating amplifies the faults of regular, or "vanilla," dating. You may receive messages from, go on first dates with, and be ghosted by far more men than in vanilla dating. And it's a bad idea to depend on sugar as a primary source of income, because there's never really any guarantee of stability.
Additionally, financial desperation makes you vulnerable to malicious men who have no intentions to provide sugar, or it might influence you to date men you otherwise wouldn't consider having a relationship with.
Anonymity is key for sugar babies and sugar daddies — I created an alter ego just for my online sugaring presence
It's common practice to adopt a sugar identity separate from your real-life identity. My online profile uses a very generic name, and I do not disclose my real identity - even after I meet my sugar daddy in person, in some cases.
I'm glad I do that, since every sugar daddy I've met has similarly guarded their identity. I suggest creating an alter ego for anyone considering trying any sort of internet fringe dating, especially sugaring.
Along the same lines, I signed up for a few anonymous messaging apps, as well as a fake number. Popular messaging apps for "moving the conversation off the website" include WhatsApp, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat, and Signal, but a phone number is often the preferred method. I suggest getting a Google Voice number attached to an anonymous email account.
There's an art to making a sugar baby profile — and certain precautions you have to take
Getting started with a dating profile as a sugar baby is pretty simple. I described my personality and wrote a few charming epithets that I thought might be appealing to the kind of man I'd like to spend time with.
The key thing is honesty, both in your self-descriptions and your pictures. While face-altering filters exist and can help mask your identity, apparently it's a turnoff for men. (And I've had men straight-up message me, "Thank goodness you don't have a dog-filter picture!")
I think the most common misconception about becoming a sugar baby is that sugar daddies are only looking to date 18-year-old blonde models. This is largely untrue - being traditionally attractive certainly helps, but a sugar baby can look like any woman of just about any age. I don't get discouraged, and I only try to attract men who I think will find me attractive. Being deceptive with appearances will only hurt you later.
The secrecy of the sugaring lifestyle means I have to be careful about the pictures I use on my dating profiles. Many sugar daddies will run a reverse image search of sugar babies' profile pictures in an attempt to avoid scammers who are using photos from models and influencers.
To protect my identity, I make sure not to use photos that exist anywhere on my social media accounts. I have a strict "no cross-contamination" rule when it comes to photos. Also, I make sure I know which photos are viewable to the public and which are available by request only. I'll often check back and remove viewing privileges from certain men if the conversation didn't lead any further.
I quickly learned some of the lingo that sugar babies and sugar daddies use
After dipping my toes in the sugaring community, I began to adopt the language used by sugar babies and sugar daddies in the online world.
Sugar babies and sugar daddies are often referred to as SBs and SDs - partly for brevity's sake, and partly because some people are weirded out by saying "baby" and "daddy."
There's the "meet and greet," or M&G - the sugaring community's term for a first date. Usually, money doesn't exchange hands here, though it's not unusual for the sugar baby to receive a small gift. Some of the things I've received on my first dates include stuffed animals, books, and $300 (roughly R5,000) cash.
Some relationships are PPM, or "pay per meet" - in those arrangements, the sugar daddy gives the sugar baby a specified amount per date. In another type of relationship, sugar daddies give an "allowance" on a set schedule, like monthly or biweekly, either in cash or through a payment app like Venmo. Many relationships start out PPM, as it's less risky for the sugar daddy than setting up an allowance right away.
"Experience daddies" are the ones who don't pay sugar babies in money - just gifts like fine dining, hotel stays, and glamorous vacations. A "Splenda daddy" is a sugar daddy with a cheaper budget. And a "salt daddy" is just a jerk, especially if they're faking generosity just to get into your pants.
And although the term's a bit crass, sugar babies have to be wary of what the community calls a "pump and dump" - the common occurrence of a false sugar daddy not providing any allowance or PPM, getting intimate with a sugar baby, and ghosting. To avoid falling victim to one of these, you should never initiate any intimacy with a sugar daddy unless you've already received your sugar.
Before I meet up with any guy, I iron out the terms of our arrangement
In order to get what I was looking for out of a sugar relationship, I had to become comfortable bringing it up with men.
There are plenty of men on the site trying to get laid for free, so I learned to not assume they'd provide any financial compensation on their own.
I would bring up the subject before the meet-and-greet. When I first began meeting men off the site, I was pretty timid about even mentioning an allowance, and regrettably realized they had no intention of sugaring me.
Some people would say on their profiles that they "don't want anything transactional," usually meaning they don't want to pay for sex or dating - in fact, the word "transactional" in a profile is pretty much a red flag that sugar babies avoid at all costs.
A lot of sugar daddies are married, which provides some challenges
Although there are no age limits for sugar babies and sugar daddies, it's common for a sugar daddy to be significantly older than the sugar baby.
And in many cases, the sugar daddy is married.
Having an extramarital sugar baby requires some level of discretion. Being recognized in public could cause either of you personal or professional distress, not to mention it could lower your sugaring prospects.
Personally, I didn't have a problem dating sugar daddies who were married. After all, they were the ones who contacted me - and if they are willing to go through the effort of messaging me and agreeing on an arrangement, they'd be willing to do it for someone else.
Every sugar baby has to decide how much of a commitment they want with their sugar daddy
It's important to be on the same page about how much of a time commitment you want in your sugaring relationship.
Some sugar daddies want to meet several times a week, while others prefer once a month.
I find myself liking the attention of men who enjoy hearing from me throughout the week, but don't need my attention all day, every day. I certainly can enjoy the company of an older man and don't have qualms about being seen in public with a sugar daddy. It's a decision every person needs to make for themselves.
There are a ton of safety concerns I have to keep in mind as a sugar baby — as well as scams that fake sugar daddies try to run
On top of setting up a Google Voice number, there are several other safety precautions I had to take as I got deeper into the sugaring lifestyle.
For one, it's always good to let people know where you are when you're meeting strangers from the internet. I tell all my dates that I have a friend I need to check in with on first dates, and I have never had a negative response to this. Everyone agrees - safety first.
I also was very careful when accepting Uber rides or Venmo transactions early on in a relationship. Giving away your address or your regular Venmo handle is giving away free information. In an age where our phone apps hold so much personal information, being in control of the flow of your personal information is vital.
When I first made my profile, I got an initial flood of messages from men. "How did they even find me?" I wondered. The answer is that scammers prey on new accounts. I learned to hold the excitement for a bit and I got comfortable recognizing and weeding out the scammy, copy-paste introductions.
Additionally, I quickly realized that anyone who asks you for your bank information to send you money before you've met is a scammer. A common scam involves them sending a check or MoneyGram in excess of your allowance and asking you to purchase a gift card with the excess. This scam works on naive sugar babies who think they've received a large gift, when in reality they've cashed in on money that their bank will eventually find is fake, while the scammer walks away with a free gift card.
Even after meeting, there are plenty of better methods to send you your allowance. No one needs your personal information to wire to your bank like it's the 1990's. As the eternal truth stands - cash is king.
I don't consider what I do sex work, but sugar babies have a range of opinions on it
Lots of sugar babies shudder at the idea of what they do as sex work.
I think of sugaring as an enjoyable deviance with a financial benefit, and while I don't consider it sex work, I understand why some might.
When opening yourself up to fringe dating of any sort, you'll attract men with varying goals. Some men on SeekingArrangement are looking to spend $200 (roughly R3,000) for a quick romp. Other men will want to provide a monthly allowance and business insight for their dates, have an intimate relationship, and even consider marriage down the line.
I find myself somewhere in the middle. I don't enjoy one-night stands, and I definitely enjoy indulging in a relationship, but wouldn't consider something permanent with any of the men I've been on sugar dates with.
Interestingly, not all sugar daddies want a sexual or intimate relationship
Some sugar babies will ask about platonic arrangements, being turned off by the idea of intimacy with a sugar daddy.
Not surprisingly, most sugar daddies won't see the value in financially providing for a sugar baby without intimacy.
That said, I have actually met two so far, but not because I went looking for such an arrangement. In one case, the man had some qualms about being intimate, so he paid me for an afternoon of tea and board games, and we had a lovely afternoon just not being lonely.
You don't find these situations - they find you.
And yes, 'sugar mamas' exist — but they're exceedingly hard to find
Often on forums where sugaring is discussed, it's very common for newer sugar babies to ask for advice from the community. One of the most popular repeated posts are men looking for "sugar mamas."
The overwhelming response is: Women do not need to pay for sex, and therefore, sugar mamas are next to impossible to find.
That is not to say they don't exist, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Being a sugar baby requires a lot of patience — but it's worth it
As sugaring becomes more mainstream, the potential to have your time wasted by a Splenda daddy or a scammer increases.
Becoming a sugar baby requires a great deal of patience and willingness to go on bad dates before you find someone you want to pursue a relationship with.
But it can also be incredibly rewarding and a great deal of fun. I've taken multiple flights, received a wide range of allowances and gifts, and met some very interesting people during my short time as a sugar baby.
Maybe you're one of them, or maybe you will be one day.
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