For many college students, “sugar” relationships can be an attraction, especially for those with financial problems. In fact, more than 3 million college students in the United States are considered what are known as “sugar babies.” A sugar daddy provides mentoring and/or financial assistance to a sugar baby in exchange for sex, companionship, and/or appointments.
Emily (name changed) is a 21-year-old college student who needed additional income. In an interview with the Trauma and Mental Health Report, he describes one, among several, of his experiences with a sugar daddy who was married, which is not uncommon:
“My longest arrangement was with a married man; his wife and children didn’t know. I felt a little weird about it.”
Emily explains that it was all very risky:
“I’m lucky that nothing bad ever happened. If any of them had ever had bad intentions, I could easily have done anything to me… there are many things that could go wrong, they could scam you. It’s risky, you have to be careful and there’s really no way to know. You could talk to someone and they look super nice and then they end up not being genuine.”
Emily finally decided to stop. She describes the impact the experience had on her self-esteem:
“There were definitely times when I didn’t really feel good about myself afterwards. I would try to think of it this way: I get paid for my time, not for what I’m doing. But there were times when I felt a little used. Sometimes you do things you don’t really want to do just for the money, and regret is definitely a part of that… you also lose some autonomy. If you no longer pay for your own things, you feel like your life isn’t yours.”
Jessica Stebbins is a marriage and family therapist with experience counseling women who have a history of prostitution. In her blog, Jessica talks about the “sugar babies trend” and her observations while advising women who have also carried out this activity. She states:
“The fact is that many young women get involved in these relationships for the same reasons prostitutes enter their profession: money. In these cases, the risks are very similar to prostitution and it is safe to say that neither the prostitute nor the sugar baby will leave the experience free of emotional scars… These girls expressed the same emotions and problems that the girls who were labeled prostitutes did: shame, guilt, grief, [feeling] exposed, vulnerable, “dirty,” anxious, and depressed.”
Also read Is 30 too old to be a sugar baby?
Stebbins believes the problem with “sugar ratios” is that they don’t allow feelings to develop naturally, but rather around the promise of money. This can affect morale and self-esteem, and lead to other negative consequences.
Emily’s story is similar to many others. But not everyone claims to have negative effects on mental health. Jordan (who identifies with the pronoun “they”), has been active in the business for 2 years. Her experience was different from Emily’s. Jordan describes it positively, as empowering:
“In the end, as long as there is full communication and consent throughout the process, there’s nothing wrong with doing what you can to support yourself. Being able to meet with people, create a mutual agreement and have a good time is a very positive and at best empowering experience. It shows sugar babies that they have the drive and motivation to help themselves or even to live happily.”
As with any risky endeavor, individual experiences vary widely. Some young women may emerge unscathed. Perhaps those should consider themselves the lucky ones.