It started off as a joke.
But after exhausting several other options, becoming a sugar baby didn’t seem so bad for a 20-year-old girl trying to pay her way through college.
“After my freshman year, I got really depressed,” she said. “Me and my boyfriend broke up. I lost [the HOPE Scholarship]. I was really afraid because my parents are super strict, so I couldn’t tell them.”
Her next step was to find a way to make extra cash. She applied to local restaurants, but came up short since many places were already booked for the summer.
And becoming involved with men that would pay her to be in relationships with them never crossed the University of Georgia student’s mind until a friend inspired the idea.
“One of my friends made a joke saying, ‘You should just become a sugar baby,’” she said. “And I started thinking, ‘Wait, maybe I could do this.’”
SeekingArrangement.com, one of the largest sugar daddy dating websites, was the first place she visited. She made an account, and after finishing it off with a profile picture of herself, hundreds of people began messaging her.
She dates a variety of men — black, white, short, tall, young, old.
But this isn’t a game to her. This is a job — one that’s helping her cover the costs of attending the flagship institution of the state of Georgia and pursuing her hopes of becoming a nurse.
“I just have to keep telling myself, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you,’” she said. “‘You’re doing what you have to do. Right now, this is what you have to do to get through school.’”
There are rules
It’s not a crime to sugar date.
Before the UGA student started her new lifestyle, she checked the activity’s legality and found nothing broke the law.
Though sometimes it’s hard for others to see how the lines are drawn among other similar activities.
“Strippers dance and take off their clothes,” she said. “The money they make is pretty good and all they have to do is take off their clothes. Prostitution runs close to being a stripper, but they want to be with you for just a minute. Right now, I could get a gift just for coming and getting coffee. They’re kind of like sisters.”
Free will is one of the key differences with sugar dating.
As for SeekingArrangement, the company requires background checks on its more than 3 million members. It checks for crimes related to violence, sex, domestic violence and individuals registered as sex offenders. The goal is to help its members date safely.
In addition to SeekingArrangement’s efforts, sugar babies are encouraged to do their own research.
“We discuss income,” she said. “I’ll ask, ‘Can you really do this? Can you support me?’ They’ll say, ‘Yeah,’ and they’ll usually show some sort of bill.”
But knowing who she is in a relationship with is also important for her.
“I research these people, you know, like pictures,” she said. “We have to Snapchat. We have to Skype. We have to communicate some way so I can see your face and I know who you are."
On day one, she makes it clear as to what she’s willing to do.
“There are weird guys out there who want to do weird things to you,” she said. “One guy asked, ‘How do you feel about being urinated on?’ I’m like that’s weird, no. Tying you up, it’s like play, OK. Pain, I don’t do pain. You cause me pain, and that’s it. It’s over.”
It’s not always like the movies
She works hard for the money.
But even with an extra $200 from time to time from her clients, she still works two other jobs.
“People think they give you thousands of dollars,” she said. “No, no they don’t. Some do, but those are the high-class New York, California, out-of-the-country kind of people.”
And depending on what she is willing to do and who she will accept as clients, a sugar baby can estimate how much a sugar daddy is willing to spend.
“It’s not like how it is in the movies, where you find a sugar daddy, and he buys you a car and pays for your school and all of this stuff,” she said. “It’s a process. There are girls with really rich sugar daddies who want Louis Vuitton girls, girls who can come live with them in California or New York. But I’m in school. I can’t leave.”
The most she has ever received at a given time is $500.
“At most, maybe we’ll have to do something — get coffee — and I may get a couple of hundreds thrown my way,” she said. “Some want weekly appointments, monthly or on an asked basis.”
And she doesn’t have just one sugar daddy. Out of the 12 total clients she has engaged with, she’s actively talking to three. This way, if she isn’t satisfied, she always has a backup plan.
“If I don’t like them, I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” she said. “If I’m not getting enough from them, I just say, ‘You’re not worth my time.’ If he’s not texting me or if I don’t feel something, I don’t even bother. If they say they’re your one and only and don’t do much, then why bother?”
You can’t become attached
She will never forget Texas.
She agreed to meet a man between the age of 40 and 50 at a hotel for one night. There was not a single expense she had to worry about. He arranged for a driver to pick her up from campus to take her to the airport. The hotel room was booked and already paid for. He purchased the tickets the day before and made sure she would be able to return to Georgia that very same day.
It came to almost $3,000.
“That’s when I started thinking, I could just stop all of this stuff — school, drama, all of this — I could just go off with him and everything would be fine,” she said.
These are actual relationships. Some are shorter than others, but she has to remind herself that she isn’t doing this for fun. She is doing this to pay for school.
“They’re not as long as I’d like them to be,” she said. “I’ll have one extravagant time like the time in Texas. I had a great experience, but, now, we don’t even talk anymore.”
Getting close to any of her clients is a concern for her because she knows her relationships aren’t everlasting.
“Guys are paying a girl to be the girl he wants her to be,” she said. “I’m 20 now. When I get 25, this becomes really hard for me to even find guys because they want young girls. They want 20. They want 19-year-olds. Twenty-one’s are the best because you can go out and drink.”
She has seen other girls mistakenly allow their emotions to get in between their sugar life.
“I’ll have some friends who are like, ‘Oh, sign me up, sign them up,’” she said. “Then people start hitting them up, hitting them up and they can’t do it. You can’t be fragile. You have to be a strong person. You can get emotionally hurt. You should not be emotionally attached. You have to cut emotion. You have to cut mental.”
And she isn’t just looking out for herself. When it’s time to end a relationship, some of her clients aren’t in the most stable places in their lives.
Although she tries to keep an emotional connection to a minimum, there are some clients who want to the relationship to become more serious.
“Some of them are decent guys,” she said.
Her widowed client is one of them. He is in his 50s with a son close to her age.
“He is just like the guy from ‘Up’,” she said. “He genuinely likes me, and that sometimes scares me.”
But she can’t do this for the rest of her life. As much as some of her clients are interested in her at the moment, she knows it’s only temporary.
“The chiller you are, the more chiller they are with you,” she said.
She wishes she was in a genuine relationship because the stress would be far less.
“It’s weird,” she said. “I’m scared to have any big moments with these guys because then it will all end up being nothing.”
A secret some may never know about
If her parents found out about her sugar life, she is almost sure they would disown her.
So she’s kept it quiet from them along with a number of people that are close to her.
“I act normal,” she said. “I’ve got this life. I’ve got that life.”
From a very young age, she learned how to lie to her parents. For her, it doesn’t matter how she earns her money. Her degree from UGA is what matters the most.
“To me it’s like I’m going to pay the loans,” she said. “My parents aren’t going to pay the loans. My parents put nothing into my school.”
She only told one of her best friends in the beginning. As she became more comfortable with being a sugar baby, she opened up to more of her friends, allowing around 10 people in on her secret.
And not everyone is as supportive of her decision.
“You can sit here and bash it 24/7 and say, ‘You’re a sinner,’ ‘You’re a slut,’ but it really doesn’t bother me,” she said.
She may not go to church as often as she was taught, but the sugar baby, who went to Catholic school for 14 years, still considers herself to be religious.
“I pray,” she said. “I pray to God all of the time. I don’t just ask him for stuff. I just pray and say thank you for even letting me get through this year. A year ago today, I didn’t think I’d even make it. I never had my life breakdown as much.”
She admits that she may come across some regret later in her life. Her first regret would be her study habits from freshman year.
“The reason why I’m in this situation is because I didn’t crack down,” she said. “I always think, ‘What if I studied more my freshman year, would I be here now?’”
This is her life. But when it’s her time to have children, she doesn’t want her child’s fate to be the same as hers.
“Sometimes I’ll just lay there and look up at the ceiling and think about how much I want to cry,” she said.
When she walks away from her sugar life, she will remember the effect it will have made on her character. That impression is as close of a glimpse others will get to see of her past.
“I’ll let it go to my grave,” she said.