Last March, 20-year-old art history student Hannah joined SeekingArrangement.com (SA) and became a “sugar baby,” a well-paid companion to older men called “sugar daddies.”
A friend urged her to sign up because Hannah’s finances were tight. Since then the York University student has earned $10,000 in taxable income.
Asked why she chose sugaring, as the practice is called on SA’s blog, over the demanding retail job she held in college, Hannah replies, “It’s quite enriching. When you hang out with people who are older they have wisdom to share.” In addition to knowledge, the three sugar daddies she connected with in 2015 each gave her a monthly allowance that paid for her textbooks and basic living expenses. She figures she’ll continue until graduation. (Her identity isn’t being revealed to protect her privacy.)
Hannah isn’t alone. As of December 31, 2015, more than 156,000 male and female students across Canada are registered members of SA; it’s an 11 per cent increase from a year earlier. SA attributes this to the 3.2 per cent rise in university tuition and says that sugaring eases the financial burden and subsequent stress of post-secondary education. The site is LGBT friendly and has about 10 per cent LGBT users. The average age of sugar babies is 26, and the average sugar daddy is 45.
Shortly after Valentine’s Day, the site released its annual ranking of post-secondary schools with the highest number of sugar babies. The University of Toronto ranked first with 133 new sign-ups in 2015 for a total of 594 sugar babies. University of Guelph came second with 122 sign-ups and 479 sugar babies, while tech giant University of Waterloo was last with 22 sign-ups and 152 sugar babies. Hannah’s alma mater York is ranked sixth with 90 new sign-ups and a total of 465 sugar babies.
Hannah, busy with her studies at York, opts to provide companionship to one man at a time and agrees to meet between five and six times a month. Most recently, she dated a 46-year-old Quebecer who lives in Ottawa. She described him as a hippie.
“We go to Montana’s. I’m vegetarian and they have the best veggie burgers. And then we’ll go to a movie. And we eat a lot of pizza.” She can’t see him much on account of the distance between Toronto and Ottawa. Her $1,000 allowance, however, is deposited directly into her bank account, every month, on the 15th.
Brook Urick, a spokesperson for SA explains that sugar babies set their desired allowance on their profile in a section called ‘Expectations.’ “The options range from negotiable, low, moderate, high. This is only an indicator of how much they expect, or would like to receive in gifts and allowances,” she said. Some sugar babies like to be compensated in clothes or car payments.
Hannah is clear about the minimum $1,000 ‘Expectation.’ She has others, most importantly the stipulation that she wants a platonic relationship. “It’s a good way to weed out the people looking for that sort of stuff. Sex.” After a beat she adds, “I’m actually still a virgin.”
Her job as a sugar baby, she said, is to provide good company, be an activity partner, and help someone feel less lonely.
She’s not the type Mackson McDowall is looking for. The 60-year-old retired immigration lawyer joined SA five years ago, estimating he has compensated up to 70 women for their companionship. Ten of those were serious in that they were “sensual in nature and lasted more than a year,” he tells Yahoo Canada.
McDowall explains why someone like him would be interested in signing up to be a “sugar daddy.”
“Well, I’ve never been married and I’m not gay,” he says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Basically I enjoy meeting women. And if sensuality is involved then so be it. Basically…I always hope for it.”
McDowall’s 20-year-old son studying at Princeton is unaware of his dad’s SA membership. “I want him to form his own life opinions and work with his women friends and not try to influence him in any way.”
About three months ago, while on business in New York City, McDowall arranged to meet a lesbian couple, both of whom were 23-years-old. One is studying geography, the other sociology. The first meeting was at a Denny’s restaurant. “It was the only place open,” says McDowall, and not the most romantic setting. They met three more times in New York and he gave the women $1,500 USD for school. The relationship didn’t advance. “You hope for chemistry but you don’t always get it,” says the Niagara Falls resident.
“I don’t have an aberration to seeing older women, it’s just that I enjoy dating different women [from different] groups. It’s not the age, it’s basically the warmth of their heart.”
Today, he’s chatting with several women. There’s a thirty-something in Jamaica trying to launch a small business and he hopes to invest. “She has some very good ideas about makeup and wants to use Caribbean-type natural products.” He’s already given several thousand U.S. dollars to a single mother in Ohio for college. And then there’s there’s a young gal in Texas.
Why only Americans? It’s the 30:1 ratio. “The Canadian women are equally beautiful but there are more Americans on the site,” he says.
Asked how many thousands he’s spent on companionship he responds, “I don’t want to think about it.” But he wants people to know SA is not a site filled with ladies of the night.
“A prostitute is a person that sells their body for the immediate transmission of wealth,” he says. And that’s not the objective of SA.
“As women come of age they want more choices,” he says emphatically. “Just like they have more apps on their phone.
“Whereas a woman on SeekingArrangement.com, it’s kind of like hyper dating. It’s a summer romance without purpose.” And then McDowall laughs.