“Sugar Baby University” falsely markets itself as a mentoring program for women
Seeking Arrangement is the world’s largest monetized dating site. It’s not a prostitution site, but it comes close. The site promises to match people up with “sugar daddies” and “mommas” — who might pay them, give them presents, or offer professional favours in exchange for a sugar baby to spend time with them.
Their partner site — Sugar Baby University — directly targets young women. The number of students in Canada using the site nearly doubled last year with an estimated 340 000 “sugar babies” total. Over four million students use the site worldwide.
“Thousands of students attend uni thanks to sugar daddies,” the site advertises.
The site markets itself as an alternative way to afford the cost of living, as opposed to the “traditional” path of getting a student loan.
“Canadian students find themselves struggling to provide adequate shelter while at university,” said Brandon Wade, Founder and CEO of Seeking Arrangement, in a press release. “Sugar Daddies mentor these students on how to manage their finances and elevate their typical uni lifestyle.”
These sugar babies are disproportionately women. At the time of writing, 82 per cent of sugar babies in Sugar Baby University are female and 89 per cent of those buying sugar babies’ services are sugar daddies.
The top sugar baby school in Canada is the University of Toronto with 1 158 sugar babies. The only school in B.C. to crack the top 20 was Simon Fraser University, with 270 students enrolled in Sugar Baby University. I reached out to the site and requested UVic’s data, but received no comment after repeatedly contacting their press team. In 2016, UVic was 20th in Canada.
Sugar babies enrolled with Seeking Arrangement’s Sugar Baby University will make an average of $2 925 a month. This is actually only $35 000 a year. Even though Seeking Arrangements claims sugar babies get great benefits, the average sugar baby barely makes more than minimum wage.
I personally would like a Tesla, so I don’t blame the sugar babies that decide to use this site for some extra income.
However, as a young woman, I can’t help but be disgusted by Seeking Arrangements’ Sugar Baby University — it’s basically sex work that slides through a legal loophole by calling itself escorting. Which would be fine, except for the fact that the law around sex work in Canada doesn’t protect sex workers at all.
In 2014, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government passed a law making it illegal to pay for sex work, but legal to be a sex worker. Although this law was intended to stop sex work entirely, many believe it only increased unsafe conditions for sex workers as it punished their clients.
The Trudeau Liberal government has faced criticism for avoiding the issue, especially since the report on Missing and Murder Indigenous Women calls on the government to protect and support sex workers. A statement released by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights calls on the government to decriminalize sex work.
“We affirm that sex workers are not criminals to be stigmatized, but rather members of an often exploited and under-protected working class,” the statement reads. “We stand in solidarity with sex workers demanding rights, the recognition of sex workers’ agency and decision-making capacity, and safe working conditions.”
The statement is signed by organizations from across Canada, including UVic’s Anti-Violence Project, the UVic Gender Empowerment Centre, and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.
Sugar Baby University is a clear example of the way gender and class can intersect in an issue. Rich men are paying for escorts, and young, often working class women and LGBTQ+ people who can’t normally afford tuition are logging on to the site.
Beyond the issue of decriminalizing sex work, I think it’s an indicator of an incredibly sick and wealth-driven society when getting paid to hang out with rich men is marketed by Sugar University as a way to afford the cost of living.
Perhaps it’s time we seriously look at how sick money and the patriarchy makes our world, allowing for rancid spores such as Seeking Arrangement to grow. We have the solutions to immunize us from it, and none of the viable ones include encouraging more poor student women to become sugar babies just to get housing and an education.
Only a society that looks out for its students and those with little economic power can sustain a life of dignity for students without resorting to the matchmaking of a prostitution ring masquerading as a business. If rich men are willing to pay for sugar babies, they should have no problem with paying more taxes for everyone’s tuition.