No stranger to the sweet life

Illustration+by+Cameron+Gorman

Illustration by Cameron Gorman

McKenna Corson

Kent State is No. 6 in the nation for ‘sugar babies.’ Here, they tell all.

Editor’s Note: The sources in the story asked not to be identified by their real names. The names below were created to protect the sources’ identities.

The names “sugar baby” and “sugar daddy” have come a long way from the chewy caramel candy popular in the 1930s and 1940s. In 2019, both terms have a much different meaning — and nothing to do with candy.

Sugar babies are young people of any gender who get paid by older adults (sugar daddies and mommies) to provide a companionship. This companionship ranges from a platonic series of meetups to a sexual relationship; it all depends on what the sugar parties decide.

Various websites connect young adults to their older counterparts. The largest and most popular sugar daddy/sugar baby website, Seeking Arrangement, now just Seeking, ranks Kent State at No. 6 among universities nationwide for sugar baby population and growth.

Among large population schools — Arizona State University (109,000 students), New York University (51,000 students) and the University of Alabama (38,000 students) — Kent State (about 21,600 students at Kent’s main campus, about 35,500 total across all eight campuses this semester) is sitting pretty with what appears to be 927 students on the website and 242 new sign-ups as of 2017. Seeking doesn’t offer any real way to verify the actual numbers. 

*Amber used the site to find Charles. Amber, a Kent State student, first discovered the world of “sugaring” when they were just 18.

“I think it was like the MTV series ‘True Life,’ and the one they were talking about was ‘I’m a sugar baby,’ Amber said. “It was like these girls just talking about what it was like being a sugar baby and what being a sugar baby is and what a sugar mommy and daddy is. Watching that show kind of sparked some interest in me, so I did more research.”

Amber’s interest peaked when they broke up with their boyfriend at 22, leading them to create a profile on Seeking. Amber wasn’t attending school at the time. They lived with a roommate and worked at Macy’s to pay the bills. Amber did have plans on returning to school after making enough money.

“I was just like, ‘You know what, why not?’ Amber said. “I didn’t think I’d find a relationship, to be honest, and then I ended up meeting an older man. I’m just going to call him Charles because that was his first name as far as I knew. Some daddies don’t necessarily put out all their information because we weren’t in a relationship super long.”

After searching extensively through profiles, Amber found Charles, a construction worker in his 60s. Despite the 38-year age gap, the two hit it off. Charles decided he would pay for Amber’s rent, cellphone and electric bills, as well as little gifts and dates in exchange for a relationship.

“It just kind of happened organically,” Amber said. “We started talking and he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I was just trying to get my life together. He was more of a no-strings-attached, I-don’t-want-my-wife-to-know-that-I’m-talking-to-you (guy), which is fine because I just broke up with my boyfriend and I was doing my own thing.”

Amber and Charles parted amicably after Amber found a new relationship they wanted to pursue and left the world of sugaring behind.

*Ashley found Mike in a similar way, though it was through Tinder. Ashley, a Kent State graduate, felt Seeking was unsafe, so she turned to Tinder, where Facebook accounts are required to make a profile.

“I was 18, super poor and I was like, ‘I like free stuff,” Ashley said. “My friend was on Seeking Arrangement, so I made one my freshman year of college. I thought the guys were kind of creepy and it didn’t really seem that real, so I went on Tinder and put my settings up higher. I actually found a guy that way.”

After swiping through profile after profile during her sophomore year, Ashley found Mike, a man in his 40s who works in sales.

“He was so hot,” she said. “Going off that, it was just the way we spoke to each other. He actually asked about my family and my life and my friends. He actually cared. He was there as I was applying for jobs and all my interviews and was texting me asking ask how it went. He was the first person I texted when I got my real job. He saw me really grow up from the middle of college to my big girl job and me looking for apartments.”

The two dated on and off for about two years, and Mike offered to pay for anything Ashley wanted.

“He never gave me grand gifts like you see in media,” she said. “It was pretty much just like gifts here and there. I could pay for my own groceries, shit like that. He did offer to pay some of my bills, but in my mind, I’m like, ‘No, I can handle my finances.’… It’s like the things I want, the clothes, the shoes, the fun stuff. That’s when I was like, ‘Hey, you can handle that.’”

Amber and Ashley agree that having a sugar daddy is more than just sleeping with an older person from time to time. The stigma against sugaring affects both sides; it involves keeping relationships secret from family members and dealing with judgmental eyes when out together.

“I know people think, ‘Wow, what a slut’ or something like that,” Ashley said. “Obviously people are going to take it as what they think, but I feel like people stress so much on the negative that they don’t see the pros of it at all. They think it’s like super slutty girls and rich, old men that have a lot of money they want to spend, that sort of thing. But it’s not always about like, ‘Give me $1,000.’ It’s like, ‘Let me help you with your bills if you need it.’ People need to calm down.”

Amber said people are uneducated about sugaring.

“They’re miseducated and they’re bitter,” they said. “I guess there’s a huge misconception of, ‘Oh, I am not making enough money. I’m just going to get a sugar daddy.’ I’m like, ‘OK, I’d like to see you try.’”

Sugaring is not easy, Amber said, and “it’s a lot of communicating … a lot of honesty.”

“It’s literally having a relationship and now you’re in a relationship with someone who’s a lot older than you,” they said. “You can’t even have a regular relationship with a 21-year-old fuckboy. How the hell are you going to have a relationship with a 50-year-old man? … For people to just think sugaring is this easy feat to do when I’m low on money is wrong.”

McKenna Corson is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected]

Clarification: This version of the story is updated to reflect that Seeking doesn’t offer a way to verify its client numbers and to change enrollment numbers from concurrent data to preponderant data.