While fresh-faced school leavers are entering tertiary study with a fees-free first year, current students are forced to get resourceful in order to ease their debt. H. Kane delves into the flourishing world of sugaring to get the inside scoop on whether Waikato came up to par.
By this point in your life, it’s a given that you’ve acquired some bad habits; whether it’s convincing yourself that you’re able to count cards at the casino, getting too smashed and buying gear off your flatmate’s little brother, or spending far too much of your time crafting the ideal Seeking Arrangements profile. Now, each of these have their merits, but only one has been somewhat guaranteed by Stuff.co.nz as a lucrative means of income. It’s fair to say that becoming a sugar baby would’ve crossed the minds of most, but is anyone actually making money from it in the Waikato?
If you have just escaped the confines of Gloriavale, in layman’s terms, a sugar baby can be defined as a member of a transactional relationship. The ever-reliable Wikipedia states, “a person in such a romantic relationship may receive cash, gifts or other benefits in exchange for being in the relationship.” Sugar mammas/daddies are at the other end of that relationship – providing support, usually financial, and mentorship, to receive benefits like companionship and sexual favours. It’s a simple equation seemingly less emotionally draining than using love as a currency; definable and easily quantifiable. Nothing like that guy you dated in first year who told you he liked you by fingerblasting someone else on the mezzanine at The Hut – RIP The Hut.
The sugar baby lifestyle appeals to a lot more students than your overly-conservative baby boomer aunt would think. Me included. It is, at its core, a business deal. Goods and services are changing hands—just not in a traditional sense. What was once shocking, now seems entirely rational; why spend 20 hours a week running a checkout when you could make that money dating for a few hours? Safety is a concern, of course, but there are forums and guides for keeping yourself safe and mainly involves a lot of common sense, like meeting someone for the first time in broad daylight.
So, as the social stigma around these sorts of topics changes, sites that facilitate sugaring flourish. Enter Seeking Arrangement; a website/app that creates “mutually beneficial relationships” between babies and daddies/mammas. It markets specifically towards students, claiming to have 130,000 Australian sugar babies on its books, all vying for around 57,000 daddies and mammas. A small proportion compared to the reported 10 million members across 139 countries – a user base growing at an unreal speed according to the site.
I’ve followed the sugar daddy conversation for quite some time, and had adopted the moniker “Future Sugar Baby” ‘jokingly’ as a result. But all jokes are founded in truth, and I found the first app I downloaded when my longterm boyfriend and I broke up was none other than Seeking Arrangements. I ignored Tinder and set my sights straight for the geriatric millionaires. I was curious, to say the least. I had seen the testimonials of girls online with zero debt and wardrobes full of tacky Louis Vuitton bags. I wanted a tacky Louis Vuitton bag. I had been drawn in by the promise of a Mr Big type who just needed someone to take to gala dinners. I had high hopes, but Waikato low expectations. However, I pushed through… for journalistic purposes.
I wanted to see what all the hype was about, and I was fearless—to begin with. I didn’t take it too seriously, but I marketed myself; carefully crafting my persona to leverage the things I could realistically offer. I had read the key wasn’t to lie but rather, to highlight the good shit. I figured my location would mean slim pickings compared to Auckland, but maybe, there would be some old farmer who’d want me to fondle his balls.
A mutual friend said she got $450 for an hour of ball fondling once.
I was disappointed.
I thought I could dip my toe in and start with just chat—which was probably pretty naive. But based on SA’s manifesto, there was no sexual expectation, and you never should feel pressured to say yes to things you weren’t comfortable with.
“Sex is never a requirement, only an aspiration” reads a blog on the site. That wasn’t the case.
I spoke to a few guys—I may or may have not have come across a well-known Hamilton tycoon—but it always ended in them taking a turn for the gross. One minute, a bit of harmless conversation then suddenly, they’d be making very detailed demands. I was running into too many “Spendla” daddies (broke men trying to cheat the system) and getting thoroughly annoyed at my inability to find anyone I’d be even remotely comfortable having a coffee with. The promise of “experience a relationship on your terms” was not living up to the tagline in the slightest. But according to SA, the average monthly allowance a sugar baby receives through their site was about $3000. Surely, someone had to be making money, and I asked around.
‘I expected it to be a bit of a laugh, to be honest, I guess a way of meeting some different people and also get treated like a princess,’ said a 22-year-old studying her Masters.
‘It wasn’t a laugh. It was pretty gross to be perfectly honest. Men who said they were just looking for someone to hang out with and take shopping and out to dinner would open conversations asking for sex or pictures or something equally as creepy.’
She didn’t stay on the website for long enough to set up a date, ‘I was so creeped out and felt so uncomfortable that I deleted it straight away. Personally, I recommend sticking to Tinder. If you’re after the princess treatment, maybe just set the age range a bit higher?’
A friend of hers had been a bit more determined to give the site a go.
‘I didn’t have high hopes for the site as I was more using it to see what the hype was about,” she told me, “but I definitely expected to have many yuck conversations with seedy old men who had weird fetishes.’
She found that it was exactly as straightforward as it claimed to be ‘...a lot of them were reasonably normal and just wanted a sexual companion really, and someone to talk to with no complications.’
‘One man—around 40-ish—turned out to be really nice and normal, and offered to take me for a holiday—no strings attached and everything paid for—and if I wasn’t comfortable once I got there, I didn’t have to have anything to do with him if I didn’t want to – just enjoy the holiday. But I never went through with it because going to a different country with a man I don’t really know is a bit too stupid for me.’
But she felt confident that if she had followed through, she could have made some money. ‘I would recommend the website to someone, as long as they were open-minded and willing to actually meet up with some of these guys.’
More people started coming out of the woodwork when I’d mention it to them, describing a range of meetups, hookups and misadventures. I found out one of my friends, a recent arts grad, goes on dates regularly but he’s never really made any money.
‘I’m up for anything, but I generally have to drive to Auckland, and it will involve preening for hours just to get an average dinner and someone who can’t put their money where their mouth is.’
I started to think that maybe it was us, that we weren’t using the site to its full potential, that we were all bark and no bite. One girl I spoke to, a 21-year-old hair stylist, thought it wasn’t a problem with the babies, but the low-quality daddies and mammas available in the area.
‘I kind of expected a lot older men just wanting a companion, like someone to go to dinner with—it’s literally just a bunch of 40-50-year-olds wanting sex, and most of them were married. Some of the messages I got were so disrespectful and disgusting. They pretty much expected us to be prostitutes.’
Unsurprisingly, she never went through with a date and wouldn’t really recommend the site – she referred me on to another friend of hers, a 20-year-old male who works in admin, who got as far as a video call for some cash once, but thought the experience, in general, was a waste of time.
So my brief foray into the world of Hamilton sugar babies was not as eye-opening as I’d hoped. While I had many “I heard of a friend who…” stories, I struggled to find anyone who had successful experiences close to home. In my search, I came across a lot of people who used to site, all with a huge number of experiences, but not a single person who could call themselves a bonafide baby, or was near meeting the golden $3000 monthly average Seeking Arrangement claimed.