Cash Strapped Kent Student: The Sour Reality of a “Sugar Baby”
Lying naked on the strange sheets, she felt used and ashamed. ‘It’s just sex’, she thought. She picked up the money he had left on the side and tried to suppress the nausea.
Over 700 Kent girls currently have an account on the website seekingarrangement.com. This website allows young girls to meet up with wealthy, older men. The front page of the website states that these men will indulge them in “shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations.” Kent student Chloe Richards, 21, [fake name], a former member of the website believes that this glamorization is fake and dangerous. In an exclusive interview with her, I found out the truth behind the life of a ‘sugar baby’.
Out of ‘childish curiosity’ Chloe made an account on seekingarrangement.com, before her first year of university. She told me that she had heard of and seen the luxurious life that young girls were living due to the help of a rich, older man. Media had drawn her into the strange new world of the sugar baby, leading her to sign up and explore. A year later, Chloe is a fresher at the University of Kent with no money left to survive. Coming from a low-income family, she couldn’t ask her parents for money, and so, was left to her own devices. She remembered the account she made a year previously and decided to finally complete her profile.
The thought of fast, easy money was too much for Chloe to resist. Upon revisiting her account, she had already received several messages from older men. ‘Most of the messages were very long. They would tell me about their profile, comment on mine and ask what kind of “arrangement” I was looking for’. Some of them would offer to take her all over the world, or monthly allowances from £2,000 to be at their beck and call. These offers, however, seemed too intense and risky for Chloe to begin with. Although at first these messages were confusing, Chloe managed to navigate her way around them and come up with her terms. ‘It was just supposed to be a one-time thing’. Her plan was to meet a man, get some cash to get her through to her next student loan, and leave.
Expecting to accompany a rich man to an exclusive restaurant, Chloe’s first encounter with a sugar daddy was nothing like what she expected. ‘Everything you see online about rich men wanting to take you out for money is bullshit. They all have high-profile jobs, so most want to meet discretely’, meaning most men want to meet in hotel rooms or their own place—and almost all of them want sex. The first man she gave her number to, called her straight away. He asked how much she wanted, and they arranged to meet the following night.
She spent hours getting ready in order to feel ‘worthy’ of his money, a feeling she had never really experienced before: ‘I had never really evaluated my self-worth in this way before’. They met late in a hotel room. ‘It wasn’t even a nice hotel room’. The life of glamour and luxury wasn’t turning out to be what she had expected. ‘He was nice, young even. But he only wanted one thing’. What was she supposed to do? She had bought a train ticket with the last of her money. She couldn’t leave empty handed.
‘I slept with him’. Chloe wasn’t planning on sleeping with anyone to get this money, but she felt ‘obligated’. She lay there in the hotel room bed and let him do what he wanted in order to get the money. Afterwards she felt cold. Ashamed. ‘I just felt so gross afterwards. I remember showering as soon as he left. I felt dirty. But I had £400 in my bag, so I just brushed it off’. She realised that this was prostitution. This was the definition of it—but she had met him on a dating website and no one had used that word. Her money problems were finally over, however, and she could continue her university experience without the looming dread of money.
After a few weeks the money she had received had run out. Even though her first experience with a sugar daddy wasn’t enjoyable, all she could remember was how quickly and how easily she got money. ‘I did try to get a regular job, but employers take one look at ‘student’ and you never hear back from them’. She found herself back on the app before she knew it. This time, more permanently. In the space of a few weeks Chloe received countless messages from men ages twenty-five to sixty-five. All of which offering her around £500 for a few hours of her time. The second time was the same as the last. Hotel room. Alcohol. Sex. Money. No matter how bad she felt after each date, she couldn’t help but think of how easy the money is, ‘You get addicted’. Not only was Chloe surviving back at university, she was going out, buying her friends drinks, and going shopping. She told me: ‘It felt so good to have money. I felt safe, I felt in control, I felt happy’.
For two years, Chloe kept up her double life. She was lying to her friends, to her family, and to herself. Her trips into London started to feel much harder. It wasn’t just the constant travelling and the getting ready that was effort, it was keeping up the façade: pretending that she actually enjoyed spending time with these strange men. On one occasion, a date had managed to avoid payment even after sleeping with her. The whole process started to feel tedious. It was dangerous, it was hard work and it was objectifying. Finally, a fifty-year-old man got in contact with her, who lived close by.
Although there was over a thirty-year age gap, he was offering more money than anyone had before and a ‘long term arrangement’. This meant she would receive a steady income of £600 a week. ‘I thought for that much money, that often, I would be able to look past his age’. She remembered thinking that maybe if she could get drunk enough beforehand, she wouldn’t remember spending the night with him. But this one would be harder to forget.
They arranged for him to pick her up and take her to his house. When she first saw him, it was even worse than she imagined. He was ‘short, out of shape and unattractive’. Chloe found herself trying hard to make it seem like she was genuinely enjoying his company, but it wasn’t easy. After sitting on his sofa for a while, pretending to listen to him talk about his career and the reason he was ‘lonely’, he began to move closer, to touch her. She shivered at his touch. It was that part of the night again; but she wasn’t sure if she could go through with it. ‘Everything about it repulsed me. I felt sick knowing that he thought this was okay, that this was normal’. Once again, she suppressed her feelings and did what she thought she had to do.
After they had sex, Chloe began to get her stuff together. “Where are you going?” he asked. She wanted to leave. She always left. She couldn’t stay there all night with a fifty-year-old man, with the thought of what just happened lingering in her head. She saw him three more times, each time feeling more disgusted than the last, and each time he wanted her to stay the night. ‘Those nights were the worst I’ve ever felt about myself in my life’. Until finally, she couldn’t ignore her feelings. The emotional scar cut too deep. ‘Waking up in his bed was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life’. He dropped her home for the last time. ‘Am I going to see you again next week, sweetie?’. She winced at his question and couldn’t even look at his face. It made her feel sick, all of it. Chloe smiled, nodded and left. When she got back home, everything from the past two years finally caught up with her. ‘I threw up, I cried, and I completely purged everything from that world. It was the worst and best day of my life’.
Chloe bravely wanted to confess her story to warn other girls. The sugar baby life isn’t what you think it is, it’s not living the life of a playboy bunny. Most men want sex, and once you’re in that situation it’s difficult to get out. The original promise of ‘shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations’ becomes a stereotypical strategy used by the website to allure young girls into taking a dangerous risk. ‘It’s not glam. It’s dark and lonely and the pervasive feeling of guilt and shame that doesn’t leave’. If anyone desperately needs financial help, talk to the university. Don’t sacrifice your self respect. Take it from the girl who has lived this life, because ‘no matter how many showers you have, it won’t wash away the memory’.