In the wake of an internet privacy hack that revealed the names of 33 million users of adultery website Ashley Madison, another internet-based method of relationship destruction is on the rise. And even pregnancy help organizations who may not be aware of the disturbing trend are likely dealing with the fallout from the increasingly popular “Sugar Daddy” movement.
Where “Life is short. Have an affair,” encapsulated the ideals of the now-defunct Ashley Madison, the phrase, “I’m rich. You’re hot” speaks as a slogan of sorts for the Sugar Daddy trend, which is being promoted by websites that exist primarily to connect young women to older wealthy men.
One leading website, Seeking Arrangements, boasts on its homepage: “Where Sugar Babies enjoy a life of luxury by being pampered with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances. In turn, Sugar Daddies or Mommas find beautiful members to accompany them at all times.”
“For someone who wants a Sugar Mamma or Sugar Daddy, they can (find one),” said Lindsey Crawford, founder of Freedom 13 Ministries, an outreach based out of northern Louisiana that reaches out to college students and churches to educate on sexual integrity and freedom from sexual sin.
“This issue is like any other sex issue – pornography, prostitution... the church isn't addressing it,” Crawford stated. “We live with our heads in the sand.”
The matter of Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies/Mammas is one that affects “all ages, not just college students,” Crawford said. Seeking Arrangements, for instance, lists 4.5 million active members, including 3.3 million “Sugar Babies” and 1.2 million “Sugar Daddies and Mommas.”
While not exclusively limited to college students, the temptation to become a “Sugar Baby” is uniquely targeted to students, who could have their college tuition paid for by a “benefactor.” A 2014 article in The Atlantic, for example, draws attention to the topic through the lens of a college student at Princeton whose “Sugar Daddy”—“a 60-something Wall Street banker,” sends a limo to campus for a late-night rendezvous.
The Atlantic article also included the following detail: “if babies register with a .edu email account, they receive a free premium membership (something the guys have to shell out as much as $1,200 for).”
“They (benefactors) will pay college expenses in exchange for this (type of) relationship,” Crawford said.
Laurey Nelson, program coordinator for First Love, a sexual integrity program, and Boundless, a human trafficking program, both located in Orlando, Fla., pointed out the lure of financial incentive for potential “Sugar Babies.”
“A girl may get $3,000 a month from her Sugar Daddy; those without such a benefactor may be $23,000 or more in debt when they get out of college,” she said.
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Although this type of arrangement is clearly prostitution (an exchange of goods – money, gifts – for sex), many in today’s culture don’t see it that way. Instead, they view the arrangement as a relationship, and in most relationships, gifts are exchanged and sex takes place. Because of that perception, the “Sugar Baby/Daddy” status is more acceptable and is becoming more prevalent, in part due to the number of websites about such arrangements, Crawford said. These websites will “hook up” a student with a benefactor.
While its intent is obvious to any visitor, Seeking Arrangements, for instance never explicitly says that sex is expected. That’s how many such websites get around laws regarding prostitution, Nelson said.
“It is a form of prostitution; but the way the blogs are written are clever and vague – it just normalizes things if you don't have the discernment of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “The sites aren’t marketed as sex for money.”
Nelson lives in a state with colleges rated in the top twenty for Sugar Daddy/Sugar Baby hookups. Seeking Arrangements lists the top schools for such relationships and named the University of Texas and Arizona State University as the top two. Three colleges in Florida are found in the top 20.
“The obvious assumption is that the student will have sex with the sugar mamma/daddy in exchange for services … but it's not in the verbiage (on these websites),” Crawford said. “And it's not technically prostitution because a prostitute is a one-time event, it's an exchange of money for sex, and a Sugar Momma/Daddy relationship is exactly that – it's a relationship. On paper it looks like a romance, a dating relationship – that makes it look quite appealing (to a student).
“In the worldview, it's seen like 'you're a smart girl, you're working your way up the ladder,” she added. “It gets (young women) those things that the world sees as successful – clothing, car, house; it gives (them) social status. Do you work 20 hours a week and still come out of school in debt or do you have a sugar daddy relationship and get your college education, and so many other things, paid for?
“Girls feel it's justified... 'I'm not an escort, I'm not a prostitute on the street, this works for me,’” Nelson said.
Pregnancy centers may see more young women who are in such arrangements, especially those that are located in university communities. Being pregnant, in college, and in a Sugar Daddy/Baby relationship doesn’t fit into either the man or young woman’s plans. So, if the Sugar Momma becomes pregnant, she may be much more likely to seek an abortion.
The college that ranks highest on the supply chain, with 1,057 Sugar Babies, is New York University, located in what many call the abortion capitol of the U.S. Meanwhile, the leading city for Sugar Daddies is Atlanta, where nearly 31 babies are aborted for every 100 live births.
With Sugar Daddy/Baby relationships on the rise, Crawford wants to make sure pregnancy help organizations are aware that arrangements exist, and learn how to interact with these young women.
“We've got to figure out a way to identify those women without terrifying them,” Crawford said. “They may or may not want to get out of the relationship (but) the relationship isn't grounded in a godly foundation, so it could easily turn into an abusive, codependent relationship. They're stuck – this man is paying for everything and giving them everything, and he's not going to let them out. So, we've got to figure out how to identify these women and talk to them and help them and eventually help them get out of the relationship – that’s a very scary place to be.
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“A Sugar Daddy acts a lot like a father,” she added. “Watch his behavior just as much as you watch her behavior. Ask her questions about him when you're meeting with her, questions like 'Where did you meet him?' 'What kind of relationship do you have with him?' Get her to elaborate when you have her one-on-one, when you have a relationship with her. And when your intuition kicks in, don't be afraid to ask (questions), but do so with compassion and kindness.”
Collaborating with other organizations, such as safe houses and counseling centers, can be very helpful, Crawford said. “Those partnerships need to take place and (collaborate) trainings need to as well."
Breaking the cycle of unhealthy, ungodly relationships is a difficult road to travel, but one Christians are called to help navigate, and pregnancy centers can be part of that process, she said.
“We need to be willing to walk alongside these girls,” Crawford stated.