The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 27, 2013

Bargaining for a relationship: More female students seeking ‘sugar daddy’ to help with escalating costs of education

Justin Dennis
jdennis@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — As universities across the nation continue to run up tuition and fees, in spite of recession and still too few jobs to go around, there’s hope yet for cash-strapped students – at least for female ones: Find a “sugar daddy.”

In this brave, new digital world, it’s easier than ever to get an affluent, “generous” man to line your pocketbook in exchange for an “arranged” relationship.

Enter SeekingArrangement.com, a sugar daddy dating site which, in 2012, saw a 56 percent growth in registered female college students – called “sugar babies.” It released a list of universities that have the highest concentration of users, on which Temple ranks third, Penn State ranks 12th and University of Pennsylvania ranks 58th. In 2011, around 40 percent of the site’s user base was comprised of college students.

No branch of the University of Pittsburgh appeared among the 75 universities listed.

“Many students are joining our website to help pay for growing (school) costs,” said spokesman Leroy Velasquez. “I believe (it’s) a combination of the recession and (a rise in) cost of living. For college students, it’s a big reason why they’re joining. We definitely respect that and there is a growing trend as shown by our site’s numbers.”

As of this month, the site broke the 2 million-user mark.



How to hook up



As described at the top of its home page, SeekingArrangment.com is “The elite sugar daddy dating site for those seeking mutually beneficial relationships and mutually beneficial arrangements.”

Goal-seeking sugar babies are expected to be “attractive, intelligent, ambitious and goal oriented.”

“Sugar Babies are students, actresses, models or girls and guys next door,” it reads. “You know you deserve to date someone who will pamper you, empower you and help you mentally, emotionally and financially.”

The modern sugar daddy is “always respectful and generous.”

“You only live once and you want to date the best,” it reads. “Some call you a mentor, sponsor or benefactor.

“But no matter what your desires may be, you are brutally honest about who you are,

what you expect and what you offer.”

What is actually offered in the relationship and the terms of the couple’s first meeting are entirely negotiable, yet binding, as Velasquez explained.

“On a sugar daddy’s profile, he’ll explain explicitly how much he makes a year, his net worth, what he’s looking for in a relationship and the kind of life he leads,” he said. “The sugar baby will describe what she expects in the relationship, whether it be mentorship, friendship or companionship. Then she states her ideal monthly allowance – how much she would ideally want from the sugar daddy.”

Being a male sugar baby – that is, an attractive man that expects an allowance from a “sugar mommy” – is a much less fruitful venture. Users registering as a male sugar baby can expect little to no response, as indicated by the biology textbook-esque registration form:

“NOTE: There are 100 male sugar babies for 1 sugar mommy member,” it reads. “For better response, consider registering as a sugar daddy.”



Sketchy, sleazy, shady



Although Internet dating has recently grown leaps and bounds in terms of viability and social acceptance, Pitt-Johns- town students largely scoffed at the idea of relationships that are arranged online and facilitated by cashflow. In fact, “sketchy,” “sleazy” and “shady” were among the adjectives most used to describe it.

“It sounds a lot like a loophole for prostitution,” said UPJ student Zack Palmer, 20. “It seems very shady. And I could see that easily turning into something (bad).”

Velasquez said a relationship’s outcome is largely dependent on the type of relationship, and the terms that were set in the beginning.

“When these terms are broken, obviously the relationship can go south,” he said. “Sometimes one side gets more serious than the other. Sometimes a sugar baby or daddy becomes overly attached.”

Everyone’s terms are different and although these may appear to be pseudo-relationships, the emotional compensation must be real – why else would users pay up to $20,000 monthly? That is the top of the allowance range for sugar babies.

“The whole idea sounds really great. ‘You wanna’ pay off my loans? Go ahead!’ ” said UPJ student Emily Platania, 19, who is paying her tuition largely through financial aid. “But I think that would bring my morality into question.”

“It’s kind of degrading,” said another UPJ student, Meredith Wagner, 19. “I’d rather just work a regular job.”

But what of the eligible – and loaded – UPJ bachelors? Are there any?

A member search turned up a total of nine sugar daddies in the Greater Johnstown area. No UPJ students were among them. That’s not surprising, considering the income bracket that the university’s relatively low tuition appeals to.

“It’s definitely not my kind of thing,” said Brad White, 22. “It’s the uncertainty that makes it a little sketchy. Anybody could post a picture with a fake name.”

Even putting the recent Manti Te’o debacle behind us, there’s always been a stigma attached to online dating. If someone can actually land a date in real life, why do they hide behind the relatively anonymous veil of the Internet? Even though the online dating scene has become much more mainstream, as Internet-savvy youngsters are naturally comfortable with their digital identities, the students said what makes SeekingArrangement.com that much hairier is the money that changes hands.

“It’s a pride thing,” said Jay Goldstein, 21. “It’s not something I’d want to pay for.”

“I don’t know if I would feel good about myself,” added White. “I would never (pay for a prostitute), though, and I think it’s kind of along those lines.”

Velasquez said he thinks societal reservations about how healthy relationships work may change how this dating scene is viewed in the future.

“I think open-mindedness is a growing trend in society,” he said. “Past generations were much more conservative.”

The website takes a much more world history-esque approach:

“While some society may have laid down a set of unsaid rules about what is morally acceptable ... who is to say what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’?” it reads. “In the past, kings, shahs and emperors have had multiple lovers or concubines. In many cultures, liaisons between the wealthy, generous and the beautiful were even considered an art form. The French had courtesans. The Japanese had geishas.

“And in today’s society, we now have sugar babies.”



The more things change ...



Although prostitution is dubbed the world’s “oldest” profession, concubines and non-ceremonial geishas aren’t so chic nowadays. UPJ students showed that traditional relationship values such as intimacy, natural chemistry and compassion will, however, always remain in style, despite how the coupling is arranged.

“Relationships shouldn’t be based on money,” said Marquis Ryan Walker, 24. “(Instead) caring and concern, actually loving the person – at least liking the person.”

McKenzie Wanninger, 18, said the ideal paramour is “someone who’s there for you, that you can be with, that you’re happy with.”

But the numbers don’t lie – thousands of college-age females around the country

are dating wealthy and (seemingly) lonely men for cold, hard cash.

A slippery slope? Perhaps.

In Japan, “compensated dating” – or “enjo-kosai” – is a cultural phenomenon that has been widely documented and hotly contested for years. Older, sexually frustrated husbands and lonely salarymen will pay for time with girls – often, they’re teenagers. The activities could range from a date at a karaoke bar to a reservation at a “love hotel.” Often, high school girls use enjo-kosai as a means to support a consumer-driven lifestyle – sleeping with older, established men for designer clothing, jewelry or pocket money.

At UPJ, 19-year-old Dana Jamison considered the contrast between herself and girls who are comfortable using their charms to make a quick buck – or put themselves through school.

“It’s their mindset,” she said. “I think more immature girls would (think it was great) but if you think about it sensibly, it sounds awful.

“They just want stuff to be handed to them.”

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