“I focus on long-term relationships so I don’t have to worry about where my next paycheck is coming from,” Anna said. “I get a level of trust and emotional connection. I find it more enjoyable.”
Right now, Anna has three sugar daddies. She sees the primary one weekly, and the other two men between two and three times every month. At the start of the month, the men pay her. She’s able to stay on top of her bills and ensure the men requesting her time will have it.
Anna, like all other anonymous UNC-affiliated sugar babies interviewed, has sex with her sugar daddies.
North Carolina law defines prostitution as engaging in, offering or agreeing to sexual activity for money or payment. SeekingArrangment explicitly prohibits prostitution in its bylaws. However, Anna and many other sugar babies said sex is expected by a majority of men on the site.
The average student sugar baby earns $3,000 each month, according to a SeekingArrangement press release. While Anna is earning $12,000 monthly, another sugar baby currently enrolled at UNC was paid $500 every two weeks. Ellie — her sugar baby name — would fly up to New York every two or three weeks to spend time with her sugar daddy.
Once at his house, she would play with his dogs, have dinner with him and engage in consensual, sexual relations. After six months, they mutually ended their arrangement and Ellie stopped sugaring. Ellie’s $6,500 is sitting in a savings account, untouched.
Only a few months after starting school as an out-of-state student, both of Ellie’s parents lost their jobs. She re-activated an account she made as a joke in high school and began searching for men who could help pay the annual $52,026 cost of attendance for out-of-state students.
“Before going into this, I had this picture in my mind of, ‘Oh, I don’t have to sleep with them, I just have to meet with them and talk to these grandpas,’ which isn’t the case,” Ellie said.
Although Ellie was surprised at the amount of men willingly admitting to wanting a physical relationship, SeekingArrangement prides itself on being a place “where people are direct with one another and stop wasting time.”
If an individual considers himself to be a sugar daddy, he must pay for a subscription service, whereas sugar babies maintain their profile at no cost.
SeekingArrangment considers itself a “venue,” and therefore absolves itself of any responsibility to run background checks on users. However, sugar daddies or sugar mamas can belong to the “Diamond Club,” pay over $2,000 annually and have their background and income verified by the site.
After her first meet-and-greet left her feeling unsafe and scared, Ellie began to filter sugar daddies by those with Diamond Club membership. Although some sugar babies choose to let SeekingArrangement determine reliability, others have lists of dos and don'ts.
Emily, who withdrew from UNC in 2017 after a traumatic event, said trying to meet at hotel rooms and asking for financial information immediately are warning signs. If a man breaks any of her rules, Emily does not offer a second chance.
“At one point, (other sugar babies and I) had a spreadsheet of different usernames and our experiences with them,” Emily said. “And I remember writing about that guy from my apartment in red, and that was a warning.”
Emily is referencing one of her first meet-and-greets with a man who came to her apartment and snorted cocaine in the bathroom. Although the drug use left her unsettled, Emily continued meeting with men from the site.
“I did not like my job at the time,” Emily said. “I was working at a place where, if the cooks touch you, it’s your fault for flirting with them. It was a very bad situation, I didn’t want to be there and my school was suffering.”
Emily’s sugar daddy would take her on trips, pay for nice hotels, take her to eat at nice restaurants, occasionally pick up living expenses and pay for clothes online. She described most of the men who meet her on the site as middle or upper-middle class men who work typical jobs but do not have many expenses.
Emily is nearing graduation from a trade school and has a full-time job lined up. Her salary is high — high enough to stop sugaring for rent money and dinners.
The typical college student, as described by SeekingArrangement, is on the site because “Betsy DeVos is seemingly waging war against tens of thousands of student loan borrowers.” The site claims the average student can pay off tuition in three months with a sugar daddy’s allowance.
While Ellie joined to pay tuition, some sugar babies at UNC joined the site to pay for living and medical expenses, like Julia, a 2018 graduate.
“Having the money meant I could go out more, I could not worry so much about where my next meal is going to come from, I don’t have to worry about paying for my medicine, because I now have the money for it,” Julia said.
After starting a full-time job and moving away from Chapel Hill, Julia no longer needs the money from sugar daddies. However, not all sugar babies stop sugaring when the financial need evaporates. Beck, a UNC senior, said after a first-year relationship with a sugar daddy from Kenan-Flagler Business School, she realized she liked the dynamic.
“You just throw a naked photo of yourself up on Reddit and have like 40 to 50 people messaging you and 15 of them asking if they can give you money, buy you something, buy you panties, to be your sugar daddy,” Beck said.
Although her current relationships are online-only, Beck said sex is sometimes part of her arrangements. The physical aspect is where legality comes into play — otherwise, the exchange outlined in North Carolina law is not present.
“Sugaring is not easy money,” Anna said. “You are risking legal trouble, you are risking your body, you’re risking putting yourself in a coercive situation for money, so you have to be smart to sugar and you really need to do your research.”