Sugar Babies at McGill
What's your price?
“What’s your price? This is Leroy.”
The start to my phone interview with Leroy Velasquez, a press representative for SeekingArrangement.com, was startling at best.
I am investigating a recent trend of university students using sugar daddy dating websites, like SeekingArrangement.com, to help them pay for their schooling. When asked what exactly SeekingArrangement.com is, Velasquez simply responded: “SeekingArrangement.com is the world’s largest sugar daddy dating website. [It] essentially pairs generous benefactors with attractive members, and they engage in what we call “mutually beneficial relationships.” Whether it be friendship, companionship, or something more romantic, the benefactor takes care of that person, offers them a monthly allowance, and pays for all of their expenses.”
Velasquez explains that there are various terms for the different kinds of people using the site: sugar daddies, sugar mommies, and sugar babies. He describes a sugar daddy as “an older, wealthy man, who is on average 35 years old,” and can make anywhere from half a million to over a million dollars a year. On the other hand, a sugar baby is typically a younger woman— 18-26 years old—whose income is less relevant, but ostensibly much lower. It’s also worth noting that the ratio of sugar daddies to sugar babies on the site is one to 12.
“We don’t discriminate against certain demographics,” Velasquez assures me. “For example, we do have a sugar mommy population that takes care of sugar baby males, and we also cater to the LGBT community. We have gay sugar daddy males [and] gay sugar baby females. We have a wide range of relationships on our website.”
While the service is free for sugar babies to use, sugar daddies and mommies must pay a monthly fee for their membership. There’s no minimum income requirement for sugar daddies, but on average, they make around six figures.
“As long as you have the expendable income to spend on a sugar baby’s monthly allowance, we allow you to use our website,” Velasquez explains.
The website even offers a promotion encouraging sugar babies to register with their university email account, which has enabled them to gather data on which universities boast the most sugar babies. McGill lands at number four on the list of Canada’s fastest growing sugar baby schools. With 148 new accounts created in 2012 alone, it falls behind Ryerson (183 new accounts), University of Ottawa (179 new accounts), and University of Toronto (156 new accounts), which hold the top three spots respectively. L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) also made the list at number 13, with 58 new accounts. According to SeekingArrangement.com CEO and founder, Brandon Wade, 38 per cent of all female accounts in Canada belong to university students.
“We actually found a huge trend in college students at the beginning of this year,” Velasquez says, “and I can definitely attribute that to factors involving money. A lot of students can’t afford the tuition, especially with school costs increasing [and] the cost of living, as well as student loans increasing. A sugar daddy just seems like the most ideal and sensible choice when engaging in relationships. The average college sugar baby earns $3000 a month, as well as money to cover tuition.”
It sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Aside from the obvious questions it raises, I wondered if it was too good to be true. Unable to find any experienced sugar babies to speak with, I decided to do the next best thing: see for myself. I created a SeekingArrangement.com account; one fake name, a short blurb about myself, and a couple of Facebook photos later, I was ready to see what all the fuss was about. Most of the messages I got were from men living in places outside of Montreal, looking to travel downtown to meet up. Mostly, they were from towns in Quebec and Ontario, but a few were from the states, even as far away as Texas.
As Velasquez explains it, “You have to put in perspective that the traditional sugar daddy is someone who leads a very active business life. He’s successful, he’s wealthy, he’s generous, but he may not have the same schedule as someone who works a nine-to-five. He may be travelling all the time, he may be constantly working so he has to engage in relationships where maybe he’s visiting the area where you live or he could take vacations or time off with you. When [sugar daddies] first engage with these sugar babies, they message them and tell them specifically what they’re looking for, whether it be friendship or companionship. And then, there are times where sugar daddies are looking for someone to seriously date. We’ve actually had numerous members send us wedding invitations over the past year, for those who actually had the chemistry and actually ended up getting engaged and married. There’s a wide range of relationships on SeekingArrangement.com.”
He’s right about the straightforward nature of the website. I received messages proposing shopping trips, dinners, and hotel meet-ups right off the bat, but others simply requesting I message them back to see if there was a connection. It was easy to tell who was looking for what, but almost every message came with a phone number or private email, suggesting we correspond outside of the website.
Critics of the website accuse it of being similar to an escort service, but legally speaking, as long as a sugar daddy is paying for a service other than sex, say friendship or companionship, the transaction is perfectly legal. According to the website, any physical relationship that may occur, is beyond the scope of that arrangement.
Whatever sugar daddies are looking for, it seems they use the website to make an initial connection, but would rather their messages not be read by the Seeking Arrangement administrative team. For a service that stresses how honest and straight forward these relationships are, a lot of the profiles I saw mentioned discretion, especially those of married individuals.
Each sugar daddy is required to list their income, net-worth, age, occupation, location, and budget, among other things. Sugar babies must list much of the same, excluding income and net-worth. They also list what they’re expecting in terms of compensation from a sugar daddy. The whole venture comes across as exceedingly mercenary, yet supporters say it’s the safest, easiest way to put yourself through school. Critics argue that it’s like a job, but not quite, and it’s also like dating, but not quite—it’s too much of a grey area. The lines can get blurry enough for the whole thing to feel anything but simple. Success with the website seems to depend on whether or not you have the stomach for it.
According to Velasquez, “It’s what you look for, honestly. Using our website, you’ll see that members look for something different, and they match with someone who has a similar mindset. I’ve spoken with sugar babies who are in a completely platonic relationship with their sugar daddy, and they get the same benefits as someone who’s in a more romantic relationship. So, if you’re looking for friendship, it’s there. If you’re looking for a more romantic relationship, it’s there.”
U1 international student Chelsea* says she considered a Seeking Arrangement account, but ultimately decided she didn’t want to open that can of worms.
“I mean, I pay around $15,000 and it’s mostly in loans—my parents don’t help me. It’s hard [because] a lot of students who don’t have loans can go travel [after graduation], but I can’t, because I have to pay back my loans right after school. Everybody needs money, and it’s an easy way to get money, but it’s weird. You lose something. If someone’s paying you money to be around them, it’s not real. You lose a bit of autonomy,” she said. “I work at Dairy Queen, and I’m much happier making minimum wage than having someone pay me to spend time with them.”
Although McGill students are split on the issue, SeekingArrangement.com is clearly growing in popularity. Despite the financial difficulty faced by many McGill students, one question remains to be answered: can we put a price on ourselves?
*Name has been changed.
*This feature is not part of our joke section.