Sugar Daddies

The secret world of Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies” — 60 Minutes Australia, 2019, 25:03

While “sugaring” is controversial, this video is great because it is so bluntly honest. The men interviewed are very up front regarding their views on transactional romance. They see relationships primarily through the lens of economic exchange. Wealthy men provide finances and opportunities for social mobility in exchange for the sexual capital of younger women. One man interviewed even calculated his “price per fuck factor” and discovered his sugar baby was a better value than his wife. Another man proudly says “love is for poor people”… and he has a point. Why do people enter into relationships? Our culture currently emphasizes love-based marriages and pushes the idea of a soul mate. But this has not always been the case. Dating is a twentieth century phenomenon and prior to this, many married out of obligation to their communities and families. For women especially, marriage was a necessity as they were often excluded from well-paying jobs making independent living difficult. Furthermore, arranged marriages are still very common throughout the world and rest on the principle that love will develop over time (see passionate love and companionate love for more information). In sum, people do relationships for a variety of reasons: love, tradition, necessity, convenience, and social status… so why is it the last of these that is so highly stigmatized? In this era of late capitalism, we are increasingly becoming “personal brands” (in the words of one interviewee) and relationships can now be an effective means of social mobility. Nonetheless, this is a video to watch with all one’s critical senses. It is well known websites such as Seeking Arrangements tactfully place their best success stories in front of the media, so this is by no means an accurate representation of the sugar community. It is, however, a great example of how economic ideology has subsumed sex and romance.

How has hegemonic capitalism changed the way we see relationships? In what ways does sugaring reproduce gender inequality and patriarchal dominance? Is sugaring empowering, exploitative, or something else?

From the video’s description: Incredibly, right now in Australia there are more than 200,000 young women who have either become, or are trying to be, “sugar babies”. Their ambition is for a sweet life of pampered luxury, paid for by older, sometimes much older, men. For the so-called “sugar daddies”, the equation is simple: the wealthier they are, the more attractive they are. But as Sarah Abo finds out, it’s not hard to read between the lines here. The term sugar baby is often code for sex worker, and the male moneybags are often crinkled-up creeps. And that leads to a very important question: is this sugar baby phenomenon about empowering women or exploiting them?