Emotional Impact of the Sugar Baby Trend

          Prostitution has been said to be the oldest profession. But it is taking on a new life with a slight twist in recent times. With the state of the economy as it is, we all hear about how college graduates are unable to find jobs and still have a mound of student loans and other debt to pay off. So what’s a girl to do? Apparently become a sugar baby so your sugar daddy can help you pay off that debt. As I said before, this is basically prostitution with a twist. Young women solicit rich men for “companionship” and whatever else comes with that. In most cases this would also entail a sexual relationship of some sort. There are websites out there that can actually help sugar babies and sugar daddies find one another and the number of sugar babies registered on just one site is in the hundred thousands.

            It has been argued that this is legal as long as the terms of the relationship are established in a certain way. As long as money does not change hands for the sole purpose of sex it does not technically fall under the umbrella of prostitution. This is a fine line if you ask me, but since the sexual relationship is implied and not stated, legally these individuals are okay. So what is the problem with this if it is legal? The sugar babies can (and in most cases do) experience some serious emotional problems due to these relationships. In fact, the consequences are nearly exactly the same as those for prostitution.

             In my professional experience I have counseled many young girls who have been involved in prostitution for money and for drugs while working with the department of juvenile justice. But I am also seeing this shift in the group practice that I work in where young girls from middle class families need help paying bills and are somehow connected with a man willing to help pay those bills. These girls expressed the same emotions and problems as the girls who were labeled prostitutes did- shame, guilt, embarrassment, exposed, vulnerable, “dirty”, anxiety, and depression.

            Although there is no typical prostitute to be able to compare sugar babies to, I can say that in many instances, the emotional impact of being a sugar baby may be greater than that of a prostitute. Prostitutes in many instances use drugs in order to dissociate and put distance between them and the sexual acts. They are also likely to make it very clear the nature of the relationship and create boundaries with their johns to keep intimacy out of the relationship. There is a street culture where it is acceptable to be a prostitute and these women know of others and are able to gain support and knowledge of the business from them and they experience a sense of hardening on the streets as well. On the other hand, a sugar baby is less likely to be using substances and intimacy is expected in the sugar baby/sugar daddy relationship, making it more personal. It is more likely that they are not talking about the sugar baby relationship with others and will not have emotional support from others either. During an interview on the Today Show, psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz reported that these girls have a break in their moral compass that allows them to engage in this type of relationship. I disagree with her, however. They know that it is morally wrong and that is why it is so devastating to who they are and how they feel about themselves.

            So what can we do about this new trend in relationships? If you have a young daughter living on her own who is not yet established financially, please be aware of this trend. Make sure she is aware that you are there to help and support her in whatever way you are capable of and help her to learn about her financial options as well as how to be financially responsible. Take pressure off of her to be self-sufficient and “perfect” (which is a huge problem for many young women). Create an open relationship where you daughter can talk to you about what is going on (in my professional experience the sugar baby is too embarrassed to ask her parents for help or she does not want them to be able to use this information against her). If you know your daughter has engaged in this type of relationship, encourage her to receive professional help. As far as the sugar daddies go, I hope they are willing to put out the necessary money for the counseling these young women will need while starring in their role as sugar baby.

2 Responses to Emotional Impact of the Sugar Baby Trend

  1. Bill says:

    This article addresses a tangential subset of the trend, of women are having sex for money and men paying for sex with no real personal connection. That is not the way an arrangement is supposed to work. I am not surprised at the misunderstanding. Too many people jump to being critical of others without taking the time to actually learn the full picture. Usually those that are critical are intensely jealous. Young critics don’t like how SB’s have jumped the years and have access to wealth and experience. Older critics don’t like the competition for older men from young, beautiful women. Male critics tend to be hopelessly unsuccessful.

    A “proper” SB/SD relationship is no different than friends with benefits, it just usually involves a wider age gap. Young, attractive, ambitious women and successful older men have always been attracted to each other; the nature of which is irrelevant.

    What does a college girl look for in a boyfriend? Tall, athletic, cute butt, sense of humor, single, -1 to +5 years, oh, and if he has money great (but don’t count on it). What does a girl look for in a SD? Experienced, financially successful, sense of humor, oh, and if he is tall, athletic, and has a cute butt great (but don’t count on it). Just a re-arranging of preference.

    The secret to a wonderful SB/SD relationship is just like any other, that the couple genuinely like each other and enjoy their time together. They have to be real friends. Who says there is an age limit to being friends? And if friends care about each other, what is wrong with sleeping together? And if one friend has extra money and the other could use it, what is wrong with helping out?

    The other secret to success is to be honest with each other. Some SBs and SDs will try to hide their identities from each other or lie about not having a wife or boyfriend. If you can’t trust each other, don’t even bother.

    My SB is 21 and I am 47. She thinks I am the best boyfriend she has ever had. I treat her well, I take care of her, I am concerned about her feelings and what she wants to do, I share my experience with her. We engage in hours-long conversation; we laugh; we have sex. I like her, because unlike most women over 40, she is sweet, not bitchy, and not overweight. (There are sweet women over 40 in good shape, but they are ALWAYS monogamously married). She likes me because she values my experience, I am not clingy, not controlling, not insecure, and I never ask her to pay for anything. She says, “You are perfect!”

    The advice my SB and I would give to ambitious, attractive, young women is that they can definitely have a great time, an enriching relationship, and less financial stress if they were to consider finding a SD, and if so, to make sure one finds a man who one genuinely likes. If you don’t like the guy, don’t sleep with him. If you do like him, then have a wonderful time. It is that simple.

    There is an emotional risk for a true SB/SD relationship, but it is not shame or guilt, it is the risk of falling in love.

  2. Bill, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I will agree that this article may not pertain to all sugar babies and your statement that it addresses a subset of the trend may be accurate. It was written three years ago and some things have changed within that time, for instance, with the numbers of individuals who engage in the sugar baby/sugar daddy lifestyle there is likely to be more support and understanding for the sugar babies as they know of others that are in the same position. My intention is NOT to be critical as I believe everyone’s circumstances are different and they are entitled to make their own choices. I chose to write this piece 3 years ago because I could not find where anyone had talked about the mental health impact and in fact, I’m not sure there is still much information out there on this subject. This is based on Professional experience and the experience of the clients I was working with. I can assure you jealousy does not play a factor in my thoughts, beliefs, or writing.

    You talk about what a “proper” SB/SD relationship should look like, the problem is that relationships rarely work out as we expect them to. This is not a black and white issue as most will fall into the grey area. I do not doubt that there are those young women out there that feel completely comfortable with the terms of a SB/SD relationship and in fact thrive with it, and I believe that is what you are speaking of. My concern is those that do it out of necessity or feel it is their best option for financial reasons solely. These are the women that I have seen and spoken to and I believe that they make up a large portion of the women on these sites. They make up the grey area and no one speaks about the consequences they face for engaging in a relationship that is outside of their comfort zone, values, or what they would have chosen for themselves if the financial need did not exist.

    All things in life and all relationships come with risk. Although my writing in this article may come across as harsh, my intention is to alert those thinking about this type of relationship of the possible risks so they can make their own informed decision.

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