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.