Last week Leeds Student reported on female students using dating sites to meet men who were willing to give them money. This week Big Debate asks, is it ok to use ‘Sugar Daddy’ websites to pay for university fees?
NO: Alice Smart
There was something deeply unsettling about last week’s revelation that many Leeds students were using ‘Sugar Daddy’ dating sites to help pay for Uni costs. What may seem like a harmless to make extra cash on the side, can actually have some pretty serious consequences for some young women.
These businesses can be dangerous as they target and recruit women at the beginning of their lives. In the current economic climate, with rising fees and costs, many of us would snatch at the opportunity to earn a little extra money to make ends meet. These ‘Sugar Daddy’ sites know the situation well and are preying on female students when they are at their most vulnerable.
Sadly, this business model does fit within a broader narrative in modern western life. It encourages young women to see themselves as a commodity, valued for their youth and appearance. But whereas magazines and the media might place unreasonable expectations on women and how they are supposed to look, these websites go even further. The idea that a woman is chosen simply for her looks and a man simply for his income endorses the view that anything has a price. It’s not impossible, but healthy and happy relationships will not often be forged in the mould of a ‘Sugar Daddy’ relationship.
In fact, one of the reasons these sites are so unsettling is the use of the terms ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Sugar Baby’. These terms set the tone right from the outset. It suggests that it is the men who are in control, and that they will exploit these women who are predominantly significantly younger than themselves.
Of course, one of the arguments you’ll here, even from the website itself, is that the women who use them are bold, independent and are in control of their own life. The reality is very different. The truth is that the women who use these sites are likely to be those who are reluctantly putting aside their own values and entering a situation outside of their comfort zone, one which carries the risk of danger. These businesses try and justify themselves by proclaiming that they are for ‘consenting adults’. Yet just because someone is a ‘consenting adult’ it does not mean that they are exempt from risk, especially where money is the motivating factor. They are unbalanced relationships where money is king and any real emotional connections come second at best.
The biggest of these concerns is that that the women who use these sites may feel obliged to have sex with the man they are ‘dating’ even when then that’s not an explicit term written into the relationship contract. These men will pay a lot of money for the company of their clients, and we know that some will go to any lengths to get something they think they’ve paid for.
It’s completely understandable that students want to find ways to make ends meet, but there are other less risky ways of helping fund the cost of university. There are part time jobs available and in emergencies the University does have an emergency loans service. While on the surface these ‘dating’ arrangements may seem to be a quick fix for financial troubles, they can have very damaging consequences on a student’s welfare, especially if the deal turns sour. If a female student was in a difficult financial situation, it would be best to seek some advice from the Uni or the Union before signing up to become a ‘Sugar Baby’.
YES: Natalie Oliver
Sugar Daddy websites have been prevalent in the U.S for years, but have only recently blossomed in the UK, especially amongst students. With the recent increase in tuition fees, and in student membership of ‘Sugar Daddy’ dating sites, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the two could be connected. While I can’t really fathom joining up to any dating website myself, I fully respect and have no problem with women who do.
‘Sugar Daddy’ dating has been compared to prostitution, which is a correlation that is plainly wrong and insulting. All those engaging in the process are mutually consenting adults, who are choosing the men that they want to communicate with. Choice is involved at every stage, and to judge women for taking control of these choices is no less offensive than any other.
Just as traditions subsist today – men paying on the first date and such – a dating site centered on making this financial factor transparent is no worse than the traditions themselves. When it comes to sex, it’s pretty similar to the usual, organic process. I mean, it’s a date; if both parties are attracted to each other, the conversation and the alcohol is flowing and the mood is right then its somewhat inevitable. How actively choosing to have sex with a man who happened to pay for your beef-bourguignon is exploitive is beyond me.
Any notion of Sugar Daddy dating sites allowing for predatory relations is also false. Young women are surely not drawn just by financial incentives, but by the men behind the salaries. Such sites present the opportunity for mature conversation with men of an age beyond the gruelling UniLad ‘banter’ that so often prevails amongst younger men.
From a purely financial perspective, young women choosing to lessen their debt through Sugar Daddy websites shows a level of entrepreneurialism. These women can transform their time and company into a commodity, so why not? All relationships have a transactional element, from the exchange of time and support, to the exchange of intimacy and money. The arrange,ent formed through these Sugar Daddy sites is just a branch of these balanced reciprocal relationships. If anything, this system is an honest way of conducting a relationship.
Rising tuition fees are a pretty terrifying prospect for most students, and being saddles with a huge amount of debt upon graduation is rather undesirable. So while rising fees mean more young women may be considering Sugar daddies as a form of income, they’ll likely leave university in an economically better situation than those who don’t. If students found a way to give themselves more financial stability, rather than adopting the student debt culture the government seems to have indoctrinated into so many young people, then should we really be disputing it?