Young Irish women strapped for cash have been forced to become experimental with their means of making income.
To date, approximately 9,000 Irish girls have joined the sugar dating site SeekingArrangements.com to organise transactional ‘mutually beneficial relationships’ with wealthy older men.
The girls offer their company, charm and attention in return for cash, allowances and lavish gifts.
I just wish I was pretty enough to be a sugar baby.
But one of those that doesn't have to sleep with gross old men.
— Tay (@GodDammitWarren) December 5, 2016
Many women on the Seeking Arrangements site are college and university going students looking for help to keep their finances in order, often looking for men to make fee and accommodation payments to keep them in college.
Vanessa [not her real name] is a 19 year old Dublin university-attending sugar baby. She became aware of the "sugaring" lifestyle four years ago as the phenomenon gained media attention, but it wasn’t until her first year of college that she genuinely considered joining the Seeking Arrangements site, spurred on by a friend who was already meeting wealthy men online.
Her drive to experiment with this lifestyle came purely from the enticement of money, fine dining and the wish to achieve a more comfortable lifestyle while studying for her degree, after moving to the capital from a small town in the south of the country.
Vanessa began her sugaring endeavours on Google and found the Seeking Arrangement site, which to her seemed different to other cheap "shady" websites she had previously encountered.
She described the site as being more "executive, elegant and just proper" and created her account.
She recalls how she was swamped with attention when she first joined and was flattered, and slowly whittled down the potential sugar daddies by trawling through hundreds of profiles and conversing with men, searching for signs of legitimacy.
Vanessa admits that men would message her clearly seeking sexual services, using the simple line “how much for tonight”.
"Some men are looking for a prostitute, but you can sense that straight away by the questions they ask, or if they are asking about money straight away you know they’re looking for one thing, and that’s not what I’m looking for," she said adamantly.
Many sugar babies insist that sugar dating relationships are non-sexual and platonic, but Vanessa completely disagrees, and believes that most girls are lying when it comes to this aspect.
Any search on YouTube for "sugar dating stories" provides plenty of examples of women claiming there is zero sex work involved.
"I’m sure that in certain situations the sugar baby says no and the man says OK… But for me I’m ok with sleeping with these men as I can be attracted to them. I think the majority of these girls are probably lying when they say it’s all above board."
it's nearly 2017 and people still believe that platonic sugar baby/daddy arrangements are common
— blidge (@THECAROLDANVERS) December 9, 2016
In Vanessa’s world of sugar dating, safety is key.
Her advice to potential sugar babies is to "have your wits about you at all times, you can be talking to someone online and they can seem like the nicest person ever but until you meet them you do not know".
"When you do progress on to meeting people, let a friend know, take a picture of yourself in case you do go missing that night of what you are wearing, that’s how serious the realities of this lifestyle are."
Vanessa has been offered holidays, phone bills paid and accommodation payments covered, and will accept no less than €500 for her company for the day or night. She admits to her previous naivety when she first joined the site.
"The first person I decided to meet I made an arrangement of €180, which is a lot of money to a lot of people and does make a difference, but now that would be a waste of my time."
"A sugar daddy is better than a baby daddy, always remember that" -Stanley Brown
— Alexis Ren (@lexii_koch) December 10, 2016
While Vanessa concedes that the sugar baby lifestyle works for her, she does not advise other college students to take this route:
"I would tell them to back away. I feel that in years to come I’ll definitely regret it. I hate to think that someday I’ll have to tell my husband about this part of my life, and he might not accept it."
The enticement of quick cash is enough to sway many Irish students, and seems much more favourable than a student loan or a part time job, but Vanessa concludes that while it all seems easy, putting a price on your time is actually quite a difficult moral issue
"It might be ok now, but down the line I 100% believe this will come back to haunt me."