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Growing number of students in Southampton looking for 'sugar daddies'
HARD-UP students used to work part-time in bars and pubs to help clear their growing debts.
But times have changed.
Now increasing numbers of young women are choosing an alternative way to make ends meet: being paid by rich “sugar daddies” to go on dates with them.
Some “sugar babies” are earning thousands of pounds a month for entering into relationships with wealthy men, the Daily Echo can reveal.
And young male students are also getting in on the act – and being paid by “sugar mummies”.
Willing students are meeting their potential suitors on controversial “sugar daddy”
websites which have been criticised by women’s groups for exposing vulnerable young people to exploitation.
But one website – SeekingArrangement – disputes the claims and says 35 per cent of the site’s 50,000 UK members are now students.
One was Emma (not her real name) from the University of Southampton, who tried the site after graduating last summer £32,000 in debt.
Emma, 22, who was paid £2,500 a month to date a man she met on the website, said: “I had no chance of paying any of the debt back in the short termwhile I tried to forge a stable career for myself. A friend from college had tried one of these sites and encouraged me to give it a go because she knew that I had always been attracted to older men. I was extremely reluctant but I thought I would give it a go.
She added: “I wasn’t going to sleep with anyone I didn’t like or fancy – that was a clear rule right from the start. I met a range of men who on the whole were charming, funny and great company.
“It took me about a month to find the man I was looking for – basically someone I would have dated anyway, regardless of meeting him on a sugar daddy site.”
“He was in his late 40s and making several million a year. He took me to some amazing places including a perfect weekend at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat ’Saisons. We went to Paris and stayed at the Hotel de Crillon which has to be seen to be believed. At New Year he took me to the hotel Regina Baglioni in Rome.
I remember seeing in 2012 drinking champagne in front of the Trevi Fountain and thinking ‘this is the life’.”
She adds: “We entered into what the website calls a ‘mutually beneficial arrangement’.
We were boyfriend and girlfriend but I was paid £2,500 a month, which was more than enough to cover my bills while I pursued my career in film.
“We saw each other for six months while I acquired the skills which enabled me to get a full-time job. In the end it fizzled out and we split up amicably but I have no regrets about going on the site.”
According to Seeking- Arrangement, more and more students are looking for ways to tackle debts.
The phenomenon of ‘sugar daddy’ websites began in America but SeekingArrangement owner Brandon Wade has brought his business model to the UK and is making the most of the student market.
In fact, the company has published figures showing that the University of Southampton has the fifth highest number of female students signing up to the service in the UK.
They did not have figures available for the number of male students signing up.
While the University of Southampton has taken fifth place in Seeking- Arrangement’s sign ups, it only had some 43 people, out of a student population of some 23,000.
But the site is keen to recruit more students who are automatically upgraded to a ‘premium account’ and given a certified ‘college sugar babe’ stamp on their profile, which brings in three times more responses.
The National Union of Students recently reported that an increasing number of students were also turning to prostitution, taking part in medical experiments and gambling to cope with the rising cost of a university education.
And it seems that an increasing number are also turning to “sugar daddies/mummies”.
SeekingArrnement encourages its members to enter into “mutually beneficial arrangements” which, it says, promotes honesty.
While this can include a fee of thousands of pounds a month paid by the “sugar daddy/mummy” for dates, what else might be expected for this fee is unclear.
Young women have described how they were expected to have sex with their “dates” and said that they felt obliged to do so.
One former “sugar babe” – 24-year-old Natalie from Staffordshire – said: “I had a few dates through it because I wanted to meet a different type of man but lots of them just saw it as a high-class hooker service.”
But CEO Brendan Wade strongly defends his site.
He said: “A mutually beneficial arrangement is simply an alternative kind of relationship, where both parties agree on the circumstances ahead of time.”
“It is not a contract, more of an understanding between two people of what they can expect from each other, and what they cannot. The two people usually discuss how the relationship will work, if it will be casual or no strings attached. They will probably cover monogamy, monthly allowances, etc.”
He argues that the “arrangements” are not the same as an escort service.
Although it is clear that money is expected to change hands, he said: “SeekingArrangement is a dating website, our members are not looking for a transactional experience. They are building relationships. It’s an alternative lifestyle that is not for everyone, but we are completely different than an escort service.
“As with any form of dating, sex usually becomes a part of the equation somewhere down the line. Yes, some of our members have sex with each other, but that usually only happens after they have gotten to know one another and have found that they have chemistry.
“There is no payment for sex. Any member who is attempting to use our site for this purpose will be immediately kicked off once reported.”
He added that many prostitutes may operate as escorts in order to ‘go around the laws’.
He said: “By calling it payment for an hour of companionship, and then saying that two consenting adults can do whatever they want within that hour does not make it any more legal.”
Some SeekingArrangement users have reported being paid per date.
But Mr Wade said: “On SeekingArrangement.com, those seeking hour or two hour long arrangements are not permitted.”
Meanwhile Brendon Wade, who started his company in 2006, is grateful to for the hike in university fees.
“Your new tuition fees have been great for business.” he said. “We’ve had a huge influx of beautiful, highly educated young women.”
The University of Southampton and Solent University declined to comment while the Student Unions at both failed to return the Daily Echo’s calls.
Women’s groups condemn the sites
UNSURPRISINGLY, sites like SeekingArrangement have come in for criticism.
Kate Banyard from UK organisation Women’s Support Project said: “The sugar daddies phenomena is based on inequality where rich older men can pay to have younger women spend ‘time’ with them.
“We should be concerned about the potential for abuse and exploitation which comes with this combination of money and economic vulnerability.”
Anna van Heeswijk from Object, which challenges women being treated as sex objects, added: “Sugar daddy sites blow any claims women and men are equal out of the water.
“Why is it seen as OK for young women to have to sell themselves to older men in order to survive or prosper?
“The idea that it is acceptable for men to pay, just because they are wealthy and the young women need money, is outrageous.
“This is alarming and those who profit from these sites should be held accountable.”