Contrary to popular belief, being a sugar daddy isn’t a one-size-fits-all gig. According to a new study, published in the journal Sociological Perspectives, there are seven types of these “sugar” relationships: sugar prostitution, compensated dating, compensated companionship, sugar dating, sugar friendships, sugar friendships with benefits and pragmatic love.
“Whenever I read an article about Sugar Daddies or Sugar Babies, I often saw the same sensationalistic slant: the women are desperate, starved college students engaging in prostitution,” said sociologist Maren Scull, Ph.D., assistant professor at University of Colorado Denver. “As someone who studies deviance, I knew there were more important nuances to these relationships.”
In general, sugar relationships are based on companionships, intimacy or other forms of attention in exchange for personal benefit (financial support, material goods, professional advancement).
These kinds of agreements are hardly new. In the 1750s, geishas were seen as socially respected entertainers even though they were paid to amuse men, usually without sex. During the first two World Wars, soldiers paid women to join them for a night out of dinner and dancing.
But the bulk of modern-day research focuses on transactional and survival sex in sub-Saharan Africa, and compensated dating in East and Southeast Asia. There is a lack of research in the U.S.
To understand how “sugaring” works in the U.S., Scull conducted interviews with 48 women about their experiences as “sugar babies.” She investigated the types of activities the women were engaged in, whether sex was involved and whether their lives were intertwined with their sugar daddies.
She found that 40% of the women had never had sex with their benefactors and the ones that did often had genuine, authentic connections. She also found that most forms of sugaring aren’t a play-for-pay arrangement.
“I didn’t have the intent of creating a typology, but there was so much variety that I knew I had to highlight the different nuances and forms that sugar relationships can take,” said Scull.
Scull labeled the first “sugar prostitution,” a form of sugaring absent emotion and purely the exchange of gifts for sex.
“Compensated dating,” popular in Asia, involves a monetary or material compensation for grabbing a coffee, a meal or attending a specific event together.
“Compensated companionship” includes a wider range of activities and often involves the woman becoming more intertwined in the man’s life. Neither compensated dating nor compensated companionship involves anything sexual for most people.
“Sugar dating,” the most common form of sugaring, combines the intertwined life of companionship with sex. In these situations, most women receive an allowance on a weekly, monthly or as-needed basis. The sums could range from $200 to several thousands of dollars a month.
“Sugar friendships” are mutually beneficial relationships with someone the women consider a friend. In fact, these benefactors are often a part of the women’s lives already or soon become a part of it.
“Sugar friendships with sexual benefits” is more unstructured. In some cases, benefactors pay for all living expenses for the women, including rent, cell phone bills, clothing, cars and vacations.
Finally, Scull found that some of these relationships involved two people who hoped to end up together, with the woman taken care of for the rest of her life, in a category Scull calls “pragmatic love.”
“When we lump sugar relationships together as prostitution, it deviantizes and criminalizes these relationships,” said Scull.
“We were missing how they are often organic and involve genuine, emotional connection. Many of the women didn’t intend on having a benefactor. They just happened to meet someone at work or during a catering gig who wanted to take care of them. These relationships can last decades.”
Source: University of Colorado Denver