Sugar Daddies and their Babies: Glorified prostitution or clear preferences?

10 February of 2015

By Thato Magano (@ThatoMagano)

Now the idea had never crossed my mind – me, a sugar baby? I mean, in my world, sugar daddies pay rent, they buy cars and they pay for tuition. They do big ticket items like matching canary yellow Lamborghini and pay for a monthly suite at the Michael Angelo Towers (ala Mandla Mthembu and Khanyi Mbau), not just airtime, dinner or a ride home. 

I have always been partial to dating older (and wiser), established men. Even when I was in my teens I preferred older guys, like when I was in high school, he had to be either in varsity or working just for me to give him the time of day. And when I got to varsity, there the lines were drawn quite solidly; he had to be working and nothing more. I recall once in varsity, my boyfriend at the time, eight years my senior and had been working for a number of years, within a month of us dating, bought me a sizeable amount of airtime directly via the bank without me having asked for it from him. My phone rang minutes later and it was him confirming that he was the benefactor and how ‘I now had no reason NOT to call him’.

I have gone on to receive more than the airtime from him and other men that I have dated along the way. Years later, the subject of my preferences came to the fore in a conversation with friends where my preferences were likened to sugar dating. After some reflection, a moral dilemma presented itself – can I be classified a sugar baby or am I an innocent nubile who enjoys the company of older men?

I have considered sugar dating something that desperate young women and men do to make their way through life, that there had to be extenuating circumstances for one to find themselves in this arrangement. It is not uncommon to find a weekly newspaper headline exposing the lifestyles of young women studying at universities around the country and how these are being sponsored by sugar daddies in order for them to pay for their tuition, boarding and entertainment on the side. And just last year, the Minister of Health released results of a study that showed that almost a third of school girls have HIV as a result of their engaging in relationships with much older men where the power dynamics play themselves out in favour of the men as a result of their influence on and the material needs of the young women.

Now the idea had never crossed my mind – me, a sugar baby? I mean, in my world, sugar daddies pay rent, they buy cars and they pay for tuition. They do big ticket items like matching canary yellow Lamborghini and pay for a monthly suite at the Michael Angelo Towers (ala Mandla Mthembu and Khanyi Mbau), not just airtime, dinner or a ride home.

Also, I’ve always considered the typical age of a sugar daddy to be someone well beyond their forties with a wife/partner, 2.5 kids and a considerably stretched girth (as per graphic below). Not even the fifty something year old that I went on a couple of dates with, when I was way into my thirtieth year on this earth, fitted this description – yes he was married but he was slim, with an athletic type body in -fact and he only paid for the lunch and dinner – he was nothing like the graphic:

  How to spot a sugar daddy

With has further added confusion is the question of age as it is becoming clear that age cannot be the sole determiner of what constitutes a sugar daddy dating scenario. Technically, sugar dating is defined as a pay-for-play relationship between an older, wealthier adult (sugar daddies/mommas) and attractive young women and men (sugar babies). It is unabashedly NOT about love or marriage; it is about getting what you want, when you want it.

And as Lisa Schmidt (a former sugar baby and current CEO of Elite Sugar Match), who was in her thirties when she became a sugar baby points out, not all sugar daddies are in their golden years as she once dated a 30-year-old software engineer, whom she met on a sugar daddy dating site, and the relationship proved to be about much more than the physical. “It was more so about the friendship and the connection,” she explained, “and having chemistry and having an actual real relationship feel.”

So by definition, even someone like me who has dated a considerable number of older men out of a general interest in these men, can be technically classified as a sugar baby, low and behold (I can’t). But I have never been a kept man, I retort!

According to some studies and research conducted in affluent parts of the world, in the majority, the ‘babies’ that end up engaging in these sorts of relationship arrangements are from well off families and do not really have any extenuating circumstances that require sugar daddies apart from the high-flying life, nice gifts and ever present fountain of cash.

Even in South Africa, the trend of ‘babies’ that are in the lifestyle for this purpose seems to have taken hold. In an article published in the WITS Vuvuzela, Having a sugar daddy is not prostitution, one of the ‘babies’ interviewed for the article, Kiona Mohlala admitted she had what she calls a ‘papa bear’ not because she needed the money as she is from a well off background but because, “Honestly, I love money. I know some probably do it to pay for school and stuff but that’s not why I have one.”

There are also sites popping up and business is booming, with the most popular global site for those interested in this lifestyle being while a local site is available.

Parinda Wanitwat, a Princeton graduate, shot a documentary exploring the intersection of sex, cultural norms, class, money and relationships, titled ‘Daddies Date Babies’ that offers an intimate, unfettered glimpse inside the experiences, emotions and motivations of five female sugar babies living in New York City. “You shouldn’t think sugar babies are just gold-diggers without ambitions, or that they just crave Louis Vuitton bags. Or that sugar daddies are all creepy,” says Wanitwat on her motivation for the documentary.

Which led me to the question I was afraid to ask myself but knew it needed asking: is sugar dating prostitution or is it simply dating with clear preferences?

I mean by their very essence, relationships are transactional in nature. Historically, women offered their virtue to men as evidenced in their ability to bear children and a lifelong dedication to family and in return, men provided a home, food, clothing and financial security. And in this modern version of sugar dating, it is apparent that expectations are absolutely clear when transacting and both parties know what the outcomes are or will be.

Those who are in favour of these relationship arrangements speak of the benefits to the ‘babies’, especially since the financial downturn, and how the ‘daddies’ have distinguished themselves as a sure fire way for many to pay off their tuition and get into their careers. Others argue it is not different to what people have already been doing all along – marrying for money. Those opposed say it is obvious as day light prostitution and it shouldn’t be ‘sugar-coated’ as anything else.

As Kiona Mohlala frankly states “People liken having a papa bear to prostitution, but it’s different. These men are paying for my time and, quite frankly, I don’t mind selling my time.”

What do you think fam, is sugar dating glorified prostitution or is this what the ?


READ: Keeping up with being kept

READ: Tips on how to date a sugar daddy




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