It’s the second week of school, and Tulane freshman Amanda tells her roommate that she’s going to spend the evening with a boy who lives in their dorm. Swamped with tuition bills, textbook prices and the cost of living, however, Amanda, not her real name, does not spend the evening with a boy upstairs. Instead, she goes to meet a “sugar daddy” from Lafayette, La., whom she met on a website called seekingarrangement.com.
Amanda agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
On its homepage, Seeking Arrangement describes itself as “a matchmaking website for wealthy benefactors and attractive guys and gals.” Both male and female “sugar babies,” often college students and young professionals seeking to pay off debt, can create profiles on the site to connect with wealthy older “sugar daddies” and “sugar mommies.”
Sugar babies with .edu email addresses are allowed to upgrade their basic free membership to premium membership at no cost. Based on the frequency of these .edu email addresses, Seeking Arrangement found that Tulane is the 20th most popular university attended by sugar babies. In June, 163 Tulane students were registered on Seeking Arrangement with their university email addresses.
“Back in 2006, we realized that 35 percent of sugar babies said they were in college and they were looking for financial assistance in terms of putting them through school,” Seeking Arrangement founder Brandon Wade said. “It wasn’t my intention when I started the site, but it appeared that there were a lot of students joining the website, so that’s when we began gearing toward that market.”
Though Amanda — a public health major who plans to go to medical school in the future — uses Seeking Arrangement to pay her tuition bills, she began advertising online while she was still in high school in a big city in the Midwest.
“I started meeting people about a year and a half, two years ago, when I had just turned 17, because that’s [the legal age of consent],” Amanda said. “I used to put up ads on Craigslist, and then a guy who I met with told me about the website, so I decided to check it out.”
Since she has started using Seeking Arrangement, most of Amanda’s expenses have been covered by sugar daddies.
“All the stuff that’s in [my room] I bought with their money,” Amanda said. “They pretty much covered everything. My mom didn’t give me any money for school. My deposit, the extra tuition money that financial aid didn’t cover – they gave it to me.”
Wade said sugar daddies usually prefer sugar babies who are college students.
“Most of the sugar daddies tend to be executives, so they tend to like college students because they’re working toward a noble goal and want to improve upon their lives,” Wade said. “People come to Seeking Arrangement with different sets of goals. Some people are looking for fun, for travel, and there are obviously girls with more superficial goals like, ‘I need a nose job.’ For some reason, the fact that they’re going to college seems like something that is an attractive feature.”
Amanda said that the responses she received to being a college student were overwhelming, almost to the point of disturbing.
“When I was 17 or 18, I would say that I was older, because if you put a one in front of your age, you get responses from, like, 300, 400 guys,” Amanda said. “It’s disgusting, and a lot of it is just creeps.”
Nevertheless, Amanda said she knows that her age works toward her advantage when meeting men on Seeking Arrangement.
“I’ve been saving some of it up because I know they’re not going to keep paying like that when I’m older,” Amanda said.
Looking not just for money, but also for a man with experience to mentor her, Amanda is very discerning with the men she chooses to meet.
“You need to meet someone and make sure they’re decent first,” Amanda said. “Definitely text and email first. I’m a big stickler for grammar. How they write is a good way to judge them. And look at the pictures they show you – not so much the picture of themselves, but what’s in the picture and around it.”
Once she has decided to meet a sugar daddy, Amanda will go out with him for a first date. If all goes well, she feels that sex is usually implied by the second date.
“It goes by pretty fast,” Amanda said. “You’re not hanging out for a week.”
In her experiences with sugar daddies, Amanda said she has been put in situations where she has felt forced to have sex with mentally unstable men and once contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
“I don’t think I would leave unless it’s really bad,” Amanda said. “That’s what you’re there for.”
Though sex is not explicitly mentioned on Seeking Arrangement, implications cover the website. The Seeking Arrangement homepage describes sugar daddies and mommies as people who are, “looking to mentor or spoil someone special – perhaps a ‘personal secretary’? A secret lover? Student? Or a mistress for an extra-marital affair?”
“The press likes to compare it to prostitution, but it really isn’t,” Wade said. “Once, Dr. Drew asked one of the sugar babies why she didn’t strip, and she answered that stripping is degrading for her, but being a sugar baby is more like dating and having a generous person who is willing to help her – perhaps a more extreme form of dating, but dating nonetheless.”
Though she has been meeting benefactors online for several years, Amanda struggles to keep her life secret from everyone around her, making having friends and boyfriends very difficult.
“You always have to be watching out when you bring people into your dorm room,” Amanda said. “I can’t have people near my computer or my phone. Even with my roommate, it’s hard. Having a boyfriend would be impossible.”
Through her time using Seeking Arrangement, Amanda has come to appreciate the company of older men, and does not think that she would be able to have a relationship with a college student even if she did not have to hide her Seeking Arrangement dates.
“When you’re used to guys who are older, and you’re used to conversation with someone who is older, it’s weird to talk to someone who is 18 and don’t know what they’re doing with their life,” Amanda said. “It’s not just about the money. If you choose the right person who you’re with, it’s mutually beneficial.”
Though she thinks that she will continue to use Seeking Arrangement throughout her four years of college, Amanda sometimes thinks about the future ramifications of meeting men through the website.
“I’ve thought about it, and, like, what if I ever decide to get married?” Amanda said. “But I figure, no one has to know, and if it ever comes up, I can just say that I was 18 and dumb.”
Counselors from the Educational Resource Center declined to comment about Seeking Arrangement.
For the time being, Amanda is concentrated on balancing her activities on Seeking Arrangement with leading a full life at Tulane.
“It’s like a double life,” Amanda said. “You have to be really good at lying.”
Jessica Applebaum is the news editor of the Tulane Hullabaloo, where this piece originally appeared. She is a contributor to The College Fix.