Some undergraduate women and men are vying for a very different kind of financial aid: by making a profit off the “sugar baby (SB)/sugar daddy (SD)" system. This system runs on older man paying for conversation, companionship, and explicit images from young women--or the illusion of a young woman.
In reddit subreddits like r/SugarBaby, and r/SugarDaddy, many college women looking for a source of income by providing various online services in exchange for “allowances” and other forms of material compensation--with services ranging from conversations on kik, Skype video calls, and even in-real-life meetups.
"Well, we know that sugar daddies have enough money and credit cards, and we know they will be willing to spend some on us. [...] For me, it always depends on the SD's initial budget [and] it will go towards everyday needs," said Nikki, a 20-year old college student who requested her university not be identified.
Guys also aim to profit off this system in more elaborate way: they pay for explicit images from adult entertainers (with permission to distribute), set up a “sugar baby” account on reddit and kik, and speak to a few paying sugar daddies at a time.
In an attempt to contact a sugar baby for a phone interview, “Dave,” a 20-year old male college senior from Las Vegas, answered the phone and proceeded to explain his business model. He says that even though he’s not who he says he is, he’s giving his five sugar daddies exactly what they're asking for.
“I’m not scamming anyone. I’ll talk to them, get to know them, and I’ll send them pictures here and there when they ask,” says Dave. “You have to be open to talk to them. Surprisingly these people just want someone to talk to, and many of these sugar daddies are protective of their identity as well. Some aren’t though--I’m talking to a lobbyist from West Virginia right now. I played dumb and pretended I didn’t know what a lobbyist was, but of course I know!”
While these men and women operate in different capacities in the “sugar baby” business, they all came to make extra money with little effort. They receive compensation via PayPal, credit cards, Amazon gift cards, and Amazon WishLists.
"Looking for sugar daddies is the easiest way to gain a few dollars, at least on the internet, as well as making relationships or so," said Nikki.
“I just got out from school, so I’m kinda making this into my hobby now that I have extra time,” said Dave. “It’s hasn’t been the most profitable thing right now; I just started this a few weeks ago. Many sugar daddies are hesitant, and it takes a while to establish a relationship.”
The online aspect that reddit provides is key to the “sugar baby” business. For women, it means a degree of separation that allows them to broaden their market base and cast a wide net. For men, the degree of separation allows them to construct their façade and optimize profit.
"I'm always looking for an online arrangement because there are a lot of different sugar daddies around the world and it's not that easy to meet one in real life," said Nikki.
“Right now, I’m using the same girl’s images on under two different names. This isn’t a system that I thought up myself though,” says Dave. “I play a lot of online games with friends, and the topic came up jokingly in conversation. I decided to try it out seriously though, and I’ve made around $100 profit so far.”
Why not just get a regular job for extra cash? The “sugar babies” of reddit had their reasons:
“I wanted to try something new, I wanted something that required low effort, and I wanted something with the potential to go far,” said Dave. “It’s an interesting way to make money.”
Editor's Note: This profile/investigation of-sorts was originally written on behalf of another publication. Expect more wacky ledes like these as the summer progresses.