For a while, paying college tuition meant getting a part time job. But as tuition soars in the U.S., some students are getting more creative in the jobs they take — like becoming escorts.
An increasing number of young women are signing up to be sugar babies — companions to wealthy, older men who serve as benefactors — via SeekingArragement in order to pay for college. The site now has over 5 million members in 139 countries.
For young women, the chief selling point of SeekingArragement is, in their homepage’s own words, “financial stability.” An ad on the site features a female voice that tells interested young women, “Join today and get your education paid for by a generous sponsor.”
These sponsors are men who take them out on dates, buy them gifts, and give them a monthly allowance — sometimes up to $3,000.
That extra cash seems to come in handy, especially for young college students anxious about student loan debt — and rightly so: from August 2003 to August 2013, tuition rose 80%.
One sugar baby who used to pick up multiple shifts while in nursing school recently told the Denver Post that, “With the sugar daddies’ help, I’ve been able to cut down on [working extra jobs] to focus on school.”
Sex is not a requirement for sugar babies, and as a Denver police spokesperson pointed out, “No one is making them do it.” But when college girls think their only option is to solicit relationships from strangers that could turn sexual just to get through school, the question of agency becomes complicated.
“You have the huge power imbalance with gender, age, class and sometimes race,” Joanne Belknap, an ethnic studies professor at Colorado University told the Denver Post. “Yes, legally, they’re adults, but it just seems highly exploitative to me.”
At least the safety of women who do choose to become sugar babies isn’t usually at risk. “I’ve never felt threatened by anyone,” one sugar baby told The Sun. “I think most of the people are just lonely and want contact.”