The number of young women getting cash for being companions is growing on college campuses.
On social media, Darby appears to share the day–to-day happenings of her life.
A 23-year-old biology major, her Facebook page is filled with posts typical of a college student: photos with her friends at Ole Miss football games, inspirational memes, and pleas to help abused animals. In each photo, her smile radiates.
What’s missing, however, is the life no one knows about.
Darby was 19 when she met her first Sugar Daddy. In the four years since, she’s had eight Sugar Daddy “Sugar Baby” relationships.
Except for her best friend who introduced her to the lifestyle four years ago, and her sister, no one knows Darby meets men in exchange for money. Her roommates, parents and a former boyfriend all believe her on-campus job provides enough money to pay the bills. She does not regard how she does get her money as prostitution.
In order to tell her story, she asked that her last name not be used.
Originally from a neighboring Southern state, Darby moved to Mississippi last year to attend the University of Mississippi. She attended a year of college in her home state, but the tuition was expensive, and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. With debt beginning to pile up, she took a break from school and began working full time as a medical assistant.
Then, in 2014, a friend introduced her to Seeking Arrangement, a web-based company that connects “Sugar Daddies” with “Sugar Babies.”
Speaking of her friend, Darby said, “She kept getting all of these gifts. I knew she didn’t have a job, she was in school and couldn’t afford it.”
The two talked about what it meant to be a “Sugar Baby” and, partly as a “joke,” Darby registered with the site. She uploaded a picture, created a profile and half-heartedly began reaching out to men. Then, a man in Pennsylvania contacted her and asked her to meet him for dinner.
“Of course, he paid for everything, but I drove to Pennsylvania, and we met at a nice restaurant,” she said. “He was very sweet, but I was, like, shaking the whole time. I was very nervous.
“It was definitely a strange feeling that I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, but there was an adrenaline rush. It was a great first experience.”
Darby noted that the man was “triple my age” but the conversation was easy, and the two started seeing each other on a regular basis. She compared it to a mix between a dating relationship and a companionship that “filled a void” for him. The two would often go to concerts, movies and dinner.
The relationship, which was not sexual, lasted for about six months before the distance became too much of an issue.
Still working as a medical assistant, Darby decided she wanted to work in forensics. She knew she would need to go back to school and had hopes of going to Ole Miss. But out-of-state tuition was too expensive for her middle-class parents who told her “we’re not going to pay for that.”
So, Darby met more men on Seeking Arrangement and began saving money to move down South. By the time she moved, her entire first year of college at Ole Miss was paid for.
She continued using the site while living in Oxford and has been in several relationships with Sugar Daddies.
On average, Darby said she gets $2,500 a month from having a Sugar Daddy.
While she typically has one Sugar Daddy at a time, there have been months where she’s had two. It’s self-preservation, she said.
“There have been a couple times where I’ve had, like, two official Sugar Daddies at a time, keeping my options open,” she said. “These type of arrangements, a lot of the time, are very short term. If I feel like the arrangement is kind of tapering off, I want to be able to have something set up so I don’t lose that currency, I don’t lose that income.”
Darby said she plans to keep using the site and graduate from college debt free.
“My mom is still paying for student loans from graduating college in the 90’s,” she said. “I am so fortunate to be able to do this. It is a huge weight off of my shoulders because that means I can start my life free and clear. If I want to start a family, there wouldn’t be a burden on them. It makes me want to continue my education and want to stay in school because I don’t have to worry about that.”
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Mississippi, said the college has financial aid resources available for students.
“To me, it concerns me for our students that they engage in that type of online practice,” LeBanc said. “I think in someways it could be placing them at risk, and we would advise them not to engage but, more importantly, absolutely our university has resources in place to help students.”
Aware of the rise in student debt, Seeking Arrangement began tailoring its marketing to students in 2010.
Seeking Arrangement has a running student debt calculator on its website and touts itself as a way for students to graduate college debt-free. Students who sign up with a school email address get a premium account for free while Sugar Daddies pay a $79 monthly fee. It has 2.25 million female Sugar Babies registered and 485,000 Sugar Daddies.
The average age of a Sugar Baby on Seeking Arrangement is 26. The average age of a Sugar Daddy is 45.
Ole Miss ranks 43 out of 50 for Sugar Babies with 247 registered students on Seeking Arrangement, according to the site.
Mississippi State ranks 194 with 38 new signups in 2017 and 128 students total.
Jackson State University ranked 203 with 36 new signups since 2017 with 64 students total.
The University of Southern Mississippi ranked 222 with 35 new signups and 137 students total.
Alcorn State ranked 959 with six new signups and 15 students total.
Mississippi University for Women came in at number 1,074 with five new signups since 2017 and 14 new Sugar Babies in 2018.
The Sugar Daddies range in age, Darby said, but all of hers have been wealthy white men. While she prefers older men, Darby has an age limit of 65. The youngest Sugar Daddy she’s been in a relationship with was 27.
“I honestly find older guys more interesting,” she said. “I feel like they’ve had more life experience. They have more to talk about, they’re more apt to talk about political topics, current events. They have a wide range of hobbies, conversation. I feel like they know more about life than a 27-year-old who is really focused on his job and playing golf.”
Darby said she and the Sugar Daddies often meet at hotels. She has roommates and, as a privacy concern, never lets the men know her address. They often don’t know her last name.
While Sugar Daddies have offered her gifts or to use their credit cards, Darby said she deals exclusively in cash.
Of the eight relationships she has had with Sugar Daddies, several have been sexual. She said being a Sugar Baby has given her a newfound sense of confidence.
“In the past two years, I have been involved in sexual relationships (with Sugar Daddies). I was completely against it at first but as I’ve gained confidence and gotten my sexuality back, I feel like I was not interested in sex right when I first started being a Sugar Baby, but I feel like the site and having these experiences has really made me gain my confidence back.
“I have never felt like a hooker or a prostitute or anything like that. I put myself in these situations. I want this experience. I feel like sex is part of our relationship and I look at the money as a gift like a normal boyfriend and girlfriend. He just wants me to live my best life. There has never been a point where I feel like I’m being paid for sex.”
The website has a strict no sex-workers policy, said Brook Urick, spokeswoman for Seeking Arrangement.
“If you’re wondering if Sugar Daddies pay for sex, the answer is no,” Urick said. “Sugar Daddies are looking to provide a lifestyle to the people they date, not everyone wants that, not everyone is conformable with that, but Seeking Arrangement gives them a short cut to the relationship they seek.”
Before she joined the website, Darby “100 percent” assumed relationships between Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies were about sex in exchange for money. She argues that that’s not the case.
“That’s what I assumed, too, before I ever joined, that’s exactly what I thought. These poor girls were taken advantage of and they were setting themselves up to get hurt or sexually harassed or abused. That’s what turned me off … but now, using the website for years, it’s completely different.
“You make it what you want to. If it feels sketchy, use your gut. The majority of the time, the guys aren’t looking to be sketchy, they’re just looking for a companion, someone to listen to their problems. They don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
For the last two years, Darby was in a relationship with a “boy” her own age. The two weren’t exclusive, and she never told him she was in relationships with Sugar Daddies. She said she never felt the need to tell him, and, if she had, she didn’t think he would understand. She doesn’t know if she would tell future boyfriends.
“I probably think they wouldn’t be OK just because sharing your girlfriend is never something anyone wants to do,” she said. “I think the majority of guys find it a bit taboo, so that’s why I always stay away from telling any guy that I’ve ever been with because I see it as none of his business.”
The perceived lack of understanding is the same reason she doesn’t tell her friends of family about the relationships. For the foreseeable future, Darby said that part of her life will remain a secret.
“It’s a very taboo subject, especially in a place like Mississippi,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people down here don’t really get it so I’d rather not deal with the scrutiny. I’d rather keep it to myself.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/local/2018/01/12/ole-miss-sugar-baby-speaks-choosing-sugar-daddies-over-student-debt/1017787001/