TEXT OF STORY
Lisa Napoli: Now on this show, we talk about all kinds of great ways to earn and invest money. This next story details a method we don’t necessarily advise. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it. It’s a website for prospective sugar daddies and the people who want them — SeekingArrangement.com Reporter Sean Cole looked into it. By the way: This story isn’t appropriate for young children.
Sean Cole: Over the past eight months, a guy named Michael in Toronto has dated 30 women through SeekingArrangement.com. That’s like one a week. Sometimes two on the same date. He’s 43.
Cole: How often do the dates get sexual?
Michael: Well, I’m . . . I’m pretty blunt about saying that that’s what I’m looking for.
You’ll be shocked to learn that he didn’t want his last name used. Michael’s a photographer. He’s done work for magazines like Playboy and Maxim, and originally he just went on the site to find more camera fodder.
Michael: I had always heard my models talking about their sugar daddies. And these girls can be quite mercenary, and talking about “Yeah, he gave me a car last week, I’m going to Vegas next week.”
But Michael says it’s not like that with him and the sugar babies he dates from the site. Many of them just want to find a guy who’s not a leech, who can pay for dinner. He’s not into gold-diggers.
Michael: I’m turned off, I would say, by a woman who approach me on this site and say, essentially, “OK, how much is my allowance?”
And that happens a lot on SeekingArrangement. It’s like a dating site from planet capitalism. The daddies have to categorize their net worth. Michael picked the $10 million-$50 million range. He’s made some good investments. And they have to pick a monthly dating budget.
Michael: Mine is $10,000-$20,000.
The sugar babies say how much they expect per month, though a lot of them choose “open / amount negotiable.” Also, many of these women are freakishly good looking — and suprisingly underdressed. The daddies tend to be older, pictured in luxurious settings — or, in one case, shaking hands with former President Clinton.
Brandon Wade: Yes, and it is shameless, but it’s also brutally honest.
Brandon Wade created SeekingArrangement a little over a year ago. About 100,000 members have signed up — 20 or 30 girls for every guy. Though there are male sugar babies on the site too, and some sugar mommies. Daddies and mommies pay 39 bucks a month. Babies don’t have to pay. All in all, the site makes about a million dollars a year.
Brandon: I think in a society like ours, where, you know, some people might say, “Well, you know, this is not the ethically correct or morally correct thing to do,” at the same time it’s a refreshing thing to be able to be honest and to say, “This is the thing I’m looking for.”
You see phrases like, “If you’re willing to play, I’m willing to pay,” “You spoil me and I’ll spoil you.” Mutually-beneficial relationships are nothing new, but they were usually a lot less . . . shouty.
And of course, when money enters a conversation about dating and intimacy, business can get pretty snuggly with pleasure. Take this one sugar baby that Brandon told me about:
Brandon: She requires her sugar daddies to sign a six-month contract, because she doesn’t want to be involved with somebody and then have them dump her after few months, and she’s left with really nothing.
Cole: Doesn’t that smack of prostitution in some way?
Brandon: Well it . . . well actually, um, you know, the line is grey, but at the same time, it’s also extremely clear.
Michael-the-sugar-daddy articulates this a little better:
Michael: Hookers for the most part don’t go rollerblading with their clients like I just did last weekend with someone I met from the site.
And Brandon Wade says he spends a lot of time policing the site for escorts. Out-and-out soliciting isn’t allowed, he says. However, a few non-escort sugar babies will say things like “I don’t meet for free.” One of them requires a $2,500 deposit — she calls it a deposit — before she’ll go on a four-day trip with you. Which is questionable even to one of the other sugar babies, whose screen name is “Damsel in Distress.”
Damsel: So can you call me “Damsel”?
Cole: Sure, I’ll call you Damsel.
Damsel’s experience on SeekingArrangement is pretty atypical. After browsing the site for a month or so, she got a three-day eviction notice from her landlord. So she posted a profile that was basically just a plea for help.
Damsel: and people came forward, and I made $6,800 in less than five days.
Damsel: And I didn’t meet anybody. They didn’t want to
But a lot of the guys on the site aren’t nearly as chivalrous, she says.
Damsel: They’re more demanding than on regular sites, on regular dating sites. They start off right away asking for pictures, headshots, “I want full-length, I wanna see what you’re bo . . . you know. These guys know that the women are there for money, and they are willing to do things that, you know, they wouldn’t otherwise do, maybe on like a regular site.
Nonetheless, Damsel thinks SeekingArrangement is a great idea. She says there should be a place where you can just put it all out on the table.
Michael: I’m just gonna put it out on the table.
Like Michael did while planning a dinner date with a 21-year-old model. He told her:
Michael: “What I would like to do after that is take you to a hotel that’s nearby and ‘play.'” that was the euphemism for sex.
Cole: But that still didn’t feel like pay for play to you?
Michael: Well . . . it was dinner. I mean . . . I would take this woman out for dinner any night of the week if she was free. It was a bit of an ego trip for me just to be seen with her. I mean, this is the same girl that people see in their local catalogues and on billboards in the city and that sort of thing, so . . .
So Michael knows he probably wouldn’t have had a shot with her if he wasn’t rich. Then again, he says that model eventually told him that she never would have slept with him . . . if she thought he was ugly.
I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace Money.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.
Give today and get our limited edition tote.