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Why are Students Dating their way out of Debt?

A “sugar baby” has revealed the hidden dangers, and benefits behind the glamourized sex and dating industry by declaring “There is such a dark side in London, you have no idea what is going on behind the closed doors”. 

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Over the last few years, there has been an incline of students turning to the sex industry in a bid to live more comfortably. Students are struggling to make ends meet; many are beginning to turn to Sugar daddies to support their studies. A “Sugar Daddy” is a rich older man who lavishes gifts and money on younger women in return for her company or sexual favours. Eight students participated in a questionnaire, gathering their thoughts on the topic. It was a mixed response, with a high number of participants  considering it. Ruta, a second year psychology student told me that “most girls have thought about becoming a sugar baby at some point in their lives. I’m not an exception, I thought about how cool it would be to get money so easily and just go travelling.More and more students have started to date their way out of debt. Graduates who paid fees of up to £9,000 a year are estimated to leave university with an average of £44,000 of debt, compared with the average £16,200 of debt faced by those who graduated five years earlier. On top of this, about 70% of students who left university last year (2016) are expected never to finish repaying their loans, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.Instead, they must make repayments for 30 years before then having the unpaid loan written off. This being a huge contrast to earlier generations of students. Students whom graduated in 2002, 44 per cent had already paid off their loan within 13 years, data released from the Student Loans Company. And, with the government stopping grants, and replacing them with further loans you can begin to see why students are worrying about having a forever increasing debt above their head.Several websites advertise both men and women seeking ‘sugar relationships’. The BBC reported that Seekingarrangements.com the biggest sugar baby site, claims to have more has more than five million members, with 160,000 UK students signed up. Seeking arrangements told me that they have 2.5 million students signed up around the world, and students signing up with an .edu or student email address are automatically upgraded to a premium account. Seeking arrangements claims it’s seen a 40% growth in just the last year alone in young women joining. The figures being based on email address sign ups. 50% of users are students in the UK this estimates 12 times more than in 2009, with over 12,000 Sugar babies submitting proof of university enrolment, a BBC report states that the highest number of students to sign up are from The University of Portsmouth and the University of Kent; Students are now more than ever turning to the sex industry to support their education.With rising student loan, debt and a disappointing job market for millennials, trading time and intimacy for money may not seem so unreasonable. However, it doesn’t come without risks, both physical and psychological. Rose, a 22-year-old London based student explained to me why she has become involved in this lucrative business (her name has been changed). “My manager put it in a way that took the morals away. He explained to me that you sleep with men and go on nights out for free, why not do it for money? And to be honest a lot of men where good looking and I could say no if I wasn’t feeling it.”Rose met a 50-year-old businessman in a high-end London bar. After working as a hostess, her job was to sit and chat to rich men. Often they would ask the manager for a girl of their choice to take to a hotel room. “The hotel has a share in the whole business so the customer pays the management for the girl, some (money) goes to the girl, some to the hotel and some to the management.” Rose also disclosed that you could make “£300 to take home for yourself per customer.” After asking rose if she felt safe she simply responded “you are never allowed to leave work with one of the guests. It is a safety net they have made for you, as the dangers are very high and within the hotel you are safe”.Rose met her first sugar daddy at a bar she worked at, but after an all-expense paid for holiday to America. (She estimates he spent over £6,000 on her). After loosing contact, she turned to the site seeking arrangements to find an arrangement for financial support and told me she was looking for a “a sugar daddy that would pay per meet, Some pay per meet could range between; £200 to £500, Rather than be pampered and getting gifts. I just want cash” and she would consider having sex with these men if it felt right.

The much-argued question is being a sugar baby a form of prostitution? the two unquestionably overlap in the sexual- politics Venn diagram. Both prostitutes and sugar babies are bought by men willing to pay them to be sexually available, and they’re both damaging acts, says Kathleen Barry, PhD, author of the prostitution of sexuality. Unlike prostitutes, sugar babies have a delusion about their autonomy they believe that paying their tuition without loans or carrying a Prada bag makes up for whatever they’re giving away. These young women may act with bravado, but they often feel shame. The power inequality mostly benefits the daddy she says “leaving the baby as powerless and dependant as her namesake”. The students I spoke to agree with this statement. Luke a final year business student in London believed “if it becomes physical than I’d struggle to look past the fact that money was the sole reason for the sugar baby/daddy relationship to develop, leaving it close with prostitution in my opinion.” Chloe Bournemouth student thought, “(sugar babies/daddies) are good in a way as it creates a means for young women to get help with their tuition. Although I do think those that want sex in return for the money can easily create a situation where they could be manipulating the girl or causing physical/mental harm to them; So maybe the blurry line between prostitute and sugar babies is because of the option for them to have sex.”

Brandon wade, CEO of seeking arrangement, sees a wider gulf between sugar babies and prostitutes, “most resemble a typical boyfriend-girlfriend relationship but with an added financial incentive”

Wade claims that the site bans 100 alleged escorts per day. “Honestly, if a guy is just looking to pay for sex, there are easier and cheaper places to find it online,” he says. “For our users, sex is never a requirement of the relationship, although it may be aspired to, so the sugar daddy is no different than a wealthy boyfriend who loves to spoil his girlfriend”. After talking to Rose, and doing some online research I gathered the notion that the website was not as black and white as Wade makes out. Rose told me “Some people use seeking arrangement just for sex, and they tell you this before you meet”. All apart from one of the students I spoke to strongly stressed that they wouldn’t sleep with a person for money, but would consider going on dates for money. Moreover, the majority said they wouldn’t think to judge another person for doing it. Chloe a first year law student said, “I think women can do whatever the hell they want! If they choose to go on dates or even sleep with a sugar daddy, then it’s their choice”. So perhaps being a sugar baby will become the new norm amongst students.

Rose spoke to me about how many of the women would quit after a just a few shifts at the bar she worked at, but thought that the girls would last as sugar babies “a lot of women just aren’t cut out for it (being an escort). You must be so smart (to keep yourself safe); many men didn’t like me because I was smart. They just want a pretty face and body to talk to and to agree with them. But, that was just in the bar I worked in. If you were to go onto a site like seeking arrangements, well- it’s in the name you can figure out an arrangement that suits both of you”.

Before Rose fell into this industry, she told me “I was so against it, I personally believed that it was one of the worst ways to get money, but then I thought why not. If I am safe and smart about it, I don’t see the harm. Also I don’t get a maintenance loan so the money I make doing it is needed”. Maybe Rose has been blinded by the money and lavish lifestyle, or maybe this industry isn’t as bad as we think it is.

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