Nicole Stone / Assistant News Director
For many students, debt is an inevitable byproduct of earning their degrees. One site, however, claims it has found the perfect solution: getting someone else to pay for it.
According to seekingarrangement.com, a Sugar Daddy or a Sugar Momma provides their Sugar Baby with financial support in return for favors which can appear in the form of time and the fulfillment of other expectations.
The site also specifically markets to students with its inclusion of a national student debt tracker that is climbing upwards and a list of universities, ranked by the number of students enrolled in the service.
FIU sits in ninth place, with 220 new sign ups in 2017 and 848 students total.
While the idea of having a Sugar Daddy or Momma isn’t new, seekingarrangement.com actively connects Sugar Babies to prospective Sugar Daddies or Mommas, who can have four at a time.
Junior mechanical engineering major Michael Vital, explained that while the nature of these ‘sugar relationships’ and their viability as a tool to help alleviate financial strain by tuition is questionable, he is no one to judge.
“If at the end, they say this is a perfectly legal thing, then you got to make money, I completely understand. I’m a first generation American and I know a lot of people here in this area are as well and so, I know it sometimes gets hard to make a living. I gotta pay tuition out of pocket now,” Vital said.
Javier Espinosa, who similarly is a junior mechanical engineering major, would consider these relationships unhealthy, however, he also acknowledged that people act out of necessity.
“People just have to do what they have to do, I guess. [They should] probably look for a better way,” Espinosa said.
On the website, Brandon Wade, founder of seekingarrangement.com is quoted as saying that the arrangements sought out on this site are comparable to a business agreement.
“Every successful relationship is an arrangement between two parties. In business, partners sign business agreements that outline their objectives and expectations. Likewise, romantic relationships can only work if two people agree on what they expect and what they can give and receive from each other,” the quote reads.
However, Kathryn Kominars, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services and licensed psychologist for over 20 years, would beg to differ.
“A healthy relationship by definition is not going to fit this arrangement because a healthy relationship isn’t an arrangement. It is based upon mutual respect, it generally is predicated upon pretty similar kinds of power status,” she said.
Kominars was most taken aback by the uneven playing field found in a sugar relationship.
“What strikes me as really problematic about these kinds of arrangements is that there’s a large power differential between the person who has the financial assets and what they, then, are getting in response,” she said. “It puts ‘relationship’ not in the sense of a mutually interactive exchange, but a commodity.”
Vital says that if a friend approached him and told him that they were a Sugar Baby, he would feel less inclined to be involved with them.
“I’d probably wouldn’t associate myself as much as I thought I would, either that, or I would have to tell all my friends and we would have to do an intervention like in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ about your sugarness.” He said.
To Kominars, the usage of the terms Sugar Daddy and Sugar Momma, which are implicative of a familial or parental bond, is unfortunate.
“Parents do what they do out of love and with the best interest of their children in mind … Healthy parents don’t expect their children to repay them by some sort of behavior in response. Families get into trouble when parents do things for their children expecting some kind of reward,” Kominars said. “I don’t see it as a healthy relationship in which the Sugar Momma or the Sugar Daddy is really doing something that is nurturing in the same spirit that parents nurture their children.”
Kominars urges students to prevent being put in an uncomfortable situation with a sugar parent by forgoing the arrangement all together.
“I would want people to explore every other option possible to assist with their financial needs before they would even begin to consider doing something like this,” Kominars said. “Helping people resolve guilt and remorse is much more challenging and painful than helping them prevent bad decisions. Prevention is easier than intervention.”
And while Kominars hasn’t had a patient disclose to her that they’re involved in a sugar arrangement, she is aware that there are students who have ended up in abusive and domineering relationships.
The reason one might sign up for this type of site, Kominars said, is based in financial need.
“I have worked with people who have needed to do lots of things to keep themselves in food, in rent, in shelter. I don’t come at this from a place of moral judgement – people have to do what they have to do, but I think it’s really reprehensible for people who have money and advantages [to do this]. If they want to be generous, allow them to donate their resources to people in need,” Kominars said. “But when they make arrangements like this, its coercive to me. I think it’s craven. People who have money to spare, let them donate to the [First Generation] Scholarship.”
Kominars additionally said that sugar relationships, because of the power differential and financial aspect, strike her as being really close to human trafficking.
Vital is similarly suspicious.
“Think about it,” he said. “You get on a website and somebody is willing to do all these things for you for no reason? There has to be something there. It sounds kind of fishy. I’d probably investigate it if I were FIU,” Vital said.
Espinosa suspects that Sugar Daddies or Mommas are preying on the financial anxieties of students.
“It sounds like those sugar parents are not getting the emotional connection that they need, so they’re trying to get it from students that are very desperate,” he said.
In a blog post made on Jan. 14, 2014, a writer for Seeking Arrangement outlined the four main differences between prostitution and what they called the “sugar lifestyle.”
The first and main difference, according to the post, is that a prostitute and client do not have any potential for developing a relationship.
“They meet, exchange funds, and participate in some sort of physical act and part ways,” the writer under the pen name JennSA writes.
This is different to a sugar relationship, the post reads, because of the potential for connection and romance between the Sugar Daddy or Momma and the Sugar Baby.
Next, in sugar relationships, “sex is never a requirement, only an aspiration.” the post reads, whereas prostitution is a profession. The author also lists the dangers prostitutes face such as physical and emotional abuse.
Regardless, Kominars feels that someone in this type of dynamic is exposing themselves to similar dangers.
“I think that someone who might sign on for this might tell themselves that it’s [prostitution and sugar relationships] different, but I don’t see a difference in kind,” Kominars said.
Featured Image retrieved from Flickr.