Sitting on a park bench along the outskirts of Washington Square, Elaine* clarifies she agreed to this interview under the assumption that 1) she remain completely anonymous and 2) certain information be omitted to ensure that anonymity.
Elaine doesn’t disclose her major or where she studied abroad. One thing she does admit is that over the past two years as a ‘Sugar Baby,’ she has never once slept with any of the men she dated. In fact, she has only ever kissed one of them.
On Seeking Arrangement, a website that has seen a 154% increase in new NYU accounts since 2012, Elaine might seem like a veteran Sugar Baby. As a current senior, she has been on-and-off the site for two years. No name, email, or Facebook can be traced back to her.
To her Sugar Daddies, Elaine is little more than an alias.
In Confessions of a Sugar Baby: Part 4, Elaine opens up about making an average of $500 per date, being virtually stalked, and one encounter with a cross-dressing Columbia professor. Because how does a girl, unfalteringly prude, flourish on a site where it’s commonly agreed that sex belongs in the subtext of a “mutually beneficial” relationship? NYU Local investigates.
First things first, when did you get started on the site?
Sophomore year. Now I’m a senior. It’s been on and off. I had a relationship for a long part and he knew about it too, which is good. I got into it because I just met so many people going out who would tell me about these things. I didn’t really need someone to pay my rent or cover my bills. At the time, I was dating—not at NYU, because let’s face it there aren’t many straight guys at NYU—guys in finance who were complete jerks or demeaning. Or they would just expect sex right away, like, “I’m so attractive and I make this much money.” So after that I was just like, “Well, I am going out on dates with all of these awful people, maybe I should consider it?” At least I can pick and choose. I’m going on all of these dates I might as well get paid. I looked into it and I met a lot of great friends. I’m still good friends with one of them.
What was your best experience?
Well, the first guy I met I would probably say is the nicest. The most genuine date I’ve been on. He asked me to recommend a few books. I did and we went to dinner. He let me pick the place. He pulls out a Barnes and Noble bag and was like, “I really enjoyed this book. Thank you so much. Could you please write a note in it for me?” He also gave me this Barnes and Noble gift card and was like, “I’d love for you to go buy more books,” as well as the AMEX gift card. It was just really nice to actually take what I said and go out and be productive. It’s really touching.
I know the typical ages on the site tend to be older. Is that what you were encountering from the beginning?
I guess that one was probably 55, but I have encountered younger. The one I’m still really good friends with was 27 at the time.
Which is really surprising, because you think to yourself, “27? That’s still really young and on the market.” When you hit an older age it gets difficult because your age group maybe isn’t going out and partying. But that’s young.
You know, I would say it’s odd, because I’ve only met probably two people older than 45. Most have been in the 35—45 range. As for people who are younger, most of them it’s because they’re so busy. They have start-ups. The older ones tend to be more established CEOs. The young ones just really don’t have the time. They’re successful but they’re still trying to develop their career.
You mentioned that you’ve never had sex with any of them.
But at some point the physical has to play a part. Where do you draw the line?
There have been a few that after seeing them for a few dates, they would hint towards it. One tried to kiss me and I was like, “Look, I’m not comfortable with this. I really don’t want this kind of thing.” If they accept it, they do. If they don’t, then you move on. That’s been my mentality towards it. You know like the prostitution thing? Have I thought about it—you sometimes get offers where you see them after awhile and they’re like, “Look, I’d pay this amount.” You obviously have to consider because it pops in your mind. At the end of the day it’s like, “Can I live with myself?” If I could never tell anyone about it, it’s probably not a good idea.
That’s probably where you err on the side of caution.
There’s still that pressure, though. Do you feel like you have to reciprocate in other ways? Maybe being more readily available socially?
When you don’t have the physical as an aspect, they do expect more out of you. Whether it’s emotional or a time commitment. One of them, when he realized it wasn’t going to get physical, he’d demand more of my time. He wanted me at his beck and call. It’s like, “Look, I’m sorry, I have a life too.” They sometimes do expect more emotional—a relationship. That’s when you have to be like, “Look…”
Do you take it seriously? Have you ever found a guy on the site that you truly care for?
There were a few that I did care for. There was one that I did like—the younger one. You do find people you really care about. These are real people. They have their own lives, and maybe what most of them are doing is in the gray area, but they open up to you and you gotta appreciate that. You start wanting the best for their well being. They’re great, because staying friends—a lot of them have tried to set me up on interviews—not at their companies, but if you’re really going through an existential crisis of finding a job. They’d be like, “I know of a few places that could potentially hire. I could set up an interview, obviously, like…this is my friends’ daughter.” I would say you really do learn to care.
So with the 27-year-old was the first time you got serious?
Because he was younger, I could relate to him more obviously. He was attractive and really intelligent. We had a lot of time. He actually lived in California, so every time he’d be in New York—we kept talking for a few months and that’s when I randomly decided to Google him.
And then I found out he had a wife, and that’s when I was just like, I’m done. We have stayed friends. He had a baby recently!
He had other Sugar Babies?
That he was ‘interviewing.’ There were a few. Then he decided to tell me who they all were and they were all in my program…and some of them were my roommates. That was an interesting conversation. I pretended not to know them, because how do I explain, “Oh my god, you’re seeing my roommate.” He proceeded to tell me everything about them. I was just like, “You’re not telling them about me, are you?” He was like, “No, no I respect your privacy.” I was like, “What about the other girls?” He was like, “Eh, I don’t really plan on seeing you again.” There was this girl. There was that girl. She lives here. I found her Facebook. Luckily, I put my Facebook on super private. He works in technology. He was like, “I found all these girls and it’s funny because two of the girls are friends on Facebook. But I couldn’t find your Facebook.”
How many would you say he was dating from the program?
I would say probably 4 or 5. The program had about 60.
Do you maintain a certain level of secrecy with these guys? How much should one tell?
I never tell them my real name. I never use my real email. I always call from a private number. I don’t really give them details about my life. Mine is sort of a murky picture until we develop a certain level of trust. With other girls, he was giving me full names. Eventually I did confront my roommate and was like, “If you’re doing this, you can not be using your real email.” You got to put your Facebook on private.
That’s the thing that I feel that very few Sugar Babies can do, or rather, very few know they can do.
I feel kind of bad sometimes because I realize it’s kind of manipulative. But it’s more like, making them value you to this extent where they’re willing to pay for it.
Do you start out right up front with them? Or is there certain period of time where you let them think that maybe—
Oh yeah, I always let them think that. I once told my roommate that just because you meet at a bar and it’s obvious they want to have sex with you, it doesn’t mean you should say up front, “No, I’m not going to have sex with you.” Because who knows? They could actually be a great guy.
And then you could actually end up having sex with them.
Yeah and the way I do is that I don’t put it up front. I leave it up in the air, because you don’t want to turn away people who could actually not be these sex addicts they make themselves out to be. Over time you feel it out. Are they in this just for sex? Or is there room to move around manipulate?
It’s pretty psychological. Have you ever cared for them more than they have for you? Or have you maintained a certain level of reservation?
I would say the younger one I did care for me than he did for me. After I found out I distanced myself, especially with the other ones. It is kind of emotionally taxing. I try to maintain this distance because you do start caring about them and their problems.
What would you say you’re getting out of the site personally?
There’s always the financial part. I really like the company. I like meeting people I can enjoy dinner with and have an intellectual conversation because surprisingly, you can’t find much of that here. It’s just nice.
Would you say overall your experience has been very positive in this sense?
Yes, except for one. For any girl that is going to use this site, never find someone in technology because they are very good in computers. When I would call one guy, I would use app to block my number. All of the sudden I’d be getting phone calls for him and he would be like, “I also have an app that unblocks numbers.” It started getting a bit intense.
Let’s just say he was sending gifts too often to my residence. I had never given him my real name or my email and eventually I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” He was like, “Look, I know all about you. I already found your Facebook and your email.” He pulled up my pictures and my Facebook. I was like, “You can’t do this. I respect your privacy and you need to respect mine.”
He hacked you.
What other safety guidance do you have?
Never use your name obviously. Never use your real email. Always tell a friend where you’re going. Whether or not you tell them the whole story. Be like, “Hey, I’m going to this restaurant, if I don’t contract you…” Make sure they know. I would tell one friend in case anything does happen. Don’t go to their apartment the first time. If things get a little bit forceful, excuse yourself. Try to block your number in case…
How many people know your doing this?
In total, probably three. One of them is my ex-boyfriend and one is my very close friend here.
Would you say that you maintain this level of secrecy out of professionalism or it is a moral issue? You don’t want people to judge you at the beginning—
So I do hide it because there was an instance where I was outside my work once and I did see someone. After that, I wanted to have a secrecy of keeping it professional so it doesn’t affect my career or wherever I go. As for moral wise, I don’t tell very many people because they’re like, “There’s no way you’re doing this for no sex.” They judge you. Also because I come from a very conservative family just like that other girl. I too am conservative, so it’s kind of like—even though I’m not having sex with them. It’s still like, is it ok for me to capitalize on their insecurities and benefit from it financially?
Do you feel guilt for it? Or is it something you come to terms with because they are receiving the benefits of an ‘intellectual’ friend? Someone they can call to that’s not going to fall into their bed.
I would say the balance of power is slightly uneven. It’s weird to say, but I would say I am the one with more control. Just because they think that you care about them so much and you really want to hear all about them and you’re doing them this great favor. I’ve been thinking I might as well go be a psychologist at this point. Sometimes, I do feel guilty because I know that I’m manipulating them. A lot of times I do care of them but I make sure I don’t care too much. They have this idea that you are completely 100 percent in. I can make it look like that, but I’m not. Sometimes I do feel guilty, but if they feel like I’m there, that’s all that matters.
Do you think the ‘balance of power’ would shift if you started having sex with them?
Definitely, because I feel like sex—it’s not a sacred thing—but it is something very personal, but if you give up that part, it’s more like you’ve given up a part of yourself to him physically. They know that. They know they’re old and they got you in bed with money. That’s why I’ve been really cautious. They start looking at it like they owe you and they can buy you off, so you feel like a prostitute.
Is there a kind of thrill to having this outside world?
It is very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. It’s fun because you reap the benefits, but at the same time, there are expectations whether it’s sex or time or effort.
How far would you say you could go with them without having sex? Where they would still treat you out to lavish dinners—
With most of those guys, I would say, pushing it would be three or four dates. Not even sex, but something.
So you give nothing?
Do you even kiss?
I think once I gave him a kiss on the cheek because he did something really nice for me.
That’s like the anti-Sugar Baby.
I feel like no one is going to believe it, but it is true and possible. Like that girl said, there are certain ways where they mention they want a lover or a ‘sensual’ experience. Then you know. If they try to arrange everything over email, that’s a bad sign. ‘Romantic’ and ‘sensual,’ those are just—
Euphemisms for, “I’m down for an ape shit crazy orgy.”
Yeah, exactly. They put it nicely. Granted, with the people I see, do I make as much money as I could? No. That one girl said she wanted a salary of $3,000-$5,000—that is possible actually—but with me, I would say around each meeting I made $500. It’s not bad, but I also didn’t try as hard as I could.
Just for going out on a date?
Yeah, but it’s not in cash. They’re usually adamant about no cash, so they are usually AMEX gift cards. Or if I wanted anything, I’m like, “Hey, I want this.” Or they will wire to a PayPal account. I’ve never received less than $300 each date, on top of the great dinners.
What’s the typical date? A really swanky restaurant?
Dinner and drinks. A few ones who want to go to theatres.
Is there a typical guy you gravitate too on the site? Or that gravitate to you?
The ones that I’ve found tend to be insecure about themselves. I would say the ones the other girls have met are probably the ones who are more flashy with money. The ones I’ve met are very grounded. They’re obviously very successful and very intellectual.
So what do you think you are offering them that maybe some of the other girls aren’t?
Well, one thing that kind of irked me about the other girl, is being a ‘submissive doll.’ I dress up in my heels and act dumb. It’s just like, there are some people who want that, but the reason some people are on this site and not with an escort or prostitute is because they don’t want someone like that. If you read their descriptions, they want someone intellectual and classy yet beautiful and super sexy woman. I guess what I offer is that I’m very well-read and I like listening. I’ve taken someone out for margaritas. They appreciate that. You don’t see them just as a dollar sign.
Do you think [the site] is perpetuating our inferiority?
I would say, yes and no. It really depends on the type of girl who uses it. The girl who is dependent on the guy for all of their money. It’s crazy because a lot of people see the site like, these girls are so dependent on these guys, but there are girls on the site who are very liberal and all about woman power. So yes, on the outside people see it perpetuating that [dependent] image, but I think a lot of it is because they don’t know what it’s like. On the other hand, it’s also how the girl is using it.
Have you met anyone notable or anyone that you’ve been like, “What do you do?”
There was one…I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble for this, but one was a Columbia professor. Which was really interesting and weird because it’s like, I wonder if he’s seeing anyone from his class? Most are big CEOs. I randomly mentioned some of their names to my friends and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s my bosses’ bosses’ boss.”
With the Columbia professor, did you go on an actual date with him?
No. He kind of sketched me out. I’m not going to be sued by Columbia, right? He was kind of a little creepy. He’d talk to me and be like, “I picked out all these dresses for you and I want you to wear them to dinner.”
Could you confirm that he was a Columbia professor?
Yeah I looked him up.
Oh my god.
Yeah, and luckily some of my friends at Columbia, none of them have him. It was so creepy. He would take pictures in the dresses and email them to me. Then he started picking out lingerie for me!
And this is before he met you?
Yes, because we were supposed to meet up later that week. During that week he’d be like, “I’m so excited to see you. I can’t wait to see you.” I was like, “Whatever, if you want to give me a dress to wear, I don’t care.” Then he’d be like, “Take pictures in the outfits.” I was like, I can’t do this. I’m sorry.
Do you see an end in sight as a Sugar Baby?
I don’t know. I do graduate this year. It’s professional time. My parents are cutting me off and it’s like, will I have the time for it? It’s about having to put in the effort and time. I was thinking, do I really want to do this again? I honestly don’t.