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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hannah, a 22-year-old model and actress in Tampa, calls herself an “accomplished magazine model” and a European Playboy model.  She costs $5,000 - $10,000 a month.

Vanessa, a 22-year-old full-time student in West Palm Beach, considers herself a “far cry from ordinary.”  She enjoys horseback riding, conversation and cooking and says she’s mature for her age. She is looking for a successful sugar daddy to show her “all that the world has to offer.”

A 23-year-old student in Miami, who calls herself ItalianDoll, wants $3,000 to $5,000 a month. She is looking for a long-term relationship and wants to get started right away.

Critics say that a sugar baby is nothing but a refined term for a prostitute, and a sugar daddy, no more than a well-off john.

But unlike prostitution, “sugar” dating is legal. In the 1970s, courts ruled that as long as women are paid for a service other than sex, such as companionship or a personal assistant, it is not the same as prostitution. 

“If I believed what I did was prostitution, I wouldn’t do it,” says Brandon Wade, CEO and Founder of SeekingArrangement. “Sugar” dating is a relationship, he says. It is more emotionally involved than escorting or prostitution. 

“Members often write to us to tell us what a great thing Seeking Arrangement has been for them,” Wade said.

The “trivial” differences between a “kept woman” and a prostitute make it difficult for courts to prove illegality, explains Robert Buschel, a criminal defense attorney in south Florida.

“Criminal courts may have a tough time (corroborating prostitution) when the arrangement is for more than an hour, and the money is not just about the sex, but the companionship, too,” he said. “Only the woman’s conscience and ethics can really answer that question.”

There are thousands like Tom. Older, moneyed men, married, divorced, single and widowed, flocking to sugar daddy sites like SeekingArrangement.

They want beauty, youth, companionship, intimacy, a travel partner, the fulfillment of a sexual fantasy, even love.

A 50-year-old UF professor is seeking a “young playmate.” He is married, likes movies, reading, traveling and wants a discreet relationship. His budget is less than $1,000 a month.

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Gary, a 56-year-old married attorney in Orlando, is looking for “casual fun meetings once or twice a week for mutual enjoyment.” Besides his love for spoiling the right woman, he enjoys movies, books and sporting events. His budget is $5,000 to $10,000 a month.

Don, a Tampa CEO who alleges his net worth to be between $10 million to $50 million, is pictured in a white tuxedo, toting a cocktail. He is 65, married, but lives alone and has had successful arrangements for 10 years. He is looking for a “thin, very good looking” 21- to 35-year-old woman “who would enjoy a couple of evenings each week devoted to physical activity, drinking, fine dining and club dancing.”

“I have the financial capacity to fulfill my end of the arrangement,” Don says. “If you have the physical attributes to fulfill your end.”

Mel says she never quite understood why Tom wanted a sugar baby. He had young kids and a pretty wife. He mentioned that his marital sex life was fine. Another time his wife called, conversation ended with “I love you.”

“The roles are defined. It cuts through all the BS,” explains Bryan, a 49-year-old divorced doctor who has a profile on SeekingArrangement. “Each party gets what they want without the normal bitching or moaning from either person.”

In other words, Bryan says, it’s real life and a fantasy all at once.

Like any other dating site, sugar daddy dating allows its users to upload photos to their profiles. But most of the sugar daddy profiles don’t post identifiable pictures. Some upload photos of an expensive car or yacht, others use a picture of someone else, many distort their own photo or crop out their head.

And some include no picture at all.

In the modern world of sexual liberation, of one-night stands and of fleeting sexual encounters, sex with a stranger isn’t a big deal to some women. If they can get paid to do it, then why not?  

Still, in the age of the Boston Craigslist killer and rampant STDs, the risk is obvious.

“I had $12.62 in my bank account,” Mel explains. “There was no food in my fridge. I needed a pedicure, highlights. I was so sick of my clothes.”

Mel’s parents — her dad is in sales and her mom is unemployed — helped her as much as they could. But after monthly rent, utilities and groceries, her weekly babysitting money was near gone.

Mel could have survived without becoming a sugar baby. But it would have meant Ramen noodles for dinner, thrift store clothing and bagging groceries at Publix.

She runs a manicured finger through freshly highlighted hair.

“I hated being broke; I was just over it,” she said.

She joined in December 2009. She exchanged a series of flirty and suggestive messages with sugar daddies. If a sugar daddy’s punctuation or spelling was poor, she didn’t respond.

“If they are inarticulate, odds are they aren’t rich either,” she said.

By February she had roused enough courage to meet her first sugar daddy, Tom.

The occasional stares are less uncomfortable as the martinis flow.

They drink, eat and manage to minimize awkward silences. Mel only half listens when he puffs about his importance. Occasionally he says something of interest, jolting her back. She’s a good listener, and she disguises her indifference well.

Tom does not ask too many personal questions, uncomfortable with the reality that he is quite possibly older than Mel’s parents. His children from his first marriage are older than Mel, but he probably would rather not think about this.

He does most of the talking. She chimes in with “mhm” or “uh huh,” or “wow!  you’re kidding me?!” or “really?” as appropriate.

He pays with cash.

Too much alcohol makes his cheeks ruddy and broken capillaries surface.

He doesn’t say anything, but looks impatient for Mel to finish her martini. Mel slurps it down and wishes she could order another.

She can tolerate him; he has no deformities, unbearable habits or bad breath. For the money, she will make it work.

Back in the suite, he wastes no time.

He runs his fingers through her blonde, carefully straightened hair, and she knows, Tom has vanished. The older, somewhat boring gentleman, it seems, transforms. The natural oils on his bald head glisten.

He subconsciously works his jaw back and forth, like a hungry animal.

She shuts her eyes.

Now, under the protection of darkness, she can pretend that the grunting on top of her is Orlando Bloom.

 Deep in fantasy, she’s a natural, a woman of sexual rigor and prowess.

It doesn’t take long. A final grunt, followed by a shudder.

Mel opens her eyes and feels sick.

Mel would “endure,” as she later described it, the weekend with Tom, eyes squeezed shut for many other short-lived sexual liaisons.

She never saw Tom again. He called, sent text messages and left voicemails. At first he sounded concerned, later irritated and finally, angry. The $2,500 was intended for her monthly allowance, meaning she was expected to be available for the rest of February.  

“He was not amused,” Mel said, laughing.

Continue to Part 3

Return to Part 1

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