When I published my second novel, Bought, I was anxious to promote it. The book was my attempt to fictionalize a lot of research I’d done for a magazine story about hookers and also a way to examine the lives of women who weren’t quite prostitutes because they didn’t, say, spread their legs for wads of cash but nevertheless allowed men to pay their bills. I was fascinated by the double standard that exists—the way women judge other women for pursuing such a lifestyle when nearly every female alive participates in this dynamic in some form or another.
The business of mostly younger, attractive women being subsidized by mostly older, wealthy men has only flourished, as have the websites helping the two parties find one another. No, really. Brandon Wade, the founder of Seeking Arrangement, raked in $10 million in 2012 alone.
It seemed, at first, a lucky break that my book release coincided with the economic crash of the late aughts, because women were turning to means of survival they hadn’t previously considered. Suddenly I started to hear about websites that actually connected these women with potential benefactors. So Bought got a lot of publicity, if not a lot of sales—who wants to buy books when they’re losing their jobs?—and in the process of promoting it, I came into contact with a number of these women.
Now, while the book industry has continued to self-destruct, the business of mostly younger, attractive women being subsidized by mostly older, wealthy men has only flourished, as have the websites helping the two parties find one another. No, really. Brandon Wade, the MIT-educated founder of Seeking Arrangement and three other portals—What’s Your Price, Seeking Millionaire and MissTravel—reports that his sites raked in $10 million in 2012 alone.
That caught my attention. So I decided to dive back into this topic, with a modern, digital twist. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be exploring the online Sugar Daddy/Sugar Baby phenomenon from three diverse points of view: the Sugar dating site proprietors, the Sugar Daddies and, last but not least, the Sugar Babies themselves. Without further ado, here we go…
According to Sugar Daddy For Me founder Gautam Sharma, it isn’t just the economy that has contributed to the success of sites of like his. “I think it’s the overall evolution of things,” he says. “Between the Internet, smartphones, social media and then the evolution of society—the way a lot of people are living together and not getting married and the way there’s acceptance of all types of relationships—it was bound to happen. And when you combine all of that with the financial times and the fact that women are sick of dating pretty, broke guys who end up cheating on them anyway, it just makes sense.”
While the economic shift has certainly helped these sites multiply, former Wall Street trader Steve Pasternack actually launched the first one, Sugar Daddie, way back in 2002. “The inspiration, honestly, was my real life,” he confesses. “As a trader, I worked with a lot of multimillionaires who were always taking the women in their lives to dinners and on trips. Then I moved to Florida and the women I met were telling me how hard it was to find a successful guy. So my original intention was to connect the women here with these guys I knew in New York.”