Dear Di

As of Jan. 2017, over 200,000 Canadian post-secondary students were registered with popular sugar dating site Seeking Arrangement. Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.
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Dear Ty,

I had to quit my part-time job earlier this year thanks to my heavy workload at school and now I’m super short on cash—OSAP just isn’t cutting it. A few of my friends have recommended I try something called ‘sugar dating.’ I have to admit I’m lost—can you fill me in on how this works and what it means?

—Sugar Sugar

Dear SS,

You’ve stumbled upon one of the most intriguing forms of work many post-secondary students across the country are turning to to make ends meet, especially with rising tuition costs and massive increases in costs of living: sugar dating.

At its simplest, sugar dating is a sexual and/or romantic relationship between a young person in search of money (a sugar baby), and an older person with money to give (a sugar daddy or sugar mommy). It works like this: a sugar baby and sugar parent sign up for websites that arrange ‘sugar relationships,’ such as Seeking Arrangement or even the classics like Tinder, Grindr or Bumble. Sometimes a sugar daddy or mommy may come directly to a sugar baby through their social media accounts.

From there, a relationship is built. Sugar babies usually offer their company, emotions, and sometimes their bodies to a sugar daddy or mommy in exchange for money and gifts. Often times, the payout can be huge. Seeking Arrangement, perhaps the most popular sugar dating site, told Time the average sugar baby makes close to $3,000 a month. To make the same working a minimum wage job, you’d need to clock in at more than 50 hours of work a week.

The realm of sugar dating has now grown into a universe, and it’s more common than you think. According to Seeking Arrangement, just over 700 students at the U of O use their site. The U of O was also the fastest growing university for sugar babies in 2017, with about 200 new sign-ups.

There are a few tips I can give if you are interested in getting into sugar dating.

First and foremost, I’d recommend sticking to actual dating sites (sugar dating sites, if possible) to keep things safe. Seeking Arrangement requires users to undergo background checks. It’s unclear how thorough or unbiased these background checks are, but at least it’s a start.

When you do make the move to meet your sugar daddy or mommy for the first time, arrange to meet in a public space, preferably during the day. As with any time you meet a stranger, tell a friend or family member in advance and have your phone on you in case something does come up.

If you find you enjoy spending time with your sugar daddy or mommy and are interested in building and continuing a relationship, set some boundaries: let them know what you expect from the relationship and in turn, let them tell you what they’re looking for. If something makes you uncomfortable, let it be known.

Finally, let me address the big elephant in the room: sugar dating is not the same as sex work, and doesn’t necessarily need to even involve sexual acts at all. Many sugar daddies and mommies are looking for someone to take out on dates, show off and simply hangout with for a bit of company.

Remember, sugar dating is what you and your partner make it. Just like in regular dating, if you aren’t feeling it anymore, there are plenty of sugar mommies and daddies out there, baby.