“Sugar Daddy”: it brought to mind images of a George Clooney-esque man, shrouded in cigarette smoke at a dimly lit jazz bar, with a blonde on his arm (20 years his junior, dripping with jewels).
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Mad Men. Because when I told my friends I’d signed up to a website that matched girls with “sugar daddies”- in order to investigate the site’s growing popularity with Scottish university students – the reaction on the whole was more “so now you’re becoming a prostitute?”, rather than, “Oooh how glamorous!”
But in spite of general suspicion, the fact that Glasgow Uni students are the third biggest users of “seekingarrangement.com” suggests we are pretty avid fans of this whole “sugar daddy” thing. So what’s the real deal behind this latest craze? Is this a femininst and empowering choice for female students looking to fund the expenses of student life? Or is this just thinly veiled prostitution? Most importantly – if I do this, will I get to finally go to a jazz bar?
Looking for answers, I create my profile. I am now “Claia”. I have to put in my height, weight, eye colour and body type – the options are “slim” “athletic” or “a few extra pounds”. This crude classification grates with me, and although I’ve gone into this with an open mind, I start to feel annoyed. I also have to state my “expectations” – ie, how much money I am expecting. “Woah”, I think, feeling self-conscious. “What is my monetary value?” Finally I have to upload a photo for “approval” – because presumably some middle aged balding man somewhere gets to decide whether I’m attractive enough to be marketed to other middle aged, balding men.
Apparently I am. Success! I feel so very validated. And so it begins – almost straight away a message pops into my inbox:
“Hi Claia. I’m George and I’m into Old School Discipline. I have an original school strap and cane. If you take discipline I will pay you a cash sum. HEADMASTER GEORGE.”
In his photo he seems to be wearing an old fashioned “teacher” outfit. He is 66. Oh dear God.
Politely, I reject Headmaster George’s advances and thankfully it gets better from here. I am offered trips to the US and to London, and £1000 a month for going on two dates a week. £1000! Definitely beats working in Asda. Eventually I settle on a 55 year old whose photos make him look a little like a mole in an anorak. “I hope you are attracted to older men”, he writes, signed off with two kisses.
I think – I think- I feel sorry for him. His status, like many of the guys on the site, is “married but looking”, and in one message he tells me how he and his wife took a trip to Largs that day. I picture them sitting on a bench by the sea, licking their ice cream cones in silence as his phone burns through his pocket, full of messages from 20 year old girls like me. I feel angry at him, and very bad for both of them.
Against my better judgement I agree to meet this man. A million alarm bells are pealing inside my head as I think about, actually, just how weird this is going to be.
I then get a message from him saying meeting up will be tricky this evening as he has to drop his daughter off in town too.
He has a daughter?!? I think, if my own dad is in his early 50s, and this guy is 55, that makes his daughter…MY AGE???
The reality of this situation suddenly hits me in the face, and I realise I can’t do this, not even in the name of journalism. It’s SO weird, and the niggling feeling of “is this really okay…?” turns into “this feels very, very wrong…”
So, my verdict on this site? By all means do it if you can deal with being creeped on by very old men, are cool with knowing the person who is paying you to date them has a wife and a daughter your age, and are comfortable basically advertising yourself as a product. Turns out, I’m not that down with any of those things. Also, no one looked like George Clooney and although I’m sure one of the “daddies” would have taken me to a jazz bar if I asked nicely, I think – actually – I’d rather keep my job in Asda.