The popularity of ‘sugaring’ is bittersweet

There’s nothing wrong with the practice of ‘sugaring,’ provided it’s consensual. But no one should feel pressured to put a price on their company—especially not students who are trying to make ends meet.
The Western Gazette reported that the number of sugar babies—people who engage in relationships in exchange for compensation—has more than doubled at Western University in the past year, according to figures from the platform Seeking Arrangements, which facilitates meetings between interested parties.
Seeking Arrangements reported that 1.8 per cent of Queen’s students use the platform. Those are just the students who identified themselves or used a school email to register on the site: the actual number is likely higher.
The rising popularity of sugaring raises an important question: Why are so many students turning to sugaring for extra income?
In short, it’s expensive to be a student. OSAP cuts, limited bursaries, and rising costs of rent, groceries, and tuition mean even students with savings will likely have to work at some point in their undergraduate studies. Despite this need, flexible and part-time student jobs are few and far between.
As higher education becomes less affordable, it’s unsurprising to see more students turning to untraditional methods of making extra money. Sugaring is just another extension of the gig economy—albeit one that comes with a greater risk.
Sugaring relationships can be romantic, sexual, or platonic. Some sugar babies find sugaring empowering or liberating. As long as the relationships are consensual and safe, it’s up to an individual to sugar if they so choose.
But we have to acknowledge the dynamic that exists in sugaring is different from most other forms of casual relationships. The sugar parent, typically older, has control of the financial aspect of the relationship, while the sugar baby is performing a service for payment—often their time and company.
This dynamic, and the nature of platforms like Seeking Arrangements, which take little responsibility to protect their users, put sugar babies at risk of dangerous situations and people. These platforms fail users in their lack of safety measures, and even though they should do more to ensure their safety, they’re unlikely to change their operations any time soon.
Reluctant students who feel like they have to sugar to pay their bills are more vulnerable to assault and violence. The fact that many students feel pressured to take this risk speaks to the broader issue of Ontario education’s affordability.
Sugaring can be fun, but it needs to be done safely and consensually. Ideally, students who choose to be sugar babies should do so because they want to, not because they feel like they have no other options to support themselves.

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