"He was paying me, so I was like, whatever," Rachel tells New Times. "Afterwards he pulled up his shorts and we talked about stuff, like my school, his job, and sports."

The compensation: $200 cash.

To many, Rachel's part-time job seems like prostitution. To her, however, it's an easy way to earn money while finishing a degree in hospitality management. She rarely has sex with her sugar daddies, she claims. And despite critics' claims that Seeking Arrangement is a digital sex dungeon, she enjoys what she's doing. "Being a student is boring," Rachel says, "but this isn't."

Illustration by Joseph Laney

Seeking Arrangement and similar websites are changing Americans' ideas of dating and sexuality. Instead of true love, they promise young women and older men "mutually beneficial arrangements" that are more mercenary than meaningful. In an age of instant online gratification, these sites have streamlined the financial market for women's bodies. And by operating in plain sight using laughable legal disclaimers, they are signing up college students who would never strut a street corner.

"It's no different than what parents teach their kids since the day they turn on TV and let them watch Disney movies," says Seeking Arrangement founder Brandon Wade. "The girls are dreaming of being princesses. They hope to kiss the frog that will turn into a prince who will spoil and pamper them."

Wade's own motivations were less noble when he created the website in 2005: He just wanted to get laid. Born Lead Wey in Singapore in 1970, he grew up in a conservative Chinese household where his working father provided his mother with a weekly allowance. "The sugar daddy culture was ingrained in me by her nagging at me to provide for my future wife better than he did for her," Wade says. His tiger mom was also brutally honest with her short, bespectacled son, telling him he would have to study hard and make money to win a beautiful wife.

When Wade was 18, he moved to Boston to study engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He succeeded in school but failed miserably at dating. His real lesson, however, was in the strange double standards of his adopted country. Wade knew that some of his fellow MIT students stripped on weekends to afford tuition, yet money was a taboo subject.

"In Asia, we talk about money in a much more forward manner," he says. "American culture is a very strange one: Here we all try to [get rich], but we also tend to have this self-righteous culture. We want to be better than what we are made of."

After MIT, Wade became a business consultant before creating a lucrative internet advertising company. All the while, he struggled with women. Eventually Wade realized that his talents — namely his money — were undervalued on dating sites that focused on looks or charm. ("I even made a video for one website," he says. "It didn't help.") When his ad company died in the dot com crash of 2000, Wade directed his genius toward developing a website that would reward loaded but lonely men like him.

Seeking Arrangement launched in 2006. Today, it has more than 2 million customers, 90 percent of whom are women, according to Wade (anyone can join for free, but only premier users can send or receive messages on the site). Four of the schools with the fastest-growing number of sugar babies are located in Florida. At Florida International University, 187 women signed up for Seeking Arrangement last year alone.

Most men pay $59.95 per month to use the site. Some, however, shell out $2,159.40 a year for special "Diamond Daddy" status. Between Seeking Arrangement and several other websites — including one for single millionaires only, another in which men bid on dates with women, and a new site, Miss Travel, where wealthy men pay women to accompany them overseas — Wade's companies make more than $10 million per year.

Wade's website is one of dozens devoted to sugar babies, but Seeking Arrangement is by far the most popular. Many sugar babies say they prefer it because it has at least a basic layer of protection: Company employees screen profiles for overt solicitation and suspend harassing users. Diamond Daddies undergo tax record reviews to prove they are worth what they claim. And some men even volunteer for criminal background checks.

But Seeking Arrangement's aggressive pursuit of college students also makes it seedier than its competitors. The website offers coeds free premier membership simply by using their university email accounts, and Wade openly advocates it as a way for women to avoid student loans. Worst of all, Seeking Arrangement pays for its ads to appear on search engines whenever a woman types in something like "help for tuition."

"These young women have to decide between a dead-end job with little money and a career as a sugar baby," says Essig, the college professor. "Neither is a good choice, but those are the choices they have."

Rachel wasn't desperate; she heard about the site from a friend. She says she doesn't really need the money but was tired of juggling a job and four classes. Nor is she from a broken home.

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4 comments
tammyrisa1
tammyrisa1

It's prostitution, whores!  This is the what the parents in Florida have done to their children and the whole system in Florida is corrupted! This will catch up to them and bite them later in their careers.


Patriarchy_works
Patriarchy_works

Where is the site for young male college students to get money from Cougies?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Would not Prostitution ... by any other name ... taste as sweet?

 
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