Controversial 'sugar daddy' websites help coeds pay for college

Watch the report from Action News' Erin O'Hearn
May 2, 2014 8:43:20 PM PDT
Many young women are turning to so-called sugar daddy websites to help pay for college and it's causing quite a controversy.

"The most money I've had from this lifestyle is I had seven sugar daddies all at the same time. That was making me probably like $8,000 or $9,000 a month," said Kiana.

20-year-old Kiana, who asked us to hide her identity, is a double major at Temple University.

With the demands of a challenging class schedule and aspirations to attend medical school, you may be surprised how she's figured out how to cover her tuition without loans or debt.

"There are a lot of young ladies around campus who ask me how I maintain the lifestyle I live and wear the clothes and have the house I live in. I tell them flat out, 'I'm a sugar baby,'" she said.

A few years ago Kiana posted a profile on the site SeekingArrangement.com.

Although the intensity and intimacy of the relationships formed through the site varies, men pay her in exchange for her companionship.

For Kiana, it's enough to pay for school and live a very comfortable lifestyle without the stress of a traditional job. The men on the site, she says, either don't have the time or availability for a traditional relationship.

"There are a lot of them who are married and do have kids," she said.

Many of them, Kiana claims, have a very public reputation to uphold.

"I'm sure it would be shocking to see some of the names associated with the website," she said.

Kiana tells Action News that she sets strict boundaries for her sugar daddies.

Most often she gets paid for playing the part of a date to dinner parties or corporate events. Sometimes men she's never met send her money, just in exchange for talking or flirting over Skype.

"I could be doing anything from flashing them to having a conversation, maybe even getting through a conversation with their wife. One I moved into having sex and there was one who was strictly phone sex," said Kiana.

"Just because they're different than you're traditional relationship doesn't mean they're wrong," said Angela Jacob Bermudo, SeekingArrangement.com.

Bermudo, the company's spokesperson, says the site has 2.7 million members worldwide.

Philadelphia takes the 17th spot among sugar daddy capitals and Temple is number 5 on the list of fastest growing sugar baby schools.

"For students we offer free premium memberships if you sign up with your (.edu) email address. They see it as a viable option as opposed to taking out student loans or taking on a part time job," said Bermudo.

"I think this is dangerous because people are not thinking long term. How is this going to look five years down the road when I have children," said Dr. Sara Corse, psychologist with Council for Relationships.

Dr. Corse believes the site does prey on young, vulnerable women who are transitioning from life at home with their parents. She believes developing these arrangements over the internet gives these women a false sense of security and false feeling of control.

"There can be this edge around pushing someone beyond what they want to agree to because the man can say, 'I'm paying for this therefore this is what I demand,'" said Dr. Corse.

The big moral divide? Is a site like this simply a platform for a modern form of prostitution? Kiana says no.

"I'm always in charge of who I want to be my sugar daddy, for how long and what I want to do with them. The fact I'm in control makes me different," said Kiana.

However Sarah, another Temple student that Action News spoke with, isn't mincing words. She deleted her profile on the site after just a few months.

"You're pretty much selling yourself as a human being so these guys can take you out and buy you things and write you monthly checks so in my mind it's just a softer form of prostitution," said Sarah.

There are numerous websites similar to SeekingArrangement.com

And with any website like this, there are enormous safety issues involved with this type of lifestyle both physical and emotional.

However SeekingArrangement.com says those dangers aren't any different in the traditional dating world and it's simply providing an alternate platform

As for Temple, Action News reached out to the university but they had no comment.

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