I recently saw a short clip of a video about a developing industry termed ‘Sugar Babies’. Women seeking a ‘Sugar Daddy’ has turned into big business, developing to such a degree that there are now dedicated websites with paid subscriptions, memberships, workshops and conferences held around the globe to offer ‘Sugar Babies’ the best advice on ‘dating’, developing their personal assets, and how to ask for an allowance from the ‘Sugar Daddies’ they meet.
Relationships in this industry are referred to as ‘arrangements’ and ‘dating with purpose’. It is suggested that the reason the websites and industry are thriving is because they offer the user a way of accessing what they want, how they want it, with no complication: the terms and conditions of the relationship can be discussed before it begins, the arrangement set. Honest perhaps, but is it really a solution to the issues that come up in our relationships?
Let’s be honest and clear about what this involves. It demands that a young woman submit to the preferences of an older man who has money, in order to benefit from his financial and social position. Negotiating terms where you get paid to be in an arrangement with another person who has access to your time and your body, is very clearly prostitution.
The clue is in the title ‘Sugar Babies’: keep it sweet, and you get the benefits. Towing the line, compromising and playing roles to satisfy other people’s personal preferences is without doubt unhealthy, whichever angle you come from, but what makes a situation like this thrive?
The conferences, the goody bags, workshops and advice, the video clips and websites all may have a new flavour or style that appeals to the general public’s voyeuristic tendencies – ‘us’, who like to be distracted, stimulated and have someone else to talk about, but in truth this trade has been going on for as long as any of us can remember.
The clip shook me up: it felt clinical, there was a lack of connection and cynicism that was hard to watch in the young women, and there was a sense that it was entirely normal to have transactions and financial negotiations within a relationship.
This got me pondering as to why I was shocked. On reflection, I realised it was because I was observing the depths that we have fallen to as a society, to have propagated a major industry normalising this sort of trade as a more beneficial and efficient type of ‘arrangement’ than bothering with actual relationships. In so doing, denying and not exploring the potential of love that is possible between two people when there is a commitment to developing and working on this connection in everyday life together.
I also reflected on how I grew up, my life and relationships with men. I could see that this ‘Sugar Babies’ phenomena hasn’t burst out of nowhere. It is the tip of a cultural iceberg whereby generation upon generation has put what we can get out of relationships first, and so making them arrangements, way before we consider what we bring to them and how we are within ourselves.
I have reflected on my choices and the impact we all have, on ourselves, society and generations to come, through our role modelling. What happens when we deny what we feel is true in place of what we feel is safe, and less risky in terms of emotional comfort and financial security?
We propagate disregarding and abusive behaviour in the world when we do not seek to have meaningful and honest relationships with ourselves, and from there, with others, and we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, open or transparent with another.
How can we learn, heal and flourish, if our relationships are based on arrangements?
As I grew into a woman, I became used to not feeling adored and appreciated for who I was in essence, rather broken down into body parts or rated as good-looking or not, worthy of dating or just kissing, being named a good girl or ice maiden etc. This is something that many young women experience as they grow up, and it can be the precursor to closing down to being naturally open, sweet, vulnerable and honest in relationships. We begin to fear being open and vulnerable because we feel rejected and seek transactions: words of praise and material objects to indicate that we are worth something.
As we grow up many of us become cynical, craving attention and love. If men do not know how to show the love they feel or do not respect us or truly appreciate us, then we can often attempt to make them pay … literally. And so calculated behaviour develops to get something … anything, because we think we need it in an attempt to replace the feeling of missing true intimacy and openness in relationships.
Who else is familiar with:
- Waiting to be told that we are beautiful, intelligent, sexy and worth loving, by someone else, rather than knowing it and appreciating it in ourselves.
- Wanting to be desired for the sake of recognition and control, and not adored for true connection.
- Waiting to be asked out, engaged, married, told we are loved, to move in, to have children and so playing all sorts of games of manipulation and enticements, because if we make the first move as women we are considered desperate.
- Consciously or otherwise seeking or waiting for the male provider to bring security.
- The diamond for an engagement ring, and so getting a fiancé / husband to ‘make it official’ legitimises us by telling society we have made it.
- The meals out, Valentine’s cards, flowers, the holidays etc… often on the first date the question asked afterwards by friends is “Did he pay for dinner?” Of course it is wonderful to offer a gift to another, to support them, but why is it that women may feel like they need payment to be of worth and men may feel like they need to provide payment?
Is the giving of stuff and paying for things a safer way of feeling like we have been given something by another person, rather than the giving of ourselves for the sake of love, connection and learning more about life?
Often arrangements and compromise are exactly what we enter into when we meet a prospective partner. Will he fit in with my family, does he have a good enough job, he hasn’t said he loves me but he remembers to put the toilet seat down, will he push my buttons or keep life comfortable, he puts me down but at least he is not violent, he spends all night gaming but at least he is not bothering me for sex, he does not tell me how he feels but he does bring in a wage each week, will I get the fairy tale wedding and honeymoon … this is where many of us choose to position ourselves, but is it satisfying or evolutionary?
This cynical behaviour is normalised and has been part of the game played in society out of need, protection and feeling hurt for generations. In recent times we often wrap it up in bows and glitter, call it marriage, romance and love, but when we take a step back and look at what many of our expectations and relationships are actually based on, we see that they are often lacking in true connection, honesty and fulfilment.
Can we consider ourselves first and develop a relationship from there, rather than attempting to be fulfilled by another person’s recognition?
This is the tragedy of many of our relationships: we do not think we ourselves are good enough and that we are tainted in some way. We grow up with role models in society that say we need to seek love from the outside, to wait for the ‘knight to ride in’ and save us, that everything will be okay if we meet the ‘one’, that it is what you look like that matters; and we are often not fully appreciated as children for being beautiful and complete just as we are with no trying. This often results in developing self-doubt and self-worth issues that make the protection of our hurts our main priority. We do not understand that we can develop a deep inner connection within ourselves of love, self-worth and contentment that radiates out to be enjoyed by everyone we encounter.
We cannot love another, if we do not love ourselves first.
Could true ‘dating with purpose’ actually be more about being open, to learn, heal and evolve together to develop and live the love and potential that is within all of us equally, for the benefit of us all?
It is essential that we do not judge ourselves or others … it is with understanding and a deeper appreciation that we arise out of the personal and cultural habits that harm us. I walk with my younger self tenderly — she is no less than who I am now — and I embrace and nurture the potential that has always been within me with responsibility. My relationships are reaping the benefits of this commitment: no more arrangements but real-deal respect, decency and care, with an ever-developing love expressed and lived within myself and with all others.
Negotiations, arrangements and trade between men and women bring separation and lack intimacy, reducing relationships to transactions and what we can get out of one another, rather than what we bring to them ourselves.
We reduce ourselves as women and men by adhering to this shallow and unsatisfying behaviour: it does not honour that we are all deeply sweet, tender human beings and looking for true love and connection – that comes from within first – and which is not at all cynical …
By Samantha Davidson, UK.
For further inspiration …
Choosing connection and being ourselves – the antidote to losing ourselves and becoming who we think we need to be for others …
How can we be all of ourselves in a relationship, and what does it feel like to not hold back?
‘How often do we as women compromise what we know to be true in need for a more superficial connection and intimacy?’ What it feels like to say yes to love, and no to need.