Nav: Home

The 7 types of sugar daddy relationships

October 15, 2019

It turns out being Sugar Daddy isn't a one-size-fits-all gig. While it occasionally lives up to the stereotype of a wealthy, middle-aged man lavishing gifts and money on a young woman in return for her companionship, there's more to it in the U.S.

Drawing from 48 in-depth interviews, sociologist Maren Scull, PhD, assistant professor at University of Colorado Denver, has identified seven types of these "sugar" relationships: sugar prostitution, compensated dating, compensated companionship, sugar dating, sugar friendships, sugar friendships with benefits and pragmatic love.

The results of her study were published in Sociological Perspectives.

"Whenever I read an article about Sugar Daddies or Sugar Babies, I often saw the same sensationalistic slant: the women are desperate, starved college students engaging in prostitution," said Scull. "As someone who studies deviance, I knew there were more important nuances to these relationships."

Sugaring in the U.S.

Sugar relationships are based on companionships, intimacy or other forms of attention in exchange for personal benefit (financial support, material goods, professional advancement). These kinds of agreements are hardly new--in the 1750s, Geishas were seen as socially respected entertainers even though they were paid to amuse men, usually without sex. During the first two World Wars, soldiers paid women to join them for a night out of dinner and dancing.

But the bulk of modern-day research focuses on transactional and survival sex in sub-Saharan Africa, and compensated dating in East and Southeast Asia. There was a black hole of research in the U.S.

To understand how "sugaring" works in the U.S., Scull spoke with 48 women about their experiences as Sugar Babies. She explored the kind of activities the women were involved in, whether sex was involved and whether their lives were intertwined with their benefactors.

She found that 40% of the women had never had sex with their benefactors and the ones that did often had genuine, authentic connections with the men. She also found that most forms of sugaring aren't a play-for-pay arrangement.

"I didn't have the intent of creating a typology, but there was so much variety that I knew I had to highlight the different nuances and forms that sugar relationships can take," said Scull.

The 7 types of sugar relationships

Scull labeled the first "sugar prostitution," a form of sugaring absent emotion and purely the exchange of gifts for sex. "Compensated dating," popular in Asia, involves a monetary or material compensation for grabbing a coffee, a meal or attending a specific event together. "Compensated companionship" involves wider scope of activities and often involve the woman becoming more intertwined in the man's life. Neither compensated dating nor compensated companionship involves anything sexual for most people.

"Sugar dating," the most common form of sugaring, combines the intertwined life of companionship with sex. In this case, most women receive an allowance on a weekly, monthly or as-needed basis. The sums could range from $200 to several thousands of dollars a month.

"Sugar friendships are a mutually beneficial relationships with someone the women consider a friend. In fact, these benefactors are often a part of the women's lives already or soon become a part of it. "Sugar friendships with sexual benefits" is more unstructured. In some cases, benefactors pay for all living expenses for the women, including rent, cell phone bills, clothing, cars and vacations.

Finally, Scull found that some of these relationships involved two people who hoped to end up together, with the woman taken care of for the rest of her life, in a category she named "pragmatic love."

"When we lump sugar relationships together as prostitution, it deviantizes and criminalizes these relationships," said Scull. "We were missing how they are often organic and involve genuine, emotional connection. Many of the women didn't intend on having a benefactor. They just happened to meet someone at work or during a catering gig who wanted to take care of them. These relationships can last decades."
-end-


University of Colorado Denver

Related Relationships Articles:

Disruptions of salesperson-customer relationships. Is that always bad?
Implications from sales relationship disruptions are intricate and can be revitalizing.
Do open relationships really work?
Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond.
The 7 types of sugar daddy relationships
University of Colorado Denver researcher looks inside 48 sugar daddy relationships to better understand the different types of dynamics, break down the typical stereotype(s) and better understand how these relationships work in the United States.
Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa
Does having close friends boost your self-esteem, or does having high self-esteem influence the quality of your friendships?
Strong family relationships may help with asthma outcomes for children
Positive family relationships might help youth to maintain good asthma management behaviors even in the face of difficult neighborhood conditions, according to a new Northwestern University study.
In romantic relationships, people do indeed have a 'type'
Researchers at the University of Toronto show that people do indeed have a 'type' when it comes to dating, and that despite best intentions to date outside that type -- for example, after a bad relationship -- some will gravitate to similar partners.
Advancing dementia and its effect on care home relationships
New research published today in the journal Dementia by researchers from the University of Chichester focuses on the effects of behavioral change due to dementia in a residential care home setting.
Passion trumps love for sex in relationships
When women distinguish between sex and the relational and emotional aspects of a relationship, this determines how often couples in long-term relationships have sex.
The interplay between relationships, stress, and sleep
A new Personal Relationships study documents how the quality of a person's romantic relationship and the life stress he or she experiences at two key points in early adulthood (at age 23 and 32) are related to sleep quality and quantity in middle adulthood (at age 37).
From asexuality to heteroflexibility: New openness about intimate relationships
The 21st century has ushered in a ''quiet revolution'' in the diversity of intimate relationships, and a leading scholar says the scale and pace of this social transformation warrants a ''reboot'' of relationship studies.
More Relationships News and Relationships Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.