Pay to play: We visit the world of sugar dating, babies and their daddies

“We spent nearly three months traveling all over Southeast Asia,” said Abigail, a 22-year-old part-time student and self-described model.

“Thanks to his financing of the whole trip, I was able to experience staying at The W in Bali, climbed Mt Rinjani in Lombok, saw the Pink Beach in Komodo Island, swam in the Kuang Si waterfalls and had beers on a floating bar off Halong Bay while eating freshly grilled lobsters.”

What sounds like a whirlwind romance ended amicably after that trip, with Abigail and her paramour under no illusions that their short-term fling was about anything more than fun, exotic locations and enjoying all that five-star hotels had to offer.

While some women have chosen to spend their 20s dating equally financially constrained contemporaries, footing bills, and going no further than the mall, Abigail has opted for a more gilded path. However, as with everything in life – nothing comes free.

For lack of a better term, or “if you want to put a label on it,” Abigail is a sugar baby – a young person who receives compensation (in some fashion) to date someone, referred to as their sugar daddy. Yes, there are sugar mommies, too, but proportionately, the babies are mostly young girls, and the daddies are, well, daddies.

Compensation can range from pocket change, to rent, to a credit card. The terms are also wide-ranging – from being their daddy’s date for a couple of hours at an event, to being on-call for sex when needed.

Wondering where to sign up? Well, technology has you covered – there’s an app for that now, and it’s basically Tinder for people who expect more than to split the check.

TheSugarBook has been in operation since 2016 and began aggressively marketing their platform in Asia last year. It promotes itself as the place “where romance meets finance,” and promises “financial institution levels of encryption.”

We have no idea what that means precisely, but can safely assume it’s a reference to how they won’t expose you to Ashley Madison-levels of personal data leakage.

Becoming a sugar baby is as easy as posting a photo, writing down that you’re looking for fun, and then waiting for the offers to come rolling in. That’s exactly what we did — for research purposes, obviously — and within hours, we had received inbox messages from men both young and old asking what we were looking for.

Some of the requests in our inbox were no more than “Can I meet you?” Others went so far as to advertise their, um, physical attributes, and telling us that they were more than willing to compensate us for our time.

Nice work if you can get it.

Then there was that married friend of the family who slid into our DMs, a deeply awkward moment that served as a reminder that anonymity is relative when you can see a person’s face in their profile.

Alas, we’re not here to out cheating husbands, or to make a deal, and after telling the prospective daddies that we were just journalists hoping to ask a few questions, the response rate decreased dramatically.

However, a few were kind enough to candidly answer our prying questions.

Marc* is in his 30s, and calls himself a “modern Malaysian Indian.”

Without knowing anything about us beyond our photo, he wrote to say that he was based in Singapore, and in KL monthly for meetings, naming a specific upmarket hotel as his choice spot when in the city.

He describes himself as easy going, likes wine and food, and asked if we were free in two weeks to join him for dinner. He then added that he was the company director of a very large firm. After a little sleuthing online, we confirmed this.

Attractive, and open, we couldn’t help but wonder why someone like Marc would use a dating service where he was expected to pay to play rather than simply trying his luck on Tinder roulette.

“I travel very frequently, so companionship in a different country is interesting,” he said. While he maintained that he was single, he also said that the discreet companionship offered by the app was appealing. He told us that TheSugarBook’s members were all there for the same reason.

We asked what reason that might be.

“More options,” he said.

One can’t help but be confused by that reply. Tinder has plenty of options, as does a bar or a club. This wasn’t really about options, but the opposite – a narrowing of the dating pool. And, of course, the benefit of having a sure thing.

What Marc said next inadvertently hit the nail on the head: “I don’t mind arranging overnight payment in advance of our dates, and the wine and dine is on me.”

That is to say, if daddy has the money, and baby likes his profile enough, then something can be arranged. Money first, please. Here are the bank details.

If you’re wondering how much, Marc said he compensates his sugar babies anywhere from RM500 to RM1000 (about US$127-US$255). He added that this “usually” includes sex. Plus plus plus, as it were.

When asked if this was tantamount to prostitution, he backtracked on the physical aspect. “It’s not always about sex. It’s about companionship.”

Seeing as terms and conditions are often laid out and paid for beforehand, one man’s companionship can bleed right into the same transferred funds function that allows him to buy sneakers.

Sure, you may ask – but can you fall in love with a pair of sneakers? Are sneakers companionship, Coconuts KL?

For us they are, shoes are with you literally every step of the way. But we digress.

“It’s an emotional holiday with someone younger,” said Wan, a young, professional daddy who has pursued sugar relationships for four years.

“I like being able to mentor and guide her. It’s refreshing to have someone’s full attention when I explain climate change, Bitcoin investing, and the future of fintech.”

Isn’t it amazing how interested people are in your chat when you are paying them to be? Please, tell us more about Blockchain technology – our Google is broken.

Wan tries to stay on good terms with all of his babies, past and present. He has three right now, spread over a couple of countries. He adds that he still talks to his first sugar baby, although they are no longer dating, and will occasionally send her money.

Why did they break up?

“She became emotionally dependent on me,” he explains.

Aversion to long-term companionship and deeper feelings is something that both baby and daddy users of TheSugarBook have in common.

Abigail’s terms? Above anything, she mentions the need to set emotional boundaries between herself and her plus one. Another daddy, when asked about long-term companionship, balked at the thought. “Maybe a year? I could maybe do a year.”

There you have it readers, if you’re willing to put your feelings aside, think of a not-too-distant future, and pretend be amazed by musings on renewable energy and cryptocurrency mining – TheSugarBook may be for you.

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