When the topic of sugar relationships popped up in Parliament (of all places) last Monday, it did more to bring awareness to money-for-dating platform The SugarBook than a full-fledged marketing campaign could have. I wouldn’t have known that the site existed until Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee did his bang-up job of exhibiting woke-ness as he explained how sites such as The SugarBook “commoditize and devalue” relationships.
Probably the only part that was disappointing was that the term “daddy” wasn’t mentioned out loud and often, because it would’ve been a riot to watch these prim and proper politicians discuss the ethics of kinky pet names.
Sugar Crash Course
The SugarBook, for the pure of heart out there, is like Tinder without all the fluff of cringe-worthy opening lines and will-they-won’t-they tension. Right out the gate, the aim of the Malaysian-based platform is clear — to connect young women (Sugar Babies) willing to offer their companionship to older, well-to-do dudes (Sugar Daddies) for a price. Sugar Babies receive compensation to date (and do other stuff, with consent) Sugar Daddies, and the gender roles can be reversed too, with male Sugar Babies showering love and other things on Sugar Mummies willing to fork out the cash.
“Sugar” relationships have been around for eons, sure, but this is an app that makes such connections easier. It doesn’t attempt to hide its transactional nature either — hell, The SugarBook’s tagline is “where romance meets finance,” thus the raised hackles of Singapore’s conservative political establishment.
With Singaporean users currently forming the second-largest group behind Malaysian users, Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed alarm over The SugarBook, as it could be used as an app to pay for sexual services. In response to the consternation, Minister Lee assured that the police are currently keeping a “close eye” on the platform and its users, and will not hesitate to take enforcement action in case any law-breaking occurs.
As someone who’s just moved into a new flat with a spouse (both of us are perpetually broke writers), I floated the idea of us holding secondary jobs as Sugar Babies to my partner. Strictly non-sexual, of course, since spending time with lonely cash-flush seniors seems like a solid idea for giving back to society. Plus, we’d get paid, of course — the only thing furnishing our bedroom right now is a mattress on the floor, dammit.
With my wife’s semi-enthusiastic approval, it was time to get into the sugar-dating game. From what my colleague at Coconuts KL found out, 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.” Within hours, she was rolling in pings from the app, with men both young and old sliding into her DMs. Creepily, a married family friend of hers even got in touch. Awkward, fam.
Anyway, I soon realized that she generally had a much easier time of this than I did. Dozens of factors can explain why Sugar Mummies just weren’t biting — perhaps I was a wee bit too honest in my profile.
God, I’m cringing even as I read what I wrote, but eh, it’ll do. What was really surprising were the insane categories like “Lifestyle Expectation” that you’re supposed to include on your profile. People actually stack this much cash for being Sugar Babies? Shoulda been one years ago.
After days of empty notifications, it was time to stop being passive. Then I realized that you can’t actually look for Sugar Mummies even if you wanted to — every other viewable profile was a money-hunting Sugar Baby like I was.
Other cash-hungry dudes like me faced the same roadblock to fiscal happiness.
No matter. Time to start dishing out my favorite pick-up lines to start conversations and get Sugar Baby interviews going.
It helps that The SugarBook has a dedicated editorial side of things to help in the sugar search. Or not.
There’s even a feature that lets you see who viewed your profile, but that was locked unless I upgraded to become a premium member. All their names were “Sugar Mummy,” but I highly doubt they were, considering their age and expected lifestyle budget.
While some ladies eventually replied (with one individual straight up blocking me) the pay-to-play aspect quickly kicked in. Apparently, there’s a limit to the number of messages you can send out to others, and once you hit that limit, you’ll be asked to upgrade your account to a premium one to even read your messages.
Premium accounts aren’t cheap, as one would expect. The cheapest monthly subscription goes for US$35.95 (S$47.40, with a mandatory six-month signup), but the site was nice enough to provide a Valentine’s Special for US$24.95 (S$32.90) for a week of premium features.
Ehh, I wasn’t going to spend that much just to find a Sugar Mummy to finance my house furnishings — I’m broke as it is. The business model of The SugarBook also meant that one would truly have to be desperate enough for a sugar relationship to pay that much. And thus ended my search for a literally rewarding platonic relationship — transactional relationships just aren’t that easy to find after all.