Sugar dating: “Pay-for-play relationships between older, wealthy adults (sugar daddies/mommas) and attractive young women and men (sugar babies).” (Source: Newsweek, September 9, 2014)
“Sugar” has been slang for “money” since at least the mid-nineteenth century; “sugar daddy” (an older man who lavishes gifts on a young woman) was originally American slang from the 1920s. “Sugar dating” is much more recent: the earliest reference I found was in a 2011 interview on SheKnows.com with Brandon Wade, the founder and CEO of Seeking Arrangement (a business founded in 2006 for the purpose of creating “mutually beneficial arrangements,” according to Wade).
The July 2014 arrest of Alix Tichelman, 26, in the death of a married 51-year-old Google executive, Forrest Timothy Hayes, whom she met through Seeking Arrangement, brought new attention to the site and others like it. Early reports used the term “sugar daddy website,” but in recent months the term has been streamlined to “sugar dating,” possibly influenced by other “___ dating” compounds such as speed dating, online dating, and blind dating.
Inevitably, discussions about sugar dating invoke the question of its legal status. “Is sugar dating just a genteel form of prostitution, the latest incarnation of an age-old pay-to-play tradition?” asked Lauren Smiley, author of “I’m Rich, You’re Hot: The Cool Mathematics of Sugar Dating,” in the November 2014 San Francisco magazine. “Or is it a form of erotic efficiency, a cut-to-the-chase innovation in a supercharged culture with no time for the dance of courtship?” The Seeking Arrangement website has an explainer page, “Four Differences Between Sugar and Prostitution.” Seeking Arrangement’s PR manager, Angela Jacob Bermudo, told the New York Post in February 2014 that “[p]rostitution is black and white … On Seeking Arrangement, people are coming to find their ideal relationship.”
Not so fast, wrote law student Jacqueline Motyl in a 2012 Pennsylvania State University Law Review article, “Trading Sex for College Tuition: How Sugar Daddy “Dating” Sites May Be Sugar Coating Prostitution.” Motyl concludes that
current civil and criminal laws are insufficient to ensure that prostitution is not taking place within sugar arrangements and suggests
that law enforcement infiltrate sugar daddy dating sites to guard against online prostitution.