Sugar daddies and their babies aren’t only in the straight world. Jesse Jones spoke with two queer people who have given sugar dating a try.
Alexander, a student in north Queensland, might have the best part-time job ever: he goes on dates and watches movies with other guys for money.
He’s a sugar baby, one of a growing group of people who hook up with cashed-up sugar daddies for financial support.
“If I were in Brisbane or Sydney, I’d be doing very well for myself, but up here it’s a little bit trickier,” he admits.
“There’s not very much of a gay community up here.”
The 19-year-old started sugaring a year ago because he needed the money and wanted to meet other queer guys.
“I’m going to be at university for another couple of years, and I’m not expecting my parents to pay for everything that I need,” he says.
“This way I get to meet people, and some of them are really seedy and disgusting, but you actually meet some really nice people.”
Alexander began sugaring before his gender transition. He notes that most sugar babies are women, and things can be a bit more complicated for a trans guy chatting with a prospective date.
“I always have to explain everything and make sure [being trans] is okay,” he says.
“They often understand that I’m a trans guy but not what that really means. They automatically assume you’ve had all of your ‘work’ done.
“There’s an element of education. I’ve become very good at playing teacher.”
Alexander, who describes himself as “pretty picky”, initially meets sugar daddies for a lunch or coffee date to get to know them before committing to anything more intimate.
Despite the stereotype of sugar dating, he doesn’t have any ongoing allowance arrangements, but usually sees guys for a couple of paid dates.
“Most people are looking for one-off dates or non-exclusive stuff, which is what I want,” he explains.
“It’s cash in hand, which is very handy for me as a student. Like, hey, here’s my textbook.
“Sometimes it means I can eat a bit better than college food.”
Busting another myth, Alexander says sugaring isn’t all about sex for him.
“It takes me a date or two to decide whether I’d want to get into bed with someone,” he says.
“There’s no such thing as a typical date. It can be dinner, or movies. I’ve even had TV show marathons before.
“Sometimes it can be pretty awesome.”
Jules Kim, CEO of national sex worker association Scarlet Alliance, says that while sugar dating might seem similar to escorting, those involved don’t always see it that way.
“Sugar babies often don’t identify as sex workers,” Kim explains.
Peer sex worker organisations such as Scarlet Alliance provide services such as peer education, outreach, and support on topics from safer sex to legal information for anyone working in the sector, including sugar babies.
“I think sex worker organisations services are relevant and welcoming to a diverse range of people irrespective of how they may identify their work,” Kim says.
Carly*, a bisexual Gold Coast sex worker, tried sugaring before deciding that being an escort was easier and paid better.
She made her start in the sex industry after a friend became an online dominatrix, opening her eyes to a whole new world of income.
“Who doesn’t want someone to help them financially?” she asks.
Carly has had plenty of female clients as an escort but, like Alexander, found only men volunteering to be sugar daddies.
She says most of the guys she met through sugaring wanted to pay for sex without thinking of themselves as sex worker clients. Some of them seemed to want a lower-cost alternative to hiring an escort.
“I realised most are just wanting cheap sex from people who aren’t aware of what they could get,” she says.
“Most said no to sex workers but offered money for sex. Extremely contradictory.”
Carly eventually found one regular sugar daddy who spoiled her with gifts, which she says is like “finding a unicorn” among the bunch. And it wasn’t just about sex for them either.
“My sugar daddy was all about dates,” she says.
“We went to dinner, and he loved to show me off.
“He always bought me an insane amount of clothes and shoes that I could pick my outfits from. It was not about sex, more about affection and being there with him.
“He lived to spoil me.”
After an accident that left Carly in hospital, her sugar daddy helped with bills and even bought her a laptop so she would have something for entertainment. They still keep in touch and talk like old friends.
However, Carly found that most guys on the sugar dating website she used were looking for someone who would accept very little compensation for sex or companionship.
“I’ve had people say that $50 for a full 12 hours is amazing and I should be lucky,” she says.
“It’s all mind games that they think you haven’t seen before.”
Carly says that sugaring is becoming very popular, but people underestimate how difficult it can be.
“It’s hard to find someone,” she says.
“And even harder to find someone that isn’t trying to rip you off.”
*Not her real name