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Orlando College students are hooking up with rich older men through sugar-daddy websites. Is it modern romance, or just an easy way to the sweet life?

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

No one in Serena’s personal life knows about her sugar baby account, and she said it is not hard to keep the secret.

“I don’t really have any extremely close college friends,” she says. “They’re more of the convenient friend type – we’ll hang out occasionally, but they don’t know every detail about me. My roommates will sometimes ask where I’m going or what I did, and I give a vague ‘went to a friend’s house’ or ‘out to dinner with a friend.’ We’re not that close, either.”

None of her sugar daddies know her full name, hometown or employer, nor do they have her real phone number or email address. Thanks to a Google search, she says, she recently discovered that her potential sugar daddy uses an alias with her, too. To stay safe, she gave her best friend just enough information about the man, just in case.

“I informed my best friend from high school of an older man in the picture and gave her his name and company in case anything should ever happen to me,” she says. “She asked how we met, and I made up a story of us meeting at the grocery store – she half-way bought it.”

Chris Donaghue, a West Hollywood, Calif.-based sex specialist, relationship expert and a graduate of the Florida Post Graduate Sex Therapy Training Institute in Palm Beach, says that kind of secrecy about a relationship is a red flag.

If people are OK with what they are doing, he says, they are going to be willing to share it. “The minute they hide it, they know it is problematic,” he says. “They already know it’s destructive because they’re already trying to defend it. They’re saying: ‘I know this doesn’t match my value system.’”

Donaghue says he supports all kinds of relationships, but he questions the motivation that sugar babies have for getting involved in the lifestyle – even young women who say they just do it for the fun of it. He points out that there are other ways to alleviate boredom or find fun.

“Why are you not taking a cooking class, or if you enjoy hiking, why are you not on a hiking website to meet other people with similar interests?” he wonders. “Why is it a website for sex and money? What is making these girls think that these guys are sophisticated? If he is so sophisticated, then why is he not going out and meeting girls?”

Schall and Nistico say they plan to continue their study of sugar relationships. They’re working on a documentary based on their research, and Nistico says the intention is to more accurately portray the sugar lifestyle for those who don’t understand it.

“I hope they [viewers] watch the documentary, and I hope that they are forced to reflect on their own role in society and their own relationships,” Nistico says, “because our culture breeds this relationship. Any un-comfort should be seen as a greater flaw within our culture.”

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