Sugar dating, also referred to as sugaring, is the process of dating someone for money and gifts whom you wouldn’t otherwise date. Whether or not sex is exchanged, companionship certainly is. If sex is on the table, sugar dating crosses the line into illegality. A lot of times, an “allowance” is agreed upon in advance—some form of flat-fee per week or month—and in return, a relationship is given. So, let’s go over some of the myths and facts about sugar dating.
Myth: Sugar Dating Is Meaningfully Different From Legal Sex Work
Sugar dating arrangements are, in my opinion, a form of sex work. This is a little bit controversial, but how sugar dating differs from sex work is limited in scope and a bit semantic. Cam girls, phone sex operators, porn stars, strippers, and legal full-service sex workers all peddle the opportunity for sex in different ways, but we are part of the same industry. Sugar dating is companionship-based sex work, but it is still sex work.
Calling it by any name other than sex work is equivalent to being complicit in the whore-archy. What’s the whore-archy, you ask? It’s the shame-fueled hierarchy of sex workers based on your specific title within the sex work industry, and it sucks. The division of labor within sex work allows different people with different skillsets to be successful—but it has also fractured us and allowed cultural stigma to pervade our business. We need to reject the premise that sex work is shameful and deserves stigma, not spread it to sex workers who serve a different function. Sex work should be brimming with open-mindedness and freedom from judgment; not internalizing the judgments from those who are ill-informed about what sex work is and the effect it has on our communities.
The sad fact is that we live in a society afraid of female pleasure, sexual expression, and empowerment. When those three things collide, as they often do in sex work, our culture reliably responds with stigma in order to allay their fears. The collapse of this stigma will start with both the legalization and decriminalization of the sex work industry.
Myth: Sugar Dating Arrangements Are Legal
If sugar dating is sex work, then it is not legal unless it adheres to the statutes and exists only in counties where it is legal. Which is to say, if it’s happening outside of a few specific counties in Nevada, it’s happening illegally. So, what does it mean when sex work occurs illegally?
Well, there are a few different outcomes. For example, sex can be implied rather than discussed explicitly. This makes obtaining consent tricky and can result in the sugar baby (the sex worker in this scenario) ending up in situations she would prefer not to be in. With legal sex work, you agree on a price and an activity before ever engaging in sex, and so, consent isn’t an issue as long as both parties stick to that agreement.
In the sugaring world, there’s almost a code language for the sex activities being discussed. And unspoken agreements, assumptions, and code language can harm both parties. Boundaries are easy to cross—difficult not to, in fact—when they’ve never been verbally discussed. When the sugar daddy (the person paying for sex, in this context) has ideas and goals in mind for the sex he’d like to have, it’s not a good idea to assume it will happen for whatever sum he’s paying. If it doesn’t, resentment can occur, which is toxic for any relationship.
Legal contracts, such as NDAs, are often associated with the world of sugar arrangements, but are hard to apply in reality. Since the service provided is not legal, it’s hard to have anything legally binding included in the package deal. At the legal brothels, we have processes and systems in place to ensure discretion, and you don’t have to rely on someone’s word or the current state of your relationship. Private entryways, discreet billing, and restrained behavior from experienced sex workers (should you ever meet in public) will put any concerns you have immediately at ease.
Fact: Sugar Dating Is a Bit Different Than Working at a Legal Brothel
At a legal brothel, you won’t typically find a sex worker willing to move in with you and role-play your long-term partner, or be committed to you in a mostly monogamous way. This situation is something that can occur with sugaring, as some of the sugar babies will only see one client at a time. While I’ve never personally been in a sugaring relationship—or any type of sex work outside a legal brothel in Nevada—I know that some of the stipulations around sugar relationships would be hard to practice at a brothel.
Many of the ladies who work at legal Nevada brothels were once sugar babies. And from their experiences I have formed my opinion of sugar dating and such arrangements, which is that it is sex work. As such, I support the industry, support the workers, and will advocate for removing its shame and reducing its illegality.