The Risky Business of Sugar Dating Websites
Posted by Alex Page on September 12, 2017
I was fairly new to the sex industry when I started at the Bunny Ranch in 2010. I had worked as a webcam model for about a year before working up the nerve to email Madam Suzette, the legal brothel’s general manager, and do my first tour as a licensed sex worker. Webcam model being a clever euphemism for “girl who will get naked and do what you ask of her” on the internet. That’s the thing about euphemisms; they’re used to soften a term that would generally be considered embarrassing or harsh. There are a lot of euphemisms for prostitutes: call girl, courtesan, working girl, escort, etc. Even though it may be a controversial position to take, I’d add another term to that list: sugar baby.
I spent over four years at the Bunny Ranch before I decided to sign up on a popular sugar dating website. Although I loved working at the ranch, I found it increasingly difficult to explain the long periods of time that I was spending away from my home in the Midwest. The idea of maintaining a good income locally while continuing to work in an ostensibly legal manner appealed to me. My work as a legal prostitute caused me to approach the sugar baby game with a skeptical but open mind. I’m a girl who likes her research so I read a lot of the rhetoric arguing that being a sugar baby isn’t the same as prostitution. Every single argument made me a little angry as they all revolved around total misconceptions of sex workers; i.e. we’re uneducated, have no goals or other options, and the one that bothered me the most: that, unlike sugar babies, we don’t have real affection for our clients. I have a number of long-term clients that I care very much for.
All of that aside, I was willing to see for myself if being a sugar baby felt any different. The reality was simply that it didn’t. Another supposed distinction that I had read was that sugar relationships aren’t transactional, but from the very start that wasn’t my experience. Each conversation with prospective sugar daddies took the same predictable course. After taking a little time to get to know each other the talk would always lead to a negotiation of what my “allowance” would be and how much time my suitor would get in return. Every single man I spoke with made sure to inquire if sex was part of the equation. If that’s not transactional then I literally don’t know the meaning of that word.
While my experience in both worlds left me feeling like there was little distinction between the two, there is one fundamental area where they differ, and that is safety. The single most dangerous propaganda that sugar sites use to convince women that this isn’t prostitution is telling them that sugar daddies understand that sex isn’t a guarantee. I learned the hard way that this isn’t so. The man I eventually met with lived in a small town about thirty minutes away from me. After a few phone calls I decided that I would drive out and meet him for dinner. It was an odd experience. I love to laugh, and he was pretty humorless. His secretary was with him, and he explained this by stating that she would be who I would contact if I ever needed a dress for an event or reservations for travel. Halfway through dinner his pastor joined us, and I sat there uncomfortably while they discussed a charity run they were organizing. I left the dinner thinking he seemed like an eccentric but decent guy who I wasn’t sure I’d want to enter into a long-term arrangement with. I did agree to meet him once more the following week.
When it came time for our second date I tried to call and cancel because my car was in the shop. Against my better judgement, I agreed to let him pick me up with the caveat that I would not be staying with him. When he picked me up he handed me a reloadable AmEx card and said he’d put half of the weekly amount I expected onto it. I told him that it wasn’t necessary as we were still getting to know each other. He insisted and said to keep it just for having dinner with him. He ended up taking me to the same restaurant, and afterwards he said he wanted to stop by his house to check on his dogs. It made me nervous, but when he asked if I wanted to come in and see them I said that I did. I guess I let my guard down when I was greeted by two little teacup yorkies. After I sat on his couch and started playing with them, he came and sat next to me. I didn’t think anything of it until he started rubbing my shoulders.
I tensed up and told him that I should be getting home. When he didn’t stop I moved to get up, and that’s when he grabbed me roughly by the hair and pulled me towards him. I yelled for him to stop. He reminded me of the AmEx card and told me he was going to get what he paid for. In the end, he did. After he dragged me to his bedroom, he took what he wanted, and when it was all over he went to sleep. I spent the rest of the night on his couch cursing myself for being so stupid. In the end, I knew what happened wasn’t my fault, but it’s also fair to say that I had made some crucial mistakes. After an excruciating ride home with him the following morning, I immediately deleted my profile on the website, and blocked his number. The AmEx card didn’t make me feel any better about what had happened, but I did feel even worse when I found out that the balance on it was zero.
People who know me and what I went through were concerned when I decided to come back to the Bunny Ranch. They wondered how I could return to this line of work after what I had gone through. For me, the answer is simple. I love men, and I love sex. I’ve always been passionate about and enjoyed the services I provide, and one awful encounter hasn’t changed that. In fact, it’s only made me a stronger advocate for practicing sex work in a safe and legal environment. And that goes both ways. For every horror story of women seeking sugar, there are just as many for the men providing the sweets. If a sugar daddy is married, he has no way of knowing if he’s embarking on an arrangement that will lead him to bringing a sexually transmitted disease home to his wife. Speaking of wives, I had a conversation with a potential sugar daddy who was wary of meeting because his previous baby contacted his spouse when he ended her allowance. The worst story of all made national news when a Google executive was murdered by a sugar baby he met on a sugar dating website.
In telling my story, it’s not my intention to put down or to terrify the numerous women who, like me, gravitated to sugar dating in an attempt to make better lives for themselves. I know that there are many women who have had positive experiences as independent escorts, call girls, or as sugar babies — and that there are a lot of online resources to help connect potential clients and illegal prostitutes, like sugar dating websites. But, as I mentioned earlier, the bottom line is that “sugar dating” is a euphemism for “prostitution,” and prostitution is an unregulated and illegal industry throughout most of the United States. Unlike in a licensed Nevada brothel, there is no legislation ensuring for the safety and health of the young women and men who connect via sugar dating websites. I learned the hard way that no one had my back as a sugar baby, and that I was totally alone and vulnerable with out any industry standards or practices to support me.
It’s unfortunate that Nevada is currently the only State where sex workers can practice their profession in a safe, discreet, healthy, and regulated environment. If a Bunny Ranch was located just outside my Midwest home, I would have avoided one of the biggest mistakes of my life.