Public health senior Alexis watched a 42 year old man leave her apartment after a date where he not only footed the bill, but he paid her, too.
Last year, UT ranked 11th in the nation among universities for students sign ups as “sugar babies” on Seeking Arrangements, a website where both male and female users are paid to spend time with older, wealthy clients.
“It’s just like using Tinder or Bumble. It’s the same thing except you’re going to get money,” Alexis said. “I feel like people make it more dramatic than it really is.”
“Sugar babies” are young students who receive financial rewards in return for providing varying levels of affection to a “sugar daddy” or “sugar momma.”
Alexis said she used Seeking Arrangements to pay for her lifestyle — luxury handbags, high end make-up and jewelry for her puppy.
“I can’t call my parents and ask them to give me $350,” Alexis said. “I can now just get the things that I want more readily.”
Violet, a radio-television-film sophomore and former user, said although the transactions are not required to be sexual, sometimes the clients pay too little if they aren’t.
“The (clients) that offer the most money are always going to be the ones that are sexual,” Violet said. “Most girls do it for quick cash to pay for things that they have to, or they do it for gifts.”
Violet said the service made her feel like she was selling her body.
“These guys are obviously paying for things that are not normal in real relationships,” Violet said. “You struggle with intimacy after.”
The website numbers reveal that one in 71 UT students are currently on Seeking Arrangements, meaning an average class of 100 students likely contains several users.
The site mainly markets to female college students burdened with debt as the website displays a ticking student debt clock on its sign up page.
Josette D’Espyne, Seeking Arrangements public relations coordinator, said in an email that the site’s users are looking for mutually beneficial relationships and there are tools available like background checks to make them safe.
“Unfortunately, when someone is off the site and in a relationship, we as a dating site have no ability to intervene in personal relationships,” D’Espyne said. “The site is simply a platform.”
Alexis said she was content with the service because she had been selective with her clients since sophomore year and never chose someone she did not feel attracted to.
“You have to be forward and strong with your dating game,” Alexis said. “Otherwise it’s really easy to get mistreated by someone who is older and has money.”
After depending on the service to pay the bills for a year and a half, Violet finally quit using the service. She said girls who depend on the service for a living suffer emotional costs and would require “a tough skin” to endure clients.
“You’re not yourself when you’re doing it,” Violet said. “You have to be somebody else. It emotionally screws you up.”
UT is second in the state for Seeking Arrangement sign-ups and behind Texas State University.