'Sugar babies' online dating site attracting more needy Pa. college students
It may be the age of #MeToo, but a Las Vegas-based online dating site that purports to match needy college students with wealthy, older men and women claims it too is growing as students struggle to deal with college costs.
SeekingArrangement.com advertises that it "facilitates mutually beneficial relationships" and boasts a bevy of college coeds and young men among those seeking so-called arrangements. The site said Temple, Penn State and Pitt were among the 100 top schools for new student memberships. Temple, with 1,201 members, added 328 new students last year; Penn State, with 564 members, added 172; and Pitt, with 243 members, gained 82, according to SeekingAr rangement.
The company, founded in 2006, is among several online dating sites that offer such services.
Authorities in law enforcement say they scrutinize such sites to ensure they operate within the bounds of the law.
Although SeekingArrangement stresses that it is not an escort service and warns members not to discuss sex in their profiles or communications, it makes no bones about what members want. Photos of well-dressed couples in suggestive poses decorate the website.
So-called sugar daddies and sugar mommas are described as older, affluent people seeking the companionship of younger "sugar babies." Daddies and mommas say up-front just what they want in the way of companionship and how much they will offer in terms of gifts and "allowances." Babies likewise can name their price.
SeekingArrangement bills the experience as "Where Sugar Babies enjoy a life of luxury by being pampered with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances. In turn, Sugar Daddies or Mommas find beautiful members to accompany them at all times."
It may sound alluring, but Jessie Ramey, an associate professor of women's and gender studies and director of the Women's Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, worries that students who join such sites could be in danger.
"I think that one of the huge concerns is exploitation of students and concerns about are these relationships really exploitative? I would want to raise questions about how consensual these relationships might be. I have a lot of questions about the safety and security of students who are engaging in these types of transactions," Ramey said.
SeekingArrangement spokeswoman Brook Urick said the company takes a number of steps to ensure safety. Although member profiles, like other dating site profiles, are self-reported, Urick said SeekingArrangment manually checks all profiles before they go live online to ensure that they are real people and are not violating company standards. Acknowledging the potential for abuse, the site publishes a list of cautions for members.
"A lot of profiles get automatically deleted based on them being a risk. And then we have member reports of problems, and each one is handled manually by a human being," she said.
Members who choose to pay an additional $35 can have the company verify that in a criminal background report. But again, that is a matter of member preference.
Urick said the average sugar baby receives "an allowance" of $2,800 a month.
That apparently has been a draw for Pennsylvania students who saw post-graduate debt for state residents reach nearly $35,000 in 2017. For students at Pitt and Penn State, where tuition and fees alone topped $18,000 this year, it beats federal loans, which top out at $5,500 a year.
SeekingArrangement founder and CEO Brandon Wade said considerations like that are fueling the growth of his company.
"Students are tired of being told by the government that secondary education is important, and then being slapped with outrageous student loans and staggering interest rates," he said.
Several years ago, SeekingArrangement, one of several online sites that boast similar services, began offering free premium memberships to college students. Its only requirement: students must register with a school email address. The company uses those addresses to back its claims of growing membership at a number of Division I universities.
Membership grew from 10 million to 13 million last year, Urick said.
The lure for sugar daddies could be the ratio of young women to men.
The website boasts " more beautiful sugar babies per sugar daddy (4 females to each male!), and more diamond sugar daddies than any other online dating website out there. In fact, there are more Fortune 400 billionaires on SeekingArrangement.com than any online dating site."
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.