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Updated September 10, Almost , Australians are involved in 'sugar relationships', in which men pay mostly young women large sums of money for companionship and intimacy. But are these arrangements part of the prostitution economy, as has been suggested, or as one 'sugar daddy' insists, an act of kindness just like volunteering at the soup kitchen? That relationship lasted two months after, he says. He has met all five of them, whom he has dated at different times in the last seven months, through Seeking Arrangement, a dating website that bills itself as a place for sugar daddies "successful men" to meet "sugar babies" "attractive people looking for the finer things in life".

Older, male, work clients introduced him to the website. Unlike a conventional dating website, Seeking Arrangement connects men and women who agree up front to pay younger, attractive men and women for companionship, or as the website puts it: "sugar babies are an expense that must be ed for".

Among the , Australian members of Seeking Arrangement, men make up about 90 per cent of the "successful" people paying for companionship, and women make up about 89 per cent of the sugar babies. The concept of a "sugar daddy" may be nothing new — some think the term might stem from the marriage between Adolph Spreckels, an American heir to a sugar fortune, with a woman 24 years his junior.

His wife called him "sugar daddy". What is new, however, is that these types of relationships, while once something widely made fun of, have gone mainstream and global. Once upon a time, men in relationships with sugar babies were a target for ridicule, as in the silent Laurel and Hardy film Sugar Daddies, in which an oil tycoon struggles to escape a woman he accidentally married while drunk.

He escapes by pretending to be his butler's wife. While the data on just how many men are engaged in these relationships is hard to pin down — other sugar daddy websites contacted by the ABC declined to provide data — testimonies from sugar daddies have been popping up with regularity over the last year in such publications as The Australian Women's Weekly, Harper's Bazaar and GQ. Seeking Arrangement has hundreds of thousands of sugar daddies ed up globally, with 57, in Australia alone.

And it's just one of many websites like it. So what does Dorian get out of such relationships, which he says he sought out for "companionship"? In his case, this has meant being able to ask and find a young woman to go shopping for, and model for him "a three-piece lingerie set" from a particular brand he likes.

That Seeking Arrangement has a member ratio in Australia of about two sugar babies for each sugar daddy has also meant that Dorian now has a new message in his inbox from a prospective sugar baby every day. There's a lot of cat and mouse involved, a lot of chasing, and I don't have to even go out of my way.

I check my notification and I find I've got messages from somebody everyday. This experience is typical of the sugar daddies that are ed up to the website, globally, says Seeking Arrangement spokesperson Brook Urick. A lot of sugar daddies, maybe they don't want to text every day, they don't want to talk about matrimony or having kids. A sugar baby is willing to lend an ear to them. Or, as Dr Meagan Tyler, a research fellow at RMIT University who specialises in gender inequality, puts it: "[The men] are paying [the women] to not be a full human being.

To not have any needs, to not have any desires of their own, to not have any push back against their power". It is a criticism that has been levelled at many sugar daddy websites — that they exploit vulnerable women. Seeking Arrangement, in particular, has targeted students — a demographic frequently beset by hefty fees and little time for well-paid employment — since , when it began offering them free membership. While the website had only 79, students ed up globally in , this year it has nearly two million.

Nearly half of the website's Australian members are female students — 82, of them. The University of Sydney topped the website's " fastest growing sugar baby schools " in Australia list, with 90 new members ing in the 12 months. The average age of a sugar baby on Seeking Arrangement is between 21 and And many of the latest first-person s from sugar babies have been from students, in such publications as Marie Claire and even Woroni , the student newspaper of Australian National University. Brook Urick says the websites' popularity stems partly from the fact that sugar daddy relationships are becoming "a little more accepted and prominent".

Indeed, Steven Soderbergh's new TV show, The Girlfriend Experience — in which the main character, a legal intern, works as an escort to pay her bills — debuted in April this year. And Tumblr is now stuffed to the gills with photographs of sugar babies showing off their deer dresses and fistfuls of cash. It makes you I don't want to say stuck-up, but it's a little pretentious". Dr Tyler has seen first-hand — from conversations with female RMIT students — just how this attitude comes about. The "normalization of pornography, even in intimate relationships" and the prevalence of sexting, she says, has led many young women to have a "fatalistic" approach to intimate relationships and to a "blurring of lines" between commercialised sex and consent.

They're [the women] saying: 'I recognise that that's not so great for me, I don't find it wonderful, empowering, then I might as well get paid for it'. It's a trend that has Dr Helen Pringle, a senior lecturer at the University of NSW who specialises in pornography and human rights, worried, noting that sex workers — and she believes "sugaring" is "straight-forward prostitution" — suffer "rates of post-traumatic stress syndrome [that are] higher than war veterans".

She adds that women in sex work "have a very high rate of patterns of child abuse" and that she would "hazard a guess" the same situation might be the case among sugar babies. It's a claim that is backed up by at least one first-person sugar baby . She says that while "most" sugar daddies are looking for "some romance", some sugar baby relationships are platonic: "Maybe like 10 to 20 per cent". They broke up when he moved away. Both relationships, she says, have enabled her to buy new clothes, take friends out for "spontaneous" dinners, and move out of a share house into her own apartment in Melbourne.

Well no, you don't know what happens behind closed doors. I have control in these arrangements, if I say 'no'. Are droves of young women — most sugar babies are in their 20s — now part of, as one American commentator recently labelled this lifestyle, a new " prostitution economy "? In comparison with the three million Americans who are ed up with Seeking Arrangement, the of Australian users at , seems tiny. According to Seeking Arrangement, about one in people in the United States are ed up with the website; in Australia, about one in Australia ranks fourth on the website's list of countries with the greatest of users, after Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

While many 'sugar' websites like Seeking Arrangement "ban" sex workers and escorts from ing, and forbid solicitation, it's clear that many men still equate sugar babies with sex work. That is not going to happen without condoms. Sophie says she has had a handful of such offers by men over the last 18 months, since she started working as a sugar baby. She has rejected all such explicit offers. Other Australian women have reported similarly disturbing offers, like being paid to live in a Playboy-style mansion.

Another was asked to pretend to be a man's daughter, and then "force" herself on him. How does Dorian view the sugar babies he dates, who have ranged in age from 21 to 28? While in "real life" he is hoping to get married and have children, he says he is not looking to the sugar baby community for potential candidates. You see the people, and you know that you're helping out someone, making someone really happy. You have the power to give something that they can't have themselves, but want it. Another bonus, Dorian says, is that break-ups with sugar babies — whether because a woman has found a boyfriend, they've drifted apart, or she found a sugar daddy she's more compatible with — are a lot more amicable than in traditional relationships.

The typical rules of dating don't apply. The possibility that some or all of these women want him just for the material goods that he can provide doesn't upset him, either. It's like, if that's what she wants from me, that's what she wants from me. You know what you're getting yourself into.

The only being played is yourself, if you're being fooled. I don't have tens of thousands of dollars, but I might just be covering something small, like if they might have had a doctor's appointment come up," she says. Topics: feminism , relationships , women , internet-culture , offbeat , australia. First posted September 10, If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content. Read about our editorial guiding principles and the standards ABC journalists and content makers follow.

Learn more. By Ahmed Yussuf. Her first fight was at age 13, facing an opponent over a decade her senior — an early indication that Caitlin Parker was to become no ordinary boxer. Now, she's a chance of making boxing history.

By Hayley Gleeson. As a cultural moment, it's undeniably huge, but the question now is: will political leaders take the rage and grief behind these marches seriously? By Penny Travers. Corry Collins didn't take up running until she was Now 84, she's setting world and national athletics records.

Corporate psychopaths cost the economy billions of dollars not only through fraud and other crimes but through the personal and organisational damage they leave behind as they climb the corporate ladder. Live blog Follow our live coverage for the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic. By Samantha Selinger-Morris. Infographic: The 'sugar' lifestyle has been described as the new 'prostitution economy'. Supplied: The Hunt. Sorry, this video has expired. Photo: The average age of a sugar baby on Seeking Arrangement is between 21 and

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