SEEKING SWEET ARRANGEMENT

University is fucking expensive. I’m not just talking about tuition fees: rent in Exeter is sky-rocketing as more and more fresh-faced students haplessly flock to sunny Devon in pursuit of an average nightlife and a degree which is getting more worthless by the second. The lack of dispensable income has seen a stark rise in the number of students signed up to SeekingArrangement.com, a site designed to connect young people with potential Sugar Daddies/Mommies. A recent poll places Exeter at number five in the Sugar Daddy rankings table.

The website has witnessed a 42% increase in the last year of impoverished scholars signing up, totalling an impressive 1.4 million profiles for money-starved British students.

Let’s be clear: a Sugar Daddy, according to the OED, is “a rich older man who lavishes gifts on a young woman in return for her company or sexual favours.” Simple enough. A Sugar Mommy is a slightly rarer individual and unfortunately my dictionary doesn’t include a definition, so whilst the Oxford University Press and society in general plays catch-up on the whole gender and relationships thing, we should assume it is essentially the same as a Sugar Daddy, but, y’know, a woman.

But what does this mean? Is University so expensive that students have little option but to raise funds through means that some may see as akin to prostitution? Or does this trend signify a progressive outlook on how we can use our young bodies to finance our way to eventual economic independence?

Clearly backing the latter, Brandon Wade, founder of SeekingArrangement.com stated in a recent Dazed and Confused article that his site ensures students “have a more solid financial situation upon graduation.” What?! You mean, hypothetically, I could leave university BETTER OFF, simply by signing up to your cool alternative dating site? Sweet!

But also included in the Dazed and Confused article was a female student who met her 40-year-old accountant Sugar Daddy through the site – she points out, however, that she does not sleep with him. Her Sugar Daddy apparently sticks to the definition and “lavishes her with gifts” – £500 bags, £650 laptop etc. – rather than actually providing any money towards her education. Suddenly, the whole “arrangement” seems a little less noble.

Glancing over SeekingArrangement.com, and momentarily contemplated signing up, it was strikingly obvious that the site is primary designed for young girls seeking large-walletted, older men and large-walletted, older men seeking young girls. The home page depicts a catalogue of glammed up girls alongside a catalogue of greying, tanned men, coupled with such pithy lines as “redefine the expectations of a perfect relationship” and “indulge in shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travels.” It sounds both progressive and painfully archaic.

When the media became as obsessed as a 14-year old boy with broadband last year over Belle Knox, the American student funding herself via pornography, it appeared to strike up a similarly ambivalent conversation. Knox represented the arguably conflicted identity of modern femininity,: she unabashedly embraces her sexuality and her body in ways hitherto deemed exploitative, even borderline illegal, in order to get a foothold on the social ladder. Yet, if Knox ditches pulling pints or flipping burgers in favour of more alternative means to acquire cash is there really a problem?

Similarly, should young female students reaping the benefits of a relationship sought out for their own betterment, regardless if it doesn’t abide by the “loving couple” paradigm, be chastised and their behaviour critiqued?

That said, part of me fears that we’ve entered into some neo-liberalist wet dream, in which education has become just another commodity like a Gucci Bag or the latest Apple Mac that can be traded in for the sexual satiation of some city-slick banker wanker named Kevin. Fuck you Kevin!

The Sugar Daddy Table:

1. University of Westminster – 180
2. University of Kent – 134
3. University of Cambridge – 127
4. University of Nottingham – 116
5. University of Exeter – 106
6. University of Leeds – 96
7. University of Manchester – 94
8. University of St Andrews – 88
9. London School of Economics – 85
10. Queens University of Belfast – 84