For some, the jury is out on whether being a sugarbaby counts as sex work, for others it’s pretty clear that it is. The ladies of Tits and Sass think it is, even if we don’t all have the same opinion on it. So, we decided to have a little Sugarbaby Roundtable on the topic. What could be better than the opportunity to share experiences, especially when the subject at hand is generally treated like a secret?
Charlotte: I think hunting for a sugardaddy is the worst task on the planet, as Holly Hill proves.
Fancypants: I think “hunting” is the wrong way to go about it.
Charlotte: Well, there are sites specially for that now…and once upon time, many, many Craigslist posts.
Bettie: Fuck Holly Hill. She only proves that if you have issues with men in general it’s a bad idea to try this out.
Charlotte: There are lots of people trying very hard to arrange it online or elsewhere. I wonder about their rates of success, because I’ve answered those sort of propositions in the past. And it’s the worst.
Bettie: I only used Craigslist. I don’t know if that’s weird or not.
Charlotte: Well, I think Holly was doomed to fail but I also think it’s a very tough row to hoe. But I used Craigslist too! CL high five.
Bettie: Haaay! But yeah, I got some really good guys there, some I keep in touch with to this day and I haven’t actively searched for a guy since 2008. My best guy came from CL.
Charlotte: I’m impressed. I had a terrible time negotiating it, but I only met a few.
Fancypants: The most successful arrangements I’ve seen, particularly when you’ve already been a sex worker, is when a client relationship morphs into a sugarbaby relationship. Because if you’ve already been a bona fide sex worker, you’re spoiled in terms of money and low-commitment. So it’s hard to find a man willing to provide the level of support you expect, but in a more casual context. On the other hand, if you’re an escort or stripper and found a customer whom you don’t totally hate and who is willing to take good care of you, I think that’s a more lucrative road to take. I’ve found that the guys who advertise that they want an “arrangement” really want an escort but they want to pay her less.
Bettie: TRUE! I am jealous of strippers because it seems like they have a client pool right there.
Charlotte: It’s a different story if you’re already a sex worker, I think. Because you definitely are spoiled and because you’re used to the terms of the exchange being clearly laid out.
Bettie: But, don’t you want that?
Charlotte: My experience was that 1) some men were all talk and no money and 2) men who did have money and who were generous were incredibly paranoid of being taken advantage of by someone craftier than them and in it for the money. Incredibly paranoid, in fact, of being with an escort.
Fancypants: But if you have a client already, it ends up being a better deal for him to be your sugar daddy and he’s already used to paying lots of money. Rather than some schmuck who thinks his thousand dollars a month should keep you happy because it might do it for a civilian girl who hasn’t worked before.
Charlotte: I don’t think I’d want an exclusive arrangement with one client. That would feel stifling to me. Not that I wouldn’t appreciate having one reliable and generous guy who I saw more than others. But to see no one else? I’d feel worried, I think. And bored.
Bettie: I am all for more than one guy at a time. Pause.
Charlotte: I think most guys who are looking to be sugar daddies but who don’t want to hire an escort love this idea of “helping you out” with your school or car payments, your monthly bills. Like you’d be broke without them, or at least car-less.
Bettie: The white knight thing is real out here. I had no problem with it in that context though.
Charlotte: They want to have sex with you, and for you to feel indebted to them and available, but they don’t want to be out of that much money.
Fancypants: But they don’t realize how much money you could really be making doing the same thing with, hopefully, less emotional bullshit.
Charlotte: Those guys seem very out of touch, and they make me uncomfortable.
Bettie: The guys who only want to see you once a month and pay like a grand or so were awesome in my opinion.
Charlotte: That does sound awesome!
Bettie: Act like you’re lonely for a couple of hours, make 2 months rent? I can’t hate it.
Fancypants: But how is that much different than a client? I mean, that sounds like straight up escorting to me.
Charlotte: I don’t have clients talk about helping me out.
Bettie: It is like escorting to me. I don’t really see a big difference between the two, to be honest. I think one seems far more intimate than escorting…but if you’re a GFE provider, there’s probably even less difference.
Charlotte: In my mind, sugarbabying is a sorrier version of escorting. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, just in that it seems more limited and limiting, to me. And less profitable. But I think it really suits some people.
Bettie: If you aren’t interested in full time sex work, be a sugarbaby. It’s the part time job version.
Fancypants: That makes sense.
Charlotte: I think women who had only ever tried the sugarbaby route might be alarmed by real escorting. I’m sure it’s a different set of skills, because there’s a different set of expectations to negotiate. They’re so similar but different in crucial ways.
Bettie: True. Like, advertising is different. You MUST know what you will and won’t do, how much you will charge, and not be willing to negotiate because it’s not really spelled out the way it is sometimes in an escorting ad.
Charlotte: See I think that would be tough, to get guys who *only* want to be sugardaddies to agree to a set amount. Or maybe not so hard to get them to name a number, but hard to figure out exactly how much of your time (and your “time”) they want in return. So Bettie if you don’t mind me asking, did you see these guys in your home? Did you use your home as an incall anyway? What boundaries did you have?
Bettie: Tee hee. Honey I was grifting then. I lived in hotels. So, I saw them in hotels, or in their homes. I use my space as an in-call now, but only because it’s hard to kill a girl when you’re hogtied.
Charlotte: Plus you know how to use a whip, I assume. Did you tell them your real name? Did they want/expect to know it?
Fancypants: I have a sugar daddy relationship now. He told me what he can afford per month, and I decide, without telling him, how much time that’s worth to me. I let him believe the arrangement is casual, but I keep close track of how much time we spend together.
Bettie: I did tell one guy my real name, and I’m glad I did because he ended up paying for a lot of plane tickets. I have always played with aliases, so using a fake name isn’t a big deal to me. I respond with the same zeal that most people only reserve for their real names.
Charlotte: I never told any sugardaddies my real name or anything real about me, but they did seem to expect that I deliver that.
Bettie: The guy who knew my name set up a direct deposit thing. He was also far older with a lot to lose if he got ridiculous.
Charlotte: I didn’t have a car, and they always wanted to buy me a car. They just had a certain idea in their head about the relationship would be conducted materially that I disagreed with. Like wanting to “pay” in shopping sprees or checks made out to my college.
Bettie: The rest paid in cash. No one wanted to buy me a car, but bikes, they did buy me bikes! I had, like, 7 awesome bikes at one point.
Charlotte: Ha! I’ve asked for a bike from clients before and never gotten it. I think they don’t find it sexy enough. Either that or I need some lessons from you about how to ask for wheels.
Fancypants: Yeah, they’re more into buying girly things than practical things.
Charlotte: I guess if these men feel like they’ve given you something that you’re using in your daily life, they’re even more a part of your life. That’s probably some of the mentality behind buying things rather than just giving cash. And of course not paying cash helps with the illusion that you’re not that interested in the money and sex with them is independently awesome or just being with them is it’s own reward. Then they’re gifting you out of kindness and not out of necessity.
Bettie: I sold myself as the cool girl they wanted to date in highschool but couldn’t get, so things like that were sexy….How you sell yourself determines everything. I have a guy in California who finds me the best vintage dresses, because I sell myself as a hippie kind of girl to him…because he’s a Deadhead. I like to be the fantasy dreamgirl for whoever the guy is at that point.
Charlotte: I love that. I just don’t have the energy to be anyone other than myself anymore, so I am not good sugarbaby material.
Bettie: That’s the real me. I don’t think I can be anyone else. I create names, but all the data is me. I’m a lot of things, I think most women are.
Charlotte: Oh I know, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise! But I couldn’t even market from different angles anymore, I’m so old and grumpy. One of my biggest problems in that world is that I just wanted cash and not stuff. I don’t trust most men’s taste. But it sounds like you and Fancy both had/have amazing set ups. Do your guys not try to violate boundaries at all? And I don’t mean physically necessary (although maybe that too, like expecting sex without a condom a la Holly Hill?)
Fancypants: Never ever.
Bettie: Them giving you money is always better. I actually like other people buying things though. Still, give me cash so I can handle my personal stuff, like paying my sisters tuition and shit. I have bills! Boundary pushing never happened until the fall of 2008, though.
Fancypants: I am keeping mine as it is for as long as I can—he doesn’t know my real name.
Bettie: All of a sudden everybody wanted to feel my pussy. I think it was the economy crashing. People wanted to get real natural.
Charlotte: I would think it would be inevitable. It’s often inevitable with regular clients in the world of escorting, so why would it be different here?
Bettie: Yup. I had to be like “I’m very fertile!” Nobody wants to have babies with the girl they pay. It was the easiest guy too…which made me sad. Gave me all the reason I needed to transition into domination though.
So, I have a question: What did you use your money for? I am always curious about this, because guys always ask before they give it to you. I had one guy basically interview me in Portland, which was awkward.
Fancypants: What did you say?
Bettie: He wanted to know if I was a real philosophy student
Fancypants: Were you?
Bettie: Yes! We had an hour long conversation on deontological ethics, which would have screwed me if I’d been lying. That’s why none of my stories are lies, at this point. They have no problem trying you to see if you’re lying.
Charlotte: Me too! Once I said I was from an obscure suburb of Philly and the guy knew it really well.
Bettie: I told a guy I was from Brownsville once and it turned out he was living there currently.
Charlotte: I think I probably said the money was going to grad school although I was already done at the time.
Bettie: Who lives in BROWNSVILLE!!??! Fancy, being done with something is different, because at least you could speak on the experience.
Charlotte: I am wondering if either of you ever had or would approach a regular client first about a sugardaddy relationship.
Bettie: No. Because with the clients I have now (guys coming to get dominated) there may be a risk of emotional attachment.
Fancypants: They have always brought it up to me first because they realize they can’t afford the amount of time they want to spend with me. So they offer the security of regular money in exchange for less of it.
Bettie: What, so they want to pay less for more time? Bollocks.
Fancypants: Well this is only the guys spending lots and lots. That’s the only way I would consider it.
Bettie: How is that secure?
Charlotte: I’m surprised they were honest with you about their financial limitations. I think most of the guys I see would not come out and say that money was an issue even if it was.
Bettie: I might be the only one who never trusted the guys to come back. I pretty much assumed they were all lying until they showed up again.
Fancypants: My sugar daddy was an escort client who wanted to travel with me for a week or so each month. He told me his financial limitation, but it was still more than enough for me to feel like it’s fair. And then it ends up feeling more relaxed and like less of a “service” when we are together. I call the shots, really. He prepays for things so I know he’s not flaking out or screwing me over.
Charlotte: Well, with good reason. I think it’s a very particular type of man who does want an extended, durable relationship with a woman who he’s giving money. Lots just want sex on demand and if they’re not horny or not horny in the right way, they’ll bail. (See: Holly Hill)
Fancypants: Seeing new people stresses me out, so I was thrilled to have security with one person who’s pretty generous—even if it’s still technically a “discount” for him.
Charlotte: Fancy, you have the best arrangement of all time! You are an inspiration.
Fancypants: Man, I am so grateful for what I have now and just trying to save my money because I know something this good can’t last forever.
Bettie: Fancy’s got the right idea.
Fancypants: I think it’s worth it. But I get very nervous advertising and meeting lots of new people.
Charlotte: I had something similar and the guy just disappeared. I’ve had that happen with friends, too—the man just stops all contact, even when it’s been going on for a while.
Bettie: Which is so absurd…disappear for what? Because they’re too chickenshit to call? I’m not your girlfriend!
Fancypants: A good thing to do is tell them that you were planning to quit soon, but they seem “really cool,” so you’d hate to lose your relationship with them.
Charlotte: I don’t know, I wonder. Did they lose a lot of money and feel to embarassed to admit it? Did their wife find out? Did they have some conversion and decide they want to focus on their family? Did they meet another girl? My hunch is that there’s some type of financial problem and they don’t want to have to say that.
Bettie: that’s what I always assume, money issues. Because money is so closely tied to worth for a lot of guys that they feel bad emotionally because they can’t pay you anymore.
Charlotte: Definitely. I would think there would be so much shame around that. Or it could be that they are getting too attached to the woman they’re seeing, so they try to cut things off cold turkey. Although I think men can admit that more easily.
Bettie: I wanted an answer to my damn question.
Charlotte: What we spent the money on?
Fancypants: What we tell them we spend the money on, or what we really spend it on?
Bettie: Hah, what you really spent it on.
Charlotte: I was a failed sugarbaby, I did not make much. But probably clothes and rent.
Fancypants: I say graduate school or that I’m *almost* about to buy a house, which is a total lie. Really, I save as much as possible, travel a fair amount, and spend some on school, but school’s not actually all that expensive for me. I mostly enjoy not having to work a real job and being able to work on art and not be stressed out about bills.
Bettie: hmmm, ok.
Fancypants: I think a lot of these men have so much money compared to me, so saying that I really need to buy a house soon, even though I’m 25 and live alone, actually sounds reasonable to them. Their standard of living is so much higher than mine, so what I might consider luxury things, they consider necessities.
Bettie: True. Like, I need to buy a $500 bike wasn’t a big deal, Because that’s less than their car payment.
Fancypants: And the more you can seem like you have middle class values, like buying homes and stuff, I think that appeals to people with money. It makes them feel like they’re good role models for you, the wayward hooker. Saying that you aspire to basically live the way they do might make them feel special.
Bettie: I never did that, if anything, my needs have gotten more eccentric. I like to think the guys who see me do so because I am nothing like them.
Fancypants: It depends on the guy. Other ones like the free spirited girl who’s totally different than them. I guess I’ve worked both angles.
Bettie: Yes, because I have seen men who got freaked out when I wanted to talk politics and it became clear that I am super liberal. Maybe they would have liked me being a republican…but I can’t do that onvincingly. Plus…black girl here!
Fancypants: Oh yeah. My guy is incredibly right-wing. But I just keep quiet about politics because I don’t want to get upset. I feel like it’s not worth my time to really engage with him in a meaningful way. I get paid the same either way, and it’s easier to smile and nod.
Bettie: Hah! I am trying it your way right now with the deadhead! I spent 5 months trying to get him to do things my way, and last week was like “fuck it, let’s do it your way” and he swears we have an emotional connection now.
Fancypants is a former escort and current sugar baby living in Chicago.
Charlotte blogs here