The popularity of the sugar baby/sugar daddy relationship in the media is a bit of a recession phenomenon. It’s a grey-area of sex work lite that women with no experience in the sex industry can dip their toes into before they realize that if something sounds too good to be true, it is. The odds of finding an asexual millionaire benefactor are not good, but that won’t stop those with student loans or retail addictions from signing up on sites like Seeking Arrangement, Sugar Daddy For Me, Whats Your Price, and the like. MTV’s True Life follows twenty-one year-olds GG and Olivia, and twenty-two year-old Steve on their quests for financial dependence. Despite silly narration like, “They’re willing to ignore their hearts for the Benjamins,” I thought this was an accurate portrayal of what happens when young laypeople make an attempt at dancing the tango of conflicting interests.
What viewers learn is something that those of us who have stomached these kinds of dinners already know. You’re signing up for an uncomfortable barrage of hyperbolic compliments from men who have been out of the dating game for decades. It’s unclear whether you’re supposed to say “thank you” one more time, return the compliment with a compliment, or if you’re allowed to keep eating your free meal. You’re going to hear double-entendres and innuendos so vile that you wish they would go over your head. These guys become so obsessed and nervous over steering an ambiguous arrangement towards sex that they will interject unnecessary ickiness into every lull.
For example, when the waitress brings the food, GG makes polite small talk by saying, “That looks good.” Jumping the shark of acceptable second date conversation, Sugar Creep responds, “Most meats are really good pink in the middle.” Before she can even bring up the weather, he starts making loud kissing noises at her, like a leather blazer-wearing, luxury car-driving Hannibal Lector. Olivia’s guy seems lower on the creep scale. He chivalrously opens a Costco bottled water for her while telling her about their dinner reservation. When she says, “I want to shower and get pretty…” of course he can’t help but hope aloud, “Are you asking me to take a shower with you?” It’s really all these guys can do to stop themselves from constantly yelling “That’s what she said!”
I don’t want to even talk about Steve, because he is a huge sugar baby fail. He has nothing to offer, not even bothering to maintain a decent appearance. He is has a bad haircut, is doughy, disheveled, and perpetually greasy. If that sounds harsh, it’s what he gets for feeling entitled to money because he thinks that every unmarried woman over the age of thirty must be desperate. He makes awkward, aggressive passes at sexy cougar-types who would be doing him a favor by going on a date where he picks up the tab.
GG is hands-down my favorite. (Maybe it doesn’t hurt that I used to work with a beautiful divaesque Asian Gigi who even had Gucci rain boots.) She is the smartest of the three and possesses the critical thinking and experience to stay in control of the negotiating. She openly admits that these relationships have a limited shelf life if the guy doesn’t receive the sex she is unwilling to give. She is clearly seasoned at getting the most she can before these guys inevitably get frustrated and cut her off (“I do want to see how far I can string him without doing anything physical with him”). The montage of her posing with a series of past sugar daddies, all blurred out faces on older bodies, is hilarious. It’s too bad that a cost/benefit analysis of Sugar Hannibal leaves her with no choice but to stand him up and find a straight job. You can really sense her burnout from navigating all the bullshit that surrounds being a full-time sugar baby (who doesn’t want to have sex) and upholding the cost of living to which she has become accustomed.
Olivia is just a mess. I can’t tell whether she fucks her guy or not; it’s unclear. There is also all this business with her mildly verbally abusive ex-boyfriend who doesn’t approve of her sugaring but also wants to live in a free apartment with her. She’s really too immature and simple to be in control of a sugar baby relationship, methinks. My favorite part of her story is when her SD surprises her with a hideous crystal angel pin as he bids her goodbye at the John Wayne airport, “This is a little angel that will keep you safe.” It’s true; you can’t have a mini-documentary about sugar daddies without including gifts of awful jewelry that are only good for eBay or regifting to someone you don’t like.
So yeah, sit back and enjoy the world of “two way street” talk, Johns who don’t consider themselves Johns and their dangling carrots (get it?!), shopping sprees, multi-course meals, empty promises, mid-life crises, and shattered hopes. For more on this topic, please see Sugarbabies Unite! (Sort of.) and Sugarbabe: Kat Commiserates With a Friend.