The concept of being a sugar baby has always been shrouded in a warped mystery.
Meeting up with wealthy clients to provide stimulating conversation over a fancy dinner before being dropped off home with a wad of cash in hand? Sign me up.
Except it’s rarely just about keeping lonely men company and more often than not, young girls are falling into having sex with older men for money.
Jessica Hyer from Burnley turned to sugar daddy dating when she found herself in what she describes as ‘financial ruin’ while at university in Manchester. It was supposed to be a short-term fix for the now 24-year-old, but ended up having lasting damage.
Now, she’s setting up support for vulnerable young girls who find themselves in the world of sugar daddy dating, offering advice on how to get back into regular work.
Speaking candidly about her experiences, she told the Manchester Evening News:
The way sugar daddy dating has been glamorised is problematic.
There are vulnerable girls and there are underage girls who lie about their age on those websites.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some girls who love it and have successful relationships with men on there. All the power to those.
But the ones who need support, and have had awful experiences like myself, that’s what is important to me.
People shouldn’t think it’s all rosy and glamorous because it’s not.
Jess says sugar daddy websites are often set up to lure young students in, even offering free premium accounts to those who have a student email address.
‘They make you think that these men are mentors and, that they are going to help you with your career, men who don’t view you in a sexual way,’ she explained, ‘when really, sex is usually the end goal.’
At first, Jess was making up to £150 to meet the men, but as she became more reliant on the cash flow, she eventually agreed to have sex with them for larger sums.
My first proper, proper sugar daddy messaged saying ‘a dinner and a date and a night at mine for a grand.’
I’d never been on a date like that but I was desperate so I had to take the risk.
I got in his Lambo and he passed me a grand in cash, a wad of £20 notes with a ring around it. I’d never seen that amount of money before.
That was one of the few glamorous occasions of sugar daddy dating for me.
I was so scared I asked if I could get out the car and post the money through the door in case he killed me.
I felt I had so little choice at the time I just did it.
Jess admitted she often hid the harsh realities of sugar baby life from her friends and felt isolated as a result.
Some of my friends thought it was really fun and glamorous but that was only because I didn’t tell anyone what it was really like, most women don’t.
Most of us wouldn’t admit what it’s really like unless it’s to another sugar baby.
I sugarcoated it at the time because I didn’t want anyone to know what I was really doing.
I did feel a lot of shame because of the way men and women view sex work. But you can’t deny that it’s happening and it’s not going to stop.
The longer Jess continued to work as a sugar baby, the more risks she would take, and it started to have a detrimental effect on her mental health.
Once you get into it you get used to the money and it’s hard to get out. You start lowering your standards and you start taking risks because you need the money.
And when you get the money you spend because you think ‘this is an easy life’.
I was making up to £600 a date sometimes, but not all the time. It was enough to support myself but also my problems.
My mental health severely deteriorated around this time and it was heavily influenced by what I was doing.
I felt so isolated and there was no support for people like me at the time. There’s nothing for the girls to chat on the site I used.
I’d reported a number of users to the site and never got a response. None of it is taken seriously.
I’m not saying that all the men on there are not nice.
But in my experience the vast majority of men don’t treat you like you’re human.
A sugar daddy once said to me, ‘I usually go for girls who are less pretty like you because they are less confident’.
To them you’re an investment and a sexual investment.
Thankfully, Jess managed to make her way out of sugar daddy dating and is now undergoing therapy to recover from the traumatic experiences she went through.
She hopes to support young girls going through similar experiences with a sugar baby support group.
I managed to get out of sugar daddy dating and I want to be part of that process for other people.
I want people to know that I’m not judging those with a positive experience.
I personally had a terrible experience and at the time I felt there wasn’t any support available to me.
I want to provide that support for men and women without judgment.
Jess has been incredibly brave in speaking out about her experiences – let’s hope others will now be able to benefit from her support.
Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.