When sex is not part of the deal in sugar dating
By Betty Muindi
When Viola Achieng met her sugar daddy three years ago, she hadn’t planned on becoming a sugarbabe. On a whim during her third year university student, Viola accepted a friend’s invite to a night out. However, what began as a fun evening out, had an unexpected ending. Viola, 21, met a man almost twice her age. They spent most of the night together.
“Subsequently, we had dinner and drinks until a few minutes past midnight, then he drove me back to campus and when he dropped me off, he was like; ‘I had a great time. Does Sh15,000 sound good?’ I was baffled. He had not even touched me!” she quips.
She was taken aback. “I hadn’t looked at being a sugarbabe that way, I always thought that it was a give and take affair. My first impression was, ‘Wow, this is so easy’. And I got pretty obsessed,” she confesses.
Viola says the narrative that surrounds sugarbabes is fairly simple.
The general idea is that a young and attractive woman meets regularly with an older and wealthy man, and the young woman is then showered with gifts as a reward for spending time with the man. The gifts are expensive ones; first class flights, lavish beauty treatments, designer bags, luxury jewellery, or simply, some stacks of cash to be used, however, the sugarbabe sees fit.
Based on the shiny material benefits that have become integral to the sugababe myths, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are certain misconceptions about people who engage in the sugarbabe lifestyle. Many people are quick to make the assumption that, because there are gifts involved, being in a sugarbabe relationship is equivalent to sex work.
But for people like Viola, being a sugarbabe is just another way of dating with some practical applications.
Martha Kaveshe, 27, who has been in this arrangement for the last six years with several sugar daddies agrees, “Many people are quick to label the sugar lifestyle choice as prostitution, high-end or not, a call girl is not an interchangeable word for a sugar baby,” she retorts.
Sex is not a requirement
Martha describes a prostitute engagement as a one-time occurrence, and no possibility for a relationship. On the other hand sugarbabes and sugar daddies have ongoing relationships, not transactions. More often than not, a sugar relationship will resemble that of a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. There are real connections and real possibilities at romance, something that is not in the realm of possibility with an escort or a prostitute. “It is a lifestyle choice, not a profession. A sugarbabe is a woman who wants to date financially secure men who can provide her with the lifestyle she desires. She’s selective about who she dates while a prostitute isn’t picky about who she takes on as a client. And in sugar arrangements, sex is never a requirement, only an aspiration,” she explains.
She admits to only have slept with one sugar daddy because they had chemistry, but argues that the true role of a sugarbabe is not a temporary fix.
Speaking for their peers, Viola and Martha say women who enter into these relationships are generally beautiful, independent women who know what they want. These women are attracted to successful men not only for their wealth, but also for their intelligence, drive, mentorship and sophistication.
They say most of their sugar daddies travel a lot and want a travel companion. They describe the men as married or single and mostly always busy and so they don’t necessarily have the time to go about the traditional way of dating. With a sugarbabe, they get women who understand their lifestyle, want to experience the finer things in life, are usually younger, and sometimes, willing to travel with them so they feel less lonely.
She describes a typical date as involving dinner and drinks in a quiet high-end restaurant, “We chat and of course eat and drink and then we part ways. Other times it is just walks or a cruise around town as they meet their business partners,” Viola says.
Viola has had relationships that ended up lasting weeks, months up to five years. She has had six proper, long-term daddies.
In terms of pay, Viola and Martha admit to getting between Sh30,000 and Sh100,000, but they aspire to reach a monthly allowance of Sh200,000 to Sh250,000. “I get up to that amount sometimes, but it’s not always the case. It usually takes time and building a strong connection based on trust and respect for a sugar daddy to put down such an amount.
But proposing to the average sugar daddy a Sh20,000 allowance might not go down smoothly. Remember that most sugar daddies are well-versed businessmen knowing a thing or two about negotiation,” says Martha. She says it is better to play it safe and ask for an allowance that covers your expenses and allows you to put something on the side.
Gilbert Marango, a sociologist, says women who are in these kind of sugaring convince themselves and hide under the guise that it is all about pampering, mentoring, networking, but it is much more than that. “I think a lot of girls don’t realise the position that they’re placing themselves in, and the subjugation that they’re sort of willing to go through to have a man pay for their lifestyle,” he retorts.
Businessman, Gerald, 60 has been in this arrangement for 10 years. “I am married with children all above 25 years old. My wife moved to our rural home soon after taking early retirement six years ago. I live alone in our Nairobi home in Lavington and definitely very lonely,” he says.
Gerald says he got himself a sugarbabe partly because of loneliness and because his friends are also into sugar dating and it is working for them. “With a sugarbabe, I have everything I want in one package. She is intelligent, pampers me and accompanies me to professional events. That is what I pay for. Sex is not involved, as it is not part of the deal,” he says.
Philip Karani, a relationships coach dismisses the sugarbabe phenomenon saying it is just a cover up for college girls and women who are whoring themselves out to skeevy rich older men so they can mantain their lifestyle. “It is sickening to think that for these girls an education or a good life costs their bodies. These girls have to sell their integrity just to get something that should be a human right,” he points out, adding, “And these rich men prey on their vulnerability. It is win-win for these men.