These days it seems countless young financially stricken women are flocking to online dating sites to bag a rich old man. In the US alone, so-called “sugar daddy” sites account for 10 percent of the entire US$700-million online dating industry a year.
The “sugar daddy” trend is reported to have started in 2006 when, Brandon Lee, a successful entrepreneur founded SeekingArrangement. His service has been featured in the New York Times and on Dr. Phil. The intro on the website reads: “The elite sugar daddy dating site for those seeking mutually beneficial relationships.” The site doesn’t look too shabby at all and gives the impression that you may find a well-mannered gentleman who will sweep you off your feet and into a limousine. It further describes the perfect “sugar baby” as a girl who is “attractive, intelligent, ambitious and goal oriented. Sugar Babies are students, actresses, models or girls & guys next door. You know you deserve to date someone who will pamper you, empower you, and help you mentally, emotionally and financially.”
Lee says that the dating service has experienced a surprising increase in the number of college students signing up, “When I started the site roughly one in four of what I call my “sugar babies” were at college; now, that figure is closer to four out of 10. University fees have got more expensive, and loans are harder to come by so, for many young women, getting a sugar daddy becomes an increasingly attractive option.”
Since the success of Lee’s website there have been plenty of copycats trying to cash in on the potentially lucrative industry. Google “sugar daddy sites” and hundreds of options come up on your screen – most of them using taglines like “date a millionaire” or “find true love.” Whether finding true love on these sites is really possible is questionable, but Lee says it does happen. “We have had plenty of clients who have entered long-term relationships with people they met on the site, it can work.”
On the other hand, another type of dating site growing in popularity puts older women in charge. The so-called “cougar” generally refers to a “woman 40 years of age or older who exclusively pursues very young men.” A lot of the cougar sites come across as less classy than sugar daddy sites like SeekingArrangement. A UK based site called TOYBOY.com comes across as a bit more on par with Brandon Lee’s operation. Being featured on and recommended by BBC Radio, the Daily Mail and The Sun might give browsers a better incentive to sign up. A few young males or “hopefuls” have their pictures featured on the main page along with 40-something old women smiling innocently.
Recent statistics in a report “The U.S. Dating Services Market” show that the US matchmaking market is currently worth about $2.1 Billion, with online dating representing 53% of that total. In contrast to sugar daddy sites where members are generally very young, popular dating sites like Match.com have reported that only 8% of their subscribers are under the age of 30.
The internet has radically changed the way we date, and who we date. Most of us would probably never know what it feels like to go out with a cougar or a sugar daddy, because in most minds it might seem wrong and a bit too extreme.
If sugar daddies or cougar’s aren’t your thing there are plenty popular sites popping up all over the web that do cater for the less extreme. Eight million people have signed up to the free dating site OkCupid that caters to a younger, carefree and tech-savvy demographic. PlentyofFish also attracts many young career-driven adults, mostly in search of dating and not so much potential marriage material. Assisted Serendipity is an interesting site if you’d like to combine social media with online dating. It uses Foursquare check-in data in order to let you know if there are any males or females in your area with similar interests and Clique is a site that conveniently lets people meet by linking their profiles via Facebook.
Author | Talita Calitz
Talita studied Journalism and Visual Communication at the University of Pretoria. Travelled a bit, worked here and there and now resides in Cape Town where she’s the Communications Manager for BOS Brands (BOS Ice Tea). More