*Name has been changed for privacy. As told to Lucy Lau.

A few years ago, my roommate at the time told me about this website where sugar babies and sugar daddies can connect. I had recently gotten out of a relationship, and I was on Tinder and doing the whole dating thing. And I was like, “You know what? Why don’t I go out with guys and actually get paid for my time?” That, to me, seemed smarter than going out on regular dates—and I had nothing to lose. So I signed up on the website: I made a profile, put some pictures up and described myself and what kind of arrangement I was looking for.

The whole thing is basically like a dating app: when you first start receiving messages, you get the whole “Hey, what’s up?” and boring questions like that because some guys like to warm up before talking numbers. But then there are the ones who are like, “I’ll pay you this; I’ll pay you that.” I kind of didn’t like getting those messages right up front, because you could tell they were being insincere and copy-and-pasting that same thing to multiple people. It was nicer when you could tell they had read your profile and were trying to get to know you first. In those cases, the guy is typically more serious about the arrangement and is less likely to screw you over. You usually have to do a lot of filtering, too, because there’s so much salt out there. That’s what we call the cheap ones, or guys who aren’t actually sugar daddies: “salt” or “salt daddies.” There are a lot of guys out there who just wanna fuck you and then leave. 

At my first meeting with a potential sugar daddy, I didn’t know what to expect. But I tried to treat it like a business meeting and go into it with the same attitude I’d have with a dating app: it’s just like meeting a stranger from Tinder—except they’re much older and have a lot of money. For dates, we’d go to really nice establishments. Hotel bars are really popular, or a quiet, intimate restaurant—usually at a corner table because the sugar daddies like to be discreet. Sometimes it ends up being only a one-off thing—what we call “pay for play”—because maybe you don’t jibe or something. But what you ideally want is a long-term arrangement with a monthly allowance because you can both determine how often you want to see each other and what the pay rate will be. Some guys expect you to be available at all times; some only want to see you once a month. Your pay rate is something you list in your profile—it can range from “negotiable” to thousands of dollars a month. By the end of my run—as I became more confident and knew my worth—my pay rate was probably in the high range: $3,000 a month. You should always aim high. It’s kind of like negotiating your salary.

Overall, my experience was positive. Most of my sugar daddies were out-of-towners: American men in their late 40s or early 50s who would visit every few weeks or a few months out of the year. I remember one time, I was flown down to Connecticut. I was literally there for one night and I got paid $1,500, which is crazy. It was kind of stupid because I hardly knew the guy and it could have been a very dangerous situation, so I’d never advise anyone to do that. But it ended up being a good payout for me. I had a long-term sugar daddy in Vancouver for just over two years, which was great. We took trips all around the world: Cuba, Scottsdale, the French Riviera. We’re still friends, and we go out to dinner once a month. I ended up putting all my sugar money into my savings. There are also networking opportunities because most sugar daddies work in corporate: they’re lawyers, finance guys, entrepreneurs. It really depends on what you want to get out of it. I did have one bad experience where the guy was crazy—just loud, boisterous and completely disrespectful. I never saw him again after that one time.

I retired from the sugar world after four years. I was 27 and I was just like, “I don’t wanna do this anymore. I wanna find a long-term relationship, focus on my career and settle down.” But when I was sugar dating, I was very open with my family and friends about it because first, it’s just better that way, safety-wise, and second, that’s just who I am. Most people who know me were understanding, but there are always going to be people with preconceived notions about the whole thing, who slap a label on sugar babies like we’re all hoes. When, really, it’s not always just about sex. It’s always negotiable. Most of my relationships were actually platonic; if they got sexual, it was because I was attracted to them. Of course, there’s a bad side to sugar dating—guys can smell the desperation when your priorities are out of whack, and that’s when trouble comes in—but you just have to have a strong sense of self and be aware of the situations you’re putting yourself in. I’m a normal chick; I work in an office.

I did sugar dating because I was able to make more money that way. For me, it was about working smarter.

This story was originally published on October 16, 2019.