Sugar babies, sugar daddies, sugar all around — but it might not be as sweet as you’d hope.

Western University is ranked fifth in new Canadian student signups in a report published by SeekingArrangement, a website which connects sugar daddies (primarily rich older men) and sugar babies (attractive younger people). A total of 373 Western students signed up with their university-provided email addresses, and likely more registered anonymously. In the Gazette’s feature, Sugar coated, we talked to a few of the website’s sugar babies.

SeekingArrangement, and websites like it, operate in a sort of morally ambiguous area. Of course, if two consenting adults want to pursue a relationship, sexual, financial or otherwise, that's their prerogative. One striking thing about the sources we spoke to for the feature was how in control they were, how matter-of-fact, methodical and confident; they knew exactly what they were doing, the potential risks they took and the benefits they accrued. One source compared it to a “business contract,” payment for services rendered which generally consisted of just providing company.

On the other hand — and this is where our editorial board got unusually contentious — a few ethical problems present themselves. For example, there’s the question of financial dependency. Two sources agree that some sugar daddies can be controlling, going so far as to disallow their sugar babies from having a job so that they can completely dominate their bank account.

One source mentions a friend’s rent is paid by her sugar daddy; it is a tenuous situation when one’s rent is dependent on the whims of a more powerful person, who also has your economic situation in the palm of their hand. Perhaps a situation that the users, as informed and thinking adults, got into — but how easy is it to get out?

As well, SeekingArrangement is actively targeting students — that is, the most financially unstable sector of young people, riddled with debt they’re desperate to pay off. You get a free premium membership with the site if you signup with a university email address. 

There are other concerning aspects to the site, such as the fact that 40 per cent of the sugar daddies are married. The “two consenting adults” argument wobbles precariously when there’s a third party — that is, the unknowing wife or husband — involved. It’s also unregulated, meaning safety is another concern; the site’s discretion is obviously key to its business model, but what if someone was taken advantage of or assaulted? If everyone is anonymous, what recourse would these cash-strapped sugar babies even have?

Students aren’t lost little sheep, though; we’re adults, and adults who are responsible enough to make these decisions. It is well beyond our scope to tell people how to live their lives if they aren’t harming anyone and they feel it’s best for them; however, it is within our scope to point out the potential dangers of a site like SeekingArrangement, and enable students to make informed decisions. Live your life, sugar babies, you do you — but stay safe, and make sure you can always back out.

Judgment shouldn’t be reserved for the users of the site, but the system that made a site like SeekingArrangement attractive in the first place. This is just another example of how financially unstable our generation is across the board. Who are we to judge — ultimately, aren’t all our paychecks reliant on the whims of rich old men?