In the past year, a quarter of a million students in the UK are said to have signed up to become “sugar babies”, a marketing euphemism referring to those who are paid for their company by rich “sugar mummies and daddies”. According to the annual review of SeekingArrangement.com, which was founded in 2006 and is now the world’s largest sugar daddy dating site, more than 225,000 students registered on its site in the UK in 2015. This is up by 40% from the previous year. This figure goes up to two million at the world scale. This figure is confined to those who registered using university email address, thus the real number is doubtless even higher.
Through this website, the richer and older men and women (although they are usually men) can pick their favourite of the young, educated and beautiful “sugar babies” to accompany them in all sorts of activities. Sex is “sometimes involved”, but, according to SeekingArrangement, only on the basis of some sort of relationship. In return, the sugar babies are given money and gifts as well as fine dinners, exotic trips and etc.
The data from SeekingArrangement reveals that sugar babies are usually between 21 and 27 years old. 24 per cent are from low income backgrounds, while 56 per cent are from middle and upper-middle class families. On average, they make £2,000 a month. The statistics on their spending are very telling – far from living a luxurious life, the “sugar babies” seem to spend the money to cover their basic needs. Almost 90 per cent of expenditure is on necessities, including tuition (36%), rent (23%), books (20%) and transport (9%).
Ironically, the founder and CEO of SeekingArrangements, Brandon Wade, proudly boasts that the website “has helped facilitate hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of arrangements that have helped students graduate debt-free”, which is “more than anyone can say of Parliaments of university bodies”.
What hypocrisy! This businessman, who makes money out of the “young, educated and broke” girls and boys in a way not far from pimping, and who cares nothing about them, portrays himself as their biggest helper. Nonetheless, he correctly pointed out that it is the unaffordable tuition fees and living costs that are pushing more and more university students to choose to become “sugar babies”.
A study in 20141 shows that students graduate from university with an average debt of £44,000. Meanwhile, the number of students mainly relying on student loans continues to increase from 60% in 2013, 67% in 2014 to 74% in 2015, as another survey suggests2. And the number of university students working to help fund their studies has risen sharply from 59% in 2014 to 77% in 2015. On average, they earn £412 a month, but women (£334) earn 36% less than men (£522). Without doubt, many of them earn less than a living wage.
In such a context, it is not difficult to understand that “sugar babies” are an attractive job opportunity to some of them, particularly girls. £2,000 is more than 6 times as the average monthly income for university students, or equivalent to more than 242 (more than 8 hours per day) hours of work on living wage. One female interviewee3 said she used to work “four days a week” and go “to university for five days”, and had to “run from lectures straight to work”, which “was really hard” and “just too much”, thus she “needed something easier but with similar pay”.
The phenomenon of “sugar babies” is yet another small piece of proof that capitalism is completely unable to provide a future for the youth. University has become a luxury even for the middle classes. Many of the poor may not even have the opportunity to apply for universities. In order to receive university education, students have to bear a debt that many of us will never repay in our entire lives. All that most of us get in return – if we are lucky enough are just low paid and low skill jobs that come with zero-hour contracts, and more debt incurred trying to stay afloat. For many, the skills and the knowledge we learn in the university will never be used in their careers!
Free education, which was a small concession the working class won through the class struggle against the bourgeoisie, can no longer be sustained. We see the same thing in the case of the NHS. This is because the capitalists, faced with the deepest crisis in the history of their system, have to open up previously untouched sectors of the economy to continue to make profits. This is the case not only in the UK, but also in many other countries.
We are left with no choice but to fight alongside the workers. The class struggle is the only way to win a bright future for all! But such a bright future cannot be gained, let alone sustained, without expropriating the 62 billionaires who own half of the world and the richest one per cent who own more than the remaining ninety-nine combined. We must nationalise the banks and big businesses who sit idle on billions of pounds that they cannot profitably invest, and we must place them under the democratic control of the working class. We must replace this sick and bankrupted system with a new, socialist system that is not run for profit but for the benefit of all!
by Barbara O’Sullivan, Cambridge Marxist Society