The Lived Experiences of College Sugar Babies: A Consensual Qualitative Research Study
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Sugar relationships (i.e., a sugar daddy/mama paired with a sugar baby) are a growing cultural phenomena gaining attention in the United States and becoming increasingly commonplace on college campuses. A sugar baby is defined as an individual who receives financial or material benefits in exchange for companionship and/or sex, often with an older partner, a sugar daddy. The researcher aimed to describe and understand the lived experiences of college sugar babies by employing Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) methodology. She interviewed ten former and current college sugar babies. The results included nine coded domains and succeeding categories and subcategories. The domains included (a) process and considerations of the lifestyle, (b) benefits of the lifestyle, (c) sugar daddy characteristics, (d) self-perception and identity, (e) motivation/influence to participate in the lifestyle, (f) miscellaneous code, (g) sex and intimacy involved in the lifestyle, (h) negative effects of the lifestyle, and (i) power dynamics involved in the lifestyle. Findings indicated that sugar baby motivation was largely financial but that other more intangible drivers also existed, such as adventure and educational attainment. Implications include that counselors and stakeholders explore and challenge common narratives within sex work discourse regarding disempowered women. Although sugar relationships may exist within larger, more inequitable societal constructs, the act of sugaring may be a means of usurping dominant power structures for some sugar babies. Other results situated sugaring among existing definitions of sex work and intimate labor. The author also put forth recommendations on bias exploration for counselors and caution around moralistic language that alienates sugar babies, which may devalue their mental health and wellness and cause them to abstain from help-seeking behaviors. Finally, the author calls for higher education institutions to become better allies to sugar babies by providing neutral information about the lifestyle and mental health support.