A new documentary called Sugar Sisters: Confessions of a Sugar Baby takes a first-person dive into the world of sugar dating, where young women spend time with wealthy, older men in exchange for cash and gifts.
Its creator, Hannah Donegan, spoke with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning about what sugar daddies are looking for and how her partner felt about the whole thing.
Questions and answers have been condensed.
Matt Galloway: Why did you want to do this?
Hannah Donegan: I first wanted to do it when I was in first year university and I signed up on one of the sugar dating websites, but I chickened out before I went on my first date. Ever since then, I have a lot of people in my social network and friends who have sugar daddies, and they're pretty successful at it. I felt like this was my last chance in my life to get a sugar daddy, and I decided to make a film about it. When I told my sisters, they moved back to Toronto because they insisted on being involved and finding sugar daddies also.
MG: What is the attraction of sugar dating?
HD: The attraction and the allure is kind of like cashing in on the patriarchy. The idea that you'll be yourself, you'll sit there and you'll be a woman and get paid for that, putting in all the regular emotional labour that comes from going on a first date. That someone would give you rent money or a monthly allowance, or the most common is tuition payments. It kind of feels like attempting to level the playing field.
MG: Who are these sugar daddies?
HD: They are a lot of different people, mostly wealthy, mostly men. There are some sugar mamas out there, but I didn't find many. They have a range of jobs, and a lot of them that I met were divorced, looking for an entrée into the dating world or a second wind at dating.
MG: What are they looking for?
HD: Many are looking to have that girlfriend experience. It varies from man to man. A lot of the men aren't looking for anything sexual, a lot of men looking for something where it eventually becomes a sexual relationship. In my experience, a lot of them are also just looking to talk and use you as a kind of therapist.
MG: I think a lot of people would assume there is a fine line between sugar dating and sex work.
HD: There is a fine line, and I think it exists in a grey zone. There's a spectrum of sex work and sugar dating is on that spectrum. With traditional sex work, you pay for an hour of someone's time and there's terms that are agreed upon. With sugar dating, it's uncharted territory. People would try to push your boundaries, take advantage and get more than agreed upon. To treat it as a job is pretty exhausting because you end up managing the situation 24 hours a day.
MG: You have a partner. What does she think of this?
HD: She was very supportive of the whole process. She definitely thought that I was not getting my money's worth and that people were taking more of time than she thought they deserved. There was some discomfort but we navigated every situation together.
MG: Why did you want to turn this into a film?
HD: I know a lot of people who do this. I think people are really uncomfortable talking about it, about sex, sex work and about transactions in relationships. To me, that's one of the more interesting parts. It's very polarizing and people are very opinionated on the subject. A lot of that comes from the fact that people don't have an outlet to talk about it. To make a film about this was a huge part of how I was navigating these relationships.
You can watch the full Sugar Sisters: Confessions of a Sugar Baby documentary here.