The rise (and lies) of the salt daddy
The growing number of millennial women now ‘dating up’ with sugar daddies has led to a strange new creature emerging from the depths. He’s old, charming and wants to date you. Oh, and he’s… broke
this man has been lying to me about almost everything since we started chatting a few weeks ago. Especially about the size of his bank balance.
Steve and I have been asking each other how our days are going for what feels like a long time now, but tonight, we met IRL. When he originally suggested meeting up I was unsure. He’s nice. He never has me worrying that he won’t text back. He’s just a few years older than me. He’s funny, too. Perfect on computer screen, right? But that isn’t what made me cautious.
There is something unusual about how Steve and I met. We crossed profiles on SeekingArrangement, a site that launched 12 years ago and is famous for legitimising – and providing a platform for – sugar daddies (and the occasional mummy) to meet their sweettoothed cubs.
Kings and courtesans have been up to it since the court of Napoleon III, while in Japan, the art of ‘Enjokosai’ (roughly translated: ‘compensated dating,’ hmm... romantic) is wellpractised and basically amounts to older men giving young attractive women money or presents in exchange for their company, and what my gran would describe as ‘a special time in the boudoir.’
Since then, it’s steadily been on the increase, with more and more women in particular using it as a way to obtain all the perks our statusdriven society demands (the right bag, beauty hauls and those #lifegoals minibreaks) – without the chance of earning the corresponding pay cheque to afford it ourselves.
I understand that search for status all too well. Last year,
I had to transfer an entire month’s wages to my mum after I borrowed the money for an essential purchase – a Prada bag. To earn enough to buy designer duds and still afford small things like rent and food is a dirty fantasy of mine. But as much as I joke about wanting to marry up, the thought of actually relying on a guy for financial stability and ‘treats’ just feels too shallow.
A lot of my peers, however, disagree with me. According to SeekingArrangement, a quarter of a million female students** are now using sugar daddies to get themselves some extra life perks, while the app has seen a 40 per cent increase year on year*** in young women setting up profiles.
And now, for the purposes of this feature, I’m one of them. I create what I think is an awardwinning profile on SeekingArrangement – some lovely pictures of me having a good time on my recent holidays
and a bio about wanting to really get to know new people. I receive just one simple message... asking if I’m up for some ‘fun’. I thought I’d find grandpas in cravats and relaxed corduroy who’d be gasping for a date with a 24yearold who was once described by a man in a bar as ‘the second prettiest person in the room.’ Granted, there are a few of them, but a lot of the men are much younger – and more attractive – than I expected.
Which makes me question why men like that would need to pay girls to go out with them...
After weeks of no interest, I speak to selfconfessed sugar baby Ella,* 29, to get some tips on how to get noticed. ‘I rotate my pictures daily and write to men constantly. It’s not easy,’ she tells me.
After a quick look at Ella’s Instagram feed (all selfies placed at just the right angle to show off her cleavage), I change my lead image to one taken the day after I had lip fillers. Overnight, my inbox begins to fill up almost as rapidly as my lips did.
Quizzing Ella further, I ask her about the seemingly rich, young, attractive men that keep popping up as possible matches. ‘Don’t take everything you see at face value,’ she warns. ‘I met one guy and we went for dinner at a fivestar hotel,’ she tells me. ‘He said he was in the restaurant business and we had a nice dinner; he was open about wanting to see me twice a month in return for certain... perks. The next day I found a Facebook page about him. There were girls complaining. He’d told one he was a CEO of a startup and another he was a property developer. He wasn’t a millionaire at all.’ There’s a pause. ‘I’m so glad I only kissed him.’
Looking back, Ella thinks this man may not have been as wealthy as he led her to believe. She is one of dozens of women embroiled in a mutation of sugar dating that sees men posing as millionaires in order to schmooze matches that would, under normal circumstances, be ‘out of their league’. Its name? Salt dating.
How does it feel, I ask, to be reversecatfished in this way? Ella lets out a long sigh: ‘It really annoys me when they lie. It’s a complete waste of my time. I work and I have a little one. I’m holding up my end of the bargain.’
Next, I meet Stacey,* 24, a nurse who also found her palate teased by a masquerading ‘salt daddy’.
Omar caught her attention on Instagram when, after only a few messages, he offered $35,000 **** in exchange for dinner and drinks. He told her he was an oil millionaire, had an Instagram feed that supported his lavish claims, and sent her numerous receipts that supposedly demonstrated he had done
‘He offered $35,000 in exchange for dinner/drinks’
this before with other women. ‘We quickly moved our conversation to WhatsApp. I was confused as to why he was offering so much [money], and he said, “I’m bored, I’m rich and you’re hot. Want to go to LA with me?”’ She agreed to a date. ‘After a few months of talking, we met up at a local bar. He kept taking phone calls and telling me they were from his PA. He would say things like, “Can you move my meeting in Paris to next Tuesday?” I thought he was a little strange, that he was maybe trying too hard to prove his importance, but harmless. A week passed, with a lot of texts, but he didn’t transfer me the money he had promised.’ She stopped contacting Omar immediately. ‘I would never even consider doing anything like this again,’ she says of the experience. Stacey definitely thinks Omar was a salt daddy.
I already dislike Brock Robinson. He’s the writer of the blog The City Bachelor (where he shares dating anecdotes and saltdaddy tips). This guy has become so good at lying to girls about his bank balance that he’s planning to release an entire book on the very subject later this year, Salty – A Shocking Excursion Into The World Of Sugar Dating. His previous book was called Snapchat Seduction: How To Get Laid Using Snapchat, so I already have a pretty good idea of how ‘gentlemanly’ he is.
He tells women that his name is Donovan Chase and that he’s a socialmedia mogul worth $2.6 million. **** In reality, he earns $70,000, **** but lives vicariously through his millionare alterego.
‘I get to have a sex life that was previously only available to kings and rock stars,’ he says when I ask him why he does it. ‘I’ve been doing it for two years now. I’ve met around 100 girls and had sex with half of them.’
He tells me it’s easier than I think to get girls. ‘I’ll usually say, “I’m looking for someone to spoil. Do you know anyone?”
Then they will write something like,
“Haha, I think I know someone – me.”’
He’s an attractive twentysomething guy. So why doesn’t he just meet women in real life? ‘The girls are way more attractive, and when you meet them, you have their full attention. I don’t usually stand out, but on the sugardating apps every other girl tells me I’m the most handsome man on the site. They treat you like a celebrity.’ ‘But do you ever feel bad?’ I ask. ‘I don’t have a problem with lying to strangers and exaggerating my wealth. I usually tell them after I’ve slept with them as it doesn’t really come up on the date,’ he says.
I tell him about my story and ask for his advice on spotting a salt daddy, ones like Omar and, well, him.
‘Any goodlooking guy who’s under 40: if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.’
With Brock’s words still ringing in my ears, I think of Steve – my new match on SeekingArrangement. He’s
‘“I’m bored, rich and you’re hot. Let’s go to LA,” he said’
goodlooking and funny (at least in writing). He was pretty shady when I asked him how he earned his money – a doctor who somehow has a net worth of $1.8 million? No rich parents to speak of? No side hustle? I smell a rat. There’s certainly no sign of money on his profile – unlike a lot of other ones I’ve seen that are dripping with pictures of yachts. He is only 31 and his tastes don’t speak of fine wine and fast cars. In fact, he refused to meet me anywhere other than a café. The biggest clue of all is that he wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t keen to set up an arrangement straight away. He complained instantly about girls who’d asked for money too soon in what was clearly a bid to deter me from doing the same.
After an agonising wait, Steve clumsily gives me a hug. I note that he does, at least, look like his pictures, but he doesn’t look like his (alleged) bank balance – he’s wearing a Lacoste jumper with a crocodile logo that’s just a little too big, and scruffy trainers. He smells as if he’s bathed the croc in Lynx Africa, and when he smiles, his teeth leave a lot to be desired.
He takes the seat right next to me on the sofa, rather than the stool opposite, and invades any dreams I had of personal space.
Five minutes in, I realise I am officially the worst undercover journalist ever. I’d told Steve my name was May, however, I have a prominent ‘Josie’ necklace dangling from my neck.
‘Who’s Josie?’ he asks. ‘My sister,’ I reply as I swiftly tuck it under my jumper. After that, we chat easily about our favourite TV shows and our weeks ahead. He tells me, ‘It’s going to be a hard week because I haven’t got any curtains in my flat so I’m struggling to sleep.’ You’d assume someone with $1.8 million in the bank could afford a trip to Ikea.
My phone begins to flash. It’s my flatmate – doing our prearranged ‘get me out of here’ call.
I make my excuses and he is understanding. When he goes in for the kiss, I turn my cheek to his face as quickly as I can.
But later that night, I feel a stab of guilt. As I scroll through my latest addiction – an app called Perfect365 that allows me to brighten my eyes and make my teeth just that little bit whiter – I realise we all have our own way of manipulating the truth. Maybe, we all occasionally bend reality to get what we desire. For me, it’s likes on Instagram. For Steve, it’s a date. If women are actively seeking guys with deep pockets, then isn’t it common sense to expect that some men are going to try to play the game for their own ends?
During our conversation, Stacey talked about how her relationship with Omar quickly left a sour taste in her mouth. ‘I suddenly felt really weird for being angry at a guy for not paying me. It didn’t feel like what my life should be about.’
I couldn’t agree more. I vow then and there to work hard so I never have to rely financially on any man and feel as empty as I just did with Steve. I take out my phone one more time, but not to filter another selfie. Instead, one by one, I delete every app that requires me to fill out an ‘ideal earnings’ box.
I can’t stop the ‘Donovan Chases’ of this world – but I can make sure there’s one less ‘baby’ to bait.
JOSIE DID NOT FEEL LIKE CHICKEN TONIGHT
JOSIE WAS TRYING TO CUT DOWN HER SALT INTAKE