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

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

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.



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