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Lifting the lid on 'sugar daddy' dating; What it's really like when you become a 'sugar baby' to pay your way through university.

Byline: CHARLOTTE DOBSON

JESSICA Hyer turned to sugar daddy dating after getting into debt while studying at university in Manchester. It was supposed to be a short-term fix - but it had damaging long-term consequences for the vulnerable student.

Becoming a 'sugar baby' on an established website was easy, but the 'pay per dates' arrangement soon became sex work for Jess.

She became reliant on the large amounts money she'd receive in exchange for dates and sex with older men, she said.

It was quick cash for the desperate 19-year-old, who had supported herself since leaving home aged 16. For her, the reality of sugar daddy dating was far from glamorous.

In fact, it was dangerous and isolating for Jess, who has been left traumatised by some of the encounters she had with so-called 'sugar daddies.'.

Jess, who lives in south Manchester, now wants to lift the lid on 'sugar daddy dating' in a bid make young women and men aware of what it entails, and some of the risks. The 24-year-old is also setting up a support network for so-called 'sugar babies', offering them safety advice, someone to talk to and advice on how to get back into regular work.

"The way sugar daddy dating has been glamorised is problematic," says Jess. "There are vulnerable girls and there are under-age girls who lie about their age on those websites.

"Don't get me wrong, there are some girls who love it and have successful relationships with men on there. All the power to those.

"But the ones who need support, and have had awful experiences like myself, that's what is important to me. People shouldn't think it's all rosy and glamorous because it's not."

Jess grew up on Stoops Estate in Burnley, one of the most impoverished postcodes in the UK, and left home when she was 16.

She went to college before gaining a place at the University of Manchester to study English and Drama. A year into her studies, Jess was in what she describes as 'financial ruin'. She was PS1,500 overdrawn and owed her friend PS200.

The earnings from her part-time job as a waitress weren't going to pay the debts she owed. Then, an advert popped up on her Facebook feed featuring a 'sugar daddy dating' website. "They target students and you actually get a free premium account if you have a student email," says Jess. "When you look at the page there's an image of a young attractive man.

"They make you think that these men are mentors and, that they are going to help you with your career, men who don't view you in a sexual way. When really, sex is usually the end goal."

Jess said it soon became apparent that 'sugar daddy dating' wasn't a scenario where an older, wealthy man lavishes a younger girl with gifts or long-term financial support. Instead, men were using it as a way to pay students for sex.

At first she would meet men for dates only, making between PS70 to PS150 per meet. But as her financial circumstances became more desperate, she agreed to have sex with the men she met online for much larger sums of cash.

On the first arrangement of this kind, Jess was picked up from her student house in Fallowfield by a man driving a Lamborghini.

"My first proper, proper sugar daddy messaged saying 'a dinner and a date and a night at mine for a grand'" says Jess. "I'd never been on a date like that but I was desperate so I had to take the risk.

"I got in his Lambo and he passed me a grand in cash, a wad of PS20 notes with a ring around it. I'd never seen that amount of money before.

"I was so scared I asked if I could get out the car and post the money through the door in case he killed me. I felt I had so little choice at the time I just did it."

Jess estimates she met with around 50 men through a website over four years. The men she'd meet were usually in their forties and fifties with a variety of jobs and backgrounds.

Some were wealthy businessmen or doctors, but some she knew very little about.

"They don't all have loads of money," adds Jess. "In fact, some are really tight."

What sugar daddies seek from sugar babies varies, Jess says. Some want to take the girls on dates and have the 'girlfriend experience', while some ask for arrangements where there are no sexual limitations and want to indulge fetishes.

Jess said she often hid the seedy reality of sugar daddy dating from her friends.

"Some of my friends thought it was really fun and glamorous but that was only because I didn't tell anyone what it was really like, most women don't," she added.

Jess said the longer she did sugar daddy dating, the more risks she took. It all started to have a severe effect on her mental health. She said was left traumatised by some of her experiences with men who paid her, and has had therapy to recover.

Jess managed to extract herself from sugar daddy dating last year.

With therapy and the support of her partner, Jess has taken control of her mental health and is recovering from some of her experiences.

Her aim is to get a job as a mental health support worker and start her masters in applied theatre in the autumn.

Her sugar babies support group will be open to students turning to sex work through websites to fund their time at university.

"I managed to get out of sugar daddy dating and I want to be part of that process for other people. I personally had a terrible experience and at the time I felt there wasn't any support available to me. I want to provide that support for men and women without judgment." ? For more information about Jess' group, email:helpforsugarbabies@outlook.com

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Jess lived in the Fallowfield student

Jessica Hyer
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Jun 23, 2019
Words:1011
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