Words: Kerry Justich
Nolah used to serve customers on weeknights at a branch of US seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster — a third job she took in addition to tutoring to supplement her teaching salary. Now, thanks to the "sugar daddy" dating website SeekingArrangement.com, she's the one getting served.
"I can go on a date, I can have steak and lobster, be gone for three hours after my kids are already asleep and come home with $500 (£408)," the American teacher tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The allowance-based dating site that the Nevada teacher came across in 2018 advertises itself as “the world’s largest Sugar Daddy dating site,” where it sets people up with “mutually beneficial relationships.” Dates can range from a single dinner out to a weekend trip (or longer), with payment being determined between the two parties – often termed as the sugar daddy and the sugar baby. SeekingArrangement makes it clear that it “prohibits any unlawful use of the site, including escorting, prostitution and human trafficking.”
However, at least two of those interviewed by Yahoo Lifestyle say they had sex. Both women clarified that this was the result of a longterm relationship that had formed, not simply something transactional. "That is something that was built over our time together and based on chemistry and our relationship," says one.
While it might not seem like the most acceptable side hustle for an educator, it’s likely among the most lucrative. The average sugar baby makes an estimated $2800 (£2,287) monthly from their “daddies”, SeekingArrangement reported at the organisation’s 2018 summit. Those who rely on an extra salary as a way to make ends meet are far from alone. According to EdWeek, one in five teachers have at least one extra job to supplement their income — and most of them aren’t glamorous. In fact, Nolah — who, like several others quoted in this story, asked to be identified with a pseudonym — says plenty of teachers in her area work as Uber drivers or cocktail servers at the Golden Nugget [a US hotel and casino chain] and Hooters [a US restaurant chain famous for its hot wings served by scantily clad waitresses].
But now, SeekingArrangement offers an alternative that has more than 10,000 teachers (according to the site) cashing in out of necessity. “I mean I knew that I wasn’t gonna be a billionaire off of being an educator, that’s obvious. But I never thought that I wouldn’t even be able to pay my basic bills,” she says. “I never thought that I would need that or have to really depend on other people for that. I mean, I have a masters degree.”
A current professor from Arizona, Lisa (not her real name), started her teaching career in an elementary school before deciding to pursue a PhD so she could move into a more lucrative position in academia. But her first full-time offer after getting her degree was “a slap in the face”. “It’s like you do all that work, and you start out at $33,000 (£26,955),” Lisa tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s nothing.” The salary wasn’t enough to make ends meet, so Lisa took on two additional jobs, working at a community college and bartending.
It was at the bar, one night, that a few men who stopped in for a drink mentioned SeekingArrangement. “I was afraid that it was like prostitution,” Lisa admits. Still, intrigued, she set up a profile and found older men that were mutually interested in a relationship. “They all had money,” she adds, “and they were just like, ‘I want to share what I have.’”
Lisa says her arrangements are usually longterm, meaning she often gets an “allowance” on a regular basis. “Getting paid seems so strange to say,” she admits. “One person paid my rent, another person contributed to my film project. The one guy I dated for a long time, he gave me a certain amount every week.”
Nolah, on the other hand, makes her money from one-off dates where she typically accepts a certain rate. “I have my own personal minimum that I will take for my time, and that’s just me personally because that’s not worth it for me to get my hair all pretty and put clothes on and leave my house for a hundred bucks. I’m not doing that,” she says. “So I’ve been gifted anywhere from $300 (£245) to $10,000 (£8,168). So it just depends on what our arrangement is and what we’re doing.”
Another sugar baby Aleecia (who has chosen to use her real name) tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she joined SeekingArrangement to support her low salary as a preschool teacher. The role proved so lucrative that she quit her job and began relying solely on paid dates — before starting a job as a health care worker. As much as she enjoys the site, she admits that she sometimes feels uncomfortable with the amount that some men have been willing to pay.
“The first few dates I was doing like $100 (£82) cause I figured, ‘Oh they're going to pay for the food and everything,’” she explains. “One time I went just on a date, a dinner date with a guy. He drove from Georgia to Alabama to visit me. He paid me $1,000 (£820) and I was really shocked and taken back. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
Regardless of how much money or how often the teachers are getting paid from these dates, each explains that the earnings have been crucial for maintaining their modest lifestyles. “Even as a sugar baby, I don’t ask for Prada purses or Gucci shoes,” Nolah says. “I’ve really only used the money to take care of my children and take care of my basic needs.”
As for each educator’s openness about her occupation and her reasons for joining the site, all say that they’re honest with the men that they date — although they don’t necessarily want to see them in the classroom.
“Actually one of my parents [of the kids I teach] is on the site and he came in one day smiling big. ... And I'm like, [I've] seen you too,” Aleecia says. “We never spoke of it. But we knew.”
Unsurprisingly, that’s the biggest fear of Alex (not her real name), a current third-grade teacher who is on the site. “If I saw a parent on there, I would absolutely die,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It would be like the quickest delete that I could ever do.”