Who’s your daddy? The sugar baby phenomenon and intimacy in a neoliberal era

Palomeque Recio, R., 2021. Who’s your daddy? The sugar baby phenomenon and intimacy in a neoliberal era. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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‘Sugar dating’ denominates the dating dynamic in which two persons agree to an exchange of company and, in some cases, sex, for financial assistance. Since sexual services are regularly included in a ‘sugar’ dynamic, it falls into the realm of transactional sex. A ‘sugar’ relationship is ordinarily formed by a younger woman (‘Sugar Baby’) and an older, more affluent man (‘Sugar Daddy’). Despite anecdotal evidence suggesting an increase in the number of British university students participating in sugar dating in the last decade, sugar relationships in the United Kingdom are under-researched. This study offers a pioneering academic approach to sugar dating by locating these transactional relationships in the context of British higher education institutions and the neoliberal precarization of university students in the UK. Among the numerous sugar dating websites that have proliferated in the last decade in Britain, Seeking.com stands out not only for being the most popular platform providing an online, ‘sugaring’ meet-up place, but also for operating as the matrix where the ‘sugar’ discourse is constructed. Through its discursive power, the site produces the Sugar Baby as a subject inasmuch as Sugar Babies and Daddies are subjected and subjugated, through a process of assujettissement. Through semi-structured interviews conducted with ten Sugar Babies, this study analyses how Seeking.com’s discursive power affects the development of their relationships with their Sugar Daddies, how gendered inequalities are reproduced in sugar dating, and how the neoliberalisation of higher education in the UK influences the participants’ decision to sugar date. The data showed that the participants’ entrance into sugar dating was influenced by multiple factors including insufficient student loans, underpaid part-time jobs, and lack of parental support. A postfeminist approach towards femininity and sexuality, aided by a neoliberal mindset of self-responsibilisation, constituted the ideological framework that facilitated participation in sugar dating. This study concludes that sugar dating is informed by a complex gendered transactional dynamic of sex and power whose popularity is favoured by the current ideological and material neoliberal milieu. This context facilitates the sexual and emotional exploitation of Sugar Babies against the background of university students’ increased impoverishment.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Palomeque Recio, R.
Date: March 2021
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of Rocío Palomeque Recio. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 09 Mar 2022 12:27
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2022 12:27
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/45833

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