More and more college students are turning to ‘sugar relationships’ to pay their tuition. According to a recent report, the number of students signing onto online websites and looking for "sugar daddies" is growing.
KVUE News talked to two former sugar babies and learned that their stories are more complicated than simply getting the bills paid.
Sara Nagorski talked to KVUE News about her upcoming novel, ‘Sugar Baby.’ The book will sell as fiction, but she said the story is from her personal experiences.
Nagorski said her first sexual experience in high school is what led her to become a sugar baby in college.
“I drank a lot,” she said. "A friend offered to drive me, I thought, 'Great.' He kissed me, and I was like, 'Alright,' and it’s fine, and then, it just started progressing," Nagorski said. "And I remember being so out of it. You say no, but if you can barely move, there's only so much you can do."
Nagorski said she told no one about the rape at the time. The next year, she went off to college at the University of Texas. She said she had two experiences there where men tried to force themselves on her. According to Nagorski, those experiences left her looking for something she wasn't finding in men her age.
"The way I went into it was, 'Well, I've been treated so badly by the people my age. Here's somebody older who's treating me well. why not? What do I have to lose?'" she said.
She said the money was just an added bonus, but not her motive. You can find snippets of her upcoming book posted on her blog.
KVUE News also sat down Kristen Casey, who danced to pay bills during her college years. Later she met older men at a local strip club who would soon become her sugar daddies.
“The beginning of my second semester I had really gone off the deep end with drinking, my grades had plummeted, so I dropped out of college,” she said. "I went to a club and started dancing as a stripper at ‘Sugars’ to pay off my school loans."
Casey now works as an intimacy coach through her website. Unlike Nagorski, she said back when she was in college, money was the biggest factor.
"You would meet customers at the club who would really like you and strike up something outside of the club,” she said.
While sugar babies and sugar daddies both said they get something out of the arrangement, therapist Mathis Kennington said sugar relationships pose a higher risk than they might think.
"There is a built-in power difference when you have someone that expects romance and intimacy because they've given you money. So in itself, is it inherently unhealthy or dangerous? I say it depends,” said Kennington, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "The relationship carries more risk to be harmful."
While society tends to focus on the sugar babies in these relationships, Kennington said we need to turn our attention to the sugar daddies.
"We're starving for connection, because most of the men who do this -- they're highly professional, they make a lot of money,” he said. "One of the worst things we do to young boys in our culture is we don't train them on how to feel internal value because they're in an intimate relationship."
More than a million college students in the U.S. registered online to become a sugar baby last year, according to the dating website, seekingarrangments.com.
The site reported an 11 percent increase from 2015. The report also shows sugar babies make around $30,000 a year on average.