Cash for ‘companionship’: MN students sign up to be ‘sugar babies’

Nobody can spin like a good public relations professional. We will hereby suggest that Kimberly De La Cruz, a spokesperson for “SeekingArrangements” is a good public relations professional on the strength of her quote in the Minnesota Daily’s story on University of Minnesota students — more than 500 of them, apparently — who have signed on to the service that pays the young people to escort wealthy men.

“We wanted to be able to offer [students] one less burden associated with the cost of college, and encourage them to find relationships that would help them elevate their lifestyle,” she says in her contribution to the Daily’s story, which focuses on “Ava,” one of the students who signed up, “Laura,” a Minneapolis native at Luther College in Iowa, and “Bella,” a U of M student.

“I found it exciting. It felt good getting paid money,” Ava said. “It was kind of fun in a weird way. I would feel hyped after using it.”

This is what it’s come to.

Sex is sometimes part of the deal, but not always. Ava said she didn’t participate in sexual encounters.

“It is a really unique and new phenomenon. These women don’t identify as sugar daddies’ girlfriends, but [they] distance themselves from traditional sex workers,” said Sarah Polowin, a graduate of Carleton University in Canada who wrote her doctoral thesis on SeekingArrangement in 2017. “[It] is kind of this gray, in-between space where it is clear that money and some type of companionship, whether that be sex or emotional intimacy, are exchanged.”

SeekingArrangement skirts laws against prostitution by its use of language, the Daily says. The students, who can use the service free if they use their school email to sign up, aren’t exchanging sex for money, but are exchanging companionship for “intimacy,” in the organization’s parlance.

Sometimes it’s dangerous, Minnesota Daily says:

In 2017, a University student, who is not being identified to protect her identity, reached out to The Aurora Center at the University for support while being harassed by a man she met on SeekingArrangement.

According to a Minnesota District Court transcript of her testimony, the student alleged the man sexually assaulted her around the time they met. The two then engaged in an arrangement that lasted four months, and after she tried to end it, she alleges he harassed her through social media.

The student, who recently underwent a legal name change, filed for a restraining order in court through the University’s Student Legal Service in 2018. The student was awarded a restraining order, which is effective until June 2019. The court did not find sufficient evidence to prove sexual assault.

The student was not able to be reached for comment, and her lawyer denied requests for comment.

“I was starting to feel very objectified,” said Laura, who, the Daily says, who earned over $2,000 with the service. “I had to be really careful about where my headspace was because it was not always the best thing for me to do, even if I just wanted money.”

“Sometimes I would forget about the money, because I actually started enjoying the sexualness of it,” Laura said. “But then, whenever the money would come around, ‘oh yeah, this is all I am here for.’”

“I did feel kind of guilty sometimes. My friends would be like, ‘why are you doing this?’ and kinda judged me for doing it,” Bella said. “I don’t believe I am a prostitute. I was comfortable enough with myself that I was fine doing that part of it.”

The Daily says the number of U of M students signing up is on the rise.