Singapore: Sugar Babies?

NISHIKA KHUBCHANDANI WRITES — Sugar dating can be defined as a relationship in which an older, wealthy man or woman (“Sugar Daddy”) financially helps a younger boy or girl (“sugar baby”) in exchange for companionship and/or sexual favors. The Fast Lane,” an event which took place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Singapore on the 14th September and was supported by the Malaysian sugar-dating app “Sugarbook”, drew some attention from critics.

Individuals from several East Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Hong Kong traveled to Singapore to attend this event. Others included an Asian-American from New York who was in Singapore for his monthly business trip, as well as some married men and several officials from Singapore. All these individuals, called “sugar baby and sugar daddy wannabes,”  were attracted to this event.

The Singapore Tourism Board initially agreed to sponsor the event but had second thoughts when they witnessed the intense media coverage and controversies that arose. Critics argue that sugar-dating is closely related to prostitution because in both relationships, women are selling their bodies for money. They also highlight how sugar daddies tend to be powerful in such relationships and search for multiple women, causing those women to feel a lack of self-confidence, anxiety and depression. 

The police force in Singapore has said that if the “Sugarbook” app is being used to exchange money for sex, serious action will be taken. In fact, a forty-five-year-old man who had sex with a fifteen-year-old girl he had met through another sugar dating app, “SeekingArrangement”, was sent to jail for two years. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission made it clear that if prostitution or any form of extortion is detected, legal action will be taken.

Nonetheless, sugar-dating apps allow “sugar babies” to set their own terms and arrangement expectations, and is not limited to women. It is becoming a more popular platform for college educated individuals. For example, a young college student from Hong Kong says she enjoys being showered with purses, trips abroad and monthly allowances that go up to thousands of dollars, as well as lavish birthday parties. Sugar dating is on the rise in Asian countries even as opposition is also on the rise.

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