It’s a well-known fact that NYU is home to more sugar baby students — students involved romantically with older, wealthier men and women — than any other school in the country. This pushes the debate over the acceptability of sugar relationships here than at other universities. Since many students seek these arrangements, we should avoid stigmatizing what are generally mutually beneficial relationships in which neither party is exploited.
The long and storied tradition of age-differentiated relationships dates as far back as ancient Greece. Older philosophers like Socrates and Agathon would often engage in sexual or romantic relationships with their students. This intimacy was considered fair compensation for the valuable knowledge passed from mentor to pupil. Modern-day sugar relationships, while perhaps not as lofty as those in antiquity, can be just as beneficial to the younger party.
For NYU students struggling with tuition or the daily cost of living in the city, sugaring can be a way to make easy money or be treated to expensive restaurants and shows. While the transactional nature of these arrangements might be considered demeaning, every relationship is transactional at some level. While sugaring is sometimes perceived as bordering on prostitution, it is far less exploitative and dangerous.
But the monetized nature of these arrangements means that there are potential dangers that are not as common in other types of relationships. One of the most common complaints is a sense of entitlement — both to sex and undivided attention — on the side of the wealthier party. This entitlement can poison any relationship and put the unprepared and uncareful into compromising or uncomfortable situations. But aside from that, sugar babies’ safety and health risks are much lower than those in the prostitution or escort businesses.
It comes down to respecting others’ decisions, even if we would not make those same decisions for ourselves. Students may choose to be in a sugar relationship to finance their education, to enjoy city luxuries that they would have otherwise been denied, because they take comfort in that sort of arrangement or any other reason. They should not have to justify themselves. As long as the relationship is safe and consensual, there is no reason to call out sugaring as inherently gross or strange.
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