When we came up for air, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a student at the University of Toronto. He was older and worked at the Gucci store on Bloor. He pulled me in close and told me, “maybe I could buy you a purse, if you know … we get to know each other better.”
The year was 2001 and I was at a (now defunct) nightclub on Adelaide St. W., making out with a guy that I’d just met (as one does when they’re a misguided 21-year-old who is already six vodka coolers in the bag).
This was the first of many such encounters I experienced while living in Toronto in my early 20s. The dangling carrot was always different — tickets to a coveted concert, a trip to the Hamptons, a designer handbag, a meal at a fine dining establishment — but the implication was always the same: if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Therefore, it came as no surprise when earlier this year an article was published naming my alma mater as the sugar baby capital of Canada. According to Millionbb.com
Just to be clear, a sugar baby is a man or a woman who receives financial support, gifts, or other goodies from an older, affluent individual; also known as a “sugar daddy” or “sugar mommy.”
While you can now easily access the world of sugar dating thanks to sites, such as Millionbb.com, this kind of transactional relationship is nothing new. Older, wealthy men have been engaging in questionable relationships with younger, more attractive women for eons. Just look at Hugh Hefner (the grand-sugar-daddy) or even the current president of the United States.
If you want to know why Toronto is a hot spot for sugar dating, just look at the numbers: “A 2016 poll stated at the University of Toronto alone there were 88,766 students enrolled and this does not include any of our other universities, colleges or specialty schools. The Toronto nightlife offers a variety of playgrounds for sugar babies, and Yorkville is the perfect shopping spot for Sugar daddies to spoil them,” says professional matchmaker Carmelia Ray, who is also an online dating expert and relationship coach.
Also, living in Toronto is expensive. For some young women, a sugar relationship feels empowering. As Ray notes, “many sugar babies consider this opportunity as a ‘job’ and a lucrative way to earn the kind of money they could never earn with the minimum wage and low-paying opportunities available. They mutually agree to the financial terms of their arrangement and she feels empowered that she is calling the shots and laying out her terms.”
But it’s not all Birkin bags and Bahamas vacations. No matter how you slice it, you’re exchanging your time and body for cash and gifts. With one person having more financial power than the other, it’s easy for an unhealthy power dynamic to take a foot. If you don’t have the right kind of coping mechanisms in place, the potential for emotional or physical harm is very real.
Lastly, keep in mind that you’re entering into a financial transaction. Nothing comes for free — not even that Gucci purse.
With that said, Ray urges aspiring sugar babies to take precautions. Get background checks and thoroughly vet their social media presence. “Some red flags to watch out for is any behaviour that indicates your sugar daddy is possessive, jealous or has anger issues,” says Ray. If it’s not behaviour that you’d find acceptable in a regular dating situation, it doesn’t belong in your sugar relationship.