Sugar babies and sugar daddies – a muddle of thoughts

sugar babies sugar daddies Snapchat

This post – in which I attempt to explore some of my thoughts around sugar babies and sugar daddies and the sex industry in general – may get me into trouble. I hope it won’t, because honestly? I haven’t even decided where I stand. For one thing, I’m for the decriminalisation of the sex industry. I wish it were safer for the women involved. I would like them to be able to get support, without fear of repercussion.

The way it currently stands – it’s a criminal offence in Ireland to solicit or to pay for sexual services (although prostitution is not, in and of itself illegal) – sex workers are in a difficult position. If they are physically abused, for example, they’re often afraid to report the incident. There are very few “safe” ways to operate as a sex worker; it’s all cloak ‘n’ dagger stuff, and therefore subject to a huge amount of abuse.

Ultimately, I would prioritise women’s safety over any moral or ethical dilemmas that have somehow informed our law. (See also: the 8th amendment.) I also support a woman’s right to choose what she does with her life. That being said, I won’t always support her choices. (In other words: it’s complicated.)

Sugar babies on Snapchat

All of this is to say: we need to talk about @rionabig. That’s the Snapchat username of an 18-year-old woman from Kildare, who describes herself as a “sugar baby”. Her snaps combine her explaining the (if you’ll excuse the pun) ins and outs of her profession and distinctly explicit photographs – of her body, in various states of undress.

(As an aside, this is a perfect example of why parents need to monitor their children’s social media activity. Riona’s account is public and anyone can follow her.)

Sugar babies are women in relationships who receive compensation for being in that relationship. Payment comes in the form of cash, gifts or, according to the internet, “other benefits”. It’s not about coercion or control; in everything I’ve read about sugar babies, consent is paramount.

So, what’s my problem with sugar babies?

Here’s the thing – I’m not quite sure. But something about following Riona – and I know I could unfollow, but I just can’t look away – has me feeling very unsettled. Last week, she did a Q&A with her sugar daddy. He’s a 29-year-old businessman from the UK. He sounded smart and funny – they seem to have a good rapport, at least, insofar as I can gather from the other side of a smartphone screen.

But Riona is 18. Without being condescending, she hasn’t been an adult for a full year yet. She just finished school. She can’t legally drink alcohol in the US, yet she’s posted photographs of herself, fully naked and handcuffed, on Snapchat for the entire world to see. Is it really true consent if – in my opinion – she doesn’t really know what she’s doing?

Everything is a feminist issue

Of course, any time a woman criticises another woman’s choices, she’s seen as anti-feminist. But what could be more of a feminist issue than a young woman being paid for providing services (sexual and otherwise) to a man? Feminism is about celebrating the fact that we have choices; it doesn’t mean having to agree with the choices other women do make.

As for this, well, it bothers me. I don’t think it’s ideal to be selling young women the idea (Snapchat is a sales tool, whether you’re selling InStylers or selling yourself) that this is a great way to make a living.

Then again, we live in a world where, for a lot of women, their best chance of success – be that financial or otherwise – is to monetise their looks. Maybe this is just another way of doing that.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers – I just have a bad feeling and I can’t seem to shake it. I’d love to know your thoughts!

9 Replies to “Sugar babies and sugar daddies – a muddle of thoughts”

  1. It’s a strange one alright. I think a lot of the uneasiness comes from the general discomfort we have in this country with sex work. And yes, she’s young. Though I will say, assuming that because she’s only 18 she doesn’t know what she’s doing is a bit of a moot point – every year we age we say “I can’t believe what I did when I was 18; 20; 22 – I knew nothing then”. You could make the argument that nobody should ever make any decisions until their eighties because then they have the most experience! She’s legally an adult – legally able to get a loan, drive a car, make medical decisions – that’s the line we draw, so we have to accept that she’s old enough to take responsibility for what she’s doing, I think.

  2. I have followed riona for a while with the same “can’t look away” attitude and I don’t even think she should be given a platform. From previous snaps where she speaks about feminism I don’t believe she has any place to speak about it as by using her vagina as a way to gain money and attention doesn’t really scream “gender equality” in my eyes. I feel as though her choices as an 18 year old may have detrimental effects on her prospects as a 25 year old but that’s just my opinion

  3. Áine Sheehan says:

    Interesting read, definitely agree we have to support other women making their own choices but she is so young. Does she get set up with the sugardaddy through a service ? If so these services should have an age restriction , in my opinion 18 is just too young, she’s just out of school and perhaps it would be better if she had more life experience before making a decision to be involved in this kind of relationship.

  4. I followed her just to have a nose if I’m honest and whilst I’ve only looked at a few snaps I can’t help but think she might regret it in later life.

  5. I really think its none of any ones business what shes doing with her life, shes young and she an do what she wants.I know she does post naked pictures on her story but if you don’t like it delete her?

  6. Shes not legal to drink alcohol in the US? she doesnt live in the US she lives in the UK so thats quite frankly irrelevent! And she knows exactly what shes doing, she may only be 18 a year or whatever but she is 18 so she can make whatever choices she wants without peoples input.

  7. Wow, I had no idea this girl even existed. It makes me absolutely uncomfortable too. I was a very sensible (dorky) 18 year old and yet if I had been left simply to live my life as I saw fit, I would probably be dead by now. I am grateful for the parental guidance that kept me from going astray. I think 18 is too young, while she might legally be an adult, I don’t think sexually she has fully developed as a woman. I don’t think I truly became 100% aware of my own sexuality until at least 25. It takes experience which she doesn’t have, so I think it’s wrong and weird and yet another message we do not need for females in a world that already feels like a minefield.

  8. Crea Greenan says:

    Well in my view it’s her life, she’s an adult therefore entitled to make her own decisions about her own body. If she’s happy doing what she’s doing, she’s not harming anyone so I’d say just let her be. Young girls aren’t as impressionable as people make them out to be. I doubt any girl under 18 would think of getting a sugar daddy purely because of Riona.

  9. Honestly I’m sick of the anti-sex attitude in this country. What are you all so afraid of? Yes she’s young but she is 18, she is old enough to drink, vote, BUY sex services and to be honest, she’s old enough to make her own decisions.
    As someone who was a stripper for 2 years after i turned 18, and now has a successful career in a “normal” industry, i don’t believe in the whole “SHE’LL REGRET IT” attitude..Some people aren’t as closed minded and ashamed as others, and just because it’s not your cup of tea then just move on with your day? Also you call yourself a feminist yet you don’t support sex workers? There’s a name for people like you. (hint: it’s swerf, Google it)
    – a former sex worker AND feminist.

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