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Dating platform for sugar daddies draws over 20,000 users here

SINGAPORE — A money-for-love dating platform has attracted more than 20,000 signups from users here within a year of its launch, and is looking to recruit even more “sugar babies” in Singapore through promotions targeting undergraduates.

Singapore users make up the second biggest group of TheSugarBook’s 75,000 members, behind Malaysia, where there are at least 28,500 users. Photo: Internet Screengrab

Singapore users make up the second biggest group of TheSugarBook’s 75,000 members, behind Malaysia, where there are at least 28,500 users. Photo: Internet Screengrab

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SINGAPORE — A money-for-love dating platform has attracted more than 20,000 signups from users here within a year of its launch, and is looking to recruit even more “sugar babies” in Singapore through promotions targeting undergraduates.

Meanwhile, Members of Parliament (MPs) and women's groups TODAY spoke to were concerned and outraged, and called for the authorities to look into the platform.

Malaysia-based TheSugarBook, which started operations in December 2016, markets itself as a link-up between “well established wealthy individuals” who “wish to pamper sugar babies with financial support in return for love and companionship” and those who “appreciate the glamorous life indulging in the luxuries that life has to offer”.

On its website, the company said it aims to “provide a safe and discreet online platform which focuses on anonymity and privacy to legitimately build relationships with benefits between consenting adults”.

Singapore users make up the second biggest group of TheSugarBook’s 75,000 members, behind Malaysia, where there are at least 28,500 users.

The rest are mainly from the Philippines, the United States, and India. Overall, three out of 10 users signed up as sugar daddies, of which 10 per cent are in Singapore.

Both genders can sign up as sugar babies or sugar daddies/mommies, but the majority of its users in Singapore are young women aged between 19 and 33, including university students, said a company spokesperson.

The typical profile of those who signed up as sugar daddies here are 30- to 45-year-old C-suite executives or professionals such as lawyers, bankers and entrepreneurs, drawing US$360,000 annually.

There are “definitely more female sugar babies in Singapore (than sugar daddies here) at this point”, TheSugarBook’s spokesperson said.

Premium members can see who viewed their profiles or “favourited” them, allowing them to “selectively engage” with these users. Premium members can also send as many messages as they want to other users, and get invited to private events organised by TheSugarBook.

To be one, sugar daddies have to pay US$49.95 monthly, US$128.85 for a three-month subscription, or US$215.70 for a six-month subscription.

The rate for sugar babies is US$9.95 monthly, although there is a promotion offering free premium membership to students aged 18 and over, if they register with their university email addresses, under a promotion with the tagline, “discover the modern way to avoid student loan debt”.

Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for social and family development, said such platforms should not be allowed to reach out to Singapore users. “The damage and harm it cause to families and individuals alike is clear. We should also draw people’s attention to the dangers of such sites,” he said. 

MacPherson SMC MP Tin Pei Ling, who is the GPC’s deputy chairperson, called on the relevant ministries to look into the legality of such platforms. “We should not let those profit-seekers capitalise on the vulnerability of our youths and exploit them,” she said.

Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations president June Goh said she was “appalled by the idea” of the app. She pointed out the exploitation, abuse, stigma and psychological damage girls using the platform may be exposed to.

Adding that the app's student scheme “totally contravenes” the notion of an education, Dr Goh said further education is “not just about attaining knowledge but also to be imparted with a certain discipline and principles”.

‘WE DO NOT CONDONE ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES’: FIRM

A company spokesperson said it verifies applicants’ email addresses before listing them on the platform. But it does not verify if users are single, arguing that it was “merely a niche social networking platform where like-minded consenting adults can connect, meet and develop mutually beneficial relationships”.

It also stressed that it “does not condone any illegal activities”, without elaborating. Laws to protect against sexual grooming of minors below age 16 were enacted here in 2007.

“Just like Tinder, OKCupid, or Match.com, we are unable to restrict memberships to only singles,” the spokesperson said. “We do not facilitate any matchmaking or introduction therefore ... we are unable to ensure that all the members are single. We do encourage our members to be as transparent as they are willing to be.”

The spokesperson acknowledged that the app could become a conduit for those looking for or offering sexual services but this is the case “even on regular dating sites”. She stressed that the company is “strongly against vice activities” and does not allow anyone 18 and under on their platform. “Usually, our moderators would not allow any illegal activities such as solicitation to even be approved as a valid profile, meaning no user can ‘advertise’ such service,” she said.

When asked how it is different from extra-marital dating website Ashley Madison 2.0, which was banned by the then-Media Development Authority of Singapore in 2013, TheSugarBook said: “We are in full support of successful relationships which could lead to marriage and more.”

Their platform merely grants women the opportunities to meet “high calibre, high status and financially able” men, so they can lead the lifestyle they want, the spokesperson added.

Before Ashley Madison was banned, Minister Chan Chun Sing, who was helming the social and family development portfolio at that time, came out strongly against the adultery website, saying it was “not welcome” here, adding that he was “against any company or website that harms marriage”.

TheSugarBook founder and chief executive officer Darren Chan, 31, who aims to grow membership to over 200,000 by June, added: “If men can choose to date women for their beauty and youth, women can choose to date men for their money and status.”

A SUGAR BABY SPEAKS

Emily (not her real name), a 21-year-old Malaysian, told TODAY she is seeing several men aged between 30 and 57 whom she met via the app.

Her first sugar daddy bought her a 13-inch MacBook for school, she said. “The funny part was he expected nothing from me after that, and even now, he occasionally messages me to check how’s school,” she said.

The accounting undergraduate at a Malaysian university is working as a freelance model to fund her RM15,000(S$4,990)-a-year education, as her parents are barely making ends meet.

She has encountered sugar daddies on the app who were “too straightforward” with requests, and she would usually ignore them.

“If a sugar daddy just wants sex, I will straight up decline. That’s not what I am looking for,” said Emily.

One sugar daddy she has been seeing for three months is a “lonely” 57-year-old widower. She meets him for dinner once a month, and he gives her RM2,000 each time to eat and “chit chat” with him.

“He’s very sweet and has never even touched me… He pays for dinner also and we always go to nice expensive restaurants which I could never afford to go by myself,” she said.

Being a sugar baby is “just a label like how people call older women dating younger guys cougars”, she said. “People like to talk and gossip but if given a chance to date someone poor or someone rich, guess who will they choose? In the end it’s my life, my decision,” she added.

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