The Sugarbook founder being led out of court after he was remanded. Two former sugar babies say the trade will go on even if the site is banned. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Sugarbook mobile and website platform came under the spotlight last week, with its founder claiming more university students were getting involved in the “sugar baby-sugar daddy” trade as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The founder has been arrested and several politicians have even called for the website to be banned. But will that stop the trade?

No, say two women who have been involved in the industry. They say the tentacles of the underground industry are long and many, with deep networks among political and private elites.

“Sugarbook being banned, in my opinion, is not much of an issue to those who are used to the scene or sugar daddies who are actually really rich. The ‘sugar-bowl‘ has existed way before the internet,” one of them said.

The “sugar-bowl” refers to the supply and demand of those in the shadow industry.

The former sugar baby, who calls herself Alex, said she would get approached for a job via Twitter. There would also be job listings advertised in certain WhatsApp groups.

However, she said sugar baby platforms were much safer for the girls than many other avenues available for them to make some easy money.

“It becomes more dangerous for us, and these (Sugarbaby) websites regularly do background checks on the sugar daddies (the men paying for the services).

“There is always some danger involved in becoming a sugar baby. Not only do the sugar daddies hold more power with money, they also tend to be older.

“This usually results in coercion and pressure for the girl to do more than what was agreed on beforehand. I’ve been to a first meet-up to check our chemistry and they have tried to manipulate or guilt-trip me into doing more than what I had agreed to.”

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Besides the safety concerns and potential exploitation, Alex also pointed to the discretion that came with diving into the sugar-bowl.

She said it was not just the stigma by society, which tended to paint all sugar babies as glorified prostitutes, but also the positions the men have within their families and jobs. Many of the older men had honorofic titles, she said.

Their motives for seeking out sugar babies can also vary. While some just needed company, others wanted more, she said.

Alex herself did not come from a well-to-do family and needed cash to spend when she started university.

“I just wanted money and I figured I could capitalise from my good social skills. I can’t exactly get a job because my schedule is so packed and I would only be able to work weekend shifts if i worked part-time,” she said.

The upside of these arrangements was getting some sort of relationship with the extra financial benefit. “Sometimes it can even be a nice friendship,” she said.

“You’re not pushed into sex or anything at all – that is on your own terms. Having platforms like Sugarbook just connects you to people with money or connections.”

She added that the backlash against Sugarbook and sugarbabying was misdirected, adding that the focus should be on youth unemployment.

“University fees and books are so expensive, not to mention if you have to pay rent outside and pay for transportation as well.

“Some would say ‘oh just get a part-time job. Sugarbabying is lazy work’ but most of the time, full-time students are busy with full schedules for classes, exams and assignments.”

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Another woman who only wanted to be known as Sarah said she has never done anything sexual throughout her experience as a sugarbaby.

“When I did talk to the men, it was like intellectual conversation about politics or common interests, I felt like I was being paid to sit and look pretty but also be a friend.”

Her income, she said, would depend on how often sugar babies could get a “party job”.

A party job is defined as one requiring a group of girls to accompany certain men at private parties, usually at swanky clubs and lounges.

But these jobs were not reliable, she said, as many girls wanted them.

“A lot of girls would apply for the one job that’s posted and the likelihood of you getting chosen from so many other girls, is slim.”

“Maybe one week you’ll get a job every day and then go three weeks without any. The few times I went, I was paid RM800 for five hours and then another RM150 for every subsequent hour.”

And the supposedly VIP clientele? She said it was quite common to see well known people during her “party jobs”.

Meanwhile, she added that the girls who choose to be sugar babies were not only women in need of extra income – some also entered the industry for the promised glamour and luxury. Many young foreign and local girls have been able to afford lavish lifestyles as a result.

She observed that sugar babies from Ukraine and Russia lived really “nice lives”, staying in fully-paid-for apartments, getting pretty clothes and dinners at expensive restaurants.

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Sugarbook had revealed recently that it had seen a 40% increase in students registering to be sugar babies since January, with 12,705 students from 10 institutions of higher learning in the Klang Valley using the platform.

The higher education ministry, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the police have since taken part in investigations into the Sugarbook application and the universities listed in the report.



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