Young people 'seeking arrangements' for cash

A controversial website is connecting local men with young women for cash. It's one of several websites out there now that has people "seeking arrangements." But is it safe? Is it even legal? It's attracting a lot of young people looking to make some quick cash.

She's looking for a "sugar daddy" to help pay her bills; he's got money and is willing to part with it for some "quality time" with a "sugar baby."

"I'm a sugar baby," giggled a woman we'll call "Kennedy".

Seekingarrangement.com is a website that connects men and women for a price.

Kennedy read us her profile, "I am 22. I am smart, bubbly and independent."

And it's attracting many young adults to help them pay their bills.

"Over $15,000. I've had sugar daddies pay my car notes, pay my rent," said Kennedy.

Kennedy is a nursing student in Houston and a single mom. She doesn't want to reveal her identity for fear people will find out. She says she has met four men online who have paid her to provide companionship and conversation, but nothing beyond that.

"It's not a bad thing, it's not about sex. It's about so much more than that. It can be any relationship that you want," said Kennedy.

The website operators wouldn't let us show you who is on it, but if you scroll though the site, it's hard to not think it's about sex. Listing after listing, shows off scantily or barely clad men and women in seductive poses.

ABC7 News met a man who we will call "Tom". He's what the website calls a "sugar daddy" and we've disguised his identity as well.

"I do like beautiful women," said Tom. "But that does not mean that I am looking for necessarily a physical relationship with them. You find a lot of people on the site that are not necessarily looking for physical relationships, and I am one of that kind."

He says he stumbled on the site one day and was struck by the range of women looking for support.

Tom said, "I've come to a place in life where life has become a bit monotonous, so I need to break that monotony."

He has met 10 women on the site and says he is looking for someone with similar interests to mentor. Tom said, "As long as I find basic things like ambition, and a positive attitude in life, and smart and beautiful, that's a good fit I think."

Critics say the website is degrading to women. Website spokeswoman Angela Jacob Bermudo disputes that claim.

She said, "Some sugar babies I've met have gotten jobs, have gotten into grad school, even started their own businesses with the help of their sugar daddies. I would beg to differ that they are in any way vulnerable. I think they're definitely empowered."

The company says the average sugar baby receives about $3,000 in monthly allowances, though it stresses that it's not exchange of services for money.

"It does pose legal issues," said ABC7 News legal analyst Gil Soffer. He says this is a legal grey area. "There's nothing unlawful with paying for someone's college tuition in exchange for starting up a plutonic relationship with them, in exchange for speaking with them over the phone, or being interested in having their companionship."

The problems start if the relationship comes intimate.

Soffer added, "There is everything unlawful -- it's called prostitution -- about giving something valuable to someone in exchange for sex."

The website says it monitors for sexual solicitations and kicks off members who get caught.

Bermudo said, "We don't allow prostitution on the website."
Sugar babies don't see what the big deal is. Kennedy told ABC7 News, "If I'm getting paid for a conversation, then well on that's great."

Sugar Daddies agree. Tom said, "They're essentially people with unconventional needs who can come together on the site and see if they find a fit."

It's fulfilling unconventional needs in a 21st century way.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.