CNN Journalist Lisa Ling's expose on sugar dating revealed a richer subject than expected
The buzz surrounding CNN’s new series, "This is LIFE", featuring Lisa Ling, has been fiercely fueled mostly by their choice of topic for the premier: Sugar Dating. The episode, which just aired as of this writing, managed to keep the sensationalism below screech level and showed a subject rich enough to be worth talking about for an hour.
Few people onscreen fit the Sugar Daddy / Sugar Baby stereotype perfectly for dating sites. There’s the 69 year old tycoon professing "love at first sight" for his 32 year old girlfriend. It’s clear that their bond is based on far more than his wealth. The plot twist? They’ve never had sex. He had no trouble getting women in his younger days and wanted something less "superficial."
There are college girls frequenting men on these Sugar Dating websites and being upfront about wanting an arrangement. The plot twist? These are smart, independent, ambitious, career-minded young women who have no desire to be kept as their women or trophy wives. Many would struggle or fall under a mountain of debt without a benefactor. They’re as quick to talk about success as an attractive quality in a man, or about seeking business mentorship, as they are about the "allowance." When asked if sex is expected or required, they consistently replied that they can construct the relationship the way they want it. But wouldn’t the man lose interest if she doesn’t have sex with him eventually? Well, the answer to that seems about the same as if they had met on a conventional dating website.
Perhaps the most stereotypical Sugar Daddy of all is the godfather of the genre, Brandon Wade. He depicts himself as generally unattractive to women except for his wealth and unsuccessful with them prior to developing the first Sugar Daddy dating site, and using it himself. He admits without blinking that a good portion of the clientele on his site are married, looking for affairs, refers to relationships as transactions and has said that "love is a concept invented by poor people." Based on the sentiments of many Sugar Babies interviewed, one wonders how many of them would say yes to a guy like him, or stick with him for very long. How’s that for a plot twist.
Finally, there’s the series host, Lisa Ling. Fiercely independent and career-minded herself, and a self-describe feminist, she revealed in a recent piece where she wrote that she did at one time date a much wealthier man, whom she calls Tom. While she wasn’t initially drawn to him because of his finances, she did become quite attached to the lifestyle he could provide. The relationship ran its course and in the end she had to confront the fact that she was done with him a bit sooner than she was done with his money. This experience makes her well-suited to investigate this topic since she can see it from multiple angles and is open-minded.
How many minds will be changed by this show? Hard to say. It was so successful at presenting different viewpoints that anyone with a strong opinion will find evidence to support it. Still, there’s no doubt that it’s done some good by giving Sugar relationships the spotlight without too much prejudgment.
This is part of a series on money and relationships by On Mutual Terms.