In sugar dating, two women in Kuala Lumpur find empowerment and self-respect

Sugarbook describes itself as a luxury dating site where ‘members connect, meet and grow mutually beneficial relationships.’ — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Sugarbook describes itself as a luxury dating site where ‘members connect, meet and grow mutually beneficial relationships.’ — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Sugar dating — where adults enter into an unwritten agreement which spells out the type of benefits both can offer — may not be very romantic but is it “enslavement”?

Sure, women who choose to become sugar babies are often labelled as gold diggers because they accept cash or gifts in exchange for their company (which may or may not involve sex).

In fact, these women are even thought of as sex workers, with some calling them a blight to the women empowerment agenda for “enslaving” themselves to affluent men.

Two sugar babies that Malay Mail spoke to disagreed with this view of their life choices.

Natalie (not her real name), 30, and Cassie Tan, 28, say that sugar dating provides them with an empowering platform and even strengthens their self-worth.

Cassie Tan said there is a double standard between male and female sugar babies, saying that only females are judged for their choices. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Cassie Tan said there is a double standard between male and female sugar babies, saying that only females are judged for their choices. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Tan, a pharmacist and part-time business broker, chose this unconventional dating lifestyle, after giving up on “normal” relationships and foregoing the idea of marriage.

“In my past relationships there were always arguments about money... not about (buying) property... but more when we go out for a movie or dinner.

“My salary is higher due to my full-time job, and it started to spark arguments as to why I needed to pay for the guy and why is it that when it comes to birthday gifts, you can give me a cheaper one but I can’t opt to give you a cheaper one as well.

“It made me realise that money plays an important role in a relationship. Sugar dating is just another way of dating for me where I actually find somebody who is more capable. It’s not like I am aiming to be a ‘bloodsucker’ or anything,” Tan said.

She added that she is merely looking out for herself now. Tan said her family is aware of her choice and does not object to it.

Tan also commented about the double standards between male and female sugar babies, saying that only females are judged for their choices.

“When it comes to women, they say it’s degrading, but when it’s the guys, nobody dares to even comment although they may be thinking the same thing about them. It’s very hypocritical. Very,” Tan said.

She said that she receives RM6,000 monthly from her sugar daddy, an amount which was agreed on beforehand.

Natalie said sugar dating helped her salvage herself financially and taught her self-respect again, after a turbulent past. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Natalie said sugar dating helped her salvage herself financially and taught her self-respect again, after a turbulent past. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Natalie, a former air stewardess, said her relationship ended when she found out that her boyfriend, and later fiancé of four years, was bisexual, just months before their wedding.

By then, she had spent all her savings on wedding preparations.

From a jet-setting air stewardess in Dubai, she returned penniless to Malaysia and had no luck getting back into an airline job, owing to a visible mark on her leg, left by her abusive partner.

Sugar dating, in her words, helped her salvage herself financially and taught her self-respect again, after a turbulent past.

“I think enslaving is a very strong word. In my own opinion, enslaving is a situation where a child is forced to marry someone who is five times older, without her knowing anything about it. I mean, it happens everywhere.

“My question is: getting a child married off for financial reasons is fine, but we adult women who make informed choices about whom we want to date is wrong? I think the former is more enslaving to me.

“In Sugarbook, we can just state what we want... we can just discuss our expectations and we can communicate and ask them what they want and they listen to us. We can speak out. We are more frank because we know our expectations,” she said referring to the sugar dating smartphone application.

Natalie said that her sugar daddy has never degraded her.

Apart from regular holidays, she receives an allowance as and when she needs it; she is currently working as a freelance model and livestreamer.

The digital billboard ad for Sugarbook as seen near Publika shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur before it was pulled. — Picture via Facebook/Tentera Troll
The digital billboard ad for Sugarbook as seen near Publika shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur before it was pulled. — Picture via Facebook/Tentera Troll

Despite the negative publicity Sugarbook received recently because of advertisements on two digital billboards, chief executive Darren Chan said he aspires to “uplift women” by providing them a platform to choose freely, without any judgement.

Chan feels that the Malaysian dating scene is a patriarchal one and needs to be changed.

“Dating in Malaysia has always been patriarchal. Men always have a say, but rarely women.

“We want to change that. Our mission is to uplift women, by providing a platform for them to be able to choose freely without being judged. Sixty per cent of people working at Sugarbook are women. And we believe that women are entitled to the freedom of choice,” Chan told Malay Mail via email, recently.

Related Articles