Sugar Dating: Risks & How to Protect Yourself — Minc Law

Minc Law
13 min readMar 7, 2024

By: Daniel Powell, Managing Partner at Minc Law

Sugar dating or sugaring is a rapidly growing trend involving a dating practice that is probably as old as human civilization. The most common scenario of this practice is a consensual adult relationship in which a younger, attractive woman — the sugar baby — provides companionship to an older, wealthier man — the sugar daddy — in exchange for gifts and financial support.

While certainly not always the case, the prospect of a sexual component to the relationship is most definitely contemplated from the start by both parties. Also, while some sugar relationships are publicly known, most are not. That is usually because at least one of the parties very much desires the utmost discretion be maintained. Given these factors, concerns should and do arise by those seeking to pursue this lifestyle.

In this article, we review and examine the risks of sugar dating or sugaring, suggest safeguards to eliminate or at least minimize those risks at all stages of the relationship, and advise on best practices should things go awry.

But first, we will better define sugar dating or sugaring, discuss how it differs from prostitution, and explain why it is such a growing and increasingly popular trend.

What is Sugar Dating or Sugaring?

The definition of a sugar Baby does not include every person who is financially dependent on their romantic partner. It is only when the continuation of the relationship is dependent on regular financial support or lavish gifts that the recipient of the support or gifts can properly be labeled a sugar baby.

While the most common sugar baby scenario involves a sugar daddy, there is certainly no shortage of Sugar Mamas who are looking and willing to pay for companionship for themselves. Sugar babies are not restricted to one gender identity, sexual orientation, or really any other definable characteristic. The LBGQT+ community is definitely no stranger to the sugar dating or sugaring phenomenon. T

here also is no rule that there must be a significant age difference, or any age difference at all. Sugar relationships can come in any form consensual adult relationships can be carried on, and therefore sometimes even involve more than two participants.

Whatever the scenario, the constant is that the sugar daddy (or sugar mama) gives cash and/or gifts to the sugar baby, and perhaps pays for rent, bills, and other expenses as well. The degree of support or value of gifts can vary quite a bit from relationship to relationship, but some promise of valuable consideration is always a condition precedent for continuing the relationship.

In exchange, the sugar baby provides companionship, and that companionship commonly involves sexual acts and favors as one most certainly would expect. This naturally raises questions as to where the line is drawn between sugar dating or sugaring and prostitution. The reality is more of a gray area than a bright line, and it is that gray area that those seeking or involved in a sugar relationship should be mindful to avoid.

How Does Sugar Dating or Sugaring Differ From Prostitution?

All participants in a sugar relationship should understand the difference between sugar dating or sugaring and prostitution. Labels slapped on the relationship matter little for this purpose. People need to be conscious of their actions to avoid any criminal implications.

There are certainly many self-branded sugar babies who are in fact prostitutes under most any legal definition, and there are many sugar daddies (or sugar mamas) who are indeed “Johns” and guilty of solicitation.


Prostitution is the performance of a sexual act or most any form of sexual contact in exchange for something of value. Modern understanding of its effects, especially with regard to human trafficking, denies the argument that it is a victimless crime. Of course, there are some select jurisdictions which have decided to decriminalize the act. But most everywhere one resides or travels, prostitution is still very illegal and punishment can include imprisonment.

Escorts is a term sometimes used to describe prostitutes, but the two are not synonymous. Not all escorts engage in prostitution. While all escorts, like prostitutes, are hired for a temporary and defined service, only when that service involves a sexual act is the escort engaging in prostitution. For example, an escort can lawfully be hired to attend an event as the client’s date and legally be paid for that service. So long as nothing sexual is a required part of the service, nothing about the arrangement is illegal.

Sugar Relationships

Similar to an escort service, companionship is all that is guaranteed in a sugar relationship. Indeed, many sugar relationships do not involve sexual contact or even any in-person meeting of any kind. In today’s digital age, companionship can be provided through various means and mediums.

If sexual acts do occur in a sugar relationship, as they commonly do, that does not make it prostitution. The key difference with prostitutes and even escorts is the agreement to and presence of an ongoing, supportive relationship. It is not a one-off transaction.

While prostitution is a profession, sugar dating has perhaps been most aptly described as a lifestyle choice. That word — “choice” — is very relevant to many of the practical differences. Sugar babies have more choices than the typical prostitute. They do not have pimps or handlers. They can be selective in who they date, as opposed to waiting for the next call to be told where to go and who to meet. They can be, and not infrequently are, monogamous.

Some may argue, incorrectly, that for a sugar relationship to not be prostitution, there has to be some potential for it to grow into something more. That argument ignores that a perfectly legal sugar relationship can and often does begin with a very clear understanding between the parties that marriage or any sort of serious committed relationship is off the table.

How You Can Avoid the ‘Gray Area’

Putting all possible variables aside, the most simple way to steer clear of the concerning gray area between sugar dating and prostitution is to red flag any prospective relationship in which the exchange of money and sexual favors are core terms in any bargaining process.

Rest assured that as sugar dating or sugaring becomes more well known, lines will be increasingly and purposefully blurred by both prostitutes and “Johns” trying to avoid criminal liability. We discuss below some safeguards which can be implemented to minimize these risks.

Why is Sugar Dating or Sugaring so Popular?

Whatever we call it, sugar dating or sugaring is not a new phenomenon. Human civilizations around the world have seen some form of the practice since ancient times with varying degrees of societal acceptance. Modern society simply gave it a name and enhanced the tools to engage in it.

The lifestyle only seems to be growing in popularity, with a very notable rise in the past decade. Moreover, societal acceptance of the practice, especially for the sugar babies, certainly seems to have evolved over the same time period.

The reason for this recent surge is evident. The Internet has provided an easy and effective marketplace in which those who have decided to pursue a sugar baby lifestyle can connect with an abundance of individuals who desire to give them that lifestyle and have the means to do so.

Motivations Behind Sugar Relationships

Motivations for seeking out a sugar relationship can vary greatly. Despite the not-uncommon misconception, the purpose of a sugar baby is not exclusively to serve as a mistress in a marital affair. Frequently, both parties are single but looking for a relationship without the customary commitment, emotional ties, or associated perceived burdens.

Other times, an individual simply may want a companion with no expectation of marriage and the ability to end the relationship without any deeply hurt feelings. Sugar relationships can also serve to satisfy hidden sexual preferences or secret fantasies. And, let us be honest, the motivation can be as simple as the sugar baby otherwise being “out of his (or her) league.” Sugar relationships can be tailored to whatever form the participants desire.

Whatever the form, perhaps the biggest draw of a sugar relationship is the clarity of expectations which are normally set right at the start. Both parties enter the relationship without any illusions of what society would consider a traditional relationship.

That is not to say a sugar relationship cannot evolve into something more, but that evolution is rarely anticipated and should never be expected from the outset. Those engaging in the relationship get out of it what they wanted going in. They are choosing and tailoring a relationship somewhat similar to how a contract is formed with offer, acceptance, and consideration. Many consider this much more simple and straightforward than the whirlwind traditional dating circuit.

How Does Sugar Dating or Sugaring Typically Begin?

An enormous difference with modern-day sugar dating or sugaring, as opposed to times past, is the introduction of the Internet as a tool to connect people. Sugar relationships often begin online. The parties can not only connect with each other on online platforms designed for that purpose but they can also get to know each other to some meaningful degree through online chats and video conferences before any in-person meeting.

Moreover, without much difficulty, anyone interested in the lifestyle can find resources online where support groups exist. In those groups, this lifestyle choice is freely accepted (if not encouraged), and knowledge gained from experience is shared. For a price, sugar dating coaches are available like any other dating coaches.

There are too many available platforms to list, with some of the more popular ones being:

Other less obvious websites (Craigslist), social platforms (Facebook and Instagram), and dating sites (Tinder and Grindr) have also been the starting point for sugar relationships. Even interactive pornography websites (e.g. webcam models) can be the point of first contact. Of course, the less specific the intent of the platform, the more explicit the user should be in his or her intentions to avoid any confusion with prostitution.

Most online platforms have historically shown little interest in the fact that they serve as a meet-up point for any particular purpose, lawful or not. This is because, pursuant to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites that are classified as interactive computer services are not legally responsible for content posted by third-party users.

However, recent changes in U.S. Federal law have carved an exception into Section 230 immunity for user-generated content which facilitates the crime of prostitution. The Fight Online Sex Traffic Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) were signed into law in 2018.

These laws now at least effectively encourage interactive computer services to police their platforms for user accounts which dabble in that gray area between sugar dating and prostitution.

The Risks Involved With Sugar Dating

There are risks involved for all participants in a sugar relationship. The risks at the beginning, during, and end of any such relationship should be understood before anyone chooses this lifestyle.

Societal Scorn

One obvious general risk is societal scorn. While plenty of encouragement and support can be found online, the real world is still much less than accepting of the practice. No matter how it is classified under the law, there is no shortage of societal belief that it is just prostitution under a different name or otherwise morally repugnant. T

his is one reason why, even when neither party is married or in a committed relationship, one or both of them may strongly desire to keep the relationship, or at least the sugaring element of it, incredibly discreet.

However, any strong desire for secrecy can unfortunately give rise to and present a host of other risks both before the relationship begins and after it ends. The stronger the desire for secrecy, the more risk it presents.

The risk at the end is probably obvious and really no different than any secret romantic relationship, such as the much more common form of a marital affair that would not be classified as a sugar relationship. The risk before the relationship even begins is not nearly as well known.


For each user account on the online platforms mentioned above which is operated by a legitimate individual genuinely desiring to be a sugar baby, there are probably no less than three accounts operated by scammers seeking to catfish other users. Platforms that are targeted towards or lend themselves to sugar dating hookups have proven to be particularly effective breeding grounds for sextortion.

Sextortion occurs when demands for something of value are made under threat of publishing or otherwise sharing explicit images or other intimate information of a sexual nature. Criminals posing as prospective sugar babies have become very skillful in convincing their intended victims to send them embarrassing images or sexually suggestive messages that are subsequently used for extortionate purposes.

The perpetrators of sextortion are not looking to build rapport. Their mission is to obtain compromising material as quickly as possible. They have discovered that posing as a potential sugar baby is very conducive to that mission.

Sugar babies are often sought out by married or otherwise committed individuals who are very vulnerable to the crime of sextortion. They also tend to attract individuals who are more willing to be very open about sexual desires and preferences under the false pretense of secrecy. Those individuals are also prime targets for sextortion schemes.

That very same compromising information which a sextortionist or other scammer may use to threaten and extort before any relationship even begins can of course be used by one of the participants who perhaps feels burned when it ends. Either party has the right to end the relationship whenever they so desire. And everyone should naturally be entitled to some expectation of privacy.

In an ideal world, that decision and expectation should be respected. But we do not live in an ideal world.


Dependence to an addictive degree can develop in any relationship and sugar relationships are certainly no exception. In fact, sugaring perhaps exacerbates that risk. There is no right to alimony when a sugar relationship ends.

The sudden ceasing of the financial support can cause quite a shock to the system and lead to strong emotions. Those emotions can lead to bad decisions, including the delivery of threats which cross the line into extortion.

Safeguards to Protect Yourself in a Sugar Relationship

All of these risks give good reason to know and implement some very simple and basic safeguards while sugar dating or sugaring.

Learn the Warning Signs

First, know the warning signs of sextortion and other related scams. Be very wary of anyone that comes on too fast and too strong.

Criminals will commonly create impersonate accounts using the pictures of OnlyFans or other web-cam models who publish provocative content on a daily basis. They therefore have access to an abundance of provocative images to steal from the model and send to you, aggressively asking you to reciprocate and showering you with praise as you do so.

If you want to see them on a video chat, they will probably just use a pre-recorded video by the same model.

For further reading, please see our article explaining ‘ How to Spot Fake Sugar Baby Scams ‘.

Avoid Sending Intimate Content

The rule to prevent or at least minimize the risk of sextortion is simple. Do not send anything you would not want shared with your wife or mother to the other person until the necessary trust has been established. This level of trust is never legitimately established before the sugar relationship officially begins.

The relationship does not begin before you two have gone on at least one date. The date does not have to be an in-person meeting, but it has to be able to be verified as a real interaction.

Set Expectations From the Beginning

Moreover, to safeguard against any allegation of prostitution, the first date should be planned and agreed to without any expectation of sexual contact. That is not to say that sexual contact cannot naturally flow out of that date. But there should be some record that it is not an expectation and certainly not a requirement.

Another written record which may be advisable is an agreement between the parties as to the expectation of privacy and the intended scope of the relationship. This does not necessarily need to come through any formal legal document, although a binding agreement could be signed. Our minimal recommendation is some written record in case it is ever needed at a later date.

For instance, if things go awry at the end and one party is threatening to expose the secrets of another, a written record evidencing an expectation of privacy can prove very valuable. Similarly, any jaded feelings and scornful actions at the end of the relationship may prove unjustified if the parties had a record of their agreement as to the intended scope and/or duration of the relationship.

For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide ‘ How to Avoid Falling Victim of Infidelity & Escort Website Sextortion Scams ‘.

What to Do if Things Go Awry in Your Sugar Relationship

If you were seeking a sugar relationship but have fallen victim to sextortion, we can help. Our team of attorneys has successfully assisted hundreds of victims of sextortion, providing expeditious and effective relief. There are multiple other options to explore for sextortion assistance, but be very aware and mindful of the associated red flags.

If you were involved in a sugar relationship which has come to an end and are now being extorted by a sugar baby, we can also help with that serious problem. Individuals are often ignorant of the legal implications of their actions in such situations and a well-crafted legal correspondence can quickly change their attitude. If not, then being subjected to a formal legal process almost always has that effect.

In some limited circumstances, depending on the risks presented or other relevant considerations, an agreement negotiated between the parties may be warranted. This agreement often involves a payment of some sort, but most critically must provide finality. A skilled attorney is able to craft an agreement which, once fully executed, allows the parties to move on with their lives with the confidence of security.


“I was unfortunately a victim of an online sextortion scam. After a few weeks of torture, I found Minc law online. I called them directly and scheduled a consultation meeting with attorney Daniel A Powell. Working with Daniel was smooth as he was very responsive and supportive as well. Daniel and the rest of the Minc law team took my complaints seriously and understood my emotional state. They were very compassionate when talking with me and understood how to work with people. Daniel and his team dealt with my situation swiftly and resolved my problems within the week. I highly recommend Minc law and Daniel to anyone who unfortunately got caught in a situation like mine.”

January 1, 2022

If you are or have been involved in a sugar relationship that has turned sour and want to know more about the options to safeguard yourself, contact Minc Law to schedule a consult with one of our experienced attorneys by calling us at (216) 373–7706, speaking with a Chat Representative, or filling out our online contact form.

Originally published at on March 7, 2024.



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