Statistics published by a controversial U.S. based dating service suggests that two students a day in Northern Ireland are signing up to receive a University education in return for sex. The company which operates the website claims that 6,460 women and 555 men in Northern Ireland have met rich partners through their website, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
Around 700 males and females are using the ‘sugar daddy’ dating service as a means to pay their way through college. Over 1,700 ‘sugar daddies’ have also used the online service - SeekingArrangement.com, 438 of whom live in Belfast.
Queens University is ranked 16th of the fastest growing ‘sugar baby/daddy’ schools in the UK. Belfast also came 13th in a European survey of its membership numbers.
With rising university fees, fewer part-time jobs and declining wages, it seems students are struggling to pay their way. Students can pay up to $14,107.35 (£9,000 ) a year, and University lecturer and women's activist, Goretti Horgan said the statistics were “a sign of the failure of our politicians to tackle youth unemployment."
Anna Lo, Alliance MLA for South Belfast, warned of the dangers theses ‘arrangements’ pose for young men and women, she said it equated to "prostitution" and warned women against being exploited."I'm appalled," she said. "This is really selling yourself – selling yourself to rich men.”
SeekingArrangement.com's company chief executive officer, Brandon Wade, defended the agency as a service connecting "intelligent and goal-orientated ladies... (with) sugar daddies (who) are respectful gentlemen." He recently wrote on their website, "Because the relationship between a sugar daddy and a sugar baby is romantic in nature, most sugar relationships will likely involve sex. And because a sugar daddy is expected to be the generous gentleman, money will always be spent on the sugar baby. I don't see anything wrong (or illegal) with that."
It would appear that things may get worse before they get better with the latest figures from the Las Vegas-based agency claiming to show a sharp rise in the number of so-called 'college sugar babies' using the service in the last year.
As Goretti Hogan put it, it would seem “desperate people do desperate things."