While browsing the FYP on TikTok, a video of a beautiful apartment appears. There are gorgeous floor to ceiling windows, white granite counters in the kitchen. The walls are beautifully painted, there’s a huge TV in the living room and the bedroom. In the dining room is a huge crystal glass table. The apartment is spotless, and the young woman introducing it is beautiful. Out the window is a gorgeous view of Miami. The beach is close, and the skyline of the city is visible. Her apartment is high up. She taunts the viewer, cooing, “do you want to know how I got this?” She goes on to explain that she makes $3000 a week off a sugarbaby website. “The link is in my bio!” The link in her bio leads to videos that are equatable to trafficking.
In reality, sugar baby sites are paying these people to promote their website. They often say that people who contact them on these sites are happy to give women they hardly know money just to talk. Many other girls are imploring other viewers to join OnlyFans with their referral code. They promise easy cash, and say the user doesn’t have to be sexual to make money. Some offer sugar babying websites that promise that when met with the payer, they don’t have to actually do anything physical with them if they’re uncomfortable. They say it’s quick and easy cash.
In real life, it’s common for traffickers to post signs for innocent auditions or jobs to lure young girls in. There are ads online, on posters or signs that request young models. When there, the traffickers often coerce the young girl into taking her clothes off. This often escalates into more serious and potentially dangerous jobs. Girls are often ripped off or exploited.
Rarely do they include the reality of sex work or sex work adjacent. By signing up another person on OnlyFans, they earn a percentage of the earnings of whoever uses their referral code. Sugar baby sites regularly pay content creators to use their sites. The average amount of someone who just talks to sugar daddies online – without physical contact – is extremely low. There’s no statistics on this that I found. But, on videos where people claimed they made thousands just by talking to men on sugar baby websites, virtually all the comments were people saying they hardly made a few dollars using these sites.
Seeking Arrangement, the frontrunner website for sugarbabying, claims the average sugar baby receives $2400 per month in gifts. The website doesn’t indicate what the average sugar baby’s jobs consist of. Those on TikTok often insist that there be no need for physical contact or even sexual talk if they don’t feel comfortable. Seeking Arrangement also doesn’t show the amount of time a sugar baby gives to get dates or connections who are within their comfort level. Many TikTok girls have claimed that they can make thousands by giving a few minutes of their time to talk to people online.
Siobhan Hamilton got a Seeking Arrangement account for a week to see what it would be like. She asked the men she was speaking with if it would matter if she didn’t feel comfortable with a physical relationship. There was a “resounding yes,” that it would matter.
TikTok videos come up semi-regularly that heavily push people to start using sex work or sex work adjacent apps to make money. Often, they claim that it’s an easy way to bring in huge funds. In reality, the average earning income from an OnlyFans user is $180 per month. The top one per cent of OnlyFans makes 33 per cent of the money generated on the entire app. On top of that, OnlyFans takes a 20 per cent commission on all earnings. OnlyFans has also not been fair to their creators in the past.
The comments on these videos are frequently girls who are under 18. They say they cannot wait to turn 18 so they can use these sites and make money. Unaware that the people in these videos are being paid or have a financial incentive to get people to join sex work apps, thousands of girls fall for the rouse. They believe these are quick, easy and safe ways to make money. It’s a way to lightly coerce young and impressionable women into sex work.
Sex work is extremely stigmatized. Though, gladly becoming less so. It’s no longer considered as bad as it once was for people, particularly women, to be sexual. Unfortunately, many unhappy and poorly treated workers are in the trade. Many sex workers want to leave the trade but cannot because they rely on it for income. Many sex workers can’t get out of the trade. Regardless, young women don’t have the luxury of experience and don’t understand that joining sex work is difficult. The people paying sugar babies to be involved with them are strangers. They could potentially be dangerous in the present or in the future. Seeking Arrangements has it written on their website that they are not responsible if personal information – including videos or pictures – leaks.
In reality, the apartment doesn’t belong to the girl in the video, and she’s sharing it with three other girls. The apartment is usually messy and unkempt. She’s not making anywhere near the amount of money she claims to, and while she says she doesn’t do anything physical with the sugar daddies with who she goes on dates, she hardly uses the app to know. Those who are well-aware make these videos to pique young women’s interests that need or want money. They know these girls and don’t want to be physical with people they don’t feel safe with. So, they advertise it pleasantly. Regardless of one’s personal sexual choices, safety comes into play, and baiting young women into sex work – where they could potentially be hurt – is extremely dangerous and disappointingly common on an app that aims at young teenagers.
Featured Image credit: Marvin Meyer