The sweet and sour in sugar baby relationships: social expectations, emotion work and stigma management
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 17:44 authored by Alysha Wong-O’Connor
This thesis is a qualitative research project exploring ‘sugar relationships’ involving university students. In recent years, rates of sugaring have increased dramatically among young female university students. Although sugaring—a form of commoditised intimate relationship, often mediated through technology—is becoming an increasingly popular part of university life (for some students), it remains largely invisible and underresearched. Key points addressed in this thesis are the comparisons of sugar relationships to sex work, how sugaring affects financially struggling students and their agency in such arrangements, to what extent do participants need to engage in forms of ‘emotion work’ to present themselves as idealised partners, and how might the ‘hidden’ nature of these relationships further stigmatise and isolate participants from other kinds of mutually beneficial relationships. This research will fill a gap in literature by investigating how stigma is experienced, managed and reinterpreted by those within the community, and how sugar members rationalise their dating behaviours. It will shed further light on the effects of stigmatisation on how both sugar babies and daddies embody their roles in transactional relationships, while also segregating themselves from conventional modes of courtship and the sex industry.