What is it about sugar relationships, where men provide younger women with cash and gifts in exchange for companionship and intimacy, that attracts both parties? We talk to a sugar baby and a sugar daddy to find out.
Nicole*, 22, lives in Malaysia. She met both her sugar daddies on TheSugarBook early last year.
"The first time I got into a sugar relationship, I didn't even know I was in one. I met a great guy who was older than me while I was travelling, and he offered to pay for my whole trip if I followed him around, so I did.
It was a lot of fun and he was very generous. When the trip ended, so did our sugar relationship.
I'm currently seeing two sugar daddies - one in Malaysia, and the other in Singapore. They know about each other. The Malaysian sugar daddy is 40 and pays for my rent and car instalments, while the Singaporean one is 38 and flies me there from time to time for shopping and fun.
I got into sugar dating because I prefer to date men who aren't concerned about spending money. I've dated men who expected me to pay for my own McDonald's meal and movie ticket, and I don't want to date those types anymore.
I have a lot of admiration for my sugar daddies. Their success in their respective fields inspires me. The monetary support allows me to pursue my career as a freelance graphic artist but they also give career guidance to help me find my way in this world.
For example, one taught me how to build my own website and implement an e-commerce platform so people from all over the world can buy my art, while the other taught me how to stock-take and keep track of payments.
I don't think a sugar relationship is anything like prostitution. A sugar relationship is nurturing but prostitution is strictly transactional.
Sex happens naturally when there is attraction and chemistry, and the thing about sugar relationships is you don't have to get involved with someone you don't feel attracted to. Many sugar relationships evolve into good friendships, and some even into marriages.
My sugar daddies don't get jealous. In fact, both of them have mentioned that since I'm still young, I should go on 'regular' dates and meet someone my age. But I don't want to date someone my age. Not at this point at least.
Besides, I don't think a 'real' relationship is any different from a sugar relationship because I wouldn't want to be with someone who isn't financially secure anyway. Every relationship, no matter what kind, involves finances in some way - and those who don't think so are just lying to themselves."
There's no expiry date to my sugar relationships. I'll stay on until circumstances change - like if they get bored of me or if I meet someone I have an emotional connection with. It doesn't get complicated because we agree not to make the sugar relationship into more than what it is.
My family knows I like to date older men. It's my personal preference - just like how some people like to date taller or buffer guys.
Aaron*, 37, lives in Malaysia. He's active on TheSugarBook and sees a few sugar babies casually.
I had my first sugar relationship seven years ago. She was 20 then, and it was my first time dating a much younger woman. I was attracted to her, she was into me, and since I earned much more than her, I didn't mind providing financial support.
I've always liked my women to be younger as, from my experience, women my age tend to be bitter and overbearing. As a businessman, I work long hours and make a lot of tough decisions on a daily basis. So when I come home, I want to relax and be pampered. And to me, younger women tend to your needs better when they're well-looked after.
While others might disagree, I consider sugar relationships 'real' relationships. The only difference is I don't have to spend as much time and effort convincing a woman to be into me.
People think that sugar relationships are all about sex. That might have been the case in the past, but with modern women, sex isn't always part of the agreement.
I don't pay for sex and none of my sugar babies work in the sex industry. They are lawyers, real estate agents and advertising executives who choose to date financially secure men. But when there is mutual attraction, sex happens naturally.
Also, since I'm older now, my libido isn't what it was in my twenties. I now prefer intelligent conversation and having a good laugh over dinner.
I have a sugar baby who spars with me during Muay Thai lessons and we have dinner together after. Apart from sparring sessions, we don't get physical, but I pay for her lessons and meals and also give her college allowance from time to time. I give her between RM2,500 to RM3,000 (about $820 to $985), roughly as much as an entry-level executive's salary in Malaysia.
There's another sugar baby who I take along for work and family gatherings. She's a graduate from the London School of Economics and is intelligent and polished. I'm not physically attracted to her but she's excellent at holding court with my peers and my mum.
Each time she goes on a sugar date with me, I'll pay for her new clothes, shoes, handbags and whatever else she wants.
I don't have sex with this sugar baby either because we just don't feel that way about each other. But whenever she enters a room, she commands attention, and I find that very useful for work-related gatherings.
I think attractiveness is important. I like looking at a beautiful face, though having said that, the sugar baby I'm with should also be positive, outgoing and smart.
I've given a couple of my sugar babies contacts for their careers. I don't get them jobs as I believe the right person should be hired for the position, but I do connect them to the right people and it's up to them to make things happen.
I have a good relationship with all my previous and current sugar babies. I encourage them to inform me whenever there are any changes in our sugar relationship, like if they've met someone they want to be romantic with. They definitely have the freedom to move on.
I have plenty of friends who are sugar daddies. It's highly common but we don't talk about it. My sugar babies can come with me for dinner and drinks with my friends, colleagues and even family. There's nothing awkward or weird about it because they're not objects.
My sugar relationships don't 'end' per se. We can drift apart, but if they ever need anything, they're always welcome to call me up."
This article was first published in CLEO Singapore