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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
This is Life with Lisa Ling - Sugar Relationships
Aired September 28, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA LING, CNN NARRATOR (voice-over): It's 8:00 p.m. in Midtown, Manhattan and these 20-somethings are getting ready for a party that could turn their lives around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look like a completely different person without makeup.
LING: In an hour they'll be surrounded by wealthy men looking to mingle. But it won't be your average hook-up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make money, you have the beautiful girl. That's pretty much what the American dream is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women have a certain value and this party it tells you.
LING: For as long as you can remember, money and older men have courted attracted young women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We as women, we're nurturers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, dear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Men should provide. It's in their DNA.
LING: Now, a new crop of websites is bringing this old-school dynamic into the modern day. And the phenomenon has been given a name -- Sugaring. The men and women who partake are sugar daddies and sugar babies.
You've saved over a hundred thousand dollars for children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really good at what I do.
LING: In the rendezvous between romance and capitalism, who really has the upper hand?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my world, and if my sugar daddy can't con form to it, he doesn't belong in it.
LING: At age 38, this guy, who we'll call Mark, is already a self- made man, an entrepreneur living in downtown Philadelphia.
How did you become as successful as you are? MARK, ENTREPRENEUR: Selling real estate, getting a couple investments
in, got into oil a couple years ago, basically started doing really well.
LING: Mark married in his early 20s and had two kids soon after. When the marriage fell apart five years ago, he turned to the Internet to find romance on his terms.
MARK: I just wanted somebody that would reconnect me to being younger. And then this came up. It was brand new, better rules, better women. It's just -- it just works.
LING: Mark had stumbled on to a Web site called Seeking Arrangement. For a monthly fee, men and women can search for someone who catches their eye, message each other, and set up dates. But here, it's understood that women, or sugar babies, are young, and expect to be spoiled with gifts and money, and that men, or sugar daddies, are older, successful, and generous.
Tell me how it feels to be seen with a beautiful, intelligent, 20- year-old girl.
MARK: Of course it makes you feel good. There's always the fantasy of, you know, being successful if you are having a super model for a girlfriend. If you have money, you have, you know, an attractive person that goes around and does stuff with you.
LING: And so what are some of the things that you've provided for some of the women that you've gone on dates with?
MARK: Apartments, cars, money, shopping trips. You know, normal stuff.
LING: What's the biggest allowance, for example, that you've given someone?
MARK: About 8,000 a month.
LING: So you're perfectly comfortable with the fact that these women are seeking you out because you can provide them with something?
MARK: Sure. And they're providing me with something too. So it's mutually beneficial.
LING: A lot has changed between the sexes since the feminist movement got women into the workplace and gender equality became a widely held value.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of us are going to stand up together and say, no more.
LING: But old habits die hard. A surprising number of Americans are hungry for an old-fashioned kind of love, where men financially support women in exchange for companionship. And one man is capitalizing on that desire. Seeking Arrangement founder, Brandon Wade. OK. Why did you start Seeking Arrangements?
BRANDON WADE, FOUNDER, SEEKING ARRANGEMENT: I was just having so much difficulties with my dating life. I would try the normal dating websites and it was really difficult for me to stand out. And that's when I remembered something that my mom told me when I was growing up. Being the nerdy boy that I was, she said study hard, focus on your school, and someday when you're successful, you can really use your success and generosity to turn your dating game around.
LING: So you started Seeking Arrangement because you were having difficulty with your dating life?
WADE: That's absolutely right.
LING: Brandon, you're a very nice, smart guy. Isn't that enough?
WADE: Apparently not. On most dating sites, unfortunately, there's no way for your intellect, or perhaps your success, to shine through.
LING: Brandon set out to change that. In 2006, he launched "Seeking Arrangement." Today, it's the most successful in a crop of sugar dating domains. The site also throws parties where babies and daddies can mingle and wear a mask if they want to go incognito.
Is there a typical professional on Seeking Arrangement?
WADE: The average sugar baby is 27, typically has a college degree or is going to college. The average guy is 40 years old. He makes $250,000 or more every single year.
LING: What percentage of sugar daddies are married?
WADE: Roughly 40 percent are married.
LING: They're essentially trying to find mistresses?
WADE: I would say so. They're looking for a relationship elsewhere, to spice up their life.
LING: OK. As someone who considers herself a feminist and has always been insistent on paying for everything myself, it just seems like you're taking women back.
WADE: These relationships tend to be a lot more empowering than people would want to believe.
LING: Empowering for whom?
WADE: Both parties have power in their own ways. The guy might be powerful because he's wealthy and has financial means. The woman is powerful because she might have youth and beauty. I've heard from sugar babies who have met guys who have helped them start their own businesses, helped them pay for school.
LING: Why can't she take care of herself? WADE: That's what she's doing.
This is the Disney dream. When you grow up, you want to be a princess. You want to be an independent princess, but every independent princess still needs to find a prince.
ALISON, SUGARING: In my hometown growing up, it was kind of accepted to just go away to school for four years, get a degree, get a nine to five, the white picket fence, and that's never been what made me happy. There's more that I want on top of it.
LING: 22-year-old Alison was raised in a small town in upstate New York, and she still lives there. Today, I'm meeting her in the dance studio where she teaches and trains. A place she considers her second home.
You're going to have to help me get my feet out of there.
ALISON: Are you really stuck?
LING: Well, just move my feet.
ALISON: My God.
LING: I think I pulled something.
So, first off, how did you find out about sugaring?
ALISON: My friend and I were watching a talk show and it was like, don't do this, and we were like, let's do this.
LING: Did you have any reservations about it? Or did you just kind of jump into it?
ALISON: No, I mean, I was really afraid of meeting people. I was really afraid. I was afraid to ask for anything. I didn't know really how to. But if you don't ask, you don't receive.
LING: Alison was 18 when she first logged on to Seeking Arrangement. Within a couple of weeks, she had hundreds of messages from daddies eager to meet. And offering the kind of cash she'd never seen before.
Can you divulge how much you've gotten after a date? A lot?
LING: Like a thousand dollars?
ALISON: The most I've ever gotten was $3,500.
LING: That's a nice chunk.
ALISON: Yes, that changes things.
LING: Would you say most of the men who come to the site hope that sex will be part of the negotiation?
ALISON: Yes, even in a relationship that's not on the site, I don't think I've ever met a guy who's like, I hope we just hold hands forever and ever. You know what I mean? But if there really are just guys who would rather sit at a Knicks game with a cute girl than bring their, you know, co-worker or best friend with them, I'll be a VIP in a club. And they can take care of everything. I don't worry about a thing that night. I can go out and just dance the night away.
Men will pay a lot just for the chance or opportunity or thought of you. There's some people that are going to be upset about that, but we all do it. We all do it but in different ways.
LING: All do what?
ALISON: Use your resources. I do want to stand on my own two feet, but if I can do that in a pair of Louis Vuitton, then there's no shame in that.
LING: Alison is not alone. In the eight years since Seeking Arrangement has launched, its membership has grown to more than three million men and women. The site claims babies stand to make an allowance of $36,000 a year in allowances and gifts. Those numbers have gotten the media's attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all hookers?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the most you've done on one of these dates? Have you kissed one of these men?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, what's the most you've done on a first date? You're asking
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to tell you, I never got paid for it.
LING: So do you think most men, when they go to your site are looking for sex, or are they looking for a relationship?
WADE: I would say both. A Seeking Arrangement relationship is a romantic relationship. So like any boyfriend and girlfriend. Eventually they're going to want to be physically intimate.
LING: Just by giving a woman an allowance, or showering her with gifts in exchange for --
WADE: Being there.
LING: Being there. How is that not prostituting one's self?
WADE: So my mother decided she was going to be a full-time housewife. So she has no source of income. And my dad actually gives her a monthly allowance. Does that make her a prostitute? My question, is, what is wrong with a woman having expectations when they step into a relationship?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who said money can't buy happiness?
LING: Far from a departure from traditional dating, Seeking Arrangement claims it's tapping in to long-held values. But inside the sugar bowl, not all is what it seems. As I dive deeper into this world, I'm going to discover that for a woman, the perks of this lifestyle can go beyond mo money and that not every daddy is who he claims to be.
LING (voice-over): It's hard to get ahead in today's America, even for those with college degrees. Squeezed by a shrinking job market and an average of 30 grand in student loans, many grads are looking for a quick fix. And for some, Seeking Arrangement offers a attempting solution.
WADE: College students are mostly single. They're always actively dating. So if you're dating and you don't really have much time, why not date somebody who is successful, who can actually, you know, help you accomplish your goals?
LING: That message is coming through loud and clear. In 2009, there were about 80,000 college students on Seeking Arrangement. Today there are nearly a million.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've had some friends who were like, oh, my god, I can't believe that you do this.
LING: And in New York city I'm sitting down with Alison and two other sugar babies.
SERENA, 23-YEARS-OLD: I've only been on the Web site for about eight months. And I have leaned --
LING: A 23-year-old college student we'll call Serena --
MIA, 22-YEARS-OLD: I saw it as a way to make connections opinion.
LING: And a 22-year-old economics major Mia. Seeking Arrangement PR reps, Angela and Jennifer have brought us together to give us a glimpse into a sugar baby's world.
What has your best arrangement been?
SERENA: The 3,000 a month for my tuition and my payment plan and also my text books. Because we all know how expensive textbooks are
MIA: There was this one guy that I found on the site. We would like watch movies, talk about his day. I ended up getting a $4,000 a month allowance from him, without even asking, without having to do anything. Yes, I've had sugar relationships where they straight up just wanted arm candy to go to events and just have a good time and look like they have a good time all the time.
LING: So, how often are you propositioned initially by men who are really, really interested in sex?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want me to be honest?
LING: Yes, be honest.
MIA: Probably like 9 times out of 10, sugar daddy's dream is to have a girl say, yes, I'll meet you at a hotel and I'll just give you $300. It's like I'm not a prostitute. Like I'm looking for a mentor. I'm looking for someone older, successful, who is going to teach me things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those girls who are just hooking up with random guys at bars or dating guys that don't have anything to give you, all you get out of it is a pregnancy scare.
SERENA: My mother can't afford to help me pay for school, you know. She is taking care of three other kids. And I have a few friends that will say, well you know, why can't you just work three jobs and do it the right way? Who determines the right way?
LING: Do you look at this as a job?
ALISON: I look at it as a way to supplement my dreams, like supplement the pursuit of my dreams.
LING: I was surprised by just how ambitious the women I met today are. Contrary to the notion that sugar babies just want to get pampered, the women I met today, they are prepared to work hard, but in a way, they are relying on their assets to sort of skip a couple of levels.
But for Alison, sugaring wasn't just a way up. It was a way out.
ALISON: I can honestly say I've never met a girl who was sugaring, just because she wants the shoes and clothes. The reality is, that's not really going to impress somebody who doesn't have enough to survive.
LING: A few years ago, just before she discovered Seeking Arrangement, Alison left home, against her parents' wishes, to live with a boyfriend. When the relationship ended badly, Alison was broke, and desperate.
ALISON: It drained me of all my resources, all my -- the positive people in my life. I left home with absolutely nothing. And I didn't really have much experience out in the real world. And I ended up in a program for homeless youth. I couldn't pursue the things that have always driven me. I couldn't dance anymore.
LING: So the first time you went on a sugar date, you were homeless? ALISON: Yes. But a lot of the people that I'd seen, I never told
them about my situation, because I didn't want them to think they could take advantage of me, being a young girl, with nobody to go to, nobody to help her.
ALISON: Yes. Someone like, I'll take you shopping and this, this, and this, and shoes really aren't that great if you don't have a closet. I needed money and a mentor. You become what you surround yourself with. So I decided to surround myself with success.
LING: Alison credits sugaring with helping her afford to leave the shelter and go to college. But her journey of self-improvement isn't over yet.
Tomorrow night, Seeking Arrangement is throwing a party in Midtown, Manhattan, a chance for Alison to meet the men who could bank roll her ambitions.
LING (voice-over): Thanks to the internet, sugar relationships are sweeping the nation. I'm taking a little detour down south to check out another active scene.
So Atlanta is known as the sugar baby capital of America. Who knew? And there's a woman here who has made a business out of advising women on how to get the most out of their relationships, and we're about to meet her now.
Taylor grew up in a traditional middle-class family, but in her early 20s, she realized her tastes were anything but ordinary.
TAYLOR, 32-YEARS-OLD: When I started dating guys, they wanted to go to maybe a fast-food burger joint or something. I wanted to go out and experience a different lifestyle. So naturally, I ventured out.
LING: Taylor embraced the sugar lifestyle when she was just 22. And this is Rich, her sugar daddy of nearly a decade.
RICH, SUGAR DADDY: How you doing, you sexy thing? Give me a hug, give me a hug. How you doing? Good seeing you.
TAYLOR: You want to get in?
RICH: I want to get in.
TAYLOR: Let's ride.
RICH: OK, sounds good.
LING: Sugar relationships can last a long time. Taylor's been in hers for ten years. She says that her sugar daddy is teaching her a lot of really important things. Like golf.
LING: Good shot.
TAYLOR: When I met Rich, it was just effortless.
RICH: All right, Taylor, don't you laugh. We just hit it off.
LING: Whoa. That was a good shot.
RICH: Thank you. I don't want to use the term love at first sight. But something along those lines.
LING: Can I ask you how old you are.
TAYLOR: I'm 32.
RICH: I'm 69.
LING: If you forgive me for saying, I mean, there are a lot of people who might say, what a dirty old man?
RICH: I am a dirty old man. All old men are dirty old men. Have you ever met one left that didn't like to flirt?
LING: Actually, no.
RICH: OK. I rest my case.
Now, turn your hand over to the your right. No. the other right.
TAYLOR: I would suggest everyone stand somewhere else.
You should move!
RICH: I am so impressed, I gotta tell you.
LING: Golf daddy in the house!
RICH: Take a practice swing.
LING: So I'm just curious, when you're out on the golf course, do people ever say anything when they see you two? Because you're kind of an unlikely looking couple to be out here.
RICH: They don't say anything. I'm sure that they think different things. It works for us and that's all we really care about. LING: Rich and Taylor seem to have an uncommon connection, but they
found each other the same way as most babies and daddies I've met online.
What were you looking for when you two met?
RICH: In my case, I was looking for a confidant, somebody younger, who would enjoy more of an upscale lifestyle.
TAYLOR: I was looking for someone who had a business mind, and Rich definitely has that. And we can enjoy each other.
RICH: You want to bring the car up?
LING: For nearly a decade, Taylor and rich have shared a mutually beneficial relationship.
TAYLOR: You want to show me how to drive? You're my driver.
LING: Rich got a young, vibrant companion, and Taylor got a mentor.
TAYLOR: You want a ride?
RICH: No, I'm going to get your ball.
LING: And with thousands of dollars in financial support from Rich, Taylor started her own business.
TAYLOR: Do you feel overwhelmed with sugar dating?
LING: Helping other babies find daddies.
TAYLOR: This isn't something that you tell your family or your friends, by the way, I want to become a sugar baby. They look at you like your crazy. I spent a lot of time connecting with my sugar daddy. Had to create a safe place to connect with others like them.
LING: In 2007, Taylor launched the sugar daddy formula. Today, she has hundreds of subscribers who stream her how-to podcasts.
TAYLOR: Focusing on what a sugar daddy wants may feel like the natural thing to do, but it's the worst way to try to make a sugar daddy fall for you.
LING: And for those clients who need a personal touch, Taylor is on call.
TAYLOR: How are you doing?
LING: She fields questions from aspiring sugar babies around the country.
TAYLOR: Give it to me, what's going on.
LING: Part of Taylor's business includes coaching sessions by phone with sugar babies. TAYLOR: I'm glad that you found me.
LING: Because the sugar baby, sugar daddy Web site are a fairly new phenomenon, a lot of women don't really know how to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am business oriented and I would like to have someone that can help me financially.
TAYLOR: I'm going to give you a tip, OK? Leaked in, is a sugar daddy gold mine. You're a businesswoman, you should be connecting with people you want to network with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't feel that a plus size sugar daddy is in the bowl.
TAYLOR: You are worthy of having somebody to provide you with what you want, and I will help you construct a great profile. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of them expect things too early.
TAYLOR: OK, so they're wanting sex?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TAYLOR: You can actually set expectations and let them know that, look, we're just going to meet, there's nothing going to happen. If he doesn't return your call, you know what he's after.
LING: Taylor speaks from experience.
RICH: Put your best swing on.
LING: As a seasoned sugar baby, she's navigated the delegate terrain of sex and money before.
RICH: You're on the green.
LING: But as it turns out, Taylor and Rich claim that when they met, they were both seeking a strictly platonic bond.
So you two have never had a sexual relationship?
LING: Have you both had other romantic relationships while you've been together?
RICH: It's never been about that with us. I've had what I used to refer to when I was younger, you know, recreational sex, all the time. And it was pretty meaningless actually. But with her, it's been much deeper than that.
LING: Rich is a life-long bachelor. He never married or had kids. Before he met Taylor, his closest relationship was with his mother.
How would you say your relationship with your mother influenced your outlook on women?
RICH: When I saw my mother and father divorce when I was 5-years-old, it left a pretty strong impact on me emotionally. And I think it made me a little bit more amenable to trying to help someone.
LING: In his 30s, Rich inherited and expanded his father's real estate company. And Taylor, who grew up with a childhood dream of starting a successful business, he found a way to put his good fortune to use.
RICH: That was definitely firm enough. I think everyone should leave a footprint in life, if you can. And fortunately, I was able to do it with Taylor. And it's come back ten-fold, by the way. Emotionally. It was worth every dime of the investment.
Almost hit the hole.
One of the things that I've always loved about her and I don't know I've ever told you this -- she laughs all the time.
TAYLOR: Now you're going to make me start laughing.
RICH: She constantly laughs. And it was very enlightening and uplifting to me.
LING: She's kept you young.
RICH: Yes. She really has.
RICH: I think you did good.
LING: Taylor and Rich both say their bond has changed their lives for the better.
TAYLOR: Am I getting senile with you?
RICH: You might be. It might be contagious.
LING: But in a world of money and women who want it, is this the norm, or the exception to the rule?
LING (voice-over): It's Friday evening in New York. And Alison's come her apartment upstate to the heart of Manhattan. ALISON: In New York, it's so easy to feel like another person in the
crowd. And nobody just wants to be another person. I always have to keep a goal in mind and not lose myself, even if it's like so easy to get lost in that static.
I look like a completely different person without makeup.
LING: On Seeking Arrangement there's an average of four sugar babies vying for every daddy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people are going to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Half of the people are going to arrive fashionably late.
LING: But tonight the Web site is throwing a party to bring babies and daddies together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like a job, but it's social, kind of romantic party.
LING: Alison is hoping that meeting face to face will improve her odds.
ALISON: A sugar baby is supposed to bring fun, and light heartedness and youth and a spark and personality to a man's life. I know that's not all I am, but when it all comes down to it, I can play that part. I'm an actress.
LING: 9:00 p.m., doors open, and the party kicks off. But while the babies and daddies crowd in, I'm stuck on the sidelines.
We have a lot of restrictions on us. We can't move about the party freely. In fact, our crews have to be relegated to this space over here. We have to wear press badges and all the participants have been asked to wear masks because that's because a lot of the daddies and babies don't want their identities revealed. Particularly, I imagine, the married daddies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great.
LING: So what do you think of this scene so far?
ALISON: I'm finding I'm having a hard time becoming a part of it. I feel a little separate from it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like everybody needs a couple of drinks and by 12:00 a.m., that's when you'll start to see the mingling and everyone's true colors coming out.
LING: And what are you looking for here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just looking to meet people and network. I'm not going to have too high of an expectation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not even going to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we'll see happened.
ALISON: I'm seeking an arrangement with a dance floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, go, yes.
LING: While Alison loses herself in the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I'm going to walk through with you. We'll be subtle, we'll be subtle. PR rep Angela offers me a tour of the lion's den.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you noticing that already?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, unlike other parties, people are showing up on time. Because getting there late --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Parties in bars are people checking each other out, but this is definitely --
LING: I'm surrounded on old sides by older men chatting up younger women. And I also spot some possible sugar mamas, a small, but growing contingent on the site. It feels less like a cocktail party and more like a trading ground, where everyone has something to offer and gain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.
LING: Hi, I'm Lisa.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you having fun at the party?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So are you looking for an arrangement?
LING: I'm looking for a man who will talk on camera.
Maybe the people here tonight are protecting their reputations or marriages, but at first, no one wants to be filmed talking to me.
But as the night wears on, babies and daddies come forward.
So you're contemplating the idea of trying to find a sugar baby?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A worthy investment, if you want to put it in banking terms.
LING: So you're talking about someone who might need help with college tuition or with her rent?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If someone has family problems or something like that and they can't resolve it some other way. They are really desperate ways, and you are helpful with them. You know, not exploitive, but helpful.
LING: Did you meet on the site?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did. I go to an ivy league school. It's very expensive. I've dated guys who were my age, in their 20s, and they don't have money to buy me dinner.
LING: You wouldn't do a Dutch thing, you wouldn't be open to it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could. But at the same time, if I'm going to have a life with someone, I want them to be able to afford dinner with me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety five percent of these girls just want to have a good time and not have to pay half. So if you take them to a nice spot, these girls love you.
LING: You saved over $100,000 from sugaring? And you're 22.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really good at what I do.
LING: Are you in college now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
Grew up with nothing. You know, my parents never even got to go to junior high school. You know, I was working two jobs. And I just realized that guys are really stupid. You can get a lot for nothing. And if I were with a guy my age, he would use me for sex, right? So why not use older guys? I'm only going to look like this for so long.
LING: Might as well use it now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WADE: Hello. Can we have some quiet for a while? I want to thank all of you for coming today to make this party such a success. All of you sugar daddies out there, what sets us apart is how we treat women. We are gentlemen. And sugar babies everywhere, there's nothing wrong for being a beautiful, powerful woman, and still wanting to be a princess. Don't ever apologize for that. Cheers!
LING: The last I see of Alison tonight, she's on the VIP patio. No media allowed. Perhaps this is the beginning of another mutually beneficial relationship.
It's 2:00 in the morning and I just got back. I saw a lot of designer bags, and I don't think I've ever seen as many Christian Louis Vuitton shoes. I heard men saying things like, how much for tonight?
We are a culture that really glorifies stuff. And we are also a culture of instant gratification. We want what we don't have, and we want it now. But, you know, I've never walked in these girls' shoes. And who am I to judge? I just hope that these really, really smart and articulate girls don't regret it one day.
LING (voice-over): If there's one thing every baby and daddy I've met seems to value about sugaring, is that it lets them be explicit about what they want, and how much of themselves they're willing to give. That's what drew Mark to Seeking Arrangement.
MARK: I like the idea that you can basically build and create almost any type of relationship. You're really only limited to --
LING: How much money you have.
MARK: No, your imagination. You can be who you want to be.
LING: Last we spoke to Mark, he was single and looking if are a new arrangement. A few days ago, he connected with 23-year-old Muriel, who just joined Seeking Arrangement after graduating from college. Tonight she's traveled two hours from her home in central Pennsylvania, for a first date with Mark.
MARK: How are you doing?
MURIEL, 23-YEARS-OLD: Right there. All right. Thank you.
I'm feeling a little nervous, a little excited. I really like to meet this guy, Mark. I don't know that much about him.
Thank you very much.
We had like one phone call, but I'm hoping for someone who I can learn from, like a mentor, so I can become successful on my own.
LING: Mark and Muriel had agreed to meet by 6:00 p.m. But by 6:30, Mark hasn't arrived, and he's not answering his phone.
MURIEL: Hey, Mark, it's Muriel. I just wanted to know if you were going to show up. If you can just let me know if you're running late, or coming, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks so much. Hope to see you soon.
I think I've been stood up. Yes, sucks. I mean, I find successful men attractive not because they're rich, but because of all the qualities that it takes to become successful. But on the flip side of that, maybe, I don't know, if like their ego and, you know, like, like, you know, she's not worth my time. So I'm not even going to call.
Mark is a no-show. And we still don't know why he bailed out. But we did find some surprising information online.
So after Mark disappeared, we decided to do a little digging into his background, and we were pretty shocked by what we found. A trail of court documents that span the last five years. I see here that he was indicted on a charge of theft by deception, after he tried to buy a house with a bad check. He pled guilty and got five years' probation. So it seems our sugar daddy has somewhat of a checkered past, and that Muriel may have dodged a major bullet.
We tried to reach Mark for comment, but he hasn't returned our calls.
Seeking Arrangement tells us they run background checks and verify net worth, but only for diamond members who pay nearly $1,300 a year. Just a small traction of daddies opt for that transparency, and Mark isn't one of them.
Back in New York, Alison is having her own second thoughts about sugaring, after Seeking Arrangements' masquerade mixer.
ALISON: At the beginning of the party, two men made a comment about how much would they pay for me when I was walking by. I really wanted to, like,(INAUDIBLE) this is not an auction. You know, I'm a person, I have feelings.
LING: I remember when I was starting in the business that I work in, guys would ask me to, you know, have a meeting over dinner. Or, you know, make suggestive comments and so on, and it was so hard, because it's like, you're in a position of power, and I'm not.
LING: I need a job and you're in position to give me one.
ALISON: Yes. There's definitely conflict there, because it's hard to say I'm turning down something that could change my life. But at the same time, there's potential I could be robbed of my dignity. So --
LING: OK. What are you thinking about?
ALISON: I just want to know that it's real, that it's all possible, and I'm doing it for something. I wanted to play on the same playing field as everybody else. I wanted a chance. That's all I was looking for.
LING: After four years in the fast-money world of the sugar bowl, can Alison find her way out?
LING (voice-over): On New York's lower east side, Alison is performing.
ALISON: Am I going to the mic here? Cool.
LING: Tonight she's trying her hand at poetry.
ALISON: I'm still trying to understand the way the world works. And there are some days I'm convinced that it doesn't.
LING: She's sharing a part of her story that's left her deeply conflicted, her life as a sugar baby.
ALISON: I understand why there are men out there who will offer to sprinkle my struggle --
Sugaring opened doors for me that wouldn't have otherwise opened, but you can't do it forever. It's like a pageant, you age out of it. But I'm really trying to find a balance and trying to not let it define me, not get lost in it, and not let anybody take anything from me.
I'm just your on the side baby doll, your get it out and when you need it Barbie doll.
LING: These days Alison is taking a break from sugaring. She is dating a guy her age that she met in college and working seven days a week as a dance instructor. But she hasn't sworn off Seeking Arrangement for good, at least not yet.
So what are your goals?
ALISON: My goals?
LING: You are an ambitious girl.
ALISON: Well, I do want a performance career for myself. And I want to be a professor for the arts someday. My ultimate goal is to be independent, to be able to take care of myself and not have to rely on anybody else. It is definitely a sweeter reward if you've earned it yourself.
Thank you, really, thank you so much. Follow me on twitter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you found a magic bottle.
LING: Back in Atlanta.
TAYLOR: Are you trying to get me drunk?
LING: Taylor and Rich are talking about the next step in their sugar relationship.
RICH: Here's to years and years and years of togetherness.
LING: What are your plans for the future?
RICH: Talked about buying a home in Hawaii, setting up corporate headquarters there. And I decided sometime ago that I should put Taylor in my will. She knows she's taken care of, and I hope she doesn't spend it on some young guy to replace me.
LING: Do you think a lot of other sugar relationships are like yours?
RICH: I think they could be.
TAYLOR: They definitely can be. And I think it can be based on communication and expectations.
RICH: If you want long-term, you have to build a foundation. And that's what we did. We built a foundation together. And I don't have another person on the face of the earth like that.
LING: And Taylor, what does Rich mean to you?
TAYLOR: I can't see my life without him.
RICH: It's been nice. I get a little emotional too.
LING: I know.
RICH: We're going to have a cry fest here.
LING: When we hear about sugar relationships, it's almost inevitable that we think that these much older men are in it because they want to have a sexual relationship with these much younger women. And for some women, they just want to find a prince charming.
TAYLOR: Here is to you, the big 70, cheers.
RICH: Are you sure it's not 50, though?
LING: But it's obvious that Taylor is benefitting in ways that go so far beyond anything financial.
RICH: Did I pick this out?
TAYLOR: You did.
RICH: I knew I good taste. That's why I pick you.
LING: And Rich's case, Taylor has given him a reason to want to stay young. And in many ways, that's better than sex.