Singapore users make up the second biggest group of TheSugarBook’s 75,000 members, behind Malaysia, where there are at least 28,500 users. Photo: Internet Screengrab
SINGAPORE — A money-for-love dating platform has attracted more than 20,000 signups from users here within a year of its launch, and is looking to recruit even more “sugar babies” in Singapore through promotions targeting undergraduates.
Meanwhile, Members of Parliament (MPs) and women's groups TODAY spoke to were concerned and outraged, and called for the authorities to look into the platform.
Malaysia-based TheSugarBook, which started operations in December 2016, markets itself as a link-up between “well established wealthy individuals” who “wish to pamper sugar babies with financial support in return for love and companionship” and those who “appreciate the glamorous life indulging in the luxuries that life has to offer”.
On its website, the company said it aims to “provide a safe and discreet online platform which focuses on anonymity and privacy to legitimately build relationships with benefits between consenting adults”.
Singapore users make up the second biggest group of TheSugarBook’s 75,000 members, behind Malaysia, where there are at least 28,500 users.
The rest are mainly from the Philippines, the United States, and India. Overall, three out of 10 users signed up as sugar daddies, of which 10 per cent are in Singapore.
Both genders can sign up as sugar babies or sugar daddies/mommies, but the majority of its users in Singapore are young women aged between 19 and 33, including university students, said a company spokesperson.
The typical profile of those who signed up as sugar daddies here are 30- to 45-year-old C-suite executives or professionals such as lawyers, bankers and entrepreneurs, drawing US$360,000 annually.
There are “definitely more female sugar babies in Singapore (than sugar daddies here) at this point”, TheSugarBook’s spokesperson said.
Premium members can see who viewed their profiles or “favourited” them, allowing them to “selectively engage” with these users. Premium members can also send as many messages as they want to other users, and get invited to private events organised by TheSugarBook.
To be one, sugar daddies have to pay US$49.95 monthly, US$128.85 for a three-month subscription, or US$215.70 for a six-month subscription.
The rate for sugar babies is US$9.95 monthly, although there is a promotion offering free premium membership to students aged 18 and over, if they register with their university email addresses, under a promotion with the tagline, “discover the modern way to avoid student loan debt”.
Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for social and family development, said such platforms should not be allowed to reach out to Singapore users. “The damage and harm it cause to families and individuals alike is clear. We should also draw people’s attention to the dangers of such sites,” he said.
MacPherson SMC MP Tin Pei Ling, who is the GPC’s deputy chairperson, called on the relevant ministries to look into the legality of such platforms. “We should not let those profit-seekers capitalise on the vulnerability of our youths and exploit them,” she said.
Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations president June Goh said she was “appalled by the idea” of the app. She pointed out the exploitation, abuse, stigma and psychological damage girls using the platform may be exposed to.
Adding that the app's student scheme “totally contravenes” the notion of an education, Dr Goh said further education is “not just about attaining knowledge but also to be imparted with a certain discipline and principles”.
‘WE DO NOT CONDONE ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES’: FIRM
A company spokesperson said it verifies applicants’ email addresses before listing them on the platform. But it does not verify if users are single, arguing that it was “merely a niche social networking platform where like-minded consenting adults can connect, meet and develop mutually beneficial relationships”.
It also stressed that it “does not condone any illegal activities”, without elaborating. Laws to protect against sexual grooming of minors below age 16 were enacted here in 2007.
“Just like Tinder, OKCupid, or Match.com, we are unable to restrict memberships to only singles,” the spokesperson said. “We do not facilitate any matchmaking or introduction therefore ... we are unable to ensure that all the members are single. We do encourage our members to be as transparent as they are willing to be.”
The spokesperson acknowledged that the app could become a conduit for those looking for or offering sexual services but this is the case “even on regular dating sites”. She stressed that the company is “strongly against vice activities” and does not allow anyone 18 and under on their platform. “Usually, our moderators would not allow any illegal activities such as solicitation to even be approved as a valid profile, meaning no user can ‘advertise’ such service,” she said.
Full story at Today Online