Sugar baby Adeline, a 22-year-old undergraduate, and the gifts (right) she recently sent to her sugar daddy in Hong Kong. (PHOTO: Sugarbook)

SINGAPORE (Yahoo News— The last time Adeline met her 44-year-old sugar daddy was in February.

On their last date, the Hong Kong-based man brought her to Marina Bay Sands for their usual outing at the casino and rooftop pool.

“We would chill by the rooftop pool. He would have a room there, I would just relax. I’m actually quite sick of going around all the shops already,” said the 22-year-old local undergraduate, who did not give her real name.

Even though the Nanyang Technological University student, who is taking a double major, has not seen her sugar daddy since the COVID-19 pandemic grounded flights worldwide, she is actively keeping the flame alive through video calls and, she said, by sending him sexy lingerie.

For the uninitiated, sugar dating involves mutually beneficial, no-strings-attached, relationships in which a “sugar daddy” provides a stipend to a “sugar baby” in exchange for companionship. Many of these arrangements involve sex, which has also led to accusations that the practice is a form of prostitution.

“It’s like a long-distance relationship right now, which sucks. I really wish I could meet him but because I can’t, we do video calls and FaceTime, all the time,” she said of her sugar daddy, who works in a bank in Hong Kong.

While her lover sends her “really sweet gifts” such as desserts and flowers to help ease her current boredom, Adeline reciprocates by sending him “sexy videos” – sometimes at the most inappropriate times.

“So, say around 2pm he would go for a meeting and I would send a video over and say ‘I’m thinking of you’,” she said, adding that she would be looking to send him something “kinky” after the interview. One of her recent presents for her sugar daddy comprised an Hermès tie, a pair of leather handcuffs and lingerie.

Adeline’s Hong Kong lover is just one of two sugar dating relationships she is currently maintaining, for which she receives a total of $8,500 in monthly allowances.

She is one of three Singaporean sugar babies Yahoo News Singapore spoke to who claim to still be earning healthy sums despite Singapore’s safe-distancing and circuit breaker measure putting a dampener on physical meetings. 

Up-tick in business

Two sugar dating services operating in Singapore – SeekingArrangement (SA) and Sugarbook – said they had seen an up-tick in sign-ups since the country began implementing its safe-distancing and circuit breaker measures.

SeekingArrangement claims it saw a 16 per cent increase in sign-ups in the week after the circuit breaker began on 7 April and a 49 per cent spike in the second week.

Globally, the site has seen a 74 per cent increase in sign-ups, according to SA spokesperson Kimberly De La Cruz. She attributed the rise to the fact that online dating platforms are the “only way to meet new people” with the pandemic going on.

She noted that lockdowns around the world had slowed the pace of dating, with sugar parties actually getting to know each other before rushing into a relationship.

“I think the biggest change is that there’s chivalry, there’s a lot more communication. There is more trying to woo the other person. There’s romance; there’s a lot of people trying to send flowers or dinner, nice gestures… There’s this chemistry-building aspect that traditional online dating has overlooked,” she said.

Likening the current situation to having a pen-pal, De La Cruz said the inability to meet also helps to build a sense of anticipation among the sugar parties for when they finally see each other face to face.

Asked if SA had encountered any sugar daddies who were put off the service by the inability to physically interact with their sugar babies, De La Cruz noted that virtual meet-ups such as video chats were still an option and stressed that the relationships were not “transactional” in that way.

Meanwhile, a Sugarbook spokesperson said the company had been about a 25 percent increase in traffic – including log-ins, new sign-ups, and active messaging – on its Singapore site since 1 March. It saw another 11 per cent increase in sign-ups after the circuit breaker period kicked in. 

With over 750,000 members worldwide, the spokesperson attributed the increase to people adapting to staying at home in the first month of the circuit breaker.

With no opportunity to meet, members are also getting to know each other by virtually “cooking, drinking, watching movies” together and “sending naughty photos or gifts to their partners”.

“We’ve also heard of people who switched up the pace in their relationships and chose to move in together during circuit breaker,” added the spokesperson.

Sugar baby Felice Ang, 23, has been maintaining her relationship with her sugar daddy in the UK via video calls and messages. (PHOTO: Sugarbook)

Adapting to new norms

Another sugar-dating relationship that has been affected by the circuit breaker regulations is that of 40-year-old start-up co-founder Raj (not his real name) and his 27-year-old sugar baby, who works in the legal industry.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before… initially I thought it was a short thing, just one week or two weeks, it didn’t look like we could go out for long time,” he said of the measures that have been imposed.

Now that the couple are unable to meet in person, they have switched to having FaceTime chats, which are sometimes sexual.

“As weird as it sounds, we try to have the same things we used to do last time… Sometimes I do buy for her food and wine and send it to her place, there’s once she cooked pasta and sent it to me. Sometimes we get on schedule and Netflix together,” he said.

Raj noted that the pair’s phone conversations have gotten deeper as well, partly because they are not distracted by him having to be a “cameraman” for his sugar baby’s Instagram influencer account.

He currently provides his sugar baby with about $4,000 to $5,000 a month, which she uses to help pay for the master’s degree she is currently pursuing.

Asked if he would cease his sugar baby’s allowances if they do not get to meet, Raj replied that the relationship was not “tit for tat”.

“Let’s say you are working in a company and now of course you’re not so productive anymore because you’re at home. And so they say ‘Oh, because you’re not so productive anymore we’re going to just not pay you.’ That’s not fair, right?,” said Raj.

“I don’t see it as something transactional, just something I’m comfortable providing.”

Raj said, however, that the current lack of physical contact was an issue and that the pair had plans to move in together if the circuit breaker was extended.

For sugar baby Felice Ang, the global travel restrictions have prevented her from visiting her sugar daddy in the United Kingdom. The 23-year-old recent graduate works as a marketing executive and receives $2,000 a month from her sugar daddy, who works in the finance sector.

“We are quite positive that after this coronavirus (situation) is over we will get to see each other again… we do miss each other quite a lot,” she said.

Ang said that while the couple keeps in touch via video calls and messages, the time difference and her sugar daddy’s long work hours make it difficult to schedule other long-distance dating activities such as movie nights.

She added that her sugar daddy is fortunate to not have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

“He’s also telling me what are the updates for his country like how is the situation developing… I’m really glad that his area is currently safe,” said Ang.

Uncertain times

Just as many industries are now facing financial hardship due to the pandemic, some sugar-dating couples are also having to face up to the economic uncertainties of the times.

One sugar daddy, who wanted to be known only as John, said he stopped sugar dating two months ago as he wanted to “cut down on costs”.

The business owner in his 30s had been using SA for over a year and had dated nine sugar babies – spending an average of about $3,000 a month during the period. Since the pandemic began affecting businesses in Singapore, however, he has taken a pay cut to help alleviate his operational costs.

Asked if he thought more people here would stop sugar dating or cut down on their allowances for sugar babies, he said, “I’m not sure but I suspect so. The pandemic has likely put a dampener on the spending power for most people.”

John added that he would probably not return to sugar dating even after the pandemic ends.

As for Adeline, she said she would be open to renegotiating her allowances should complications arise.

For instance, her other sugar daddy – a 34-year-old Singaporean who runs a technology firm – has not explicitly asked to reduce her allowance but has hinted that the company was not doing well.

“We still haven’t really gotten into (the) conversation. Talking about money is still awkward… I don’t want to take advantage of him. If he’s struggling then I would understand, I’m open to renegotiating,” she said. As of last month, her local sugar daddy was still providing her with a $3,000 monthly allowance.

“I think the right thing to do… was (to ask), ‘Hey, do you need a break?’. Because I still have my Hong Kong sugar daddy as backup. So if anything happens, I won’t die,” she added.

Looking forward, Adeline said she hopes one of her sugar daddies can take her travelling again soon now that her school semester is done. She was supposed to visit South Korea and celebrate her birthday in Italy around this time.

“I’m starting to look for flight tickets to travel already. I think we should book (a holiday) around the end of this year or something,” she said.

Asked what she would do if the travel restrictions continue in the coming months, Adeline sighed.

“More virtual sex I guess? I don’t know, I’ll think of something new. Probably like striptease…,” she said.