Elizabeth and Steve seem like many other couples.
Yes, he’s a bit older than her and yes, they met online – but so many people do these days.
Yet these two are far from a conventional couple, as the website they met on was Seeking Arrangement.
That’s the site used by Rebecca Tott, who was suspended from her job as diary secretary to Tory minister Dominic Raab after the Mirror revealed she sold sex to men she met through it.
MI5 was urged to investigate after we told how she spoke freely about knowing her boss’s “every move” to our undercover reporter, who posed as a potential client.
Elizabeth is a “sugar baby” who likes to be spoilt by men she meets through the site.
Sugar daddy Steve pays £800 into her account every month, as well as lavishing her with expensive gifts and luxury holidays.
Elizabeth estimates during their seven-month relationship, Steve’s splurged in excess of £15,000 on her.
And now, in a Pretty Woman-style twist, she says she has fallen for a man she originally met for the money.
She has even told her parents he is her boyfriend, but of course, they don’t know how the couple met, or about their financial ‘arrangement’.
Elizabeth, is 23 and a full-time office worker in London, yet she’s always had a fantasy of being a “kept woman” to an older, rich man. And that’s exactly what she’s become.
“I always date older men, I am naturally interested in rich, successful, established men and I had a bit of a fantasy about being a kept woman who got spoilt,” Elizabeth explains.
“Men my own age just don’t appeal to me. So why not get paid for going out with the men I date?
“I heard about these sugar relationships while I was at university, and started googling it while I was studying abroad.
“At first I started using it as a dating site – the alternative is Tinder.
“I always used to say I wish you can filter by salary on Tinder – but that’s unfortunately not an option.”
Before Elizabeth met Steve, she ‘dated’ two other wealthy men from the website site.
The first was an American consultant in his early 40s who took her on an all-expenses-paid trip to Chicago.
Prior to the holiday, they had met just three times.
The second man was a Sloane Square millionaire hedge fund manager who Elizabeth says “fancied himself as Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey” and gave Elizabeth strict instructions on what to wear.
They went for dinner in an expensive restaurant in Chelsea before going back to his house for what was arranged as a ‘playdate’, a mutual BDSM experience where the man pays the woman for what he wants.
“It was the nicest, most stunning house I have ever been in,” she says.
“I thought he was really sexy. He gave me a criteria for what to wear: all black, a formal dress that was above the knee and if I wanted to wear tights, they had to be stockings.
“My hair had to be tied up and I had to wear as little make-up as possible. He told me to kneel down and ask to be dominated. I got into it!
“But he was looking for something too intense for me so we parted ways respectfully.”
As this was a one-off night and not a longer term arrangement, Elizabeth was not paid.
Then last September, Elizabeth met Steve, a 37-year-old finance worker who lives in central London.
He’s 14 years her senior, and paid £80 a month to subscribe to Seeking Arrangement in order to find a younger woman he could pay in exchange for dates – and intimacy.
They established an arrangement where he began paying her an allowance, after they started “dating quite normally”.
“He was paying for everything, and getting me little treats, but no money had exchanged hands,” she explains.
“I went for dinner with one of my friends and after a couple of bottles of wine she said to me: ‘He’s getting his side of the deal, and you’re not getting yours.’
"So I drunkenly wrote him a message saying: ‘I signed up to this website for a reason, and we need to talk about it.’”
Steve starting paying £800 into Elizabeth’s account every month and the pair haven’t talked about it since.
“He buys me everything,” she says.
“He bought me a Yves Saint-Laurent handbag and a new phone, and two separate sets of flights to America.
“He pays for every theatre trip, every dinner, every concert.”
Although Elizabeth has had sexual relations with all the men she has met through the site, there were other men who messaged her offering – and sometimes giving – her money, without her even having to meet them, nevermind get intimate with them.
“There was one man who I didn’t want to meet, but I had mentioned in passing that my birthday was coming up,” she says.
“I told him I liked shopping at ASOS – and he sent me £250 worth of vouchers, just like that, just from looking at my profile.”
There were many other offers from other men too.
One said he wanted a woman who would dominate him and make him “want to leave my wife”, another man was willing to pay more than £10,000 a month for someone “fun and open-minded”, and an older man confessed to being “lonely” and wanting to spent his disposable income on theatre trips and spa breaks for a younger woman.
“A lot of the blokes who go on the site are lonely and nerdy and can’t date in the conventional sense, and that’s why they feel they have to pay younger women,” she says.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings says women like Elizabeth “believe they are being empowered” by these arrangements, which can “get quite addictive”.
“They feel like they are providing a service to men who want to be given that service, and a way of earning a bit of extra money,” she says.
“Some of these women would be shocked to hear themselves compared to prostitutes, but that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“They feel like they have a certain amount of power by giving men something they want, and getting paid for it. And a lot of women are tired of the insecurity of dating men their own age.”
Elizabeth would be appalled to think she’s part of the world’s oldest profession.
She says: “I wouldn’t ever describe myself as an escort. I’d say I used Seeking Arrangement as a dating website if anything.”
And she certainly isn’t alone in being attracted to the Sugar Baby lifestyle.
Seeking Arrangement has more than ten million users across 139 countries, with hundreds of thousands in the UK alone.
The average Sugar Daddy is 43 and their main occupations are CEOs or entrepreneurs, with their salary averaging £105k a year.
The typical Sugar Baby is 26, usually works as a student or nurse, and, like Elizabeth, earn less then £30,000 a year.
But the site has also come under fire for allowing women to meet men on a “pay-per-meet” basis, like Tott arranged with our undercover reporters, with some users auctioning off their virginity.
“Sugar babies are supposed to just get allowances, like I do,” explains Elizabeth.
“But of course ‘pay-per-meet’ still goes on and there is no way of controlling what people do once the conversation has turned to WhatsApp.”
But in a statement from the website, a Seeking Arrangement spokesman says “it is not a site for sex workers and those seeking to engage with sex workers”.
The statement adds: “Sexual arrangements and pay per meets are not allowed or promoted on Seeking Arrangement.
"We do not allow prostitutes or escorts to join the site.
"Sexual negotiations are not allowed to take place on Seeking Arrangement and members caught doing so will be removed from the site as that sort of behaviour violates the terms and conditions that are agreed upon when joining the site.”
Now, Elizabeth is just grateful to Seeking Arrangement for introducing her to Steve, who recently paid for her to spontaneously fly out to America at the last minute to visit him on a work trip “because I rang him crying saying I missed him”.
“We think we are a success story, but we are not a success story when you look at what the site is designed for – we are just a happy accident,” Elizabeth says.
* Names have been changed to protect identity.
The Mirror’s Laura Connor, 28, signed up to the site to see what kind of messages sent by so-called Sugar Daddies.
Here’s what happened…
Laura says: “I immediately found it odd that when you sign up, the site recommends you don’t use your ‘real name’.
"So using a different name Jayne, my profile had been live on the site for less than 24 hours and I’d already been sent 19 messages propositioning me.
“Like Elizabeth, and most single women in their 20s, I have used other dating apps before – but this was an entirely new, and pretty uncomfortable, experience for me.
“One man, who is 55 and earns £250,000 a year according to his profile, said I ‘look and sound a million bucks’. He isn’t much younger than my dad!
“Another man, who claimed to be 53 and worth £1.2m, told me he wanted an ‘exciting relationship of mutual pleasures and enjoyment’.
“Another bloke, this time the same age as Steve – and nine years older than me – didn’t beat around the bush, telling me he’s ‘keen on sexual intimacy, building up to this in an adventurous way for us both’.
“And then the CEO of a software company, apparently worth £6m, asked me if I wanted to join him on an all-expenses-trip to Crete in less than a week!
“I think I’m washing my hair that day…”
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