Sex three times a month for free rent, car and uni
SYDNEY university student Samantha*, 25, has not paid her own rent of $300 a week in two years.
She recently purchased a new car, laptop and hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks for her psychology degree, without spending any of her own money.
Three times a month she goes to dinner and then has sex with two different men, in exchange for their financial support. She has been in a "relationship" with one of then men for two years and the other for five months.
There is no cash exchanged directly. Both men preferring to "mentor" Samantha by paying for her living expenses and university costs.
Samantha is one of 125,000 Australian university students signed up to the "Sugar Baby" website Seeking Arrangement, which connects young women with wealthy, time-poor men. The website directly targets university students, offering "relief" to those with large uni debts or HECS payments.
"Say goodbye to college debt and hello to a higher class education," says the Seeking Arrangement website.
"Bills never get in the way for College Sugar Babies. The value of a degree cannot be underestimated. It opens the door to better jobs, better salaries and more opportunities in general. It is easier than ever for students to connect with Sugar Daddies on SeekingArrangement.com," the website says.
Most Australian university degrees cost between $6,000 and $10,000 a year, but that number is climbing. By 2026 the average annual fee for a full-time university student in a Commonwealth-supported place will be $16,836, or $50,500 for a three-year degree, according to a 2016 Parliamentary Budget Office report.
Students must begin paying off their HECS debt when they start to earn $42,000 or more.
Seeking Arrangement spokeswoman Kimberly De La Cruz told news.com.au that a third of the website's "sugar babies" are students.
"It was not long after SeekingArrangement.com was founded that we started to realise many of our Sugar Baby members were college students. and it became clear that 'sugar dating' was paving the way for a growing number of women to get financial assistance and mentoring while in university," Ms Cruz said.
"SeekingArrangement is a viable option to pay for tuition, books, fees and other living expenses associated with pursuing education."
The two men Samantha sees, a lawyer and an IT worker, feel uncomfortable about paying her directly in cash because it feels too "transactional".
"I've found that they can get very weird about pay-to-meet situations," Samantha said.
"A lot of the men on the site have a very nurturing, providing side. A lot of profiles will say they are looking to be a mentor, they're looking for a practical girl who wants help with her studies.
"I don't think the men on there are after girls looking for material things. They don't want it to feel transactional. It's never anything like handbags or shoes. I keep it very practical and they seem to respect that," she said.
"I recently got my driver's license and one of the guys helped me pick out a nice car. I paid for the car with his help, saving up for it. He was really pleased when I got to that goal and he's happy that I'm graduating university in a few month's time."
When she first signed up to Seeking Arrangement three years ago, she was concerned her time would be consumed with dates, rather than her studies. But she sees both clients only a few times a month.
"They are very busy and they only want to meet up once or twice a month," she said.
"We go out to dinner and talk about our lives and catch up and we go back to his place and we're physically intimate.
"I'm a very sexual person, so being able to take control of my sexuality and explore different aspects of my sexuality and make a bit of money at the same time was really appealing.
"I put on my profile that I don't entertain married men and that does cut down a lot of the profiles because a lot of them are married. It's just something that I didn't feel comfortable with."
Ms Cruz says "transactional relationships" - where cash is exchanged directly for sex - are not permitted on the website.
"The allure of finding someone who can mentor you in your career aspirations, while also assisting to pay for your ongoing education is what drives so many students to our site," Ms Cruz said.
"Many of the Sugar Daddies like the idea that they can share their world experience with someone who is just getting their footing, and many of the Sugar Babies want to spend time with someone who has those experiences to share. It is a win-win."
*Last name has been omitted for privacy reasons.