Pop Tarts

Is 'Sugar Daddying' Prostitution, or Just Extreme Gifting?

A scene from 'Pretty Woman,' Hollywood's ode to sugar daddies. (Touchstone)

A scene from 'Pretty Woman,' Hollywood's ode to sugar daddies. (Touchstone)

It’s the classic Tinseltown tale – a starry-eyed young woman heads to Hollywood with dreams of being the next Angelina Jolie or Britney Spears, only to be faced with the industry’s brutal truth that only a lucky few make it.

So what happens for those whose hopes are dashed, or for those who are still holding out for that big break?

Some go back to Iowa. Some get normal jobs and continue to work toward their dreams. Others go for the easy money and become escorts or prostitutes. 

Others, however, enter that gray area and become a "kept woman," turning to sugar daddies to give them the “Pretty Woman” lifestyle, complete with compensation in designer dresses, expensive dinners and nights in fancy hotel suites.

All in return for sex.

California-based District Attorney Robin Sax says it is commonplace in Hollywood for young women to be compensated by wealthy older guys with spa treatments, exotic vacations, clothes, jewelry, and even expensive cars.

“Girls are just another thing for Hollywood folks to entertain with – champagne, a meal and a girl,” Sax said. “The really rich and successful Hollywood men can basically get anything they want.”

So how does a woman score a sugar daddy in Hollywood?

“They hang out and make their propositions in five-star hotel bars, restaurants, prominent clubs or through social networking,” Beverly Hills-based chemical addiction specialist Marty Brenner said. 

And they're increasingly looking online.

Sugardaddy.com is marketed as an online dating site boasting over two million members that connects “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies” or “sugar mommas.” The site has a disclaimer that prohibits members from offering money in exchange for sex, saying any such violations will result in the cancellation of membership and banning from the site.

That's a very important distinction, says Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media who runs a similar Sugar Daddy dating site called EstablishedMen.com.

“Prostitution is about sex for money … and women who rely on these interactions to support themselves – this is their profession,” Biderman said. “Sugar daddy relationships are real women who are interested in being with men who are willing to spend their disposable income on the lifestyle – clothes, jewelry, trips, dining – that match up with their desires."

Others disagree, saying sugar mommas are just prostitutes by another name.

“The sugar daddy is the client, and prostitution is alive and well, and burning up the Internet,” convicted former madam and author of the tell-all “Secrets of a Hollywood Super Madam” Jody “Babydol” Gibson told Pop Tarts.

So who's right?

“The law is clear in that engaging in sexual intercourse for money or other considerations is prostitution, but the difference in how it is enforced is a gray area,” Sax said. “Something like loitering in a seedy area and having someone pick you up is much easier to police.”

Sax said getting gifts is really no different than getting cold hard cash, but getting arrested for it is unlikely. 

“It’s not likely anyone would get convicted over this,” she added. “I don’t think anyone is all that outraged over it, and jurors would most likely be annoyed about having to go to court over someone buying someone a handbag for sex.”


Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay