Sugar dating, a mutually beneficial relationship between sugar daddies or mommas and their sugar babies, has been a popular trend in Indonesia in the last five years. In 2018, an Indonesian Twitter user shared her experience of having a sugar daddy. Her thread went viral and the hashtag became a trending topic on the platform. Back in April, many women also gathered online to talk about what it’s like being sugar babies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world’s largest Sugar Dating site SeekingArrangement, recently confirmed the upward trend of the sugar baby industry in Indonesia in a press release. They reveal Jakarta tops the list of Indonesian cities with the most sugar daddies and babies. According to its 2020 Heat Map, there are 4,221 sugar daddies and 10,200 sugar babies in the capital city. Bandung (a metropolitan area in West Java) and Surabaya (the second biggest city Indonesia) rank second and third, with 1,417 and 1,069 sugar babies respectively.
The data doesn’t include the number of sugar mommas who seek dating arrangements in Indonesia.
CEO and founder of SeekingArrangement Brandon Wade thinks the increasing trend is driven by economic inequality in each country analyzed in their report, especially Indonesia.
“Driven by roaring pressures to achieve an elevated standard of living, youths are now shifting to alternative means to support some of their life’s greatest pursuits instead of opting for cumbersome loans that are hard to come by to start off with,” said Wade in a statement.
SeekingArrangement pointed out that the inability to afford tuition in higher education may be one of the main factors why sugar babies seek older partners. In Indonesia, only 12 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds have earned a bachelor’s degree. In the majority of big cities, 56 percent of Indonesian youth can’t afford to go to college. However, there is no clear evidence that young people in Indonesia become sugar babies in order to pursue higher education.
The site also assumes the industry is dominated by women because the gender pay gap still exists. The World Economic Forum survey, cited by SeekingArrangement in the press release, shows that women under 30 earn 27.64 percent less than their male counterparts for the same position.
“Mentorship, financial support, travel opportunities and a more comfortable sense of living,” are among the perks of sugar dating, Wade added.
But sugar dating remains controversial in Indonesia. Sugar dating in Indonesia usually involves a married man or woman, while some from the majority Muslim nation even see the practice as another form of prostitution.
Triyono Lukmantoro, communication lecturer at Diponegoro University in the Central Java city of Semarang, told Indonesian news platform Kumparan that money isn’t the only reason why the phenomenon is growing in popularity.
“[These sugar daddies] want to assert their power over women’s bodies and financial situations. In a patriarchal society, sugar dating offers the perfect opportunity to express this desire,” said Lukmantoro.