“Put Some Sugar on... You”: Negotiations of Sexual Capital Among Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies in Online Spaces

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Nicole ANDREJEK, McMaster University, Canada
Alan SANTINELE MARTINO, McMaster University, Canada
Marija GINIC, McMaster University, Canada
Drawing on a sexual fields framework (Green 2014), this paper examines sexual and romantic relationships in the current digital age. Specifically, we draw on a case study of men who solicit sexual/romantic partners online to be “sugar babies,” as well as people looking for “sugar daddies” and “sugar mommas,” and how they negotiate their sexual capital in online spaces. In our contemporary erotic sphere, online spaces, such as Craigslist, serve as important sexual arenas where people can pursue potential sexual/romantic partners that satisfy their interests while remaining anonymous. Few studies to date have empirically looked at the negotiations of sexual capital within digital sexual fields specifically, and thus, this project focuses on how a group of individuals soliciting a “niche” form of intimate relationships in online spaces present their sexual capital in ways that might increase their chances of partnering with their idealized partner(s).

Through a content analysis of solicitations by “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies” on Craigslists’ ‘Casual Encounters’ section (n=190) in a major urban city in Canada, we found straightforward descriptions of ideal partners that bring to view hierarchies of sexual capital in which certain ages, body types, sexual identities, behaviours, and so on are privileged over others. This paper contributes to the sociology of sexualities and technology by expanding Green’s sexual fields framework to form a theory of “digital sexual fields”. In doing so, we highlight how current theoretical, methodological, and analytical frameworks can be reimagined to understand online spaces as cultural arenas in which people's romantic and sexual lives are negotiated.