In popular TikToks, people joke about sugar babies celebrating inheritances when a "daddy" dies.
But sugar babies who've lost daddies said they've struggled with both grief and a loss of income.
They often can't attend daddies' funerals and said friends have laughed off their losses.
Sugar dating is nothing new, but people are becoming more curious about the practice as more sugar babies take to social media to talk about the lifestyle. TikTok hashtags like #SugarBabyTok, #SugarBaby, and #SugarDating have over a billion combined views; creators share vlogs in which they flaunt wads of cash, luxurious gifts, and first-class flight tickets gifted to them by their sugar daddies.
Sugar dating is generally defined as a relationship in which the "baby" receives gifts, a cash stipend, or an allowance in exchange for their companionship. While that can include sex, many "babies" say that sugaring is different from sex work because it's centered around building an emotionally intimate, often long-term relationship.
Sugar babies interviewed by Insider say that their daddies tend to be older men, typically between 40 and 60 years old. That's something that many social-media creators outside the sugaring world are quick to make light of, satirizing sugar babies celebrating the money, goods, and property they'd inherit if a daddy died.
In one video, the rapper and model Samella Jamese, who has 336,000 TikTok followers, screams excitedly as she runs down the stairs of what appears to be a luxury apartment with a pool. The caption reads: "When your sugar daddy dies and leaves you the house."
Another video, with over 700,000 views, depicts the TikTok creator Priscilla Stephanie dancing happily, with the caption: "When your sugar daddy finally dies with a heart attack from all the Mexican greasy cooking you been feeding him."
But the reality of losing a sugar daddy is far more complicated, Kristine Medina, a 33-year-old former sugar baby living in Texas, said.
When one of Medina's "daddies" failed to respond to emails and texts in 2016, she thought he had ghosted her. Two months later, she learned that he had passed away. She struggled with grief over the loss, as well as guilt for having thought the worst of him.
"We had a really good relationship, and we were as close as we could be without outright dating," she said. "He took care of me when I was sick and we shared mutual affection." (Medina's name is a pseudonym she used for her sugar-dating work; Insider granted her anonymity because some aspects of sugar dating are considered illegal.)
Sugar babies say their grief is not taken seriously
Sugaring can be lucrative work. Medina said she consistently had three clients "on rotation," and in a good week, she could take home $3,000, on top of gifts like jewelry and purses. She believes the opulent-looking videos on TikTok are mostly authentic.
But with sugar dating often frowned upon by society, the three sugar babies interviewed by Insider said it's hard to get others to take the personal nature of their sugaring relationships seriously.
Medina experienced this firsthand when she told a friend about her sugar daddy's death. "She was very flippant and even laughed," she said. "My tears felt stupid then."
Alexandra Haselbeck, a licensed psychotherapist at Seachange Psychotherapy, said this experience is known as disenfranchised grief — the sort of grief that's not acknowledged in society.
Haselbeck, who's counseled sex workers on trauma and grief, said that disenfranchised grief is fairly common among this group.
"It's harder to process grief if we feel like we can't acknowledge it," she said. "Sugar babies are probably not going to get a card when their sugar daddy dies or be able to call out of work. This can feel very alienating."
The discreet nature of sugaring can make it hard to achieve closure after a death
Sugar relationships thrive on privacy and discretion. Medina told Insider that the sugar-dating community attracts "tons of crazies." She said she's gone out with prospective "daddies" who took advantage of her services without paying, and some of her friends have been assaulted on sugar dates.
Because of these risks, sugar babies exchange the bare minimum of personal information with their sugar daddies, she said. "You don't want to give these men information that makes you easily identifiable. I got stalked once and never did that again."
The discretion goes both ways: Sugar daddies often work hard to keep their personal lives private, especially if they are married. They often arrange meetups in impersonal locations, keeping details such as their last names and addresses private.
But this privacy can have consequences when someone suddenly passes away. After assuming her sugar daddy had ghosted her, Medina was shocked to discover his obituary while scrolling through Facebook. He had died from injuries sustained in a car wreck, she said.
"I had moved on and replaced him with a new client; I felt extremely guilty for that, and now that I knew that he was dead, I had to restart mourning the end of our relationship," Medina said. "It's different when you think he's just a jerk who doesn't deserve you, as opposed to him being gone forever."
Reaching out to her former daddy's children felt inappropriate, she said. "Their profiles were private, and I wasn't sure how I would introduce myself to them," Medina said. "It's weird."
Attending a funeral is often not an option
Funerals often help people attain closure after a loss, but with the stigma around sugar dating, deciding whether to attend a sugar daddy's funeral can be fraught. When she lost a sugar daddy to cardiac arrest in 2019, Elise Kordei, a 24-year-old former sugar baby from Texas, decided not to attend the memorial service.
"While I cared about him, I didn't think I knew him well enough to go," she explained. "I was very new to sugar dating at the time, and I was uncomfortable with the idea of sharing space with his family."
Medina, on the other hand, said that she was disappointed about not having the opportunity to attend her daddy's funeral. "Even if it would have been just for a second, I feel like it would have helped," she said.
Being unable to attend a funeral can compound sugar babies' grief, Haselbeck said.
"If a sugar baby says that they don't want to go to the funeral because they'd rather grieve alone, then that's fine," she said. "But it's a different matter if they don't go because the secrecy of the relationship means that they're not allowed to."
Because sugar dating is a job, financial loss can compound grief
Yoshika Gonzalez, a 27-year-old sugar baby, said that TikToks celebrating inheriting money from a sugar daddy don't reflect the financial reality of sugaring. Based on her experience, she said, only a small number of sugar babies will ever get their names added to the wills of sugar daddies.
"These men are probably married, and at the end of the day, they are going to prioritize their family members over others," she said.
If anything, a sugar daddy's death can upend a sugar baby's finances.
At the time of her sugar daddy's death, Kordei said she was getting a bimonthly allowance of $2,000 from him. While she had another job, the allowance made up the bulk of her income, and her grief was compounded by money worries.
After mistakenly concluding her sugar daddy had ghosted her, Medina found a new client and maintained her finances. But she said her guilt and grief over learning of his death pushed her to take a break from sugaring, costing her income.
Some sugar babies find support online
Though TikTok creators can often be dismissive of sugar babies' grief, Haselbeck said that other digital spaces can be of great value to sugar babies who may not have a real-life support system.
"Online forums are really good spaces to connect with other people who've gone through this sort of loss and won't judge," she said. "It makes it feel less isolating."
Medina was able to grieve her loss on Reddit, where she found other women who understood and shared her experience. "I made a post there and everyone was so nice," she said. "A lot of people had experienced the same thing, so they could offer insight. It made me feel less crazy."
Even if the outside world is dismissive of their grief, sugar babies have the right to feel emotional about a loss, Haselbeck said.
"The sugar baby must make space to allow whatever they're feeling without judgment," she said. "As obvious as it sounds, every emotion is valid, and therefore grief is valid."
Read the original article on Insider