An internet dating site which links wealthy men with young women – and boasts an MP as a so-called "sugar daddy" member – was launched in the UK yesterday.
Brandon Wade, the founder of seekingarrangment.com, says the US site has 80,000 UK members. The site claims a million members in America, with 10 women – called "sugar babies" – to each man. It matches impoverished young women with older men who can "treat" them by buying presents.
"Forty per cent of the sugar babies are students who need help with their tuition fees," Mr Wade said."The next largest group is single mothers. The site is a reflection of the ills of our time ... If it's exploitative then the exploitation is mutual. I get asked a lot if it's prostitution. But the sugar babies can say no."
He said most dating sites are superficial and his site is no different. He said most of the UK membership is presently based in London.
The "sugar daddies" are chiefly bankers, entrepreneurs and chief executives in their early 40s with an average income of £170,000 a year. They spend £2,862 a year on "sugar addiction" and are 13 years older than the women – but there are also younger heirs to fortunes and one Member of Parliament, he added.
Siobhan Freegard, the founder of netmums, feared the new site might blur the line between prostitution and genuine relationships. "The problem with a site like this is that the power balance is skewed from the start," she said.
The Independent's agony aunt Virginia Ironside found nothing "morally wrong" with the site. "Women are much more pragmatic about sex, less soppy than men. If you're a hard-up single mum and there was somebody you found not too unattractive and don't go any further than you want to, I can't see anything intrinsically wrong."