Students at Stanford University, Stanford, October 1989. (Barbara Alper via Getty Images)

The Sugar Babies of Stanford University

Why are elite co-eds turning to TikTok and Snapchat to connect with lonely men who pay for their attention? ‘Less work, more money. Passive income stream.’

It was fall day at Stanford University, and Cassie lay on her dorm room floor exercising. On a whim, Cassie’s friend pulled out her phone and started filming her. She and her friend laughed as Cassie hammed it up for the camera, pulling some half-joking, half-sexy moves. 

Cassie—that’s not her real name, she and her friend requested anonymity to protect their privacy— figured the video would just be sent to a few mutual friends. They’d laugh, too, and that would be the end of it. Instead, Cassie’s friend shared the video publicly on social media, and it went viral. Within a few days, the video had been seen by millions of people.

I caught up with the girls and asked them what happened after going viral. For them, the reaction was overwhelming. The reaction was insane! The reaction presented an interesting opportunity. Cassie decided to embrace the virality, and make more suggestive videos. Sometimes she danced in a bikini, sometimes she responded to indecent comments, and sometimes filmed her normal days as a co-ed at one of America's most elite universities. It wasn’t long before men started asking Cassie if they could send her money. So why not?, she thought, and Cassie included a link to her CashApp along with her videos. (The videos have since been taken down.)

As the money started flowing in, so did messages from men interested in more than just a public video. From here, this side-hustle—which it had accidentally become—naturally expanded. Cassie, now twenty-one-years-old, started sexting with various men in exchange for money, and eventually gifts: cash, flowers, lingerie, a television, a tennis bracelet, a diamond ring. Her main sugar daddy, Pat, sent around $600 just to get her attention. When men asked for pictures of her feet, Cassie declined, and brought in a new friend, Lainey, who was in the same year at Stanford, to take her “overflow customers.”

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