NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – What happens when economic desperation is combined with youth and the internet?

While writing the article “Sugar Daddies” for the Huffington Post, Amanda Fairbanks wrote found college women desperate to pay their bills and their college tuition, can’t find good jobs, and resort to sugar daddies to make money.

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LISTEN: Farnack With Fairbanks
(Download the full interview HERE)

Fairbanks told WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack that many can’t admit to themselves that it’s a form of prostitution and end up ashamed and keep it a secret.

“Sometimes when you’re in your early 20s and you’re doing kind of high risk behavior you don’t necessarily realize how much this stuff is going to stay with you,” said Fairbanks.

She wrote about one woman who got on a train and met an older, wealthy gentleman in Greenwich, Connecticut and, after getting $350, got on the train to return to Harlem.

“She’s thinking, ‘What the heck did I just do? I mean, how did my life come to this?’ and I think that the sort of psychological element is what remains even after they’ve gotten money, just such a really tough thing for them to deal with,” said Fairbanks.

The story had a great impact on Fairbanks.

“There is something really compelling and quite vulnerable about them and I speak to a lot of despairing 20-somethings in my reporting in general, but something about this degree of desperation has really stuck with me, and I think it is very much indicative of the kind of horrible times in which we’re living and when I think about it, it’s very sad to me,” she said.

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About an eighth of the members of one website were “sugar daddies.”

“In the universe of the sites, there are about 800,000 members on one site that I looked at, which is called, and of those 800,000 members, about 115,000 are sugar daddies,” said Fairbanks.

The women on the sites can make anywhere from $350 to a $5,000-a-month retainer.

The internet is a huge driver of this phenomenon.

“I think it’s been around forever. I think that this technology is sort of pushing it farther and faster in a direction that, maybe, it was already headed,” Fairbanks said.

The website has seen a 350 percent increase in the number of students using their services.

“That’s indicative of the times in which we’re living,” Fairbanks said. “I don’t think that we’d be seeing this back in 2007.”

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