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Underage 'Sugar Dating' Sparks Prostitution Concerns in Finland

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The Sugardaters website alone, a popular hook-up tool, has seen a record increase in Finnish users, jumping from 2,500 to 18,000 in a single year. Amid this avalanche, an investigation found girls as young as 13 participating in the phenomenon, described as a fancier re-branding of prostitution.

The phenomenon of "sugar dating," that is relationships involving money or gifts in exchange for sexual services rendered, is gaining ground in Finland, national broadcaster Yle reported, describing it as "open prostitution" that sometimes involves underage girls. At present, the police are investigating a rape case involving a 17-year-old girl.

In most cases, such arrangements involve older men paying younger women, Yle reported after a journalistic investigation, in which reporters posed as a 23-year-old "sugar baby" on some of the most popular forums and hook-up apps.

Among the "sugar daddies" outed in the course of the investigation was a hardened criminal with a long criminal record and a high-up businessman recently awarded the title of honorary president.

The "sugar girls" interviewed during the investigation admitted that sexual intercourse plays a central role in the business. They said they can earn up to €1,200 ($1,370) a month at best, with the cost of a single "meeting" varying between 200 and 400 euros.

"Now I can make ends meet, but the 'whore money' gives me some extra fun in my life. I can go on vacation and I can do something nice for myself," "Heli", one of the girls interviewed by Yle, said, admitting that it is essentially the same as prostitution, although the latter is not a nice word.

READ MORE: Spicy Ad Encouraging Girls to Date Sugar Daddies Inflames Norwegians

Despite the fact that web forums intended for sugar dating explicitly ban underage users, minors' profiles abound. Some of the "sugar babies" admitted that they embarked on such relations already as teenage girls. Purchasing sex from minors is a crime that can lead to fines or a maximum of two years' imprisonment. At present, Finnish police are investigating the suspected rape of a 17-year-old girl in connection with "sugar dating." No details on the case have been provided for the sake of the victim's safety.

Despite the rising popularity of "sugar dating" across the globe, the phenomenon has not been dedicated significant scientific attention. At Örebro University in Sweden, however, a study is currently ongoing. Researcher Lena Gunnarsson signalled a "change of attitude" surrounding "sugar dating."

"Some see it as a way of making prostitution more attractive to the middle class, as if to make it look more elegant. It's not so damning to do sex work anymore if you're a neat middle class girl. Also, there are growing income differences fuelling it," Gunnarsson told Yle.

READ MORE: Adult Entertainment: Underage Finnish Students Seek Out 'Supervisors' on Tinder

Meanwhile, websites for "sugar dating" have seen an avalanche-like growth this year. The Sugardaters website reported a spike from 2,500 Finnish users in 2017 to 18,000 this year. The Richmeetsbeautiful, another site for "sugar dating," which entices users with mottos like "Relations on your terms" and "You only live once" is approaching the 10,000 user mark. The services are chargeable for "sugar daddies" but free of charge for "sugar girls."

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