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Research projects

Between Romance and Sexual Commerce: Sugar Dating and the renegotiation of the boundaries between economy and intimacy (2019-2022)

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress 2019 - 2021


Lena Gunnarsson

Research subject

In August 2017 sugar dating arrived in Sweden, with the launch of the site The sugar dating facilitated by the site are contract-like arrangements where intimacy and sex are exchanged for money and other benefits. The ideal-typical arrangement involves a young, beautiful sugar baby and an older, well-off sugar daddy. Interpretations of the phenomenon range from an honest romantic arrangement to a form of sexual exploitation and prostitution. This project maps and analyses the practices, politics and meanings of sugar dating in Sweden within a transnational online context. It locates sugar dating as part of two broader societal shifts which involve a renegotiation of the boundaries between economy/instrumentality and sexuality/intimacy: (1) an increased instrumentalization of intimacy and (2) a normalization of commodified sex. The key aim of the project is to use sugar dating as a lens through which to examine these broader global shifts and how they are related to gender, class and age based inequalities. Methods used range from analysis of policy and debate to interviews with sugar daters.

The researchers' respective expertise in gendered intimacy and gendered violence are combined to address sugar dating’s ambiguous status as dating/exploitation. The study will contribute new knowledge on current transformations of the relations between economy, gender, intimacy and sexuality. It will also generate concrete knowledge about the growing phenomenon of sugar dating, which will prove an important asset for the forming of policy interventions in this as yet unregulated area. To this end, the study will be carried out in dialogue with societal stakeholders on different levels.


Research funding bodies

  • The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE)