Google Is Booting ‘Sugar Daddy’ Apps From the Play Store

Google Is Booting ‘Sugar Daddy’ Apps From the Play Store
Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

You probably wouldn’t expect to find references to “sugar daddies” in Google’s policy updates, but this week that’s exactly what happened. Android Police was first to note that Google quietly updated its inappropriate content policies in its Play Store to specifically forbid any apps meant to encourage “compensated sexual relationships.” That means apps that facilitate any kind of sex work — including sugar dating — are going to come under fire.

For those uninitiated, the phrase “sugar dating” bubbled into the public consciousness when the illicit dating sites Ashley Madison had its data leaked back in 2015. In a nutshell, the phrase simply refers to a relationship where a (typically wealthy, typically much older) man compensates someone (who’s typically much younger) in exchange for (typically sexual) favours.

While Ashley Madison is one kind of hub for folks to seek out these types of arrangements, there’s been an explosion of competitors in recent years with names like “SugarDaddyMeet,” “EstablishedMen,” and, naturally, “SeekingArrangements.” There’s no shortage of these types of apps in the Google Play Store — as of this writing, anyone with an Android device has literally dozens to choose from — some with tens of thousands of (mostly high) ratings.

At least, that’s the case for now. Google’s policy update clarifies that by September 1, these sorts of apps are going to be banned. Right now, apps that are banned under the company’s “inappropriate content” guidelines include apps that “contain or promote sexual content or profanity,” which includes any apps promoting “services intended to be sexually gratifying.” That said, Google does allow mainstream dating apps — even ones that are mostly hubs for hooking up.

Naturally, there are a few ways to circumvent the impending demise of people’s sugaring app of choice. Even after September 1, users will still be able to download the programs onto their phone via sideloading — the term for downloading an application package for an app, or APK, directly onto your Android device. And of course, we’ve also seen people in the sugar dating community start flocking to more “vanilla” dating apps like Tinder; especially following some recent high-profile scandals involving apps like SeekingArrangements. Needless to say, people looking to have their back scratched will likely be just fine.