Women empowerment seems to have whittled down the power of slut-shaming and the general stigmatisation of women who engage in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.
Consequently, more young women have gained ‘sexual freedom of association’, especially in urban areas.
Coupled with the high rate of unemployment and underemployment among the youth who are desperate to live beyond their means, younger women now have no qualms about selling their bodies and exploiting their sexual value for financial gain.
When Mumbua* packed her bags for the city five years ago, she had a perfect image of how she wanted her life to pan out for the next three or so years she would be in college.
She had been admitted at the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Arts course. Studying was the only mission that got her to visit Nairobi for the first time.
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Settling and adapting to the city life wasn’t so hard for Mumbua who was raised in Nakuru Town. Naive, innocent and virgin could have been her perfect description.
Hardly a year later, Mumbua had acquired a new life, she could name a few designer perfumes, the best wines in town, and she had also added a new skill to her CV — she had learnt to seductively catwalk in heels, thanks to her friend Dinah* who cultured her into the ‘city life’.
‘Pay-for-play relationships’ between young women and older, married men has slowly become a bit of a cult phenomenon in Kenya, especially in major urban areas.
And if what has been said about younger women living off ‘sponsors’ in blogs and social media is anything to go by, these relationships are running rampant in Kenya like never before.
Driven by the desire to live large, Mumbua says she has no regrets whatsoever for following this path.
“If there’s anyone I admire in my life, it is (socialite) Kim Kardashian, I will do anything to look and live like her, all these require money.”
“My less than Sh100,000 salary can’t afford me this life, I had to take the easier route of dating an older but a loaded man, I live in Kileleshwa and my rent is more than Sh40,000, I drive to work, thanks to my ‘sponsor’,” brags Mumbua.
To live a good life, she says, you must sacrifice and let shame take a backseat in your life.
“My relationship with this man, who is by the way 20 years my senior, is more of a business; I benefit, he benefits. I’m more of an investor. I know he has a family and I respect that but hey, is it a crime for a girl wanting to live on the fast lane?” she poses, with a naughty chuckle.
With sleaze seeming to have been gentrified, refined and made to look polite and even cool, Mumbua, her ilk and their male partners in crime, some of whom are old enough to be their fathers, see no crime in getting into pay-to-play relationships.
And as if to give credence to the notion ‘birds of a feather flock together’, her friend Dinah* who lives in Nairobi’s Kilimani estate was in a rush during this interview, as she had a flight to catch later that afternoon.
Her ‘sponsor’, a married man and a father of three was in Mombasa for a seminar and had requested her to join him for the weekend.
Good sex that wives no longer offer husbands
From this, you can tell that the sanctioned idealism of monogamous bliss is no more; the pursuit of good sex has increasingly become a dedicated rich man’s endeavour.
It’s said money can’t buy love, but the rich men, desperate for so-called ‘good sex’, which their wives unfortunately no longer offer, are now using cash to buy sex and loyalty from college-going and job-seeking girls.
Commitment, however, is one aspect missing in this ‘sponsor vs sponsored’ arrangement. For Dinah, falling in love with a man almost her father’s age, she says, is foolish.
“I’m playing to his cards now for the money, but I would never settle down with such a man, of course, the sex isn’t so good, but he supplements his weakness between the sheets with how he treats me, that’s enough for now.
The tragedy of dating men our age is that you never get to sample the fine things in life. I want to settle down with a man my age in the future, but for now, let me have fun with my ‘sponsor’,” she adds.
Why you should worry when your daughter says, “dad, I got the job”
For others like June*, fate left her with no option. Being jobless for more three years after college pushed her to seek help, only that this help turned into a relationship. As a father, June’s story will make you think hard enough and get worried each time your daughter come home and tells you, “Dad, I finally got that job!”
“I remember very well the first day I met John (her ‘sponsor’). We had gone for an interview in a hotel he runs in Nairobi West, but unfortunately I wasn’t the best candidate for the job. I remember he gave me his card after the interview promising to assist me get a job in my field.
He got my number in exchange and a day later we started talking,” says June, adding that one thing led to another and before she knew, his money had lured her into sharing a bed with him.
“He moved me from Ngara to Lang’ata where I live now, he also got me a job at an auditing firm in Westlands, Nairobi. I plan to leave him after gaining some financial stability, but for now I’m safe with him around me.
My parents would curse me if I was to settle down with a man almost my father’s age. He treats me like his queen and no man my age would treat me the way he does. John is a family man, happily married and I respect that, we operate within rules that have kept this union afloat for the last two years,” explains June.
Beatrice* who is also seeing a man almost her dad’s age brings a different angle to this type of relationship to justify her position.
“Living off ‘sponsors’ isn’t a new thing, our grandmothers did it, it’s only that now it has been given a name. To me, I’m in this relationship to safeguard my future, if I don’t do this now, I mess up my life forever.
I got the job I’m currently in through his connections, he’s also trying to get me a better one at a parastatal,” she says. She says her ‘sponsor’ is 30 years her senior, but she is in the relationship for the benefits. Before she met him, she had applied for more than ten jobs and none even called her back for an interview.
“We met at a pub in Westlands, exchange contacts and things moved really fast but I made sure I had a job before I got him to sample my ‘assets’,” she says. Beatrice says she hopes she will get a man her age to settle down with, but what matters to her now is securing her future and that of her children.
Beatrice isn’t under any illusions about what to expect from her ‘sponsor’. She knows courtship, romance, marriage and children are out of the question. This is purely business and her accomplice knows this as well.
“If we have to spend a weekend out of town, it has to be planned for way in advance. He really praises his wife so I’m well aware that I cannot replace her and anyway I have never harboured such intentions,” she adds.
All this madness leave one wondering isn’t intimacy still a sacred activity that should only take place in an environment of love? Welcome to the world of women living off ‘sponsors’ where lust and money overpowers love.