Of Sponsors and Conversations we Deliberately Postpone
I recently chanced upon a video about a 21-year-old sugar-baby on BBC News Africa’s Facebook page. In the video, she explains how life as a sugar-baby is working out for her. Despite coming from a humble background, Jane is able to afford a life that her fellow students can only dream of, thanks to her two sponsors, Tom and Jeff. She is proud of her life choices. In fact, she admits that her parents raised her well, in a strong religious setup. The choice to trade sex for money was hers.
Why a sugar-baby and not anything else? “Everything in Nairobi is just money,” she says, “You have to hustle or else you will end up in the streets.” She goes on to point out her role models, Huddah Monroe and Vera Sidika, whose success she attributes to the same lifestyle. She would want to own a cosmetics line like Huddah’s or a house in the US like Vera. “What is wrong about sex anyway? People just make it sound wrong but actually sometimes, it ain’t wrong at all. 60% in the campuses have sponsors. Young ladies prefer dating older men. They know what they want,” she continues.
The expected comments
As I read through the comments section, two opinions stood out: first, BBC, like most international media, chose to focus on negative stories about Africa and second, that stories surrounding sponsors and sex work are non-issues in this part of the world…that we have better things we should be talking about. While a few comments attempted to discuss the issue from a sober perspective, most castigated the media-house for appearing to promote the ‘immoral lifestyle’.
As expected, the comments were embarrassingly revealing. Revealing of the stereotypical African attitude toward ‘taboo topics’. Real journalism tells all stories; the shameful and inspirational alike. The young lady in this story is clearly not ashamed of her lifestyle. Just because you disagree with it does not make it any less a famous lifestyle choice in Nairobi. You know only too well that hers is more the norm than the exception. In fact, her guess of 60% is quite likely to be accurate.
We must choose the truth over hypocrisy
If we are truly angry about our children choosing alternative lifestyles that are contrary to the values we thought we instilled in them, we must start talking. If we truly want to protect our children from predatory older men and women who believe that money can buy anything, we must start talking. We are never going to deal with the deeper issues leading to such choices if we will never lay our dogmas aside for a moment and have sober conversations about this and other “taboo topics”.
We are not angry enough if we would rather blame Mercy Keino, Caren Chepchumba, Sharon Otieno and others who allegedly died in this line of business than confront the bigger issues that led them into that line of business. You will not be angry enough until your daughter becomes one more statistic.
So, what are the deeper issues leading to this “trendy” lifestyle choice? What do you think can be done to counter the growth of sugar-baby-sponsor relationships?