Though widely reported today, transactional sex between young women and older men did not start with the ‘millennial’ generation.
A former University of Nairobi student informs the Star that during his campus days in the late 1980s and early 90s, the practice was already rampant.
Young women typically date ‘sponsors’ or ‘sugar daddies’ for financial gain, while men seek gratification.
The Star learns before the age of the Internet, older men would hang around clubs and attend ‘discos’, or wait in posh hotels in pursuit of younger females.
Once the ‘sugar daddy’ spotted a girl he liked, he would send the waiter to bring her over to his table or send her drinks in a bid to lure her to him.
“Back then, the girls would receive between Sh100 and Sh200 on average because it was a lot of money,” our source says.
Politicians and rich businessmen, often married, are the most common sponsors due to their financial status.
Though unconfirmed, the former University of Nairobi student informs the Star that a former assistant minister’s car was almost stoned by furious young men.
The former assistant minister was purported to be a sponsor to young university girls.
WHAT HAS CHANGED
Sponsor relationships seem to have become both more common and more visible.
The practice, once used by young girls from poor backgrounds to earn a little extra money, has for many become an accepted lifestyle choice.
A 2018 study on the culture among university students in Nairobi found that one in every five girls had a sponsor. The study was conducted by Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics.
Further, over 70 per cent of the respondents said a sponsor should pay for trips, rent, hair and beauty, outings, restaurant meals, food and shopping, dates and gifts.
While in the past, older men resorted to clubs or hotels to meet these girls, the Internet has made the meetings easier.
Social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have turned into pimping zones for transactional sex.
University student Shirleen* (not her real name) says she has received two offers on her Instagram account.
“The first one was from a Kenyan lady who asked me if I was ready to earn some quick money. She offered to hook me up with rich men in Nairobi, and said I could earn as much as Sh300,000 on a weekly basis, from which she would take a small commission,” she said.
She declined the offer before a similar offer from a foreign lady came to her inbox.
“The offer was to hook me up with rich white men, who would fly to Kenya and we would have a date. During the date, we would agree on what I was willing to do sexually and also a fee,” she said.
“The white lady told me she would know how much I earn and would take an interest from the amount, but I had to pay her 200 dollars first so she could ‘register’ me.”
Diana*, 23, was also approached on Instagram with a similar offer, which she declined.
“The lady had told me that I would be earning Sh100,000 per week,” she told the Star.
Diana also needed to have a passport and be flexible with travelling.
“I refused because of the little morality I had. I’m not in the business of selling my body for cash,” she said.
A SWIPE AWAY
Dating applications such as Tinder and websites have also made access to sponsors very easy. A quick google search of ‘Sugar Daddies in Kenya’ reveals a host of options.
At the top of the search reads a text, “There are 2,341 sugar daddies waiting to meet you in Nairobi… Choose your perfect Nairobi sugar daddy and travel together!”
The text is linked to an article with profiles and instructions of how it works.
“Join our travel dating community, find your perfect sugar match, get to know each other better by meeting in Nairobi, arrange the trip of your dreams, go travel together and have lots of fun,” read the instructions.
The application, ‘Sugar Daddy Dating App’, commonly known as ‘Sudy’, provides women with a chance to get a sugar daddy.
The app contains a verification process that involves taking a picture that is verified before you can begin chatting with sugar daddies for free. It also contains advanced filters and searches that help the user choose what type of person they want.
TAXIS IN THE MIX
The Star also learns that digital taxi applications are widely used to facilitate transactional sex.
A driver speaking on condition of anonymity says when men or even women do not want their spouses to know their whereabouts, they opt to take digital taxis.
“To avoid being tracked by their partners or being recognised using their vehicles, a lot of these old men will use us to take them to hotels or lodgings with these girls,” he said.
The driver also reveals that the increase in entertainment joints, especially out of town, also plays a supporting role in such relationships.
“During the weekends, we have very specific clubs along Kiambu Road or Langata Road where you will find most drivers parked because they know business will be good,” he said.
“A lot of young girls will flock these clubs because they know there are rich men waiting.”
Another driver, also speaking on condition of anonymity, says they have found a side hustle.
“Sometimes when we get requests to pick up girls from hotels, we start talking to them about their sponsors. If they are not happy with the amount of money or benefits they receive, we offer to hook them up with richer men in exchange for a small fee,” he said.
While it has become easier to get into the relationships, they are short term in nature, with controlling power belonging to the sponsor.
According to the study by Busara, sponsors know they can end the relationship any time they want.
Pregnancy, infections such as HIV or STIs, violation of secrecy and demands for exclusivity are some of the most common reasons a sponsor may leave.