They are rich, good-looking and pampered. Mostly students at KZN’s top colleges they are indulged by their parents who seldom refuse them anything.
But, although these young women have the world at their feet, or at least the material world, they want more and they want it now. And they’re getting it by having transactional sex.
By transactional sex we mean they have sex with older, often wrinkly, men, in return for expensive gifts and a high-rolling party lifestyle with entry to the city’s most glittering events.
And while local sociologists believe these young women are looking for father figures and a greater sense of security, these girls just want to have fun.
“I don’t know how it started but this trend is all over Durban. It’s not just the poor girls who turn to prostitution these days,” said Candice Shange, a 20-year-old UKZN student.
“I have friends who do it. They think it’s easier to get what they want from older men. And I say ‘men’ because there is always more than one.”
Shange’s classmate, Anele Gwane, 20 has admitted to having a “sugar-daddy”, despite having moneyed parents.
“My parents give me the things I need. I have others to give me the things that I want. I don’t see it as prostitution. It is a relationship between two people.”
Gwane said she has never had such a “relationship” with more than one man at a time. “I would never do that. I end one relationship before I move on to another. I date men with money because I am used to having money in my life. I am used to being pampered. That is all.”
Another student, who did not want to be named, from the Durban University of Technology, was more upfront about her activities and her reasons for doing it.
“This life is expensive,” she said. “I can’t ask my parents for everything so I have to figure something else out,” she said. “I like the finer things in life. Weaves, shoes and designer bags. These are my status symbols. Without them people will judge me and treat me differently. So my friends and I have had to turn to older men.”
The DUT student admitted, too, that peer pressure played a huge part in her decision to engage in transactional sex.
“When I go out, I have to look good. When I go to campus I like to step out of an expensive car and turn heads. It’s how you become and stay popular. If people know that you come from money, you have to go the extra mile to look the part. There is a lot of pressure to be a certain way,” she said.
Andile Masinga, 22, is an unemployed graduate. She lives with her parents in Durban North and they indulge her needs, but to keep up with her friends who are still at university (or working) she has turned to older men.
“I could ask my parents for money, but it’s just easier asking somebody else. I like it when a man spoils me,” she said.
“Everybody wants to be an ‘It Girl’. That girl that everybody knows, the top socialite and that one with the most of everything. You can’t get your parents to take you to every party. They probably wouldn’t even let you go. An older man offers independence. They might give me things but they allow me freedom that my parents never could.” - Lumka Nofemele
This is how much value we have placed in superficial and material lifestyles: prostitution has become an acceptable means to live in luxury. These girls are young enough to not know a thing about the harsher side of life, nor have they been given the opportunity to realise what the truly important things in life are. We cannot blame the young girls who sell themselves for money and security - they were only ever taught to think of their own comfort and happiness, no matter the cost. They are merely living proof that the human will adapt to whatever environment he/she finds him/her-self in.
It is safe to say that no parent would want their child to prostitute themselves, for whatever reason - although it is also safe to say that every parent wants their child to have a comfortable life, free from want. How then do we balance these desires, so that no child is ever forced to go to the extreme of prostitution for survival (or luxury) and so that every child is guaranteed a comfortable life in which all their needs are fulfilled?
The first thing that comes to mind is that our society (including social acceptances and taboos) would need to change - the way that we define "acceptable" would need to be given some clear boundaries so that prostitution, for example, would not ever be "acceptable" by society's standards. One point that has shown to be very clear in the article above is that peer pressure is a very influential factor. This means that our "mob mentality" has been overpowering common sense, leading us to make questionable choices at the best of times. When we know that something is unacceptable, then we are responsible for standing and making it known - as opposed to allowing ourselves to think that "since my friend finds it acceptable that must mean that it is".
Consider a life in which fashion and trends plays no role - instead everyone has the freedom to express and enjoy themselves however they like, without fear of rejection or belittlement. Imagine a society that encourages creativity and innovation - not for the sake of something as meaningless as profit, but instead to enrich and improve the lives of every member of society.
Maybe I am naive to dream of a better world. Maybe I never will make a difference. Maybe I will only see cruelty and abuse for the rest of my life. Maybe humanity is simply not worth saving. Maybe prostitution becomes legal. Maybe these things all happen - it wouldn't change the fact that the way the world is now is unacceptable - and I will not quiet my tongue until we can all stand together in peace and tranquility, knowing that we have created Heaven on Earth.