Women and girls who have sex for cash gifts, those who do not consider themselves commercial sex workers but sleep with men for the latest Blackberry, money for shopping at expensive fashion boutiques or trips to Johannesburg, are more likely to acquire HIV.
These women are all about town, some are college students, others are personal assistants to chief executive officers (CEOs). You wonder how they got that lovely handbag or those stunning stilettos.
A study conducted with young South African women investigated what factors may lead to HIV infection. They recruited 1 077 women aged between 15 and 26 who were HIV negative at the beginning of the study and followed them after 12 months and then 24 months.
The research looked at their behaviour and subsequent HIV infection. In a previous published research from the same study, they found that women who had a violent partner or who were powerless in a relationship were more likely to acquire HIV.
Transactional sex is when women have a sexual relationship where they expect to receive cash, food, cosmetics, transport or some handy man work. These relationships differ from prostitution as they tend to occur over time (are rarely one off) and the men are considered to be fulfilling some sort of provider roleâ€”sugar daddy!Â
You may think that the increase in vulnerability to HIV in women who pursue these â€˜sugar daddyâ€™ relationships is because their male partners are older or that such women may have more than one partner. However, this is not the case. What the research suggest is that these womenâ€™s want of the good things exposes them to men who believe that by providing cash gifts, they (the men providers) have a greater sense of entitlement. These men believe that women should have sexual relationships on their (the manâ€™s) terms which often is without a condom and that the women should not expect monogamy.Â Â Â
Why do women do it? For some women, sadly, their goal in life is to obtain and keep a boyfriend. A boyfriend who when asked for gifts gives it willingly. These women often are â€˜proudâ€™ of their gifts. These women measure their desirability by the cost of the gift and the status and prosperity of their boyfriend. In other words, if he is the CEO of a big bank, then women reckon they have scored on the their desirability and gift scale, demanding more extravagant presents such as shopping trips to Joâ€™burg.
Some women make a living out of this, considering themselves modern, taking what they want from men, thinking by demanding gifts that they control the situationâ€¦.but that is â€˜part reality, part fantasyâ€™.Â In what world is sleeping with a man for a new handbag, modern? It stinks of being a slave to materialism, where status and money are the ones actually in control. Where is autonomy and mutual respect in all of this? And lest we forget, the wives of these mostly married men.