Social media fuels transactional sex

blesserYoliswa Dube
The “blesser” phenomenon has taken the region and beyond by storm as social networking sites are abuzz with “blessers” and “blessed” women. A blesser is what some have described as the modern day sugar daddy except he doesn’t necessarily have to be old.

In some countries, newly established Blesser-finder social media pages are trending. This is where women, mostly the youthful ones, are matched or linked with rich “benefactors” in exchange for sex. The sites have seen many people talking about it as membership keeps growing rapidly.

“ALL women are gold diggers; it’s just the extent and the manner in which they dig for the gold that differs. If we’re to be fair, no woman these days wants a broke man. He may not be filthy rich but he should have something and be willing to share,” said Yvonne Ndlovu, who has been as far as Dubai on a blesser’s tab.

The term blessee came to be after young women —mostly the jobless— would post pictures of themselves sipping cocktails on the beach, popping bottles in the club or at holiday resorts using the hashtag #blessed on social media.

A “blesser” (giver) blesses his “blessee” (recipient) with anything from money and weaves to overseas holidays and designer clothing and accessories.

When you have a “blesser” then your life is blessed financially.

“It was two days before my birthday when my blesser surprised me with an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai. He simply handed me a travel gift card with all flight and accommodation information. I also got money to spend once we got to Dubai,” said Ndlovu.

Because her blesser is married, Ndlovu said, they opted to leave the country on different flights for the purposes of maintaining discretion.

“We met at the hotel he had booked and I had the best birthday ever, no regrets whatsoever. It’s not so much about morality but enjoying my life to the fullest. If someone is willing to do nice things for me, who am I to say no? Of course it comes at a price. I’ll have to dance to his tune and play by his rules,” she said.

Many women like Ndlovu have accepted financial favours from men who demand something, in most instances, sex in return.

The rules of engagement may not be written in black and white but on the streets, if a man spends substantial amounts of money on a woman, the expectations are he must benefit handsomely.

“I know the guy is married and has children and don’t expect a commitment from him. I might as well benefit something from the relationship while it lasts because it will come to an end and he will move on to the next. This is exactly why I won’t say no to his money. When he demands sex, he deserves to get it because he has parted with his money,” said another blessee, Fortunate Dube.

Flamboyant South African businessman and playboy Kenny Kunene ignited debate when he went on a rant on how beneficiaries of the blesser phenomenon were nothing more than prostitutes.

Kunene said women who are taking part in this new phenomenon are no better than prostitutes who line up the streets and put a price tag on sex.

The irony of Kunene’s statement is that he is no saint himself, having at one point confessed to be involved with 15 women at one time.

“I’m not a prostitute because my blesser gives me money. He and I know it’s not a love relationship; all he wants from me is sex under the guise of a love relationship. I just can’t lie on my back and let him have it and walk out of the relationship with nothing. I’m tired of men who come into your life; you keep them around for years and walk out of the relationship with nothing,” said Dube.

She recounted being in a four-year relationship with a man she believes wasted her time and energy.

“I just woke up one day and realised it was a raw deal. The guy had never done anything tangible for me. He added no value whatsoever in my life and it seemed like he was never going to marry me. I promised myself never to settle for less and stay in such relationships so I moved on with a blesser and I’m happy, for now at least,” said Dube.

She said it was important for women to consider what they stand to benefit from a man before they are involved in a relationship with them.

Before a woman agrees to be with someone, she said, there is a need to assess his financial muscle first.

“I’ve set standards that I’m not necessarily willing to finance. I need a man who’ll step up and come through for me financially and I’ll also do my part,” said Dube.

Unlike the term “sugar daddy” which encompassed all women’s benefactors under one umbrella, there are levels to being a blesser.

All animals are not equal as various tiers are used to differentiate one kind of blesser from another.

According to these rankings, Level One blessers are those that supply the basic needs such as transport, airtime and money for weaves, clothes and other accessories.

Level Two blessers buy fancy drinks in clubs and are interested in going for holidays at domestic resorts and attending major events with their blessee.

At the top of the pyramid are Level Three blessers who start businesses, buy top of the range luxury vehicles, go on international trips and part with money amounting to $2,000 at the least.

“I can’t accept $2,000 from a blesser, I won’t be able to pay it back, it’s too steep for me. I can accept a new phone or money to do my hair but $2,000 is too much. I’ll have to pay for it in a big way and I can’t afford to do that. I’ll only take what I need and leave room to say no to certain things,” said Chengetai Mutize, a student at a local university.

She said she would not go on holiday with a blesser either because that would give him “too much room to access her body”.

“Imagine going on a weekend holiday with this man for about four days. That translates to three nights of unlimited sex for him. I can’t afford to do that; I won’t even have somewhere to run to. At least when I’m at home I can hide behind my curfew,” said Mutize.

She explained that accepting large amounts of money and gifts from a blesser meant letting go of a substantial amount of power as a woman.

“I won’t be able to say no to unprotected sex, I can’t get him tested for HIV and I’ve to be at his disposal whenever he needs me. It’s a sacrifice I’m really not willing to make,” said the fourth year accounting student.

The blesser phenomenon has brought to the fore the issue of safe sex with many saying it’s difficult for women to negotiate for safe sex when it comes to transactional sex.

Transactional sex is when money or gifts are exchanged for a sexual relationship. This kind of relationship is different to commercial sex work.

Blessees are unable to negotiate for safe sex as the blesser dictates the pace of the relationship.

Like the sugar daddy era back in the 90s, which was believed to have exacerbated the spread of HIV/Aids, the blesser phenomenon is feared to have the same effects.

“Times are tough and many people, women in particular, are willing to take any opportunity that will make their lives easier. Sometimes they may not want to get themselves into vulnerable positions but options are limited and they take the risk,” said Princess Mhlanga, a youth counsellor at a local church.

She says times have changed owing to economic factors.

Said Mhlanga: “Gone are the days when virginity and chastity were a big deal. The truth is very few women nowadays are going through a normal courtship. They’re either seeing a married man or have a child with a man they don’t intend to marry. Some are caught up in relationships that aren’t going anywhere.”

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  • Wezhira

    Don’t be jealous make money and be a blesser…but why don’t these women work for themselves and take themselves to Dubai???? by the time a blessee decides to settle down and get married she has hiv…..but if women want to be treated as commodities men will treat them as such….what happens when you fone/laptop gets a virus? U get new gadget