When you’ve spent a lifetime working towards success and fortune, you might be in search of the perfect status symbol to show you’ve made it. Thrill seekers and opportunists alike can have it all in the symbiotic relationship that is the winter/summer romance. If it isn’t love at first sight (of bank statements), we don’t know what is.
“Young, sweet and quiet girl with a wild side.”
Inviting and lightly veiled description?
Sizeable yet reasonable monthly allowance requirement?
Paired with a seductive pout and semi-shear ensemble and what we have here is a very successful profile on www.seekingarrangement.com.
And what we also have is a national epidemic, a feverish problem of the much older man, much younger woman variety, and where it stops, nobody knows.
A number of the women who take on these relationships are college girls struggling to pay the bills. Of the 800,000+ global profiles on www.seekingarrangments.com, about 35 percent of them are school girls. It is presumed that Kenyan statistics follow about the same proportion.
In 2001, Nancy Luke, a professor of sociology and population studies at Brown University, conducted a study titled “Risky Sex in Urban Kenya: The Bitter Side of ‘Sugar Daddy’ Affairs” on the prevalence and effects of sugar daddy/sugar baby relationships in Kenya. The analysis was done in Kisumu, where 1,052 men aged 21 to 45 where surveyed and data was collected on them, and 1,614 recent non- martial partnerships.
What Luke found in her study was that although sugar daddy/sugar baby relationships weren’t as widespread as previously thought, the sugar daddy partnerships whose partners were more than 10 years older were more likely to never use a condom, compared to those whose partners are at most five years older.
The study also showed that young women aged 15 to 24 years have higher HIV infection rates than men their age, which was blamed on sex with older men.
She insists I use her real name. “My name is Lilian and I speak the truth,” she announces calmly but somehow on a mission.
I stumbled upon Lilian at a bar late one Saturday night and she promised she would do an interview. A couple days later she was still eager to tell her story.
Lilian showed up for our lunch date clothed in vibrant coral and adorned in traditional African jewellery. She is late and endearingly apologetic and she’s gorgeous. She is the slightest little thing, almost doll- like in appearance, and one would guess that she is barely 18 instead of 29. She is instantly disarming and the most open person I have ever met.
Lilian and her fiancé Samuel*, 42, met on AfroIntroductions.com. She wrote to him first and they spoke for two months before he finally arrived in Kenya. He still has the picture from her profile on his phone. They have been together for two years and have been engaged since September 2011.
Samuel lives in a hotel while Lilian lives in a house her family already owns. While Samuel doesn’t pay rent, he pays for all the bills and food for Lilian, her two brothers, son and nanny. He also pays Lilian’s son’s school fees. Lilian used to be a casino dealer and had her own clothing import business, but nowadays she doesn’t need to work.
On a typical day, Lilian wakes up to get her son ready for school. And then goes back to sleep until around 11am. She usually watches movies for most of the day, horror films being her favourite. Samuel gives her a weekly allowance for things like new clothing or hair appointments, but if she wants more, she just asks for it, because she believes she genuinely deserves it.
“I swear for me it’s like I’m doing you a favour. You need to appreciate it and show me every day.”
Lilian’s story, like many others, is what Mable Odima, a sociologist at Daystar University, says, is a generational challenge of living in a fantasy.
It’s something she believes is a result of lack of parental guidance or what Karuri terms as, “Parents going on leave.” And a relentless pressure to become successful quickly through shortcuts.
Odima believes that some of the sugar babies are in denial. “They seem to be comfortable and for them to realise that they are in a problem is a process.”
Lilian’s relationship seems like the perfect match, a dream come true. But with a twinkle in her eye and lowered tone, Lilian throws another bombshell.
“You know, Samuel and I met and I loved his eyes, he loved how I smelled, and it was like, ‘baby.’ But shit happens.”
Lilian tells of her latest conquests. She essentially lives two separate lives expertly, working by a set of guidelines and rules on how to manipulate instead of be manipulated.