Everything Wrong With The ‘Sponsor Culture’

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By Wanjiru Kihusa

As a family blogger I get a lot of questions sent to me via email. The other day I received one that gave me sleepless nights. It read;

Hi Wanjiru. I am 22 years old and in campus (university). I recently met this amazing older man who is 39 years old. He is mature unlike the boys in school. His definition of a good time is going to a cosy uptown joint and having a beer or two. This is a welcome relief from the rowdy and shady clubs my classmates go to. This man spoils me. He buys me clothes, shoes and takes me for a holiday every so often. Last week he spoke of getting me an apartment and a car and I was literary over the moon. I know this man is married but I love him, plus to be honest the good life and money I get doesn’t hurt either. The sex is good too. A friend of mine thinks what I’m doing is wrong but I disagree. I’m not telling this man to leave his wife neither am I hurting her. Honestly tell me what is wrong with what I’m doing? – Susan *

I have received many disturbing emails but this ranks way at the top. I rolled my eyes so many times mid-sentences, it’s a wonder I finished reading the whole thing. There are so many things wrong in this email I’m not even sure where to start. There is a disturbing culture that has become popular in Kenya known as the sponsor culture. This is where an older person (man or woman) mostly over 40 years dates a much younger girl or guy. Actually it’s more of an arrangement than it is dating. The older person gives money and upkeep and in return the younger gives sex. So the older person is called a sponsor. Most of the time it is an older guy (sometimes married) with a young girl. To answer this girl’s question, what really is wrong with having a sponsor? I had this conversation with some amazing friends and these are the points that were raised.

Call a spade a spade: For starters we need to stop calling this sponsor thing dating. It is glorified prostitution. Period. If you are having sex for money, at a street corner or in that cosy apartment he bought you, that is prostitution! Let us cover bad behavior with nice big words. Once we agree to call it prostitution instead of “having a sponsor” then we are in the right direction to having a constructive conversation.

It is a culture of shortcuts: We have become a generation of short cuts. We want to reap where we did not sow. Whatever happened to growing together with your man? What happened to starting off with a poorly paying job, staying at that one bedroom house and working together as a couple? My dear Susan, has it occurred to you that this man did not have this wealth at your age? Have you thought that your 17 year gap is time he has spent making his money one job (or business) after another? Why is it so easy for you to spend his money with such ease? You need to take a seat and work hard for your money. Live at that campus hostel for now, get your first job and make money the dignified way. In a few years you will be able to buy that car or that apartment from your hard work and perseverance.

It has collateral damage: It is extremely selfish of you to assume that just because you are not telling him to leave his wife you are not hurting her. As long as you are in his life he will not work on his marriage. And as much as he seems wealthy, that vacation he takes you on, means his family receives less. Being with him is not harmless? Your decision to be with this man means his wife and kids are collateral damage. And you know how life is a circle and all? In a few years you will want to be married and you will desire faithfulness. Is what you are doing now a good investment for your future family?

I know in my answer to you I have not spoken of his wrong doing. That does not in any way mean he is blameless. Not at all. He has also made a decision. He has chosen to be with you regardless of his being married and that is wrong. But I’m responding to your question not his. I want to remind you that you are participating 50% into this wrong. You are not a victim. You can decide to leave. You can choose to stop being part of the sponsor culture.

About Teakisi 305 Articles
Teakisi (formerly ElleAfrique) is an English and French blogzine dedicated to challenging and changing the perceptions of African girls and women in the world today.

1 Comment

  1. Great points, we’re all responsible for our actions. But I think we should also view this issue in the greater context of gainful employment and opportunities for young people in many developing countries, especially African countries. Moral degradation has a part to play, I’m sure, but that’s just one factor (and not a major one, in my opinion). Young people are turning to fast ways to make money because it’s becoming even more difficult to secure an honest living in a corrupt system. This is what my experience and understanding of the phenomenon in Nigeria has shown me. This isn’t the question the young woman is asking Wanjiru, she may think she’s “in love” and have some warped understanding of what love is…but when answering her I think it would help her greatly to focus on what she wants in life…and to not be afraid to work towards it, even if everything around her is telling her it would be easier to rely on a man (married or not) to live a comfortable and fulfilling life.

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