Transactional Sex Discourse In Nigeria: Between Hypocrisy and Culture
Mary, a 24-year-old corp member, was posted to Ogun State for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) the one-year parliamentary program for Nigerian students upon completing their tertiary education. She figured one way she could influence her posting was to give in to her camp commander who had already been throwing passes at her.
She decided to start visiting the commander at his quarters as she did not want be posted to a local school in one of the unpronounceable LGAs neither could she afford to bribe the camp officers like some of her colleagues did; hence her decision to take advantage of that rare opportunity.
Mary is one of the thousands of women with the same story as it is particularly not unusual for women to perform sexual acts on men who they might necessarily not share an affection for, in exchange for money or certain favour.
Juliet, an entrepreneur who runs an online clothing store in Lagos, says she meets a particular social media influencer in her line of business, and eventually, her need for money and promotion she knew he could provide made her start making passes at him.
“I met this particular influencer through a mutual friend, and apparently he was only looking for sex, and we hooked up.”
Although it worked and Juliet got the growth and access she needed for her business, she soon realised it was difficult to maintain, especially as her ‘client’ kept asking for more than she could provide.
“He helped boost my business a bit, but he now wanted more without offering more in return, so I cut him off.”
Transactional sex for many is mainly propelled by relative poverty, peer influence, and specified by the zeal to conform to stereotyped gender expectations and values in heterosexual relationships where the man is expected to always provide and women subordinated and paid. Women are often depicted as objects of sexual desire and pleasure. Mensah and Nkamigbo (2016) sustain this claim by stating that in Nigeria, traditional male dominance, power, status and privilege inform an ideal male-female romantic relationship which makes the man the subject and the woman his object of sexual pleasure.
While some are doing it for connections and favour, Oluchi says she does it for the money.
“Got a DM from an account on Instagram sometimes last year. He asked him how much it would take to send him nudes. I told him N50,000 and both the picture and money were sent. I was surprised because I didn’t see that coming. He started flirting with me and asked if we could link up the following week. I wouldn’t normally, but there was money involved.”
While society continues to shame the women involved in this act, it has managed to carefully avoid criticising and labelling the men clients who are involved in this transaction.
Jide, a graphics designer living in Lagos who pimps on the side, explains he makes more money by arranging link-ups for girls and their clients, mostly sugar daddies, taking a percentage of their earnings.
“Sometimes, when I go clubbing, I help big men arrange babes who are willing to meet them, and I get a certain percentage of whatever the client is offering. That has fetched more money than my regular graphics job as these men are willing to go at any length, financially, to keep the company of pretty younger girls whom they can call on at any time despite having a family.”
According to the study conducted in a Nigerian institution by African Population and Health Research Centre and published on The Conversation, one out of four males compared to one out of ten females had given money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in the proportion of male and female students (23.7% of males versus 24% of females) who had ever received money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex.
Several reactions have trailed the recent Stingy Men Association of Nigeria (SMAN) and Closed Legs Association (CLA) bant. While men stated their unwillingness to spend their money on women, the women group brought up memes and pictures that showed their legs “private part” closed.
In this regard, a school of thought opines that rather than blame society, girls are responsible for their fate.
“As much as we keep selling the narrative that women are no products for sale, they are the biggest marketer of that narrative. They are saying if you have money to spend, they would open their legs for you to browse”
“Since this is somewhat cruise catching, there is an element of truth in the ongoing. It has always been a trading world. A money-for-hand and back-for-ground thing.” Kogi state deputy governor’s chief press secretary, Emmanuel Promise said on his Facebook page.
When Falz came out to declare his detest for transactional sex in his lead single from his ‘’Moral Instruction’’ album, which was released 2019, there was a re-awakening of critiques against the lawyer turned rapper.
Majority of online users pointed to his lyrics, ‘’Instead make you work, you dey find Alhaji, You come turn your body to cash and carry’’ and called out Falz for his obsession with ladies who have made a choice with what to do with their bodies.
Responding to these critiques, Falz said, “Shamelessly, I will continue to say it, I hate transactional sex. It is my pain, it is what I believe in. You will continue to hear it in my music whether you like it or not.
“And I’d explain to you, the same feminist that would say, ‘a woman is free to do what she wants to do’ and ‘who am I to say to the woman not to put herself up for money’ is the same feminist that will say women are being objectified and that is not allowed. Now you are that same person that is going ahead to commodify yourself. You have turned yourself into a commodity. Self-objectification, self commoditisation, I detest it and I will continue to speak against it.”
Although the debate on transactional sex will never see a convergence of opinions, with most people choosing to express society’s conservative view of the subject. However, beneath the predominantly deeply conservative disposition on transactional sex lies strings of pungent hypocrisy.
In a culturally conservative nation where the actions of individuals are scrutinised and responses to events are focused on religion, a lot of people are trapped between expressing what the society and culture expect them to think of transactional sex and what they actually feel about the subject.
It still remains puzzling why a majority of Nigerians criticise transactional sex in the open but, behind the curtains, seize every opportunity to trade what they have in return for sex. The country’s parade against transactional sex has now undoubtedly transmuted into a vehicle for hypocrisy.