By Gregory Kibathi and Gloria Okore with Ogova Ondego
Published June 16, 2016
Almost seven out of 10 (65%) Kenyans aged 15-24-years say it is alright to have a ‘sponsor’ even if you are in a ‘relationship’ and almost one out of three (33%) youth either have a ‘sponsor’ or have someone close to them who does.
These are the findings of a social survey in Kenya titled ‘Sex, Money and Fun’ that was conducted by Rob Burnet, Anastasia A Mirszoyants and Bridget Deacon.
The survey, whose findings were published in Daily Nation newspaper of Nairobi, revealed that youth in the age group of 15-24 years mainly converse on topics about money, relationships and entertainment. This generation, that idolises (almost worships!) a life of luxury, is averse to hard work and patience. The youth–like US American socialites who attain the celebrity status through hard work either as actresses, fashion designers, models or media personalities– enjoy showing off in social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat. But these Kenyan youngsters conveniently forget their idols–Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Poppy Delevigne–didn’t get to be ‘socialites’ through wishful thinking or engaging in social aberrations. It seems Nairobi youth lack depth and revere braggadocio.
Is it any surprising that such a generation came up with a group on Facebook called ‘University Divas for Rich Men’ in 2012 through which they offered sex for money? The group was pulled down by Facebook due to public pressure from Kenyan users of the social platform.
But the ever enterprising and delirious ‘modern’ youth soon took up the culture of ‘socialites’, ‘entrepreneurs’, ‘sponsors’ and ‘cougars’. And, no; the youth have re-defined those terms to mean something different from their original definitions!
Some adolescent girls want a ‘sponsor’ as soon as possible while some much older women regret that they did not have such a chance in their heydays. It is a matter of ‘scratch my back and I scratch yours’. They want the sponsors and will have them if the opportunity presents itself. The name for those craving ‘sponsors’ is ‘socialite’.
‘Sponsors’ are mainly older women or men who cater for the financial needs of their loves in exchange for affection. It is a case of masking yourself as not as a prostitute or a gigolo. But all the same, it is just the same trade, different name.
In Kenya, the word ‘socialite’ was largely unknown till around 2013 when it took media-consuming Kenya by storm; with a whole new meaning from its original. Instead of socialites being identified for their extremely wealthy background, they were now recognised by their scandalous activities that attracted both excitement and criticism.
There have been various blogs that have described the socialite business in Kenya as the contemporary classy urban prostitution. ‘Socialites’ have been called all manner of names. They have been shamed by both their peers and parents as they are thought to corrupt the morals of youngsters. They have not acquired fame through ‘respectable’ means, but they now breathe and dwell among actors, musicians and business people.
Many thought the ‘socialite’ fad, like the ‘diva’ before it, would come and go just like seasons, but that has not come to pass. In fact, ‘socialites’ are more sought after than musicians and actors nowadays. Some people bank on them to deliver more entertainment, as people have accepted, nay worship, them. After all, ‘socialites’ have such a huge following and fan base that overshadows some entertainers who have been in the game for decades.
Are ‘socialites’ relevant on Nairobi’s entertainment scene?
It appears they do; so relevant are they that a reality television show was made for them, to showcase what they do in their daily lives. The show, Nairobi Diaries, was rejected by top media houses but at last, put into prospect by K24 TV. It was termed as ratchet at first, with people criticising the media house for putting it up. The negativity was too much that some characters left, but despite all this, there are some who still watch it and the show went up to its second season.
But despite all these new found fame and positivity, their existence bears some negative impact on the society at large. It comes as no surprise at all when young university girls try to ape the lifestyles of these ‘socialites’. They become fascinated with the glitz and glamour that money and fame offers and therefore, will stop at nothing so as to attain them. From fleecing young guys to even acquiring ‘sponsors’ to fund their lifestyles, the girls will do anything. After all, they just follow in the footsteps of their ‘socialite’ celebrities who go to the extent of showing the world their financiers, clearly giving the sign that they indeed have ‘sponsors’ and do not mind if people knew.
There are those girls whose antics are bound to surprise you. These are the types who want to own the latest Prada handbags and the fanciest handsets in town. It does not at any point occur to them that this phone might pay their university fees for a whole year and feed them as well. When a date presents itself, then these girls see this as a prospect and by all means try to milk out the poor guy. They go to a restaurant and she orders the most exotic items on the list you would think she is on the pathway of writing a recipe book. Some names become too heavy for her tongue to bring forth. There are times she is taken for shopping, where she chooses six-inch stilettos that make her look like a drunk clown on display.
Why would a beautiful girl choose to put her energy and effort in haranguing a man so as to pay her monthly expenses? Why would a girl choose to woo her ‘prospective date’ by dressing in a way that lets all her features do the talking? Why would she want the best things in life but not be willing to sweat for it? The preference for the easy things that life has to offer will push the young girls to partake in unthinkable actions, like breaking up an older woman’s marriage, for the sheer need of a ‘sponsor’.
“Date-worthiness,” the authors of ‘Sex, Money and Fun’ conclude, “ is often judged by looks and the ability to pay for fun.”
Although it may be immoral to enter such a relationship as one sells chastity and dignity, PYT – pretty young things- in college are lovers to elderly people rather than younger ones who are their peers or academic mates.
Girls appear to be obsessed with men with cars as they symbolize wealth and status, while young men are used so as to live lavish, or worse yet, support their bad habits such as substance abuse.
It is not only a self imposed depravity but Kenyan youth strive to live beyond their means. Flashy cars, parties in top notch clubs and restaurants and so forth has been conditioned into their minds by the social media.
Materialism is constraining our customs and traditions and the senior Kenyans overlook it or even encourage it. People once frowned upon a man who married a woman richer than he. But now, mothers are encouraging their sons to wed women who will take care of them. With African societies being seen as being patriarchal, it is an interesting show to watch. Girls, on the other hand, are told by their parents to marry “financially stable” men. Put in perspective, wealth now influences how suitors are chosen.