The need for material support, and the availability of sex as a way to meet this need, often influences the sexual behaviour of women.
Though some offer sex to men to support themselves and their families, there are those who do it mainly to improve their current lifestyles.
Transactional sex is when money or gifts are exchanged for a sexual relationship. The gifts can be cash, handbags or even trips. Often, things such as rent, phones and airtime/ cellphone contracts, groceries and clothing are thrown in as incentives for transactional relationships.
The distinction between prostitution and transactional sex is that there is no predetermined amount for the latter, and transactional sex is often framed in the form of an actual relationship.
It lasts longer than the relationship between a prostitute and a client, and is not always driven by poverty.
While the exchange of money for the services of a prostitute is illegal in South Africa, transactional sexual relationships are not.
These relationships can be a concern when it comes to sexually transmitted infections because the partners are very rarely faithful to each other. This is especially true when the relationship involves an age, power and money gap, usually to the disadvantage of younger women.
It is not uncommon for a richer male partner to refuse to use condoms, and he may also have multiple partners. The woman may feel compelled to do whatever her partner asks so she doesn’t risk losing her economic benefits.
This puts everyone involved at high risk of contracting and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as risking unplanned pregnancy. This makes it important to consider female economic empowerment in HIV-reduction policies.
These relationships are said to be prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where black women are more likely to enter into transactional relationships.
Though some are motivated by the woman’s lack of socioeconomic resources (in poor societies, sex is sometimes the only currency of exchange for women), increasingly they are driven by consumerism.
The most common perception of transactional sexual relationships is that it happens between young women in their twenties and older men, often referred to as sugar daddies.
Although this is indeed common, the relationships are not always intergenerational. Women of all ages and social statuses take part in transactional sexual relationships – and the only difference may be in the nature of the goods or the amounts of money received for the sex.
Is there a difference between having a sugar daddy and being a prostitute?
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