The blesser-blessee phenomenon - where young women exchange sexual favours with older men in return for material gifts - calls for moral introspection in our society. Before we go deeper into this subject, let me state upfront that associating this practice with a blessing is a distortion, and a sacrilege, of the word blessing.
A blessing is a favour or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing about joy or wholeness in a person's life. It does not bring with it misery and sorrow. God is the one who blesses and His intentions are pure and holy - not like older men preying on young girls, and taking advantage of their socio-economic status while increasing the risk of HIV/Aids in our society.
As a church we condemn this phenomenon, which has sought to destroy the moral fibre of our society and in particular that of our young girls. Showering young women with shopping sprees, hair and beauty treatments (and even with cars and holidays) in return for sexual favours is not a blessing, Let's call it what it is: exploitation. It's taking advantage of young girls. There is nothing innocent or harmless or healthy about older men pursuing substantially younger women to spoil them with gifts. The cost is high to everyone involved and society in general.
I have heard and read that some of these young women push back against the suggestion that they are being exploited. They may not see it now. But studies show that older women who in their younger years, or teens were involved with older men because of what they could materially benefit from their relationships, acknowledge later in life that they were hurt and exploited.
Many with the benefit of hindsight, invariably admit their claims of maturity and fulfillment were all a pretence. Some did it for validation and some did it because that was the only way they could survive. So while I strongly disapprove of young women running around with older men, my heart goes out to them. When adult men sexualise young women by pretending to be their blessers, the women are reminded that their worth in the world is dependant on how sexy they are. This is the real tragedy behind this phenomenon: how younger women who choose older men for material benefits tend towards low self-esteem and depression.
But we can address this if we teach our girl children to be confident in their own skin so that they grow up knowing that they don't need validation from any man. We need strong programmes in our homes, schools and churches that will teach the girl child that even in her material lack it is still possible for her to keep her morals and not sell her body and dignity to sugar daddies. Coupled with this must be economic opportunities for girls to prevent them from falling into the trap of sugar daddies and so-called blessers. Unfortunately, with the high youth unemployment in our country and the continuing economic marginalisation of women in general, conditions are conducive for sugar daddies to go on the rampage.
As for the creeps and pervs who prey on these younger women, they need help too. Surely there must be more to life than being a mindless sex-obsessed buffoon who uses his wealth to take advantage of girls and young women? The new meaning of blesser in our society points to the need to start a national conversation about what it means to be a good man, especially if you are in the fortunate position of being materially well off.
Material wealth without enlightened masculinity can be dangerous to society. And this we are already witnessing in the number of HIV infections and pregnancies among girls and young women. Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, delivering his budget speech in parliament a few weeks ago sounded a warning about how older men who are sleeping with girls and young women are driving up HIV infections and pregnancies in the 15 -24 age group. The cost to society and the parties involved is just too high.
In conclusion, I would like to urge all of us to condemn this blesser-blessee phenomenon and to sensitise especially our girls and young women about the dangers of this fad and how it seeks to objectify their bodies and reduce their dignity. Lack is no excuse to succumb to this trend. There are women in our country who come from disadvantaged backgrounds but worked themselves to the top through education and hard work. Let us hold them as role models for our girls and young women. As for us men, let us remember that girls and young women are hungry for that steady, comforting male hand that will give them safety, guidance and strength. Exploitating them is not part of our mandate.