TALKING SEX: No money, no sex debate
I WAS GETTING MY HAIR DONE when the conversation broke out about Captain Sawyer’s now infamous song. Opinions were all over the map about whether he should talk about it and how he should talk about it.
The “it” that was the elephant in the room was about transactional sex. This is really the fancy word that we in public health use for the giving of money or gifts in exchange for sexual relationships.
Being the provocateur that I am, I tilted up the dryer and feigned exasperation: “Why can’t we women just have sexual relationships with a man because we love him or because we are attracted to him with no expectations of anything in return.”
I first received a religious lecture about fornication which as a Christian I embraced with humility. Some agreed but the most outspoken was an attractive sister who said: “Listen here Juliette, why should I give him de ting for nuffing. Love can’t pay de light bills. Barbados Light and Power doesn’t understand love currency and besides if he loves me I would not even have to ask, he would want to supply my basic needs.”
The room was in an uproar with tons of righteous indignation about men and what and how much men want in exchange for a little piece of sex.
I had to intervene throughout the conversations as there were so many sweeping generalisations, assumptions and stereotyping about men and women who are involved in transactional sex.
First of all I had to dispel the notion that women (or men) who received money or gifts for sex were the same as “prostitutes” or more correctly termed “commercial sex workers”.
Many men who have one or more women that they give large or small amounts of money to in exchange for sex do not see these women as prostitutes. Similarly, women who need, want and expect financial support in exchange for giving sex do not see themselves as sex workers – no matter how desperate they may be for the financial support or the gifts that come with the sexual relationship.
Prostitution or sex work is sex or sexual acts in exchange for a predetermined price. There are no relationship obligations with a sex worker, only a client service.
In contrast, in transactional sex relationship, there is no agreement as to a predetermined price for the sexual favour but a set of relationship obligations (non-marital in nature) that is worked out between the parties and a clear understanding that both are to benefit from the exchange.
During the conversation the complexity of this type of relationships and women’s views was revealed. For some of the ladies, like the traditional feminists, these relationships are formed because of women’s lack of economic power.
The lack of money forces women into accepting what is being demanded by the person giving the gift or money, including not using condoms or engaging in risky sexual practices which increase the risk of HIV or STIs. For other ladies, it was not gender issues but the breakdown of traditional morals and value systems and the rise of materialism and consumerism.
As I listened, other complexities emerged from the younger women who outright rejected the notion of men having all the power in these relationships. They felt that if they were able to use their attractiveness and erotic power over men that this was an equal match to male economic power – so there was equality in the exchange and equality of power.
As a public health practitioner and an attorney, I understand all too well the consequences of these transactional relationships. Many a legal conflict has at heart differences between men and women as to the expectations of these relationships.
Some men in the face of a satisfying sexual relationship are mind blowingly generous. Equally, some women’s generosity with their bodies knows no bounds to keep and retain a beneficial financial relationship.
At the Barbados Family Planning Association we are concerned about saving lives and making an impact. We are aware that unfortunately transactional relationships do not often remain between the two parties. We promote using a condom each and every time. No sex and no money is worth ruining your sexual health.
Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland is the executive director at the BFPA. The health clinic can be reached at 426-2027 or [email protected]