By Yolanda Lee Moyo

Exchange relationships have become the new ‘thing’ in relationship these days. There is this new thing ‘nothing is for mahala’. People are now involved in sexual relationships just because they want to benefit something after the intercourse. Desperate situations have forced people into such situations and some they take advantage of their positions and exploit people. Exchange relationships can be categorized into different levels. So far, there are six levels of exchange relationships that are discussed below.

The word ‘blesser’ ‘blessee’ is now a popular phenomenon amongst people these days. It is most popular amongst youthful unemployed women who cannot afford to live lavish lifestyles. A blesser is a modern day ‘sugar daddy’ that gives you money, takes you on holidays. According to an urban dictionary, a blesser is a slang term for a rich man who offers support (typically financial and material) to a younger female companion in exchange for sex. Exchange relationships can be graded into different levels. There is the ‘blesser’ level where loads and loads of money are involved in the relationship.

Then there is a level where no money is involved, no holiday but there is the exchange of food items like mealie-meal, cooking oil, bar soap. This is very common in the rural set up or compound set up where most women are finding it difficult to make ends meet. For the women to survive they offer sex in exchange of mealie-meal and cooking oil. This kind of relationship is amongst married and single women with shopkeepers, or shop owners. In some instances mother can offer her child as little as 14 years of age in exchange of food items from the shopkeeper.This has contributed in the increase in the number of child marriages.

Another level of exchange relationships is that of a lady in a bar exchanging sex for beer and transport back home. This is very common in most teenagers in urban bars where a lady goes to a bar without money, offers sex to the male patrons there so that they buy her beer. This is mainly due to peer pressure, one trying to fit in a group. While at the bar, the take pictures so that they can show their friends what they were up to during the weekend. Bars frequented by these are upmarket to middle market bars.

Moreover, exchange of sex, can be seen in the transport industry especially public transport sector where we have the ‘mahwindi’ (conductor) and the driver. This kind of relationship is common among high school girls and the commuter omnibus operators. These girls want free transport to and from school. The money they are given by their parents is diverted to other means. In most cases these commuter omnibus operators are having sexual intercourse with minors and no one tends to care about this. This is also common amongst long distance drivers and cross borders. For example, cross border women are involved with ‘omalayitsha’ in exchange of having their good ferried to Zimbabwe without any hustles and not having to pay for the transport fee. The question that remains in my mind is; how many school children/ women are these commuter omnibus operators involved with? Are they indulging in safe sex? What are the risks at stake in such a relationship?

Tertiary institutions are also flooded with exchange relationships. This is the type of relationship whereby the lecturer gets involved with a student whether female or male and offer good grades in exchange. This is very common especially among male lectures and female students.Grapes turn sour when the student happens to fail and the exchange relationship is exposed.

In the work environment, bosses and their subordinates are involved in exchange relationship. Here, one is offered sex in exchange of promotions and salary hike. Favours are also part of the exchange deal. For example, recently the digital strategist at The Herald is alleged to have been involved with one of the bosses there. It is alleged her current designated position was obtained through exchange of sex. In other cases, women get to be employed after indulging in a sexual intercourse with the interviewer. This is termed ‘carpet interview.

Sex is now largely used as a tool to obtain something from someone nowadays. Like mentioned above be it a genuine job, one has to offer sex to get that job. These kinds of relationships are the major causes of high numbers of sexually transmitted diseases (STI). So, from this, a blesse is a young woman who is financially supported by a man in exchange of sex. Basically these two are in an exchange relationship whereby sex is the exchanged service. One then wonders what risks at stake are. Are they practising safe sex? Do the exploited have a say when it comes to safe sex? Is the whole ‘exchange’ thing worth it at the end of the day, given the fact that there are sexually transmitted diseases at play here?


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