Horny old men and ambitious young women

2013-08-09 00:00

IN sugar daddy relationships, the man is always the villain and the woman the helpless victim — right? Not so, says Mike Maphoto, author of two steamy tales that have caused a sensation in the local blogosphere. It’s more complex than that.

“I know the world wants to blame the man, but no one actually ever sits down and says how did the girl get here? She did not fall out of heaven and land on his lap! Women need to take responsibility for the role they play, while men need to be shunned,” says Maphoto.

Which is not to say he doesn’t think women are hurt by older men preying on younger women and buying their affections. His first blog, Diary of a Zulu Girl, which he started in early May after joking about it with some friends, tells the story of Thandeka from Mooi River who goes to Wits and is making the transition “from mud huts and umqombothi straight to penthouses, expensive weaves and Moët”.

With plenty of sex and cliff-hanger revelations, the blog, which he writes on his phone, was an overnight success, viewed more than 482 000 times in its first two weeks. But buried in its chick-lit story line is a serious statement about the misery caused by the sugar daddy phenomenon.

In an interview with blogger Valentine Madzhie last month, Maphoto cited a survey he carried out that 2 400 readers answered. “Ninety percent of them were women who said they related to the characters and the hardships they go through.

“I honestly don’t know how I got to this stage, but I think years of listening to women make one sympathetic towards them,” he says by way of explaining his feminist views, although his cosmopolitan background no doubt helped. Describing himself as a nomad, this child of exiles (his father is Mkhonto weSizwe general Ike Maphoto) was born in Zimbabwe and also lived in Botswana, Zambia and England. He was educated in all these countries, did a law degree at the University of Cape Town and now lives in Polokwane where he runs a construction and logistics company.

In addition to Diary of a Zulu Girl, he has another blog called Confessions of a Sugar Babe. In a country where there are supposedly not many readers, the figures for the two stories are phenomenal.

“Diary is bigger than Confessions, but the statistics are combined to 45 000 readers a day as [they are] posted on alternate days,” he says when asked. He has another story, Tales of Sugar Daddy, in the pipeline.

What started off as a “fun project” could change his life. “I never realised the potential until I was in the fifties of the blog. A major TV station has approached and we are two signatures [out of nine] away from sealing the deal. I am getting money from advertising. The readership is very unique in that it ranges from 13 to 67, all of whom say they identify with it. This is a marketer’s dream I guess,” he says modestly.

It’s an unlikely and happy consequence of tackling what he sees as a depressing topic.

“It is the saddest thing ever when you go out and see a girl in her early 20s hanging onto the arm of a man in his 50s who has a ring on his finger. I swear to you if I could, I would name them and shame them. I recently got a letter from a 16-year-old who had just got her first sugar daddy experience. He is 39. It’s so hard to just ignore.”

He believes the reason his stories have struck a chord with readers is because they are real. “If you are a student especially, you see this everyday. If you are a wife, you watch your back every day so that you don’t end up humiliated. If you are a single mother, you have that anger towards men, but you tell yourself that you were probably that naïve girl or know-it-all who thought she had it all figured out.”

However, the problem is not just about the men. Asked if he thinks that finding a sugar daddy is a rational response on the part of young women to the society they live in, or a way for them to feel powerful in an unequal world, he admits to some perplexity.

“I have long pondered this question. There are some sugar daddies who are used as a means to a positive end. However, in this equation someone always gets hurt and usually it is the man’s original family. I have had testimonies from girls whose only chance of getting an education was having a sugar daddy and you will be surprised that some are lawyers and doctors today. The sugar daddy covered most of their expenses in university. The girl’s parents turn a blind eye because at the end of the day, they want the best possible future for their child. Much as it is painful to admit, a sugar daddy can serve a purpose, which for the greater good is worthy of mention.

“However, most of the girls in these relationships assume wrongly that the money will always be there and spend it all during that relationship. They do not save it because it’s easy money and because it is addictive they are made to perform sexual acts that will shock you. From the letters I have received a lot of these girls have done things I cannot mention to make sure the man stays interested. Whatever he wants, she does. So yes, he might pay her fees, but what does he get in return? I do not think any sugar baby feels powerful in the relationship because he tends to own her completely.”

He says the response of men to his blogs has been mixed. “Men are a bit hostile when you accuse them of cheating and not supporting their girlfriends and wives enough. However, when you bring up the issue of foreign men dating and marrying South African girls they get so eager to shun. Xenophobia in this country runs deep.

“We live in a very amoral society,” says Maphoto when asked if sugar daddies are more prevalent in SA than elsewhere. “If your politicians and church leaders [moral guardians] are [doing] it, there really is no stopping it. It’s on the increase because more and more people are coming out in the open about it. It is no longer shameful and I think newspapers especially have destigmatised it.

“We laugh at polygamy [which is] a long-held tradition even in biblical times, yet seem to turn a blind eye to men cheating with girls young enough to be their children. I doubt that polygamy destroys marriages as fast as sugar babies do.”

See www.diaryofazulugirl.co.za

• shelaghm@witness.co.za

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