'Passport girls' neglect their studies for paid sex
Third-year University of Venda psychology student Maria didn't want a part-time job, so she became a "passport girl".
But now she is paying the price for being arm candy for affluent men to flaunt at social events as her academic performance drops dangerously near failing.
"Passport girl" is a reference to young women who act as glamorous plus-ones at social events or on holidays. They earn money for rent, groceries and even high-end weaves as they take the blesser and blessee relationship into the public space.
But the role means that the students are expected to ditch classes, neglect study time and miss tests so that they can attend social events and parties as escorts for the men who pay for their company.
Payment for these services is no longer confined to what happens in the bedroom, a study conducted at the University of Venda in Limpopo revealed.
The study, presented at the Pan-African Psychology Congress in Durban this week, analysed the reasons why many women entered into financial relationships with wealthy men in exchange for sex.
Valeria Baloyi became interested in this field of study after researching blessers and blessees on social media.
MEET BASIC NEEDS
"Young females flooded social media with pictures of overseas trips, shopping and flashy cars," she said.
"'A girl has to do what a girl has to do.' This is the motivation that these women use to justify transactional sex, and most of these girls engage in these sexual transactions to meet their basic economic needs," Baloyi said.
"It is inherently exploitative. These men with means see the needs of these women and then use that to take advantage of them," said Baloyi.
Most students find themselves in blesser circles largely because of the lack of financial assistanceKuhlekonke Watu Ntuli, president of the student representative council at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College
The notion of "passport girls" emerged during her research.
"An issue is the decline of the academic performance of these women. Say the blesser has an event somewhere and as a blessee they need to appear with them. They miss classes and they miss tests because of these appearances," Baloyi said.
Kuhlekonke Watu Ntuli, president of the student representative council at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College, said hunger and financial constraints were driving students to cash-flush men.
"Most students from UKZN find themselves in blesser circles largely because of the lack of financial assistance. They are away from home, away from emotional and financial support and social security in general.
"There are young ladies recruiting friends to join this lifestyle. I heard from a lady [that] she gets R2,000 for bringing a friend.
"Beautiful and vulnerable girls become the ultimate blessee, who gets as much as R20,000. This is a big industry. The more the supply the greater the demand. The only solution is introducing a meal station. Lots of girls become victims because of hunger," she said.
She said men were often seen hanging around the campus in flashy cars.
"You even find people of all races parked outside the residence looking for young girls, asking them if they want to go to restaurants.
"Sex happens, but at a later stage. If you are on the R2,000 scale the sex comes very quickly, but those on the R20,000 the guy must first buy you clothes and everything and then you have sex. It's a business," she said.
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