Last week, I met Tumelo, a friend of mine, at the University of Botswana (UB) to chat a bit. We had a general conversation about materiality and love as we were sitting in one of the cafeterias.
He said to me that it’s not unsual that girls just say to their boyfriends or guys they go out with “Show me how much you love me: give me P500”, which are roughly 40€.
I knew already that providing girls with material things plays a significant part within a relationship, but I didn’t know the whole extent of it.
Eish…if I may allowed to give an emotional statement about that: this is quite shocking how materialistic relationships are.
It also makes me think about if the concept of romantic or passionate love is really a “western phenomenon” as some literature in the past pictured it?
On the other side it is maybe just a cultural expression of love. It reminds me of a paper I read long ago. Teenage girls from Uganda have been asked why they ask for money and other goods and if they do it because of their own weak financial situation. 51 percent said that they also want to have money even if they had enough of it. They said, that it’s not just about a poor economic background but also that it represents a value: „nothing is free”, „he would not take me seriously if I just gave in” or „I can never have enough money” (Nyanzi et al. 2001: 88). I got a similar impression when I was in Botswana for the first time in 2009. Different persons I talked to told me that those young girls would name their partners after the function he fulfills. So there might be a minister of transport who drives the girl around or the minister of finance who provides the girl with money.
Of course, one has to ask for the question if this happens because of a poor economical background and I, personally, don’t want to say, that girls don’t have a need, but it was quite interesting that different interview partner told me that it’s not just about this weak financial situation but more about lazyness. Very often I heard that “women and girls are lazy”. I am not sure if I would call it lazyness. I tend to say that it is a certain attitude. For example, I asked Tumelo what it means to him to be a Motswana. And he responded that – besides a lot of other things – it means to provide goods for his girlfriend and that he does it with joy. He rather buys his girlfriend airtime, sweets, treats, earrings or whatever instead of buying himself things. So from that point of view the title of this post looses his shocking materialistic connotation…a little bit…because it looks like that it is indeed a way of showing love.
Men are clear about that they are expected to provide a girl if they want to have a relationship – and sex. This is at least valid for a certain type of girls which we called fancy girls within our conversation. On the other side, I heard very often the statement that allmost all girls are materialistic. So it’s maybe not only for that fancy girls, but instead the foundation of a relationship.
My friend explained it to me like that:
Tumelo: If I want to have sex with a fancy girl I have to make sure that I can afford her. I can have maybe sex with her one time without spending too much money, but if I want to have sex again I need money because this type of girl can demand out of nothing P400 for a new hairstyle or somehting else.
I asked him if there’s something like true love:
Tumelo: True love does not exist because there’s always materialistic thinking involved. If you say to a girl that you love her with all of your heart she will ask you what else you can offer her. What does that tell about love?
I asked him directly if it is a open secret that girls want to be provided with goods and services and guys want to have sex in return…and that both sexes are aware of that kind of deal. He agreed that it’s easy like that.
This shows clearly that there’s a correlation between love, sex and goods. I got the feeling that it’s almost unimaginable to uncouple it. Like I wrote in the previous post love looks like a game between men and women. Everyone is aware of that. Most people complain about that game. But everyone plays the game very well.
Literature mentioned in this post:
Nyanzi, S.; Pool, Robert; Kinsman, J. (2001):The negotiation of sexual relationships among school pupils in South-western Uganda. In: AIDS Care 13 (1). S. 83–98.