This week, the HIV/AIDS Conference in Durban taught me a word I didn’t know. A word I wish I didn’t know: “Blesser”. A cruel and ironic word given that these Blessers seem mostly to bestow curses.
Back in my day, “Blessers” were called “Sugar Daddies”. You know, men who exchange gifts and favours for sex. But they’ve been rebranded and relaunched with improved efficiency. Because there’s now a Blessers App; even a Blessers Facebook page. Ah, progress.
Indeed, in so many ways, it seems SugarDaddy 2.0 is a perceived improvement on the original model. Because a Blesser might drive you to the hotel in his Range Rover rather than a Toyota; and when he whispers his sweet blessings in your ear it will smell of Chivas rather than Black Label. Seems Blessers are getting slicker. And sicker.
Because transactional, inter generational sex is now one of the leading causes of the spread of HIV in Southern Africa. Or to put it in plain language: older, more affluent men exploiting younger, economically and culturally vulnerable women, is now driving the spread of HIV in southern Africa. To the point that young women aged 15-24 are now at greatest risk of HIV infection.
Given these statistics, we can presume these “Blessers” don’t use condoms. Why would they? When part of what they’re purchasing is the potential, if not the promise, of purity.
One South Africa man has called out Blessers: “Leave our girls alone. Leave our young women. If you want love, go to your peers; they have more than enough love to give you.” Thank you, Cyril Ramaphosa, for speaking your Truth. Thank you for imploring grown up men to behave like grown ups. It’s refreshing.
Now, Cyril, please, don’t stop there. Be a real Troublemaker and translate that speech into a movement. A movement of the powerful men you hang with — heads of families, states and corporations — to assume a leading position in finally stopping the spread of HIV in southern Africa. A movement of powerful men giving voice to the simple truth that this epidemic will not be brought under control until men decide to wrap up their dicks or cut down their partners. A cultural movement that demands men stop seeing women as commodities to be consumed, collected, corrupted and discarded.
The world desperately needs powerful men publicly assuming responsibility for progressive change. Because a lot of men, bless them, seem unwilling to accept that their pleasure is creating a world of pain.