Have I been played?
April 22, 2011 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I've been in country for one day and suddenly I am very popular with much younger women. Do I have "Sugar Daddy" written on my forehead or is there something else going on?

I am in an African country which shall remain nameless on a combined business/pleasure trip. This afternoon after my work meetings were over I went walking with my rather large camera to photograph a local attraction that is near my hotel.

A waiter from the hotel recognized me and offered to show me around. We walked around for a while and then went to see a traditional dance.

The dancers were all fairly young women. They were all quite interested in talking to me. They claimed to be university students. After a while one of them asked me if I would buy the dancers a drink. I didn't think the request was that unusual because they had been dancing all day and were thirsty. So I bought a round.

Fairly soon after that the party broke up. One of the girls gave me her phone number and asked me to go to another party. My guide knew where the party was so off we went.

The scene was basically a repeat of the earlier event--university age, they asked me to buy a round, etc. And of course, they were all very interested in meeting me. One seemed very interested in me.

Yada, yada, yada. we went back to my hotel to have sex. Before disrobing, she asked for a fairly insignificant amount of money. I was a bit shocked by I said okay and we had protected sex.

Later on I asked her how old she is. She said 20. I told her my age (40+). She said it was okay because I look 30 something. As she was leaving (with the money) she said to me that she would have a baby with me if I wanted.

Anyhow, I am freaking out about this. Was this girl a whore or just playing me for money? Was the whole evening a set up? WTF?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You have money. I would bet a large sum of it that there's nothing more than this going on.
posted by Aquaman at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Was this girl a whore or just playing me for money?

Yes. And yes.
posted by pdb at 2:41 PM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

You haven't been played. You bought sex. And yeah it's totally a set up from the waiter on down but I don't think in the "waking up in the bathtub missing a kidney" way just in that you were made an offer you (maybe? really?) didn't understand and then kept going along with the plan to it's logical conclusion.
posted by marylynn at 2:44 PM on April 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

Yes and yes. Get tested.
posted by rr at 2:46 PM on April 22, 2011

The waiter from the hotel had a vested interest in bringing you to the bar to meet a, ah, "bar girl."

I don't know if "set-up" is the right word so much as a miscommunication of expectations, but I definitely think you have a right to feel set-up.
posted by muddgirl at 2:48 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, if someone asks for cash before they sleep with you, they are a prostitute. I can think of very few situations where this isn't true.
posted by muddgirl at 2:49 PM on April 22, 2011 [56 favorites]

You are a tourist with money. You are a resource. That is all.
posted by Listener at 2:49 PM on April 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

In what way did you think you weren't played? The drinks, dancers, prostitute? Classic set up. But I mean, you knew that right? You paid and had sex, so...
posted by Nixy at 2:51 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

She saw that you were someone who would agree to pay for sex and you paid for sex. I don't know what you're freaking out about. Are you feeling victimized? I mean, you agreed to the transaction. It is what it is. Also, "whore" is an incredibly offensive term. Was she a sex worker? Yeah, in a manner of speaking. But seriously, don't use the word whore.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 2:51 PM on April 22, 2011 [86 favorites]

Just want to clarify that by "played" and "set up" I don't mean she scammed you or you should be angry or anything. I mean, everyone knows how it works, it's a certain pattern for how people negotiate these things. Your chance to refuse came with the moment she asked for money before sex.
posted by Nixy at 2:59 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

As someone I hear on the radio likes to say, more than one thing can be equally true. Yeah, it reeks of a big 'ol plan... and at least one of the women might well have been willing to marry you.

As a number of friends who've worked in Africa have related, life is pretty damn dire for a lotta people there and decent opportunities are hard to come by. In that context, there are worse risks to take than agreeing to an essentially immediate marriage to a Westerner (I assume you're a Westerner.), hopefully moving to his country and getting a Western passport.

A friend who worked in Cameroon said a lot of women he met there in more "normal" circumstances made it real clear real fast that they were quite interested in marrying him.
posted by ambient2 at 3:02 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry to burst your ego but the only thing they were interested in was your wallet. They are not new to this and you probably seemed like an easy target because you come across extremely naive in this question.

Also the way you used the term whore seems to be painted in a negative light. Whores are no worse than the men who pay money to have sex with them.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:03 PM on April 22, 2011 [77 favorites]

She was a prostitute. Don't worry, naiveté about these matters is nothing to be ashamed of, despite the legion other respondents berating you.
posted by tehloki at 3:07 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

You have a green picture of George Washington written on your forehead.
posted by benzenedream at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

seriously? you walked around with a big expensive camera and bought drinks for everyone. they were all thinking "rich foreigner who's going to throw some money around".
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 3:11 PM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

[I would very much like to caution our more joke-making members that this is where you answer people's questions. Please feel free to make your lulzy whore jokes elsewhere. thank you]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:12 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Large (fancy) camera = tourist, probably wealthy; buying rounds of drinks = free with money.

I've been to Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the "local dances" are weird tourist traps, where there were a number of single men with large cameras. I'm not implying that you're a creepy old dude, but in a way, you are not new to them, even if they are new to you, so to speak.

Enjoy your trip, but be cautious with flashing money, and hide your camera when you can. You'll still stick out as a tourist, but you can let others flaunt it more than you and get more of the attention.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can see how my comment may appear to be harsh, but I actually do understand how someone - even a fully-grown adult - could be drawn into a situation like this - the people involved intentionally prey on your generosity and desire to "fit in" and not ask questions. Luckily my friends and I have "caught on" and extricated ourselves before we came to a tricky decision or a dangerous situation, but I have always had the benefit of travelling in a group.

I hope the OP will take this experience, not as a negative mark against him, but as a learning opportunity, and that he will be more skeptical in the future and walk into strange situations with his eyes open.
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You paid to have sex with a prostitute.

Nthing that it's pretty offensive to refer to sex workers as "whores". You were part of the transaction, too.
posted by ixohoxi at 3:18 PM on April 22, 2011 [27 favorites]

This is a complex situation that doesn't fit in our cultural vocabulary.

I'd avoid it from here on out.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:21 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

"Yada, yada, yada. we went back to my hotel to have sex... Anyhow, I am freaking out about this."

Apparently you liked what was offered, which was sex for money. There's not a whole lot of "WTF" here. It sounds like you want Ask MetaFilter to help you put it in a part of your brain where you can frame it in some other way? Don't do it again if you feel badly about it now.

"I didn't think the request was that unusual because they had been dancing all day and were thirsty" is so disingenuous I can see why people are struggling to be polite here; certainly I am. I think somebody who was genuinely and totally naive here would not have that take on buying rounds for dancers. You're just a john, there's not much of a question to be answered here. No, you can't pretend something different went down.
posted by kmennie at 3:25 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh good grief.

This was conceivably a "set up" and you could have been "being played" only up until the point where you became an active participant in what was clearly a business transaction.

When she asked for payment, you could have said, "no," or given her the money she asked for and then asked her to leave. So knock it right the eff off with this "whore" nonsense. When you agreed to have what sounds like entirely consensual sex, you waived any right to lay your remorse at someone else's feet.
posted by wreckingball at 3:25 PM on April 22, 2011 [32 favorites]

You treated the young woman well and politely; you had protected sex and adhered to the terms of the transaction. Good for you.

Were you "played"? Not really. Will a sex worker ever actually like/be attracted to their clients? I am assured by some sex worker friends that a friendly client/worker relationship is perfectly possible, like in any other business.

Does the young woman think of herself as a sex worker? Maybe, maybe not.

I think you behaved okay, and probably shouldn't worry about it, but also should think seriously about whether you want to pay for sex and how to do so ethically.
posted by Frowner at 3:26 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

There is in fact a term for it - 'transactional sex' . (You can google it, but it perfectly describes these situations).
posted by plep at 3:27 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

And I mean, what's so bad about what she did anyway? These young women are probably poor, like darn poor. Some of them are probably supporting families or maybe even paying for education or training for themselves or siblings. It's not any more crassly commercial than when I get my hair cut and have a long conversation with my hairstylist. We like each other, we're courteous and friendly, she needs the money and I need a haircut.
posted by Frowner at 3:30 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You weren't played. If someone asks you for money for sex, they're a prostitute. She even asked you before you had sex, so why would you think anything other than that she's a prostitute? Do girls you go on dates with often ask you for large sums of money?
posted by elpea at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

yes, you have sugar daddy written on your forehead, as do most other male foreigners in poor countries. And you confirmed that stereotype.
posted by Neekee at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Have to agree with Elpea here.. Though it's fair you're taking advantage of the "pleasure" side of your trip however..
posted by xbeautychicx at 3:40 PM on April 22, 2011

You got a great story out of this, a new experience, and sex. You might not need to repeat it, but I think you got your money's worth.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:42 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

A point of information, first. Africa is an entire continent made up of many countries. The culture in Kenya is different than the culture in Egypt is different than the culture in Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Ghana, Namibia, Somalia, West Sahara, etc. There are many ethnicities within these countries. It's like saying "I went to a bar somewhere in North America while on vacation."

I have never been to Africa. I don't really understand sex culture in the United States, and I definitely don't understand sex culture in your nameless African country. However, I've read several books on the subject, and had a few interesting tales told to my by people who have been there.

There is definitely sex tourism in Africa - this book focus on Kenya. Here is another book that might give you some insight: Hustling is not stealing: stories of an African bar girl. The stories found in that book are from the coastal region of Western Africa, if I recollect correctly.

Actually, I'm going to keep my thoughts out of this. They're too complicated, and Ironmouth is right in saying that we don't have the vocabulary/concepts for this. At least, I don't. I can say one thing, though. She was sincere in her invitation to have a baby with you.
posted by aniola at 3:51 PM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

You're a western man on vacation in an African country, so yes, you are going to be a target for women looking to sell sex to tourists. But also, you're a man over 40 who brings a 20-year-old back to your hotel for sex after buying drinks for all her friends at a party? You'd have "sugar daddy" written on your forehead in the wealthiest city in America.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:00 PM on April 22, 2011 [39 favorites]

Aside from the sex work angle, this isn't an unusual dynamic when you're a Westerner in an impoverished country where the average person doesn't have much upward (or even outward) mobility. Western women in your situation sometimes fend off aggressive marriage proposals, etc.
posted by availablelight at 4:03 PM on April 22, 2011

...but on preview, also what Meg_Murray said. You can be more mindful of your own half of the transaction.
posted by availablelight at 4:06 PM on April 22, 2011

That sounds like quite normal transactional sex. You were safe and respectful, she got paid, it's all good. It can take quite a while in a very, very foreign place to figure out who likes you, who wants your money, and who is both at once.
posted by Forktine at 4:24 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I am not sure about your confusion. You are a foreigner with money. You were introduced by a waiter at your hotel to local women, some or all of whom were prostitutes and you engaged the services of said prostitute. That's a pretty common scenario. Almost a cliche.

I would also caution you that, as others have said, the last line of your question comes off as kind of insulting to the women involved. It would still be insulting if you had been shocked and refused but it is doubly so when you participated in the transaction and then said it.
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

It really just sounds like you are trying to resolve your cognitive dissonance about having paid for sex.

I'm very lavish with the benefit of the doubt, but I really cannot find any way of looking at this that means you've been "played", that is, manipulated to do something without your full awareness or consent, considering that some kind of money-extracting endgame (if not this exact one) was foreseeable from the moment the waiter approached you. If you were 20, well, maybe I could accept that you needed to see it unfold for yourself. You're over 40. I don't think you're amazed at your new discovery about how the world works, I think you're amazed at your new discovery that you are part of the system.

If your gut reaction is to be shocked at yourself, that's okay with me FWIW, because I too find it hard to equate paid sex with getting a haircut (others disagree, I get that, but it's pretty obvious you wouldn't be posting this if you had found yourself in a barbershop instead of a hotel room). If you don't want to participate in that system, confess your sin (if only to yourself) and don't do it again.
posted by tel3path at 4:55 PM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with a 40-year-old sleeping with a 20-year-old, and there's nothing wrong with paying for sex. You didn't get tricked, but you sound a bit shocked about the whole thing. That's okay— work through those feelings and you'll come out of it a stronger person.

As tehloki said, ignore anyone who tries to make you feel bad about your naivete. It looks like you didn't hurt anyone else, so you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. Ignorance is fine, but willfull ignorance is not.

Please stop using words like "whore" and "sugar daddy" because they are offensive, and take this opportunity to learn about other cultures so you can be a responsible tourist.
posted by grammar corrections at 5:10 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Er, that should be willful ignorance.
posted by grammar corrections at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2011

You had sex for money, yes. Sounds like everyone knew what was going on but you. I've lived and worked in Africa* on and off for a decade and I would not have had a split second of doubt re what scene was unfolding in front of me. But it sounds like you didn't quite get it, and most importantly, you treated each other kindly, so who really cares? I'm sorry these 20-somethings were primarily after your money or a visa. Sounds like you all had fun, too. You can keep having fun like that again, provided you keep being respectful.

*Many of them. This scene is pretty extensive in Africa, I'm afraid.
posted by semacd at 5:23 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Couple of things:

* Yes there is huge power/money asymmetry between you and your new friends (you will probably never be able to friends in a western sense)

* Africa, much of it anyway, operates on Patronage. That means relationships aren't equal and people with money (you) spread it around and people without (your new female friend) do things for it, and expect/hope you will look after them and that includes financially

* In some African societies, a bit of sleeping for money is a socially acceptable way for a young woman to raise money for ... marriage, family needs, school needs, etc. They may or may not be 'professionals' but it is fine in their culture

* Yes you are a sugar daddy

* Finally, in some countries AIDS rates are 40% +. Proceed with caution.
posted by zia at 5:26 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

*Many countries/cities in Africa, that is.

I'm quite sure OP was just obscuring his identity by generalizing.
posted by semacd at 5:27 PM on April 22, 2011

There is not a clear whore/notwhore dichotomy, especially not where power and income imbalances between the parties is so great. It is a very subtle gradient.

1. There are people who will only ever have sex with their one true love, and would strive to work hard and never rely on their partner for a penny.
2. There are people who would meet you at a party, think "wow, he seems rich and powerful", and with that as their main reason would be attracted to you and want to get with you.
3. There are people who would screw anyone anytime for money.

Your experience sounds like it falls between 2. and 3.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

See also: MetaTalk
posted by aniola at 6:09 PM on April 22, 2011

I am a little confused as it seems like you said it was ok because it was an insignificant amount of money. That to me was bargaining and deciding the transaction was worth the value paid. Why the sudden confusion on your part after the fact?

You weren't played, you played yourself.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:03 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're not a "sugar daddy."

You had what some lovely young woman wanted, she got a little of it, and she shared herself with you. Everyone was happy and had a good/decent time.

You have a memory, she has some money which may very well have brought a little security and maybe some indulgence - or if she was a real professional, something to throw into a stake that rockets her into the stratosphere of this kind of commerce.


She seemed into it, no? Never a "no I do not want you to do this" vibe?

You're not going to get to have sex with this person without paying her, again. You are not also a loser (also NOT a loser) because you did what you did; being someone who has paid for some kind of sexual gratification has nothing to do with someone who *has to* pay in order to get...

Anyway, think of it as a neat story. If it was unprotected, definitely get checked, and get checked again 6 months later. If it was protected, relax and close out and go home.


If this all went down at some club/bar back "home," would you even be having this situation?
posted by porpoise at 8:39 PM on April 22, 2011

I think almost no one has focused on this sentence:

As she was leaving (with the money) she said to me that she would have a baby with me if I wanted.

He said that the request for money was "a bit shocking," so I guess that means it wasn't terribly shocking. But the remark about him being "freaked out" comes right after the offer to have a baby with him. I would guess that such offers are not commonly made after "transactional sex" (as someone put it upthread). I could see how such an offer, if it were made with apparent sincerity and was not merely a joke or flattery, might be unsettling. It's certainly light years away from a relatively simple sex-for-money transaction.

I don't know what that offer means, culturally speaking, or whether the girl even meant it. But all I can say is, if you find such things unsettling, simply avoid them in the future.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:34 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Apart from the "traditional dance" part of this, this reminds me a lot of Ethiopia. Not that I went with any of the girls, but a travelling buddy did once, and he came away with the same kind of confusion over whether it was "real" or just business. In that case, the "fairly insignificant" amount of money was, I think, 10 Birr, or less than $2, which honestly doesn't go all that far even in Ethiopia.

Very confusing all round, all the moreso because Ethiopians apparently have a culture of very free sex before marriage. ie people are encouraged to sleep around as much as they can, as far as I can gather, and it may or may not be appropriate for a woman to request some kind of gift for being a part-time mistress, without this equating to being an outright prostitute.

I'd tend to agree with the comment above that maybe it was just a different paradigm, and westerners don't exactly have the right terms for it. Hard to know.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:41 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would guess that such offers are not commonly made after "transactional sex" (as someone put it upthread). I could see how such an offer, if it were made with apparent sincerity and was not merely a joke or flattery, might be unsettling. It's certainly light years away from a relatively simple sex-for-money transaction.

I don't agree, based on my experience. Babies (including the intimacy of unprotected sex, the emotional connection of the pregnancy, and the long-term financial support of the mother and baby, not to mention the added possibility of a first-world visa) can be as transactional as basic fucking. Living and traveling overseas, I have received plenty of "I'll have your baby" offers. Many joking, some teasing, a few serious.

So no, this sounds totally normal and not at all weird to me. Sex and relationships can be both intimate and transactional -- the categories are not at all distinct. And in the example in the question, it's not clear if she was a professional getting money for the sex, or just getting some cash for the taxi ride home and maybe a new pair of earrings, or something in the middle.

And at the end of the day, so what? You used protection, you treated her with care and dignity and kindness, and she evidently did the same with you. Unless you get to know her better, you won't know where she is on the spectrum from professional sex worker to... whatever you call the opposite of that, I guess.
posted by Forktine at 6:58 AM on April 23, 2011

Played? No. That would indicate that you were duped or scammed. You did what you wanted to do. You paid the going rate for goods (drinks) and services (transportation, tour guide, sex.) In no way were you played.

Let's be honest here. Did you really think a group of 20 year old women wanted to dance or a strange man in his 40s? Do you think your attractiveness just shot up by coincidence? Or do you think that these people see that you have money and resources that they don't? Do you think that someone who can buy a round for the house and call it "insignificant" is attractive because of money?

Played, No.
Sugar Daddy, Yes.
posted by 26.2 at 8:19 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Um, not played. Sadly as others have mentioned, being a Westerner in some contexts makes you wealthier than everybody else and sex for money is fairly easy to find. Can I hazard a guess that maybe this is your first time traveling in a developing country? Because I've been a Peace Corps volunteer and spent a lot of time in Latin America and it's pretty sadly typical.

I'm female so I'm not getting the attention of bar girls (being a solo female traveler is more complicated and dangerous), but in Cuba you tend to see a lot of older European tourists squiring around young women and I once stayed in a guesthouse in Salvador Bahia where the only other guests was a 60something year old guy from Florida and his 19 year old local "friend." Actually it's bad enough in Brazil in terms of the sex trade that any hotel you stay at has signs up notifying foreign visitors against considering trafficking.

While I understand the underlying economics that make people perceive a visitor as a source of income when the local economy is bad, it's just an ugly situation. Really depressing the times I've seen it going down in Cuba and Brazil. She may have not been adverse to sleeping with you, but it was definitely more about money and that's not a pleasant thing to realize. Get tested for HIV and in your future travels, I'd look for more honest and respectful ways to interact with the locals.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 12:38 PM on April 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

So, you went out partying, and a young woman half your age went back to the hotel with you and then agreed to have sex with you for money. After the exchange, she then LEFT.

Now you're wondering Was this girl a whore or just playing me for money? Was the whole evening a set up?

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm joining in a pile-on, but I can't help but be reminded of the Onion classic Why do all these homosexuals keep sucking my cock?

Really, from your own description, the events of the evening seem quite straightforward and pretty low in ambiguity. I'm not sure what portion of the transaction is confusing to you: do you think she went back to the hotel with you because it was actually a whirlwind romance?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 4:32 PM on April 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I can see how that situation seemed a bit weird.

I also think many posters are misreading this: "she asked for a fairly insignificant amount of money"

That doesn't sound like prostitution, so much as 'aspirational dating' - especially in a poor part of africa, and combined with the 'baby' thing. Also, there are almost definitely different cultural norms at work.
E.g. a purely hypothetical thought process - she asked for something to make sure that you 'value' her, that you're 'generous', that you're not being cheap, or freeloading, but if it was truly an insignificant sum then she may well be shocked if you thought she was a prostitute. It's like the line between socially-conservative women who won't date someone who won't pay for dinner, *because* paying for dinner indicates they are willing to 'take responsibility' and be generous, and it is very much not associated with prostitution, culturally at least.
She could have considered the money as an equivalent kind of gift - she's not cheap, or a 'slut' (I feel uncomfortable using that term after the hoo-rah about using whore, but please consider the cultural signifiers of that term - someone who is 'giving it away' for 'free'. The insignificant gift could be the culturally accepted line between both slut AND whore - neither free, nor paying for it!). So yeah, who knows what was going on there, but I wouldn't make assumptions.

A good indicator would be to find out what an actual prostitute would cost - if she wasn't in that realm, then she basically wasn't.
posted by Elysum at 7:56 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

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