Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex.
Allie and Bethan — who both declined to give their full names — said they planned to spend a whole month touring Kenya’s palm-fringed beaches. They would do well to avoid the country’s tourism officials.
“It’s not evil,” said Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, when asked about the practice of older rich women traveling for sex with young Kenyan men.
You see, I had a feeling I’d heard this story before; about the lengths some (white) folks will go to and the distances some (white) folks will travel to satisfy a racial fetish, and the (non-white) folks who are more than happy to help them scratch that itch for a price. I not only heard the story a while back, I blogged about it. But then it was merely the domestic version of the above: the phenomenon of the Mangindo Party.
It’s a measure of how far he’s come that Jeff (not his real name), now 40, is telling me this while we’re watching a black guy have sex with his wife, Amber (not her real name), 37, at an interracial orgy. In Jeff’s house. On his bed. The man screwing Jeff’s wife is Branford (not his real name), a 30-year-old massage therapist who’s not holding back—this isn’t lovemaking, this is a proper pounding. Forget Amber—that’s just how Jeff likes it.
… The man who arranged tonight’s event, Art Hammer (a name he uses solely for Mandingo parties), started the Florida Mandingo group four years ago, just after his divorce. An enterprising 42-year-old black swinger from Tampa Bay, he has since become the go-to guy when it comes to organizing gang bangs and orgies for couples—the vast majority of whom are white—with a fetish for black men. So it was Hammer who sent the Evites for this “pajamas and lingerie” party and secured the attendance of the guests; it was also Hammer who booked the DJ, paid for the finger food, and brought the “courtesy condoms.” Amber and Jeff just had to open their home. An advertising-sales guy by day, Hammer has done a bang-up job of marketing the Mandingos among the swinger set. The name Mandingo comes from Mandinka, a West African tribe that, in the antebellum South, was prized and bred for strength and virility. (Not that Hammer necessarily has Mandinka roots; he has no idea—”I’m Art Hammer,” he says. “Not Art Haley.”) Mandingo is now a byword for black male sexual prowess. When Hammer established the Florida Mandingos, two other (unaffiliated) groups—the So Cal Mandingos and the NYC Mandingos—were already up and running. Today new groups keep sprouting—in Atlanta, Chicago, Oakland—but Hammer’s is the most prominent, the only Mandingo group invited to host a “Chocolate Fantasy Suite” at N’awlins in November, the second-biggest swinger convention in the country.
Sexual fantasy aside, there’s an economic angle to what Jill aptly names “the colonial sex trade.”
Emerging alongside this black market trade — and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down — are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men.
They go dining at fine restaurants, then dancing, and back to expensive hotel rooms overlooking the coast.
…Experts say some thrive on the social status and financial power that comes from taking much poorer, younger lovers.
“This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies — a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions,” said Nottinghan University’s Davidson.
…”It’s not love, obviously. I didn’t come here looking for a husband,” Bethan said over a pounding beat from the speakers.
“It’s a social arrangement. I buy him a nice shirt and we go out for dinner. For as long as he stays with me he doesn’t pay for anything, and I get what I want — a good time. How is that different from a man buying a young girl dinner?”
And there’s an economic angle to the Mangingo parties back home.
But the Mandingos themselves have their own issues with the lifestyle. For example, there’s seldom kissing or going down. It’s a rule for some—Jared won’t kiss or come unless he’s with someone “special.” Of course, the no-kissing rule is a prostitute’s code. Not that the Mandingos get paid for sex—it’s against the rules. Each guest at Hammer’s parties pays an annual membership—couples pay $30 and Mandingos $75. Everyone pays an additional fee of $30 for each party.
But occasionally the rules are bent. Some Mandingos confessed to receiving tips of $100 and more after private sessions with couples at last year’s N’awlins in November swinger convention. Others brag about the vacations they’ve been taken on. “I’ve been to Vegas twice, all expenses paid,” says John, the software salesman. “The Bahamas, Miami. One couple took me twice. After a while, you feel like a piece of meat. But hey, they’re not using me to mow their damn lawn. They’re using me to fuck the wife.”
It’s hard to figure which form of
exploitation tourism was borne of which, but the article points out that the “not-so-new” brand of just-this-side-of-legal sex tourism.
These same beaches have long been notorious for attracting another type of sex tourists — those who abuse children.
As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts — about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there — are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya’s government and U.N. children’s charity UNICEF reported late last year.
Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work, it said, some paid for the “most horrific and abnormal acts”.
And this article tops the list of most popular articles on Reuters. Right in the number two spot is a story about sex tourism — child sex tourism — stateside.
More than 300,000 children are being sexually exploited in the United States, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania.
Many of them end up in Atlanta, which authorities say has become a hub for prostitution in part because its busy airport makes it a destination for men seeking sex.
Where in the past pimps advertised the girls who worked for them on the walls of men’s rest rooms or on street corners, these days they use online bulletin boards like craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org/).
Customers set up liaisons after seeing girls on the sites, and then pay the girl or the pimp directly on the street, according to the Atlanta Police Vice Department.
Exploitation breeds exploitation breeds exploitation. It is perhaps the only “trickle down” model that has ever actually worked out to be true.
The only thing that occurs to me is that in all the stuff above, for the most part the activities engaged in and the people themselves are heterosexual. If the activity involved had been same-sex activity, and the people involved had been gay or same-sex oriented, I can only imagine how amplified the level of outrage would be. And the assumption would be, of course, that we (gay folks) invented all of the above.