In this economy, young people are surviving largely on gigs. A number of University graduates are surviving on ushering gigs, marketing gigs or sales gigs that are short term, and pay commissions.
There is another less formal form of gig that is gradually taking root that you could call sexual freelancing. Without falling into the category of sex work, sex has become part of the gig economy. Many are keeping it strictly business, having it with no strings attached, and expecting a transport refund (some sort of per diem) after each meeting. The majority now treat relationships like unpaid internships; never expecting them to yield into anything long term.
So we rendevous online, over Facebook or WhatsApp...have sex with no strings attached, and it’s done. If you are lucky and a friendship bond was struck, then you will most likely call each other sometime and maybe rendezvous again.
“It does not surprise me even though I had never thought of it as a sexual internship or a gig,” says Sumaiya Nakyejwe, laughing. She adds: “Because even I know I have done it.” While she got through university partly by working earnestly as an usher for a popular events company, she admits to topping up with extra money she got from two of her boyfriends’ from whom she got some cash whenever she visited them or spent a night.
When I asked her whether she was in a relationship with either men, she bluntly says; “I was dating them, but you can’t call that a relationship. It was a network of convenience.”
Gone are days when courtship was the thing. “There is no time for long term courtship. I don’t know the last time I courted a girl for more than a week,” says Seiko Nsereko, a landlord in Luwero, only recently married. “I always had sex with them the first day we met.”
Honestly speaking, the idea of sex on the first date has slowly become more acceptable and most will admit that it did not mean anything special, until it was so good that they had do it again. Only Nsereko my sources, thus far, is married.
The new age dating
Among the younger folk, dating means catching a movie at the Cinema, grabbing a bite (something to eat) at a restaurant, maybe a walk around the mall, before going home to have sex.
“It is simple; we know what we want,” argues 24-year-old Sonia. “On any given day, my boyfriend and I will play a bit of romantic music off the play list on our phones and get into the mood and do ‘it’.”
One wonders how our grandparents and the generations before theirs used to date. Without mobile phones and the internet, they probably had to walk miles across the Mabira, or cross the Nalubaale to meet a loved one. Did they take their girlfriends out on dates?
According to 75-year-old Ssuubi Segawa, suitors were chosen for them around their teens. “I don’t remember doing much of dating. That word never existed during our days. My parents chose a girl for me to marry. Her family and mine agreed, wedding arrangements were done and that was that,” he reminisces. Indeed, traditionally, African (Ugandan) girls were married off early, most of them without choosing lovers for themselves.
Most relationships grew in love, and the girl received sex education, and training in wifely duties including sex, home care and child bearing. So, is there room to even argue about whether dating is different from what it was before? And that it is rather the contemporaries that have changed? Kiwanuka notes that women today are more liberated and families no longer determine who and when we settle for marriage. So, “We end up exploring sex until we are ready to settle with whoever satisfies us most,” he notes.
Forces driving the trends
American writer, Mora Weige in her piece, Sexual Freelancing in the Gig Economy, wrote about the new dating styles; First, they “reach out”. Then, after spending the night together, they “follow up”.
Nigerian author and feminist, Chimamanda Adichie, put it best in her TEDEX speech titled We Should All Be Feminists when she said that perhaps relationships would have been different if society did not teach girls that they should depend on men. But, she said, contemporaries have changed. Women want to share roles, choose who and when to marry and they have all liberties to date as many men and have sex at will. They can survive on the handouts.
But it is not just the women. Men are hunting women who can pay their bills, buy them cars, pay the rent while all they do is go to gym, look good and give great sex. Thus, there is a section that prefer not to have relationships, a notion that then translates to “friends with benefits” and the need to invest in relationships.
Perhaps the shift in goals and the demand for career success has shifted the priority of marriage second to last. “We work longer hours, women are expected to have a job, do the house work and still be women in relationships. We can’t do it all!” notes Sonia.
So, between chasing career goals, higher living standards and good jobs, the time that should have been given to relationships winds up in a constant sexual partner because no one is investing the time anymore. So traditional dating is washed down the drain.
“It is a fact that while previously it would be immoral to meet a girl at the bar (because bars were for prostitutes), it is now okay because that’s where we now go to unwind. It is a good place to meet a friend, or girlfriend and after a good night’s dance, it just might wind up in sex,” concludes Nsereko.
However, according to Segawa, young people are using these excuses to perpetuate the moral decadence that is now okay, thanks to Western culture. “I cannot believe they have sex anyhow. What do they look forward to if they have enjoyed all the sex before marriage?”
Alongside marketing gigs, sales gigs...is a new form of gig taking root.
Without fitting into the definition of sex work, this is slowly catching on as a sort of part time gig being embraced by many.
Views on casual sex
“I think it is mostly because of unemployment which leaves young people with little to do with their time. We just need to find good relationships and settle down. And find a job, or make jobs!”
“Marriage is the place for sex whatsoever. Everyone has someone special for them, God set apart someone special for you. So, what good is in casual sexual when you can settle down and be happy?”
“I used to believe in long term relationships but it is hard when even the relationship you think you have is about sex. You fail to have grown up relevant talks with your partner because you have made the relationship all about sex.”
“It is just a few rotten tomatoes that are taking sex for granted. Some fail to understand real love, taking sex as penetration not love making. Respect and treasure relationships.”