Sometimes you read a headline and have to check whether it could possibly be true, or even have any basis in reality whatsoever. But the article entitled ‘Kenya: Male Prostitution Causes Rise in Sale of Pampers‘ is certainly not one of them. The story is pure, unadulterated homophobia, but like most of these stories, is has already spread far and wide on the web.
The idea that people who engage in anal sex need to use diapers has a long history and you’ll easily find adherents of right wing religious doctrines in the US and other countries bandying it about. It would be interesting to know if the makers of Pampers really produce adult diapers, and have seen this increase in sales that the police have ‘detected’. Perhaps the long arm of the law has been taking evening classes in tourism, marketing and economics, but Procter and Gamble might be regretting their expensive and long nurtured ‘genericised trademark‘, where people say ‘Pampers’ when they mean diapers.
Indeed, the concept of foreigners ‘bringing’ homosexuality to African countries has frequently been challenged in the peer-reviewed literature. Apparently most of the clients of male sex workers providing services to men in Kenya are Africans. But hey, issues like ‘commercial sex tourism’ and ‘sex trafficking’ bring in the funding, so let’s not prick that bubble, OK? Not that I’m saying sex tourism doesn’t exist in some form or other, nor that some people providing these services may be underage or may be forced to provide them, of course.
The entire article panders to homophobia and, like all such articles, represents a number of lost opportunities: people who engage in anal sex, whether they are men or women, face increased risks from HIV and various other diseases. It is vital that they use the right kind of condoms and lubricants and take various other precautions. But as some of the organizations receiving HIV related funding are also homophobic (or far too devout to talk about sex, let alone anal sex), these messages tend to get lost.
The intrepid police source claims that “boys from poor families were being lured into the [sex] trade by rich male tourists”. There are several things wrong with this claim, aside from the implication that the clients are all foreign (because, let’s face it, everything ‘bad’ comes from somewhere else). For a start, there is also the implication that those providing the services are all or mostly underage. But what about the claim that people involved in providing sexual services always have to be foreced in some way?
And what about the rich/poor dichotomy? Are all clients rich and those providing the services poor? Some of the clients are also likely to be poor, unless you believe that sex with men is some kind of ‘affliction of the rich’. Some of those providing the services may well be a good deal richer than their clients, too. And does all sex between men involve anal sex? There’s a good opportunity here to inform people of the difference in risk between receptive and insertive sex, whether you are male or female, and whether you are talking about anal or vaginal sex. But these vital distinctions are lost in the homophobic bilge that any such discussion elicits.
Explicit statements and implications involving frequently heard couplings such as sex and money, sex and abuse, sex and compulsion, homosexuality and foreigners, anal sex and health problems, etc, merely increase the risks that people engaging in paid sex, anal sex, male to male sex and other activities face; the true risks can remain unrecognized to most people until it is too late. People who are unaware of the risks they face and of how to avoid them will continue to suffer serious and life-threatening consequences. But prejudices like homophobia are backed by so many commonly heard lies that they can have a very comforting certainty.