Features

February 14, 2024

When Taboo is business: The flourishing gigolo escapades in Abuja

When Taboo is business: The flourishing gigolo escapades in Abuja

By Tosin Kolade

A gigolo is a male escort or social companion who is supported by a woman in a continuing relationship, often living in her residence or having to be present at her beck and call, according to Oxford Dictionary

Generally, the term “gigolo” refers to a man who dates older women for financial gains.

This taboo-breaking “profession” is quietly flourishing in Abuja’s crowded streets, defying social norms and sparking discussions about unconventional careers.

Openly engaging in prostitution may be illegal in Nigeria, but there is a sub-culture of male gigolos who are brazenly navigating the clandestine world of paid companionship.

Nnenna Elekwachi, a witness to this unconventional trade, shares a unique encounter with one male sex worker who walked into her store one year ago.

Having offered him a chair and water, she unwittingly found herself drawn into a conversation about his unusual profession.

The man, who remains anonymous, expressed a liking for Elekwachi and offered his services free of charge due to his affinity to her.

Despite her initial reluctance, the male escort divulged the intricacies of his profession.

With packs of condoms for both male and female clients to show, he described his role as a male escort, highlighting the demand for his services among ‘sex-starved’ women.

According to him some of his clients even sought his assistance in conceiving, emphasising his role as a provider of both companionship and fertility services.

A dumfounded Elekwachi, listened as the male escort frantically tried to justify his choice of profession by creating a job opportunity for himself in a society with limited prospects for young people.

His story sheds light on the complex dynamics of the sex industry, challenges and preconceived notions about those involved.

The phenomenon of male gigolos does not come in isolated incidents, with many residents in areas like Wuse, Kubwa, Gwarimpa, Karu, and Nyanya, encountering these strange professionals regularly.

These men, conscious of their appearance, regularly visit the gym and maintain a healthy lifestyle. They have embraced their unconventional career choice. Lonely older women are their prime targets.

Ms Isoken Briggs, shares a story about a neighbour, known for hosting mature women in his home. Her story further highlights the prevalence of gigolos in various neighborhoods.

Briggs says the satisfaction and financial rewards they receive from their older clientele create a unique dynamic ambiance and challenge traditional gender roles.

“These people are paid well, my neighbour has bought a new car, he has no known employment, but lives flamboyantly”, she said.

In a shocking revelation, 34-year-old Ms. Adaora Nnaji, a female civil servant, shares a troubling experience during a body massage at a renowned hotel in the heart of Abuja.

Nnaji, who yielded to persistent pressure from friends, enrolled in a month-long body massage programme on weekends.

In a troubling incident, Nnaji described her massage experience where the masseur crossed boundaries, fondling her breasts and making unwarranted advances.

Despite her objections, he continued on the irritating path, even intruding with his fingers.

Faced with discomfort, she had to abruptly end the session, prompting the masseur to plead for her silence to protect his job.

This unsettling encounter underscores the pressing need for increased scrutiny and stringent measures to ensure safety and professionalism within the massage industry.

Instances like these explain the importance of creating an environment where individuals can seek such services without fear of harassment.

Nnaji’s experience sheds light on the challenges individuals may face in seemingly harmless situations and calls for a re-evaluation of safety standards in various service industries.

Furthermore, instances of male gigolos approaching potential clients, as witnessed by this reporter recently, underscores the boldness with which they pursue their craft.

Even in public places like Wuse market, they distribute their business cards indicating that they are morphing into a more sophisticated service bloc.

The emergence of Abuja’s male gigolos is a testament to the changing faces of societal norms, economic challenges, and the pursuit of alternative livelihoods in the face of limited opportunities.

These individuals are unapologetically challenging taboos, triggering conversations that prompt society to reconsider its judgments about irregular trades and the complexities of human relationships.

Currently, there may be limited official data on male sex workers in Nigeria due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

The underground, therefore unregulated existence of the gigolos has lots of implications for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases for a country already battling with high rate of these infections.

Medical experts say its main mode of transmission is heterosexual, and consequently, a key population of interest is female sex workers (FSWs) and Male sex workers.

While HIV prevention services are increasingly implemented by community-based organisations (CBOs) in Nigeria for the FSWs, there is a paucity of evidence on the implementation of interventions for their male counterparts.

A 2018 report by a group, Face to Face Africa, showed that sex tourism on the African continent was swaying towards male prostitution.

It stated that sex business did not exclude men, who were often lured into the trade by desperation due to economic situations and cravings for a high-class lifestyle.

The report said the business was mostly booming in coastal African cities like Accra, Mombasa, Lagos and Pretoria.

According to a Sociologist, Dr Rose Igweze, the factors driving young men into prostitution in Nigeria are complex, often stemming from economic challenges and limited employment opportunities.

She suggested that societal norms, coupled with a lack of social support, may lead individuals towards unconventional careers like sex work as a means of financial survival.

Igweze said that economic hardship and the desire for financial independence compel some young men to enter the sex-for-money industry.

In an effort to curb male sex tourism, Dr David Isyaku, a prominent psychologist, advocated a holistic approach encompassing economic, social, and legal dimensions.

Isyaku emphasised the significance of economic empowerment through programmes offering job opportunities and training for young men, aiming to alleviate the desperation often leading to engagement in sex tourism.

Furthermore, he underscored the importance of education and awareness campaigns to inform individuals about the risks associated with sex tourism.

Isyaku stressed the role of social support systems, urging the establishment of counselling and mental health services to assist those facing economic challenges.

“Strengthening community ties is crucial in reducing vulnerability to exploitative practices”, he said.

Isyaku called for more stringent enforcement of laws against sex tourism and collaboration with law enforcement agencies to combat all illegal activities.

Experts believe that a more robust response should include targeted interventions, industry regulations, and empowerment programmes to disrupt the cycle of exploitation and create lasting change.

Kolade is with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)