Love for SaleHealth & Safety, Hotels & Resorts, Kenya, Lost Girls RTW Adventure — By Amanda P on December 5, 2006 at 11:02 pm
As someone who managed to learn depressively little about international geography during my formative years, I barely knew that Kenya had a coastline, let alone a gleaming ribbon of icing white sand and its own rhinestone speckled stretch of Indian Ocean.
We hadn’t planned to follow up our recent safari by hitting a beach resort area favored by European package tourists, but after several weeks spent unencumbered by travel “extras” such as showers, clean laundry, mirrors, pillows and electricity, we were drawn to Diani Beach like media girls to a sample sale. Located in the far southeastern part of the country, D-beach promised all the creature comforts of a Caribbean holiday-without the pesky quadruple digit price tag.
After checking into the optimistically named “Beachalets” and whipping out the lip gloss for the first time in what felt like decades, Holly, Jen, Irene and I made a beeline for Forty Thieves, the Lonely Planet’s recommendation for a guaranteed good time.
Once properly settled in with a cocktail (ahhhhh…finally!), the girls and I leaned back and eyeballed the scene unfolding at the low-slung booths, saltwater-worn couches and around the enormous center bar. Behind us, a few backpackers were shooting pool and ignoring the signs warning them not to perch their beer on the table. The DJ who was mixing up a weird combo of 70s disco, Foreigner and Nora Jones was unsuccessfully trying to get the party started on the dance floor. And at the next table, two balding, paunchy Germans were thoroughly enjoying the company of their dates, two very young Kenyan girls wearing the type barely-there outfits not usually seen outside a Wet Seal or Rave. Judging by the draping of limbs and stroking of body parts, I might have guessed that these ladies were really hot for their companions-except their deadly bored stares told a different story.
A quick glance down at a pair of clunky white pumps that had no business being manufactured (let alone traipsing across a soft sand floor) got me thinking. What was going on here? How did these old white guys end up on a double date with two local girls half their age?
“Dude, those chicks are totally prostitutes,” whispered Irene in a low hiss.
Jen, Holly and I laughed until we realized that she was being completely serious. Were they really? Nooo. We were all hesitant to make a snap judgment about a situation that could be very well be innocuous. Sure, several basic fashion edicts had been violated and the ladies probably would have been more amused hand-washing laundry than making conversation with their dates, but could we all leap to the very unsavory notion that they had to be hookers?
As the night wore on, there was no doubt left in our minds.
Judging by the transactions going down all around us-several women were now openly soliciting whiskey-toting dudes with bottle cap-sized moles, yellowing teeth and hairy backs-Forty Thieves clearly doubled as a brothel. The only thing that stood in the way of it becoming the Best Little Whorehouse in Diani was the lack of rooms for rent. Drinks, cigarettes and entrees such as the aptly-named Bang-Bang Chicken were the only goods on the official menu.
We watched the foursome next to us slowly slink towards the door. Just over an hour later, Ms. White High Heels and her pal were back-sans German escorts. The girls made their way over to the fully packed bar and found two new friends looking for entertainment.
Slightly scandalized, we headed back to the Beachalets to discuss how gross men could be without even trying. But it wasn’t until the next day, when we witnessed scads of European women soliciting and enjoying the services of Diani’s famed “Beach Boys” that our jaws truly dropped.
On the beach, blue-haired old ladies with flesh bursting out of their skirted bathing suits were walking arm-in-arm with sinewy locals sporting baby dreads and flip flops. By the pool, 20-something blonde girls with cornrows and sunburned scalps enjoyed sunscreen applications from bare-chested Kenyans with toothy smiles a way with words (in six different languages). We even ran into the famed octogenarian sex kitten who accepted sexual favors from several different beach boys, then tried to pay them with English toffees instead of cash. While the sun never stopped shining overhead, it appeared that our idyllic beach paradise had a something of a dark side
Curiosity overcoming my mild repulsion, I longed to sidle up to the nearest European on a sex holiday and ask her, How much are you paying per night? Are you looking for companionship or did you fly down to Africa just to get it on?”
And, most importantly,
Why the hell would you pay for sex in a country where 1.2 million people have HIV??
After chatting with security guards, waitresses, beach bums and even a few forthcoming members of the British Army, we came to understand that alluring Diani Beach leads a not-so-secret double life. If there were a Zagat Guide for sex tourism, this place would appear on its top 10 list.
Visitors say that the aquamarine waters provide “the ideal backdrop for enhancing the mood” while the prices are “some of the lowest on the coast.”
As the scene unfolded around my beach lounger, a part of me felt sickened that girls not much older than the boarders at Pathfinder were trying earn cash by selling their bodies as many times a night as possible. Another part of me was shocked that in some twisted version of gender equality, the boys doing it, too. And the third part was just confused as to why educated men and women would fly so far and put their lives seriously at risk just to have sex with a stranger.
Apparently, folks at the United Nations were just as baffled. Anne, a 25-year old Kenyan we met a dinner one night, told us that she’d volunteered for the UN when they were conducting a study on sex tourism in the area. Her job was to infiltrate clubs and bars along the coast and learn in the “ins-and-outs” of the business….what the going rates were, how the sellers got started and the ways that they protected themselves from disease.
Through Anne’s covert opps, she learned that the majority of the prostitutes, both men and women, were well aware of HIV and were much more diligent about using condoms than the average Kenyan. They got paid precious little for their services (“the Germans say that for the price of touching a boob back at home they can get the whole body here in Diani”) and conducted their business out in the open rather than in some sleazy back room. But while the women required volume sales to stay afloat, men often got rented for the entire week to give the “relationship” time to develop.
Anne told us the prostitutes didn’t always have sex…sometimes they’d keep men company at the bar in order to get drinks and a taxi ride home. I almost smiled as she said this-how different was that from any given night at any given bar in Manhattan?
I still had mixed feelings about the whole pina colada-and-prostitution culture, but the longer I stayed in Diani, the more desensitized I became. After all, who was I, the ignorant American tourist who barely knew Kenya had a coastline, to judge?
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