I remember this was our second day without Rama. I honest don’t even know how we arrived at our destination that day, but I suspect God was on our side, because we had no issues getting there.
We were at a park in Tembisa, Extention 10, where we waited for our storyteller of the day, Boipelo, to come up the road.
When he did, he left no room for disappointment in terms of first impressions. His first words to us were: “Sorry I’m late, I was getting dressed.” It felt what he really wanted to say was: “Hello. I may have taken long, but wasn’t it worth the wait.”
Maybe it was.
From what we understood, the story he intended to tell was about being a gay, sex worker during Covid-19.
However, when the interview started, the lines between sex work and barter were blurred. Or maybe they weren’t at all.
Boipelo expresses that he does not identify with the term ‘sex worker’. Can you blame him for the rejection of that label, knowing that he has already experienced the pain the of rejection because of his sexuality.
The label ‘sex worker’ or even the word ‘prostitution’ has always had negative connotations attached to them, and unreasonably so. However, they are also words that make people think about what men use and throw away. Men use women, and sometimes men also use other men. There is shame attached to what a man has used and thrown away, and women often bare that burden in many circumstances. When men are used by men, they feel that same shame, which is also attached to a sense of emasculation I would imagine. Possibly because of the societal expectations to be the user, and not the used.
If this is a fair exchange of a service for money, then why are you feeling shame about doing work for money. The irony lies here, because it’s the men that make you feel that shame. What is even more ironic is the idea that what a man uses loses its value, therefore, the man must be the problem. More accurately, the way the man perceives himself is also the problem, because that perception causes negative spill-over effects in society.
That day, I was the crew member on sound and photography again. So during the interview section, I was only a meter alway from him as he began to share his story with us. He began by showing us how he chooses men to deal with on Grindr (which is a gay dating app). He began to tell us about the types of men he generally pursues; older, wealthy and mainly white (which is something I wished to question further, but did feel that it was the time to speak about racial dynamics).
Another thing that made me want to analyze Boipelo more, was when he said that he doesn’t date for love, he only dates for money. He even went on to say that he doesn’t fall in love, which we all knew was untrue. In fact he ended up telling us about a boy in his neighborhood that he is in love with, but he refuses to be with him because he has no money.
That is how difficult financial stability is to achieve now. A man has denounced the very idea of love, in the name of survival.
I remember that Boipelo gave me the impression that he avoids vulnerability at all costs. This is a fair reservation to have seeing that often times it feels as though the people around you are trying to use your vulnerabilities against you. We are simply trying to protect ourselves from being destroyed, which means we must have the will to live.
These are simply my own interpretations of a person’s being, and they should be taken as such. But, the reason why I recognized that fear in him, is because it is also one of mine.
We ended the day positively by having our second Chisanyama session. Boipelo took us to a spot in the area that he knew to be good. The critics were very happy with the quality of food ingested that day. In fact, we were very doubtful that they would ever have a Chisanyama as satisfying as this in in the future.
This was also where Boipelo revealed that he sells skin bleaching injections, which are one of the products he also uses. When I asked him why he bleaches his skin, he began to talk about how he used to “ugly dark skin”. This is something I had heard from other black people before. In fact, it’s something I have even heard myself say when I was younger. Colourism and racial discrimination is still plaguing the minds of the youth and it has been causing destruction in the black community. Focus needs to be put into empowering black people enough that they defeat whatever is left of the inferiority complex that was forced into us.
Black unity will not be achieved if there is a large fraction of black people going rogue when it comes to black interests.
Boipelo is a 25 years old gay man, she lives in Tembisa with her mother and siblings, Boipelo used to work for a logistics company and no longer does because of COVID-19. Boipelo has since started sex work in order to survive, she says that even though she makes money her mother does not know where she gets it from. She says that sex work for gay men is far worse than it is for women because some men take advantage that because they are men then they should not be paying to sleep with other men. This has been tough for her but she knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel
The focus with Boipelo’s story is to find out how being a sex worker has been affected by COVID19, also try to understand how he has been working under COVID 19 and how that has affected him mentally, we will also focus on the choice he made of not telling his parents about his work. We will further find out how different or difficult for him as a gay man working as a sex worker.