LGIC: The Liberian Godpa Industrial Complex

It’s Fathers’ appreciation season, and everywhere around the world, people are finding ways to make special moments for their respective father figures. It’s charming really. All over my timeline are tributes to a young girl’s hero, a boy’s confidant, etc. Even I tweeted and ‘gramed a little touching moment I shared with my dad. We love our dads. Yet, as we revered our beloved dads this past Father’s Day, I thought to highlight what I call the Liberian Godpa Industrial Complex (LGIC).

The LGIC is a competitive business venture through which young Liberian girls get preyed on by older men for sexual favors in exchange for petty cash, status (big jue level), and other materialistic gains.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

“Godpa” is a colloquial term for an older man in a  relationship with a younger woman (AKA: Sugar Daddy).

This is industrial because it is a major source of revenue for some young women, and plays an important role within the Liberian economy. Think of it as a trigger down effect; that is, money received can be passed on to family members, spent at market places etc. Like any business, it is an exchange of goods/services in order to make a living (profit).

It is complex because there are many different but interrelated parts; varying dynamics! There’s the structural violence that is patriarchal, the unspoken rape cases (some girls are below 18), the cultural aspect and family expectation/acceptance (that is, a girl would eventually get with a man, who’s deemed rich, and then assist her family), Liberia’s overall poor economy, the little to no opportunities available to girls without ‘connection’, and society’s definition of success… I could go on for a while.

It is crucial, however, to take time to reflect on these complexities in order to discern some form of understanding. It is not helpful to pass judgements or criticism without acknowledging the interconnectedness of poverty, patriarchy –both forms of implicit violence– and culture.

For the purpose of this read, I had to create and work within a framework. In the subsequent paragraphs, I focus on relations between consenting adults; that is, girls above 18. To be clear, the LGIC is not considered a form of prostitution. The money received is not regarded as a payment for sex. Hence, it is not illegal. Instead, money received in the LGIC is seen as a benefit for “dating” an older man. These men are often married with families of their own. For the most part, the LGIC is a societal norm within our Liberian setting. Most girls are of consenting age, making decisions lodged in free will, so you’ll hear comments from them like: “I can love to whoever I want,” “She’s the wife, I’m the side chick”. However, that is entirely my rebuttal: is it in fact free will?

At first glance, it looks like a mutually beneficial situation; the man gets a young girlfriend and the girl gets afforded certain luxuries (I use the word “luxuries” very loosely): allowance, help with tuition, a gold chain, gold ring, VIP treatment at hot spots, ooouu and to top it off… he gifts her a car and the latest phone. Sometimes there are even bigger scores like the purchase of a piece of land, for example –an asset that only appreciates. So it seems like everyone wins. This might cause you to wonder what exactly is my qualm, right?

In all honesty, I’ve debated with myself against making the claim that this exchange is not mutually beneficial. Nevertheless, I’m writing this piece because I’m convinced that it is absolutely not. Sure, they are in a committed relationship (sometimes, it lasts for years), he’s welcomed amongst her friends and family and they are exclusive (well, disregarding the minor fact that he might be married and probably seeing a couple of other “girlfriends”).

But I’m saying that this is not a source of happiness. Theirs is a relationship that is not based on mutual respect, admiration or attraction to each other. Its foundation is deeply rooted in insecurities, financial difficulties, and frankly, the everyday Liberian hustle; a disadvantage that older guys take advantage off.

It is a basic form of ego-stroking that is needed by emasculated men and enforced through misogyny, dominance, power, and status (aka pressing ley jue).

The LGIC paints the picture that these girls have a choice (again, recognize the complexities). I am not quick to excuse the actions of these females either. They pit themselves against each other for the “right” to claim an older guy as their “godpa.” There are fights, public ridicule, harmful and demeaning practices all over godpa business. It is absurd! It is an immature way to address their fear, fear that they might lose the financial assistance, should he lose interest, but that’s a whole other story that I won’t get into.

We ought to recognize that the Liberian Godpa Industrial Complex disempowers, devalues, and derails the potential of women within our society. These women do not attain their full potential, they instead become undriven, complacent, and willing to settle for waiting on a man’s dime. The epitome of success is now marked by opening an entertainment spot. Women should strive for MORE!

To the dads we celebrate, it is your responsibility to protect the future of the females around you, not just the ones you fathered. No amount of women you have dependent on your “benevolence” can make you a better person.

“Value of oneself can never be found in others.” –boychild

Authored by Girlchild 

Featured pic by Atlanta Black Star

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Humphrey Jones says:

    I smell the traits of Korto Williams in this.

  2. Patrick Ransford Hanson says:

    Wowwwww…. Such an exhilarating piece. The writer actually discussed the LGIC in an appealing sense. However, the writer didnt so much as discuss her rebuttal in the same purview as he/she did the LGIC.
    Probably more could have been said in your rebuttal.
    I like the piece anyways. Y’all keep up ‘mehn’.

  3. missvannette says:

    Great analysis. It’s important to consider the various contributing factors in this discussion, which you have so eloquently done in this article; however I think that it’s also necessary to address a few other points.

    In our society today workers are paid low wages, whether or not they have education. To illustrate my point, let’s look at Girl 1 who is has graduated from college and is working full time. She pays to transport herself to and from work each day. She buys food each day. And pays her bills and assists her family. All on a budget of mayyyybe $100/month. She has little free time to further pursue her education, or nurture any other interests, passions or hobbies because of the long days, long commutes and stress that she deals with.

    Then you have Girl 2 who sees what her friend or sister is going through and does the math… Work hard all day, spend the money earned on getting to and from work, have nothing left over to enjoy. She weighs that lifestyle against a lifestyle in which she is paid hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for companionship, which offer all of the additional benefits that you mentioned above. The choice is easy for her. Just subscribe to the LGIC lifestyle.

    Unfortunately, to add to that, as much as we don’t want to admit the influence that social media has on us, it cannot be ignored. Both girls are seeing the lifestyles that their friends are living via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. And naturally, they want to compete, participate and “be in things.” The temptation to subscribe to the LGIC lifestyle becomes even greater.

    Speaking of influences, there are few public examples of women who are praised and financially rewarded for earning their success through education and hard work without help from a godpa. There are few role models for these struggling young women. The role models we do see, are plagued with rumors about who they slept with in order to attain that success; whether or not it’s true.

    On another note, the LGIC “solution” has become such a norm that parents often coach and position their daughters to attract this type of situation. They applaud it and accept the help with little regard for the stigma, or the psychological effects it may have on their daughter.

    And to dig even deeper into that, many beneficiaries of the LGIC have real boyfriends who they actually love. The boyfriends often know about the godpa and accept it… along with the money. I’m going to leave this point right here, because it’s so deep and I don’t want to write a novel here.

    In short, poverty breeds despair. In any society in which people are hungry and feel hopeless, this situation will always be a prevalent part of the culture. It’s up to everyone in the community to empower young women so that they can be more self reliant and not feel compelled to depend on a romantic relationship with someone solely for financial assistance. We need a stronger value system to be taught in the households from young. We need to place a higher value on education and work ethic. We need a stronger economy. We need more jobs. We need better jobs. We need role models. The lists goes on and on.

    Thanks for writing this post, because it’s an important dialogue that needs to be addressed – and from an unbiased perspective in which the reasons for this “phenomenon” are clearly spelled out. Curious to hear other opinions!

  4. “Women should strive for MORE”

    I read this as judgement and slightly insulting to those women who have decided to exercise the freedom and free will to choose how they’d like to capitalize on their womanhood to essentially “use” these men. This article refers to women in this game as insecure, the assumption being that if they were financially secure and perhaps more educated they wouldn’t fall victim to this scheme or this type of Liberian man. Is the same true for the woman they’ve chosen to marry? In this mutually beneficial setup one might say these “sugar babies” use these (dumb) men and their endless money to their advantage (as one commenter pointed out-with their boyfriends that they love at home). A simple paradigm shift and they’re not seen as innocent, helpless, naive victims. They’ve assessed the economic and social realities of their environment and exercised their agency to use the system to their and their families’ advantage. It’s the wives and children I feel more empathy for.

    In that same vein, I would have loved to read more substance behind your rebuttal that this situation is not mutually beneficial. Perhaps a follow-up article into the mental trauma, abuse (seen & unseen) of former sugar babies, family & societal values breakdown would have been stronger arguments to include.

    “It is a form of ego-stroking needed by emasculated men”
    Who emasculated them sis? Tell us more! There’s something deeper here I think.

    “To the dads we celebrate, it is your responsibility to protect the future of the females around you.”

    Is it really? There are families where mothers are complicit in this LGIC scheme because—poverty & despair. It’s everybody’s responsibility not to commodify women. Moreso, this statement reinforces the poisonous elements of a patriarchal society in which men are out to “protect” us as females. So you must leave from the protection of your father to enter into the protection of another man be it your husband, your Sugar Daddy, or your boyfriend. This is problematic and reinforces the idea of a Godpa (a man that is there to protect you financially,etc.)

    In the same article you claim Liberian girls are “preyed” on for sexual favors in exchange for petty cash (sometimes appreciating land–which is far from petty), you also make the claim that “LGIC is not considered a form of prostitution. The money received is not regarded as a payment for sex.” Complicated complex? Which one is it?

    My point is, in my experience speaking to women in other West African countries for instance, Liberian women are lauded as being more “free” and having more agency than say Ivorian or Ghanaian women, and perhaps they do. Leymay Gbowee’s Sex Strike for Peace being the example that has reached the world stage.

    Not every sugar baby is dumb, naive, or being preyed on. Not every sugar baby is opening an entertainment spot. I’ve found Liberian women, far more than men, to be harder working and more enterprising. Sometimes they are doing the preying. While Liberian society is certainly misogynistic , do Liberian women actually have way more agency than we give them credit for?

    There are self-reliant, self-sufficient, educated, Liberian women that still want a man to pay for things they might be able to afford by themselves…Are they disempowered and devalued too?

    Strive for more of what exactly? If they’re smart they are paying their school fees (the opposite of complacent & undriven), buying their leh land and trying to avoid marrying somebody’s future Godpa. Which is like dodging land mines in Liberia.

    Give them more to strive for… (in the absence of the capable, the available becomes capable) that’s not complacency…that’s survival.

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