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