Women and men: Different dreams and expectations
Based on the life histories of 50 women, and illustrated in the above cases, most women attach themselves to multiple lovers or temporary partners of various types and durations, but frequently they are transient. While they are still young, most women, more or less deliberately, get involved in temporary alliances as a way to test a potential partner and conjugality. Once their expectations fail, they can now more easily end the union compared to a formalised marriage. Whereas some women such as Rachael turn to multiple and occasional lovers with no longterm plans, it is also obvious that many women hold unrealistic ideals of marriage. Women like Anna, for instance, are searching for a young, handsome and faithful partner who will respect them.
Anna often complains about the lack of sexual satisfaction in her relationship with Babu and temporarily turns to younger lovers not only for sexual pleasure, but also in pursuit of her own dream of a more intimate relationship based on equality and compatibility. “Otherwise, he will not respect me.” And she adds,
‘Prostitutes’ or Modern Women? Negotiating Respectability in Northern Tanzania
“He must be faithful. We should have a nice house with a garden and, if everything works out, I would have another child.” Although Anna often talks about meeting the right man, to marry and even to have another child, she has not yet met anyeone who, as she puts it, “satisfies my needs”. On the contrary, Anna has frequently experienced that such young and handsome men soon turn out to be the wrong choice. “Once, for instance, I tried to establish a relationship with a young and unmarried man, but very soon we quarrelled over money. He very much resented that I spend money on my child and my mother. He did not only interfere with my spending of money, but he even wanted to control it! I therefore decided to leave him. Perhaps I am too selective in my choice of men.”
Anna, and many with her, share the same dreams and expectations about their male partners as described by Carmel Dinan in her study of unmarried women in Accra: “Men should be egalitarian, intimate, [and have a] companionable nature, involving trust, affection and shared intimacies” (1983:350). Although some women, like Rachael, are very sceptical about marriage while they are still young and marriageable and typically refer to their mother’s miserable marriage, most become sceptical through their own experience with men.
In spite of ‘modern’ and romantic ideas of partnership and intimacy, most women soon realise that such notions are unrealistic and they often choose men with other qualities, namely the married, well-settled and generous men, whenever such possibilities are available. Men, for their part, are for various reasons willing to take on the extra economic burden to maintain such relationships. Obviously, elderly men are sexually attracted to young women. For some men, such love affairs may also be a means to advance socially and in their careers, since the number of girlfriends, temporary lovers or one or more ‘small wives’ are signs of a man’s wealth and prestige. In the literature such men of means are commonly referred to as ‘sugar daddies’. Locally they are referred to, for instance, as bu%i (a ‘billy goat’), mwingi (literally ‘a man of many’, that is, lovers), mshefa (a colloquial term which no one was able to translate, but which might derive from the French word ‘chauffeur’) a ‘driver’, or given the nickname ‘tycoon’. The terms refer to a man’s promiscuity, virility and thus his masculinity. Since it is commonly recognised that the only means to get access to a woman’s sexuality is to give her some form of compensation, a man’s lovers thereby become an attestation of his virility or wealth. Thus men with several partners are given prestigious names stressing their virility and strength, and above all, their wealth. Whereas women search for intimacy, faithfulness and equality, men rarely express such ideas. Women have always had a ‘healthy’ mistrust in their husband’s or partner’s outside love affairs. With the increasing emancipation of women, this ‘healthy’ mistrust is also becoming more common among men—a trend accompanied by a rising antagonism between the genders (Bujra 2000; Silberschmidt 1999).
Arnfred Page 222 Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:38 PM