Illustration image of "Blesser". 120516. Picture: Chris Collingridge 925

Cape Town - Older men showering young women with expensive gifts is nothing new. But a modern day spin on the phenomenon, dubbed “blesser-blessee” whereby young women are lavished with cars, apartments and even overseas trips in exchange for sex, has been criticised as “sugar daddies on steroids”.

The trend has raised alarm bells, with the National Department of Health warning there is cause for serious concern.

Businessman Serge Cabonge is the mastermind behind Blesserfinder.com and a similar Facebook page. He is allegedly one of the country’s top “blessers” and has publicly said he is willing to “bless” a “blessee” who would agree to having unprotected sex with him. He was quoted as saying he had the “right to enjoy the power of his money to the fullest.”

The website and Facebook page connect “blessers” and “blessees”. The Facebook page has more than 30 000 followers and says: “A blessee is a new trend. Why suffer as if you are not beautiful enough to be blessed? Live life, enjoy yourself and don’t let people judge you.”

It is illustrated with images of a plane and luxuries. “Blessers” post a message to the page. They describe the kind of person they would like to meet.

The name and profile picture of the “blesser” is not revealed. Those interested in being “blessed” respond and are hooked up with the “blesser”.

The trend took off on social media when unemployed women boasted about their expensive lifestyles, claiming they had been “blessed”.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, deputy director at the Desmond Tutu Foundation, told Weekend Argus although the site was not explicitly offering a sexual transaction but rather a dating service, there were adverse implications.

“It is set up as a dating or hook-up site and the implication, though, is that the ‘blesser’ is in a position of means and the ‘blessee’ has needs. (This) can encourage exploitative sexual relationships which can result in unsafe sexual practices such as sex with people of unknown HIV status, “ Bekker said.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Joe Maila, said the department was embarking on a national campaign focusing on five key objectives to try to stop the trend.

These aims are: to reduce the number of sexually transmitted infections in girls and young women; to reduce teenage pregnancies and incidents of sexual and gender-based violence; to keep girls in school until matric; and to increase economic opportunities for young women to try to wean them from reliance on sugar daddies.

Maila said the trend could set the scene for an increase in unwanted pregnancies, more abortions and new cases of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

South Africa spends R23 billion a year on HIV treatment and an estimated 1 730 young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected every week.

The “blesser” trend has been criticised as online prostitution, resulting in the hashtag #MoralsMustFall or #LoveMustFall.

Reformed lothario Kenny Kunene, has slammed the phenomenon as “glorified prostitution”.

“‘Blessing’ is a trend that has always been there but what I criticise is the manner in which these so called ‘blessers’ are doing it.”

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Weekend Argus