The Slay Queen Culture, A Threat To HIV Prevention

The zeitgeist of the recent years is a unique class of young women who are determined to paint a picture of obnoxious opulence.

All over social media and social events, you can spot a woman who has overly renovated her physical appearance with several hues of skin.

She is likely to have Brazilian hair, carrying the latest iPhone in her Louis Vuitton bag and drives around an expensive Audi everyday searching for plot.

The desired plot is often revelry and hard partying at a venue that is ambient for taking sizzling pictures to post on social media for the maintenance of a sophisticated persona. Though the slay queen may not be drunk on alcohol or high on drugs, she will perpetually be possessed by an insatiable desire for more excess any time of the day and night.

If you were to know her privately, you will discover that she has no gainful employment (or not the type that matches her expenses) and her ambitions only last a day. It is also likely that her parents live in a wattle house and it should bewilder you how she finances this lifestyle.

We must face the fact that our society has been very efficient in crafting colloquialisms for transactional sex. We have moved from gold-digger, friends-with-benefits, sugar-daddies and cross generational sex. The evolution of the etymologies is amazingly cocky. We have accorded a queenly tittle to the women (Slay Queens) engaged in transactional sex while the men have been honoured with corporate and ironically spiritual titles (Sponsors and Blessers). To keep with the Joneses, the slay queen needs to have sex with Jones.

It is estimated that two to 52% of young women and adolescent girls are engaged in transactional sex across Africa. Seven years ago, only 4% of young women aged 15-24 years reported receiving gifts or money for sex in Uganda. This statistic is not only obsolete but also non-representative of the larger age bracket of women who have completed tertiary education but are jobless. The females in these relationships are 50% more likely to be living with HIV than their counterparts who have not engaged in transactional sex. According to a study from South Africa, this risk is increased if the gifts or money were received more frequently (say weekly) by the women.

The motivation to engage in transactional sex stems not just from impoverishment but also from the desire to improve one’s social status beyond their means and the prevalent false belief that men should provide for their partners in the relationship. The desire for money and material goods by slay queens is a strong motivator for sex and such women report having sex at younger age, multiple sex partners and less likelihood of condom use. The slay queen is less likely to negotiate for safer sex due to fear of abandonment and violence by the blesser/sponsor.

In the fight against HIV we must recognise this emerging social stratum as a high risk group. Interventions for intellectual and economic empowerment of women that include vocational skilling, financial literacy, mentorships, internships, and apprenticeships could be implemented. Young women ought to be inspired to work beautifully and not merely look beautiful. The woman of virtue works her way up the ladder over a lifetime with patience, not over night with the pelvis.