What are 'blessed' relationships?

‘Blessed’ relationships have become growing and, not so new, phenomenon. It’s trending on social media but has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It has everything though to do with money, relationships and (sexual) favours.

Alina Hardcastle takes a look into what appears to be a glamorous yet dark world, in the attempt to determine the reasoning for men and women engaging in such a ‘relationship’ and the possible dangers that might be faced.

The scoop on blessed ‘relationship’

Some of you still might be wondering, what on earth is a ‘blesser’? Essentially he’s your modern day sugar daddy except he’s rolling in more money than one could ever imagine. He will ‘bless’ you with overseas trips, designer labels, shopping sprees; and if you’re lucky enough to reach a certain level (yes, there are levels to this ‘game’), you might even find yourself living in an upmarket apartment in Sandton City. Now, most of us would view this as form of prostitution whereas blessers view this as blessing your life…financially.

You can find them in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and, believe it or not, on an actual dating site, Blesserfinder.  Here ‘blessees’ can find their potential ‘blessers’ by sending their picture, requirements and personal details via direct message on Twitter, along with paying a fee of R200. As the majority of ‘blessers’ are married men with their children, their identities are not disclosed to the public.

“I think that the blessed relationship is more of a reflection of an underlying problem of a society that continues to promote and value capitalist and patriarchal ways. There are the obvious comparisons of sugar daddies and trophy wives that have been around forever, and they speak quite clearly of the disempowerment of women through the ages,” says Yoav Van der Heyden, a clinical psychologist based in Cape Town.

Dr Marlene Wasserman (aka Dr Eve) , clinical sexologist, couple and sex therapist and sexual medicine consultant, like Van der Heyden, finds that living in a patriarchal society allows men to exert a substantial amount of influence and power over women, which is traditionally accepted to this day, giving men a sense of entitlement.

Why men would engage in this

Although power comes into play in most cases, Van der Heyden expresses otherwise, “There is much to be said about the impact of culture. There are many cultures in which a man’s importance is measured by his ability to provide and what better way to show your success than by providing to someone that is seen as a ‘trophy’ and having her advertise it?”

And from an evolutionary perspective it’s a no brainer why older men would view younger women as their prize, as physically twenty year old women, who are considered to be in their physical prime,  would (generally) be viewed as more attractive than women in their 60s.

Wasserman states that this kind of attraction is simply based on evolution, as men, from an evolutionary point of view, are attracted to younger bodies according to a waist ratio. Its ‘instinctive’ to be attracted to younger women as they are essentially child bearing and could provide men with children.

She adds, “It’s also about sexual potency, because there is sense of, if a man is seen publicly with somebody younger this must mean that he’s sexually potent, where in actually fact older men are not, and rely heavily on sexual pharmaceuticals in order to become sexually functional.”

Why women become blessees

Whether you’re trying to fund your way through college; need financial assistance to support your family; or simply have a desire to be maintained to a certain standard; the reasons for women engaging in a blessed relationship is endless.

“I think that many factors influence a person’s desire to be blessed, and it varies according to the person. Younger women tend to have less access to resources, and I assume that many of the blessed don’t see themselves as able to access resources on their own,” says Van der Heyden.

Wasserman adds, “Status is involved, which is what women are chasing after. They get the cell phone, the cash, the credit card, the clothing and things that they can’t get for themselves.”

And society has (unfortunately) taught women, from an early age that their bodies are commodities that men use. Wasserman elaborates that a female’s body is her exchange in a powerless situation, which is what she’s going to give in exchange for what she really ‘values’.

Possible impact it could have on women’s lives

Wasserman adds that one shouldn’t judge women who engage in these sorts of relationships, as giving up parts of your body is not an easy task. It’s exceptionally hard work and a lot is put at stake; i.e. your integrity, value system, sexual health, reputation, and other relationships.

But what she is truly opposed by are the consequences these women face, as not only does it take away their independence but it silences them as they don’t have much to negotiate with especially due to the age difference which makes them vulnerable in being taken advantage of.

When enquiring about the impact it might have on their other relationships, Van De Heyden responded, “They seem at the surface to be quite harmful in that they encourage a form of legalised prostitution that will likely impact very negatively on women’s perspectives on themselves and the role of women and men in society. I am guessing that there may also be forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuse within some or many of these power based relationships. I imagine (or hope) however that for a few people the relationships might benefit the women in terms of providing opportunities for personal development.”

In conclusion

Transactional sex is not something to be condoned but many women see this as their only solution to their financial woes. But entering into these relationships expose women to a whole host of other problems including sexually transmitted diseases, as most blessers have multiple partners.

And despite the transparent terms and agreements of the relationship, Wasserman highlights, “Once you’re actually in it, there is always going to be that power differential, which always put the woman on the back foot.”