Society for Economic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Men and their female sex work partners have mainly been explored in the context of HIV transmission and risk. However, the complexities of relationships, trust, intimacy, love, and survival, are less understood. Focused in a sex work community with male partners of female sex workers in urban Uganda, this paper explores a concept of "transactional love" which emerged from ethnographic research. Due to few job opportunities for the many youth in Uganda, young men in urban areas must negotiate survival in precarious circumstances. Young men, or bayaye, as they are locally termed, seek partnerships with female sex workers who are more stably employed. Female partners provide the young men with daily money for food, drinks, and whatever else is needed. Bayaye spend their days and nights in local bars, sometimes going out for casual labor work. What emerges is a reversal of traditional gender roles, whereby men are dependents and women are economic providers. Bayaye describe engaging in these partnerships for survival in a climate of disenfranchisement. They also describe that this is not "true love," but rather something else. "Transactional love" captures the heterogeneity of experiences of male partners who become economically dependent on their sex work partners in urban Uganda, to enable survival.