What you need to know:
- The wababas are wealthy, and with their wealth, they are able to attract dozens of younger women desperate for financial support in exchange for romantic liaisons.
- 65 percent of Kenya’s young people find it alright to have wababas, while 33 percent are currently having sexual relationships with wababas.
- The notion that people should date those within the five-year age bracket may no longer be valid due to the current higher levels of life expectancy.
We are in the era of wababas. This is the colloquial term that has replaced ‘sponsor’, used to describe older men in relationships with significantly younger women. The wababas are wealthy, and with their wealth, they are able to attract dozens of younger women desperate for financial support in exchange for romantic liaisons. The wababas are usually more than double the age of the women.
The growing popularity
Previously, these romantic arrangements attracted societal condemnation. The wababas were spitefully labeled ‘sugar daddies’ out to ruin the lives of unsuspecting girls. In modern dating where sexual relationships have become liberalised, young adult women are no longer afraid of hanging out with wababas. According to a local study that was conducted by communications firm A Well Told Story, 65 percent of Kenya’s young people find it alright to have wababas, while 33 percent are currently having sexual relationships with wababas.
Why is this?
According to a 2010 study by the University of Dundee in Scotland, women will generally prefer much older men because they are likely to have accumulated wealth, be more emotionally and intimately stable, and still have the ability to father children. Strikingly, although it would be expected that wealthier women will prefer younger and attractive men, they usually go for older men as well.
The 25-year-old fantasy
According to psychologist Dr. Chris Hart, the reason why older men go for much younger women is tied to men’s preference for women who are around the age of 25. “This preference stays constant throughout their life,” he says. The younger women dating older men do it primarily because of money. “Older men tend to be wealthy and women generally like that.” Also, according to Munyua, whereas young girls go into wababa relationships for the money, the majority of wababas are in it to feed their fixation with the ‘younger women’ they couldn’t afford in their twenties. “The unraveling phenomenon is that most of the older men who are 'sponsoring' young women aged between 20 to 30 struggled in their own twenties. These men had no resources, no jobs, and no money to date their flashy age mates when they were in their 20s. This caused a fixation with women in the 20 to 30 age bracket, which they now subconsciously endeavor to feed despite being married, advanced in age, or being fathers to daughters who are in (or almost in) their twenties,” he says.
The age rule
Generally, dating a much younger or older mate is perceived as defiance of the ‘Half Your Age Plus Seven’ rule. According to this rule, it is socially acceptable to be romantically involved with someone who is at least half your age plus seven years on one hand. On the other hand, you may date someone whose age is equal to the number you get by subtracting seven years from your age and doubling it. For example, if you are 30, you may date anyone who is at least 22 years old on the younger side and 46 on the older side. However, Dr. Hart says rules such as these or the notion that people should date those within the five-year age bracket may no longer be valid due to the current higher levels of life expectancy. “When these rules were made, life expectancy hovered around age 40. However, with better health care, people are going all the way to their 80s and 90s,” he says.
Success versus failure
According to Susan Krauss, a professor of psychology and the author of The Search for Fulfillment, relationships with wababas are not always doomed. “The older man may be the good fit to his partner, and like other couples who defy stereotypes, their psychological bonding can transcend demographics,” she says. These sentiments are echoed by Dr. Hart who says couples with huge age differences can attain high levels of success in a relationship as long as the fundamentals that form good relationships remain intact.