The Reality of Sex Trade on Tinder, Social Media in Kampala

Whereas the developers of the Tinder App meant it for geo-social networking and finding dates with whom one has a perfect match, the idea has been totally changed among Kampala youths with many turning the app into a business venture where they trade in sex.

Unlike the olden days when girls selling their bodies used to line up at Speke Road to wait on customers, recently their work has been eased by Tinder and Social Media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where they can connect with their customers virtually and arrange sex meetups.

The talk of sex trade on Tinder had been growing among the people I have interacted with and I decided to find out by myself.

Joining the App.

Tinder operates on a freemium model where you browse, find a girl or man that you like and swipe right to like. When the girl likes you too and they swipe right, you are matched and you can start exchanging messages.

While browsing if you don’t like the individual, you swipe left and you are shown the next option until you find one you like.

I joined the app in March 2020 under an alias and for purposes of my investigation, I increased my geo-location to cover almost the whole of the Kampala Metropolitan area. I also went ahead to swipe right for every girl that appeared to be within my vicinity until I started getting matches.

Presentation on the App.

Some girls will be bold enough to include in their bio that they are not interested in relationships but just hook ups [sex hook-ups] while others will just throw a phrase and add their phone number for contact.

During my time on the App, I have interacted with both the straight forward girls and the ones who don’t present themselves straight as sex traders.

The direct Sex Traders.

My first match on the app was a direct trader whose bio read “Hooks ups only.” Let’s call her Gretch.

At the first message in her inbox, Gretch sent me her contact and suggested that we move the conversation to WhatsApp because she was “not normally on this app [Tinder]”

“Hello, am called Gretch. I offer some of the following services; blow jobs, deep throat, lesbian shows, threesomes for both 2 men or 2 babes, travel companionship e.t.c,” a message popped immediately after I texted Hi via her WhatsApp.

“I strictly don’t offer any form of anal sex, video recordings or cum in mouth (I don’t swallow cum/sperm). I only do outcalls, I don’t host clients, so if you want us to meet, kindly tell me your location and I come over as soon as you want me,” the message further read.

The same ordeal happened over 15 times with most girls using a similar script after referring you to their WhatsApp inbox, as if to say; they have an association or a manager who helps them come up with the copy text.

After the message which details services offered and price per service, the ladies went ahead to share their pictures (nudes, semi-nude, faces and full body).

They go further to let you know that if you haven’t liked them, they had other friends who they can refer you to and you choose who ‘works for you.’

Indirect Sex Traders

This category joins Tinder with an aim of trading in sex but they don’t directly present themselves as sex traders until you have matched with them.

Some present themselves as masseuses while others present as ordinary girls looking to find matches on the App – until you match and get into their inbox.

“When can you come to my apartment in Najjera so that I give you a hot massage and so on?” asked one of the girls [let’s call her Esteri] who stated clearly in her bio that she wasn’t on the app for hookups.

“I offer Swiss Massage, Nuru body to body massage with a happy ending. You will have a good time because I will take my time. I won’t rush you,” Esteri said.

Unlike the direct traders who only do outcalls, the “masseuses” will offer you a variety of venue options including hosting you at their home, coming to your home, or renting a hotel where you can meet for the services.

The scammers

Whereas there are many genuine sex traders on Tinder, there are also a number of scammers looking to con money from unsuspecting users and potential clients.

This kind will go to Instagram, download images of beautiful models which they add to their Tinder profiles and claim them as their identities.

In my time on the app, I also encountered some of them.

“I do sex hook ups, no strings attached. I don’t visit people’s homes but we can lik up at any hotel of your choice. You pay me half, I come and you pay the balance after,” one of the scammers (let’s call her Candy) said when I contacted her.

This kind of girls will not allow to share their phone contacts and always insist that the conversation remains on the App [Tinder]

Most of them are men who have fallen victim of the same scammers trying to replicate what happened to them previously.

Pricing for services offered.

Pricing varies for every category of sex traders on Tinder; according to services offered, venue and duration of engagement.

Most of the direct sex traders ask for UGX100,000 for two sex sessions with a blowjob in a maximum of 2 hours, UGX200,000 for four sex sessions with blowjob in a maximum of four hours, UGX300,000 for 6 sex sessions with a blowjob in a maximum of six hours.

Others will ask for more or less according to one’s bargaining skills and their preferred venue where they will receive the services.

Indirect traders are however very tricky as they are always present with many services like massage and are always okay with hanging out, to spend the man’s money before they actually charge for their services.

Sex Trade and the Law.

Sex trade [prostitution] according to Uganda’s 1950 Penal Code is illegal.

“The Penal Code Act, Article 136 states, ‘(1) Every person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution and every person who in any place solicits or importunes for immoral purposes commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”

Despite the illegality of the work, sex trade in Uganda has been existent and this has been bolstered by online channels which even if the government took interest in tracking the perpetrators would be difficult.