Think sex-hungry Craigslist users have it bad in the United States? If you live in a world of salacious headlines, they do. Violent killings and serial murder are associated with the site as often as “great cozy apartment, TONS OF LIGHT” listings. But at least when gays hit the web in the U.S. looking for sex, they don’t have to imagine there’s a very good chance it’s a set up.
Because that’s what gays visiting Ghana have to look forward to. As Internet access ramps up across the West African county, so too do opportunities to find international anonymous sex. Except plenty of the profiles advertising a “cute 18yo boi looking” aren’t just fakes, they’re scams.
Some fuzzy math says 98 percent of man-for-man profiles are set up by straight guys — most with the intent to scam visiting foreigners hunting for love and sex. The scam goes like this: Groups of African teenage boys work the computers at an Internet cafe, posting fake profiles and photos, and when they arrange to meet, they’ve got no plans to sleep with you. Rather, they’ll strip you naked and rob you blind.
Any person who comes at you with instant love is a faker or a scammer. The instant love they feel for you is love for the opportunity that you present and the money you have. The scams sound sincere, but all involve you sending money. Even if you are a poor person in your country, you are a very rich person by comparison to most of your African chat buddies. This disparity in wealth profoundly affects any relationship you develop.
Many of the photos in posted profiles are not true. Guys pass around flash drives full of sexy photos to use for online. Look at the background carefully. Look at the clothing, furnishings or electric outlets. There are many clues, so if your online friend is too beautiful, look carefully. Is he a model copied from some online magazine? How long has the profile existed? Profiles with a long history are generally people who have nothing to hide.
Even more shocking though, there are some Internet cafes that are *completely* devoted to this type of activity. It is truly a business, with finders fees paid for arranging a meeting with a foreigner, and 11 and 12 year old year-old boys watching pornography en masse and learning how to chat ‘gay’. On the Internet, anybody can be anything, so you really do not know who you are chatting with.
Older Western gay men are regarded as being rich and generous and desperate for needing love, so this has become a booming business. There have even been editorials in newspapers questioning whether Ghana is becoming the Thailand of Africa.
How to play it safe, then? Perhaps don’t play at all. The website Global Voices has some tips on what to do if you’re victimized, and how to cruise online more safely. Or, you know, just stay offline: Gay sex is illegal in Ghana, and scammers will use the threat to notify police to get you to pay up.
Does this mean there’s no way to find the legit gays in Ghana? Of course not. There are semi-underground gay scenes in cities like Accra and Kumasi. But for all the precautions you should take when meeting guys online in the U.S., why not double or triple your wariness level in Ghana. Actually, do that in the U.S., too.
(Pictured: Daniel, who goes by “good_in_one” and “lookingforgood” on various dating sites, and is a known scammer.)