The porn boom, and doom

A few weeks ago, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) stated that it was working with the police to foil an intended sex party for teenagers at Kahawa Sukari estate in Nairobi.

Going by the information on the event’s poster, the organiser was encouraging teens to throng the venue for a seemingly endless session of fornication. It was the second time KFCB was taking such measures, having being called to action to quash a similar event in March 2016. If these events are indeed true, it shows how easily casual sex is available.

Cases of people being approached by a smartly-dressed man - of about 25 years of age - with a bizarre suggestion are not uncommon.

“Would you like to see some live action?” the man excitedly asks.

Unknown to many, who probably wave away the suggestion in their hustle and bustle of life, the “live action” in question is actually an invite to watch pornography: the act of people engage in intercourse.

Sammy*, who operates a retail phone outlet in the downtown area of the city confides that he personally knows several places where people pay a fee to go watch live pornography recordings.

Confessions of porn actors

According to him the business is widespread and he even offers to introduce me to a few young men and women who operate phone outlets during the day but give out their bodies to pornographic filmmakers at night. While at his shop, Sammy (albeit discreetly) points me towards one of the neighbouring shops and reveals that the pretty-light-skinned young lady attending to the shop is one of the many who ‘star’ in these porn acts.

I hang around the shop till late in the evening with an aim of trying to speak to the young woman about how exactly she goes about her ‘side-hustle’. Just past 8pm, Sammy introduces me to her and she agrees to talk as long as I keep her identity secret. She asks me if I would walk with her as she heads to the “other place”.

“I have a session at 9.30pm,” she tells me as we walk along River Road.

Rahab (not her real name), born and raised in Thika, asks if I would grab her two ‘Guaranas’ at a nearby pub as we continue with banter.

“I dropped out of a Thika-based university after both my parents died of Aids in 2014. I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration but had no one to pay for my studies after the passing on of my parents. After months of job-hunting, I found one at the phone shop, after moving in with my cousin at Huruma estate in Nairobi. However, the earnings were meagre compared to the cost of living and I obviously needed some extra money. I talked to one of my friends who introduced me to this business,” the 24-year-old brazenly divulges.

After days of brutal soul-searching and understanding how the business works, she decided to give it a try.

One filming session goes for Sh30,000

One and a half years later, Rahab has featured in about two dozen pornographic films and numerous photo shoots, all taken at different locations across the city. She has also travelled twice to Malindi for shoots.

“We have many girls, women and men in this practice. It’s a racket run by wealthy people, including foreigners from all over the world. Our films, according to the contracts, are exported to foreign countries and uploaded on international porn sites. I am paid between Sh15,000 and Sh30,000 per session depending on the nature of the act. Sometimes you are offered more money to perform some acts such as doing it “raw” (without protection) and unnatural acts,” she says.

With the lure of more money, she has confesses to have done acts that put her life at risk of contracting diseases, not to mention the very demeaning nature of the acts. She is one of the lucky few.

“I go for medical tests on a regular basis and so far so good. I think luck is on my side. I intend to quit the trade maybe after a year or so,” she says.

Over the decades, the pornography film industry has been one of the most lucrative sectors in the developed world. In 2015, the global porn industry was said to rake in a total of Sh1.5 trillion ($15 billion) per year.

In the last one decade and a half however, rogue backstreet filmmakers in Nairobi and some other cities and towns across Kenya have been conducting a growing illegal trade in pornography.

Downtown Nairobi

In Nairobi this dirty business is carried out in dingy rooms downtown as well as in estates like Umoja, Komarock and Buru Buru. It’s also rampant within the posh establishments, often passed off as spas and massage parlours around leafy city estates such as Kileleshwa, Karen and Kitisuru.

Disguising themselves as masseuses, porn stars are making millions of shillings in the dirty trade.

Last Friday, posing as clients, a Pulse team established that all the establishments we paid a visit to offered “extra” services at an additional cost. To get the extra service (in essence, sex and other forms of sexual activities) the charges varied with the type of “extra” you were looking for, on top of the regular charges.

“Mostly, we have middle-aged clientele coming for our services. Majority of them prefer going all the way to the extra services. Wednesday and Thursday and, of course, the weekends, are the most productive days,” a ‘masseuse’ anonymously told us.

In July 2015, police raided a house along Nairobi’s Kabarnet Road where over 30 girls were arrested for prostitution. A four-bedroom maisonette, said to be operated by a popular Nairobi businessman, served as a brothel for high-end businessmen, politicians and other significant individuals who would visit the joint for sensual pleasures under the guise of going for massage services.

With the availability of porn films in form of DVDs, sold mainly in backstreet movie and music shops, as well as the massive penetration of Internet and cheap smart phones, teenagers are exposed to pornography more than never before. Some porn sites in Kenya sell their pornographic movies online with payments made over mobile money. Upon payment, the item is delivered within minutes.

Other than the social hazards of the act, there are individual risks that come with porn addiction, like all other forms of addiction.

“I was expelled from school in Form Two for my porn addiction. I was seen as a danger to other students. I spent a lot of time and money on sexual gratification by either purchasing pornographic magazines or on porn sites and ran away from home after being expelled. I couldn’t face my parents,” a 20-year old victim reveals. Four years later, he is yet to muster that courage to face his parents.

Pornography is illegal

According to KFCB CEO, Ezekiel Mutua, the Board has been working hand-in-hand with the police to eliminate this illegal exploitation.

“First of all, pornography is illegal in Kenya under the Penal Code. As a Board which has been mandated to ensure that films in Kenya observe the set laws, we’ve been very strict in getting the culprits behind the rampant business, especially those who expose underage persons to pornography. However, the biggest challenge we face today is that we have a well-coordinated syndicate of pornographic filmmakers,” he says, adding that the trade is uncontrollably rampant at the Kenyan coast, especially in Kilifi and Mombasa counties.

“This business is so rampant in Mombasa and Malindi but we’ve been working very closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies. We have foiled many incidences at the coast where a lot of our young people are even exposed to bestiality.”

In 2013, Kenyan police officers unearthed an international porn syndicate which operated mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi. The ring, which involved some western diplomats based in the country, had links to Europe and America.

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