«No money, no honey»? Poverty and young men’s unmarried relationships in urban Burkina Faso


  • Anne E Calvès




In Burkina Faso, the expectation that a young man has to financially support his girlfriend is deeply rooted in gender norms and is a keystone of masculinity construction. With the persistent economic crisis, high unemployment rates, and the growing importance of materiality in intimate relationships, this economic obligation seems more and more difficult to fulfil, however. Qualitative studies have reported the frustration of unemployed and poorer young men in West African cities who face difficulties in attracting girlfriends due to their economic condition. This sexual marginalization of poorer city-dwellers, suggested by anthropological evidence, has yet to be explored quantitatively. This is the purpose of the study. Based on unique life history data collected from young adults in 2010 in the capital city of Ouagadougou, the present research examines the impact of poverty on young men’s sexual relationship histories. Although they engage in a number of premarital relationships, results suggest that young men in Ouagadougou are not equal in the search for sexual partners. The study provides support for the «sexual marginalization hypothesis» and shows that other things being equal, unemployed males and uneducated young men are significantly less likely than their better-off counterparts to engage in relationships over time