Who's Your Daddy?
The primary purpose of Cape Town's dockside nightclubs is to part sailors from their money. And everyone in this racket has an angle. The club owners sell alcohol at exorbitant prices. The cabbies charge outrageous fees for short hauls. And the prostitutes develop ingenious solicitation strategies to access the seamen's cash.
One particularly devious technique is when women tell multiple seafarers that they're pregnant with their baby. Sometimes they're not pregnant at all—phantom pregnancy—but just want to create a jolting emotional connection to inspire the mark to hand over wads of bills. But other times, cell division is indeed taking place.
So why tell lots of guys they're the papa?
First, the women often do not know who the father is. So by directing responsibility at multiple clients, they hope to secure at least one believer. It's a practical measure to deal with their uncertainty. Since seafarers can easily dismiss prostitutes' paternity claims, the women hedge their bets by telling many guys at once. Perhaps one will take the bait. Perhaps even the real father!
Second, though sailors usually doubt they're the father of a prostitute's baby due to her professional promiscuity, he can't be sure. There's always doubt, a fact which she exploits. Moreover, she manipulates his ego with such a claim, because it proves that he is virile and masculine. A man. If he craves such ego gratification, he may accept paternity. But if the baby represents more of a burden than a joy, he'll probably deny it. (And if he hears she was with someone else around the time of conception, he'll be difficult to persuade.)
Third, even if one or two of the sailors accept that they're the father, their care for the child will be minimal. Very few foreign seamen truly take responsibility for the children they have with South African prostitutes. The children grow up without fathers, essentially. Their financial support rarely lasts more than a few years, if that. Once he's back in his home country, he goes back to his own family and forgets about his Cape Town kid. But by getting multiple guys to pay toward the child in the early years, the woman can at least get some money to cope. For a brief moment.
What should be a wonderful moment—pregnancy—is rarely greeted with joy amongst dockside prostitutes. It's really a burden. But it does open up new solicitation opportunities which the women use to maximum advantage.