Gentle vs. Grabby Sailors
Foreign sailors who go to dockside nightclubs in Durban tend to treat the club prostitutes with greater respect than the sailors in Cape Town. None act violently toward the women, but the seafarers who berth in Cape Town tend to handle the ladies more possessively than their counterparts in Durban. They are "grabby" in comparison. Why?
I think four reasons explain this difference:
Numbers: 60-80 women regularly solicit from the sole remaining seamen's club in Durban. The ladies often equal or outnumber the 50-100 sailors who arrive at the club each evening. This makes for a relatively relaxed atmosphere for the men. They rarely have to compete against each other for a woman's attention. Partners are usually available.
But in Cape Town, only 40-60 women (in total) regularly solicit from 3 dockside clubs. Relative to the 60-130 men per evening, the ladies are in short supply. On some occasions, the imbalance is extreme. Add alcohol to the mix and some men get anxious they may not get a companion for the evening. This inspires them to act possessively with the women. They sometimes grab or grope the ladies on the dance floor or as they pass by. It signifies a desperate attempt to get the women's attention in what is clearly a solicitor's market.
Time: In Durban, the guys are literally "here today, gone tomorrow." Because they are on container ships that have rapid turn-around times in the harbor, the typical solicitation cycle with a sailor is one night. If a guy acts rude during the evening, the women can just ignore him and focus on other men. They need not cater to him any further.
But in Cape Town, the sailors typically work on deep-sea fishing trawlers that berth in Cape Town for spells of 5-30 days. These men come to the clubs every night they're in town. The women do not feel they can snub the rude men because, within a few days, they may become valuable clients. The women do not want to close the door on any guys because, given their long stays in port, they may become sources of money in the future.
Frequency: Most sailors in Durban visit the port a few times in their lives. Or perhaps just once. They rarely go there on a consistent basis.
But in Cape Town, the trawlermen return multiple times during their South Atlantic voyages. They typically visit Cape Town every 4 months during their two-year contract. (Then they go home, get another contract, and start the sequence again.) They may be regular callers for years. This encourages the women to see solicitation as a long-term strategic process. Thus, they put up with a man's touchiness because they don't want to lose access to him as a potential client. Any of the guys might become repeat-clients for many years, a prospect too good to ignore.
Class Status: Durban is Africa's premier container port. Most seafarers who work on container vessels are middle-class or middle-class aspirant. Thus they tend to be rule-followers who behave themselves overseas. They're rarely troublemakers with locals (unlike the old cargo ship salts of yore).
But in Cape Town, most of the sailors are East Asian trawlermen, drawn from the poorer sections of China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines (while the wealthier officers come from Japan, Taiwan & Korea). The women say that these guys party harder, have a tougher work life, and are less refined in their flirtations than the container ship seamen. They see the trawlermen as having "lower class" standards of interpersonal relations.
Thankfully, this touchiness is never violent, even if it is annoying. Cape Town's dockside prostitutes say that they do not face client violence like streetwalkers often do. But the women do wish that the trawlermen would act gentler with them like the container ship crews.