This is a qualitative observational study exploring understandings and perceptions of exploitation in two sites in Mwanza, Tanzania. Through focus group discussion and in-depth interviews with young people aged 14–24 years, and parents with children aged 14–24 years, the study found that reciprocity of gifts or money in return for sex was a strong norm of sexual relationships, and that relationships that did not include this were seen to be exploitative by both male and female respondents. Girls that participated in sexual relationships without receiving anything in return were seen as foolish and described as prostitutes. Sex as a result of coercion or power was also considered exploitative. Situations where women take gifts or money but refuse sex or demand larger sums of money were considered exploitative of men. The paper concluded noting that interventions need to consider differences in understanding of what is considered exploitative as well as the social and gender norms influencing sex.