Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Inside the generational shift in Botswana’s attitudes to sex

“Mongwe le mongwe oja e wagagwe”. This made in Botswana phrase is on the lips of most free spirited Batswana Millenials who are outwardly nonchalant and often smug about casual sex. The phrase basically translates to “You get yours, I get mine, and we’re good.”

It is almost an article of faith that when it comes to sex and sexuality, Botswana has been shifting to the left with each generation becoming more liberal than the last, having more sex, with more people and in more outlandish ways. Stories gleaned from the local mainstream media show that Batswana are more likely now than in the early 50s and 60s to find a variety of behaviors morally acceptable, including gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, casual sex and sex between an unmarried man and woman.

Sexual relationships in 2018 are forged on more liberal terms than in the olden days. And this generational shift in Botswana’s attitudes towards sex marks the biggest divide between parents and their children. Ask any parent about the attitude of Millenials towards sex and most cringe with horror at the debauched youth they have raised. Young people on the other hand revel in the hedonic liberation of their inconsequential liaisons and respond with the hackneyed clich├®: “Mongwe le mongwe oja e wagagwe.”

Obuile Seditse, a second year student at the University Of Botswana, admits to sleeping with his friend’s girlfriend. “It is really not a big deal, my friend was out of town, his girlfriend and I were at a social event together one thing led to another and we left together, the rest they say is history. We both knew what we were doing; it didn’t mean anything really, just fun.” He says that although it seems rather immoral and somewhat distasteful to the older generation, casual sex is quite normal. “I see nothing wrong with casual sex, almost everyone does it, it is really not a big deal, it just bothers our elders because they didn’t do it how we are doing it presently, with us it is more in the open, less secrecy and hiding. A bit hypocritical on their part if you ask me.” For Obuile, casual sex is only bad if viewed against “very rigid, outdated constructions of what constitutes normal and proper.” Hooking up is all about “fun,” “gratification,” “curiosity,” “party culture” and “hormones”.  She says the ”hook-up culture” is just the modern equivalent of the decades-old one-night-stand pick-up in the pub.

The casual sex hook up trend has found its way into the family circuit. There are even stories of sisters becoming ‘sister-wives’, opting to “take care” of the other’s significant other in the absence of another. Something once considered out of bounds is now almost normal. The let’s keep it on the down low and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her mindset seems to be fuelling the once off-limits phenomenon.

Attitudes have shifted on issues such as premarital sex, same-sex relationships and casual sex ÔÇö embodied in the highly sexualized local pop culture and lingo.

For many young adults, the rite of passage is filled with experiences ranging from parties to all-night cram sessions to that first serious relationship. And romance seems to be getting short shrift, replaced in most cases with quick “hook-ups” devoid of any real emotion.

In other words, today’s college culture has turned hooking up into a sport that all the “cool” kids are playing — or at least talking about, and the “mongwe le mongwe oja e wagagwe” clich├® has become the go to defence.

The nature of these changes in generational sexual attitudes is however at times nuanced and demands careful attention. For example, another young Motswana woman, Dimpho Legole frowns at the growing penchant for hooking up saying, “casual sex is dirty, no matter how ‘safe’ the people who do it claim they are. Back then, it was rather unthinkable for a man to lie where his brother or friend lay, we the millenials don’t get that. Honestly young people care more about instant gratification and nothing more. We have this blas├® attitude towards this trend, oblivious to the fact that it predispose us to diseases out there especially HIV/AIDS.” She further adds that the way things are now is a clear indication of the changing dynamics of friendships and relationships. “Young people have no boundaries, morals and respect for themselves or anyone else.”

It may also be that with globalization, young Batswana have become closer to their peers in more liberal and highly sexualized countries that their parents who share the same house with them. Most get to learn about the birds and the bees online than from their parents.The Millennial generation has grown up in an “always-on” digital era: the online world is their platform for communication and expression. Social media applications like WhatsApp have created a new avenue for curious young people to explore, express and develop their sexuality. Sexting ÔÇô exchanging texts, photos and videos of a sexual nature ÔÇô has become so commonplace that many millenials consider it a normal and even healthy part of a relationship. Technology is providing new ways for young people to meet. Instant messaging and ”hooking up” have become the new courting.

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