Monday, March 1, 2021

Unbundling Botswana’s sexual revolution

These days one can’t swing a cat without it landing on a sex tape of some sort courtesy of amateur actors, producers and directors. One might wonder where the sudden obsession to record and share sexual exploits is coming from, but the truth it has always been there; social media just made it worse.

Conventionally sex is a sacred act of two consenting adults conducted privately and after sunset. Even in traditional Setswana practices the young man would leave for his girlfriend’s house after dark only to return home in the wee hours of the morning before dawn; praying to his forefathers that he would not get caught in this act. But times have changed. It all started a few weeks ago on one Monday morning when a leaked video of teenagers having an unprotected threesome in Modipane broke the internet. To say the Modipane video went viral would be the understatement because by lunchtime anyone with a smart phone had seen it. The participants had already been identified and memes had already created and were being shared on social media.

The Modipane sex tape was the beginning of an avalanche of sex tapes, mainly featuring the youth, and usually identified by the villages at which they were shot. After Modipane came the University of Botswana (UB) sex tape, then Moshopa and Molepolole College of Education (MCE). There is even a Phakalane sex tape.
The sex tapes broke a lot of boundaries and the reality is sinking upon us that young couple as not as conservative as their elders and they don’t hold subscribe to traditional sexual mores. Being young and gullible also does not help. The world is changing at a very fast pace. In America, superstars like Kim Kardashian who shot to fame after leaking their sex tapes. Maybe our young ones think that by leaking their sex tape they will also find fame and fortune.

In the West,’ the surfacing of sex tapes has become so common that some are “leaked” as a marketing tool to create media frenzy. A celebrity can fight the release in court to maintain deniability while still enjoying the career benefits. In contrast, a celebrity may take the route of openly releasing the tape and benefit directly from royalties as well as indirectly from the publicity. The question is, are we in Botswana ready for this kind of viewing?

In the past when a young lady reached puberty she was taught that she was now a woman and any involvement with a man could result in poverty. She would then be left with many questions unanswered regarding abstinence and protection and sexuality in general. Sex was taboo and many young girls grow up knowing that it is bad. “Ke dilo tse di maswe” they were told. However, the global society that we exist in today has just trivialised sex. The reality is that sex sells. Music, movies, advertising, television; all of them have a sexual storyline. Children nowadays are exposed to sexuality from a tender age and parents find themselves having to answer very tricky questions from inquisitive children. Batswana are a conservative nation and the advent of these sex tapes with very little or no warning shook the nation a little bit. Communities are condemning them and some are going as far as baying for the participants’ blood in the form of corporal punishment.

What does the law say? Apart from the offence of trafficking pornographic material, there is no law against these sexual acts. The fact that the participants were all consenting adults in the confinements of their four walls makes it very difficult for anyone to take action against the participants, unless it can be established that they are the ones who leaked the video.

Watching a sex tape or pornography has been likened to peeping into people’s windows, watching them having sex and deriving sexual gratification from it. A voyeur, a Peeping Tom so to speak. Erin Williams, a gender specialist who has worked in the country for the past three years, believes voyeurism is not new in Botswana.
“With social media and new ways of sharing information, it is easier to access and easier to share, but not new.

In my opinion, sex tapes are not inherently bad. However, the fact that they are done without an understanding and open acceptance of the possible consequences to the individuals involved is what makes this a tragedy. I think these issues stem from a lack of open and honest dialogue about sex, sexuality, consent, gender norms, self-esteem and positive decision-making that need to taught and explored from a young age in both schools and at home.”

Williams believes more energy needs to be pumped into comprehensive sexuality programming, involving all relevant stakeholders including Ministry Of Health, Ministry Of Education and Skills Development, and all other private, public and civil society organizations.

“The most relevant aspect of CSE is that it teaches young people about gender norms and abuse and gives them life skills necessary to assume responsibility for their own behaviour and to respect the rights of others,” stated Williams. She however explained that this type of awareness will not end what some people will define as so-called “bad behaviour” but it does teach people about respect, decision-making and consequences for behaviour. But being armed with the right information, people will be in a better position to make informed choices regarding their sexuality. Williams also emphasised that, “Open dialogue that does not shame sex and sexuality will actually have long term positive effects on young people’s behaviour, but it takes time. If we want to see positive changes including an end to exploitation and abuse we have to put in the time and resources.”

Artist and Gender Activist Berry Heart described pornography as material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behaviour. On the other hand, she said, erotica refers to sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all the human beings and animals portrayed.

“Nobody can reject the fact that pornography┬áis seen, done and found all around us and nowadays it seems to be almost everywhere. But not all sexually explicit material is necessarily the same.”

She went on and threw in her five cents on the matter explaining that, “Pornography is a new culture in Botswana, it is however regarded as inappropriate. Meanwhile, the recent influx of sex tapes is a clear indication and reflection of the society that raises us. I mean orgies are done every day in Botswana especially after alcohol and drug abuse by elders who raise us.” Ms Heart further lamented that there are worse problems like child molestation and defilement which Batswana choose to be silent on. “We see things happen, participate in them, wait for it to spread like veldt fires and then we really try to talk and not act on it,” said Ms Heart.

Mixed feelings are the order of the day regarding this phenomenon. But social media tools whatsapp, facebook and twitter are always ablaze with posts of pornographic material, full frontal nudity and penetration. Is it wrong? Says who? And why?

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