Tuesday, December 5, 2023

What’s morally acceptable? Transformations of intimacy in the contemporary World

In Tswana culture and custom, it is a taboo to openly talk about sex and intimacy. This opinion piece presents one of those sensitive discussions. I therefore, wish to warn you in advance dear reader.

“I just get turned on very much by Ma-14”, he remarked, as his friends burst into a huge irritating laughter. As a way to justify his love and admiration for Ma- 14,  he continued “they’re completely different…You…meet a girl at a restaurant and you start buying her cocktail drinks together with her friends and it is a done deal” .….. “ Normally they also are on a hunt for a blessser who can spoil them up to until they start forgetting their own names”, he says, talking out loudly like as if he is the real deal ÔÇô the  Champ, Mampudi wa Ma 14.

As he was saying all this, his friend also an old timer probably in his late 50s joined in the joyous celebration talks “You take a girl from a bar, and it might be eleven or twelve at night, and you take her  to a nearby lodge, have a shower and get in bed and have sex” . “Most guys who love clubbing go sleep till next morning, then they’ll have a bit more in the morning and then she’ll go”, remarked another old timer in his 60s. “I’ve had them tidy up the house, wash my clothes, stuff like that…Just to give an extra tip on top in appreciation of a good service and sexual cleansing”.

And another one of their friends, 50 years  or so, states, “ but you need to be very careful, you should never fall in love, or you’ll be heartbroken and they might be heartbroken too, because quite a few of them have access to cash as they are un-employed”.

One could have mistaken this conversation to be amongst young high school going boys ÔÇô but hell no!! It was coming from old timers, some high ranking individuals in the corporate sector and their politically connected friends and some noticeable legislators. Behaving like recycled teenagers, over grown babies having tasted the forbidden fruit for the first time. Such disgust and behaviour is common nowadays.

As we were still trying to recover from the shock from the old timers’ conversation and their sexual desires and escapades with the young fresh legs, a colleague remarked … “at least they are heterosexual”, they are probably on performance enhancing drug ÔÇô Viagra and feel re-energised”.

He continued by stating that “the emergence of new desires, pleasures, and emotions that circulate as commodities in the global market place and the ways economic process shape public and private expressions of sexual intimacy provokes not only spiritually, culturally accepted norms and practices but also on what is morally right.”

What is morally acceptable? Does it not depend on where in the world you live or not?

As we were still trying to present different views on what is morally right or not, a colleague chipped in and decided to be more spiritual.

“Human beings are sexual beings. We are far more than that, of course, but we are not less. Our sexuality is a part of who and what we are, a good gift of God given to bind together a husband and wife and to expand the human race. Like everything else we have, our sexuality as a gift given to us in trust. We are to steward it faithfully, to use it in the ways God commands and to refuse to use it in the ways he forbids. God stipulates that sex is to exist only in the marriage of one man to one woman and further stipulates that it must exist in that context. Just as it is sinful to have sex outside of marriage, it is sinful not to have sex within marriage”.

“God loves when human beings use the gift of sexuality in the ways he commands, but then necessarily hates it when they abuse it in other ways. Specifically, he hates acts of homosexuality as well as cross-dressing”.

The backlash against homosexuality focusing tremendous attention on the role some religious activists and so called born-again Christians play in shaping same sex attitudes about sexuality has reached animated frightening stages. I argue that the anti-homosexual rhetoric is animated by something more than a parroting of evangelical homophobia. Rather, it reflects a tension between two divergent frameworks for ethical personhood in the country, one related to Tswana culture spirit of Botho/ respect-/honor,” and the other based in a discourse of rights, autonomy, and “freedom.”

I wish to categorically state dear reader that I am heterosexual, just like former President Festus Mogae in his declaration about his sexuality that he is not gay. I am straight. “I don’t understand it homosexuality, I look at women. I don’t look at other men. But there are men who look at other men. We are therefore, defined by the things we love as well as the things we loathe, and what is true of us is true of God as well.

The Global Commission on HIV/AIDS and Law has in the past years started conversations that are often perceived as a taboo and highly sensitive in African culture and custom. They called for explicit decriminalization of sodomy and have shown sympathy to Men who have sex with other Men. Spearheading the initiative in Africa is the “Champions of HIV/AIDS, with former president Festus G Mogae responsible for the Botswana chapter. In 2011 Festus Mogae shocked the nation when he first presented the views of the Global Commission on HIV/AIDS and Law at NAC meeting. Many people were left in a state of shock because culturally issues of sodomy and commercial sex work are looked at with great disgust and shame.

Even Mogae was not quite convincing especially with regard to the reasons he advanced by calling for decriminalization of sodomy and voluntary sex work. Mogae stated he was now comfortable to advocate for decriminalization of sex work and gays, something he could not risk doing during his tenure in office; he could not have afforded to lose elections “just for gays,” he said. In his interview with Omar Ben Yedder in 2010, Mogae stated he was now free to say things that he would have never said as President because (as president) there would be political implications.

Mogae maintained that he instead put his political career ahead of gays was not willing to lose elections on behalf of the gays. In responding to Mogae’s comments, one Eusebius McKaiser remarked that he found Mogae’s attitude deeply immoral.  For his part the late Log Raditlhokwa in Mid-week Sun of the 19th October 2011 described Mogae’s actions as carnally minded and not being spiritually sensitive.

An examination of notes on the politically economy of sex and male dominance clearly gets us to question the nature and genesis of women’s oppression and social subordination. Although, that is a feminist Agenda and I being not a feminist, one is however, is compelled to ask, how we deal with all these problems we are faced with?. The Ben 10, syndrome, the rent a boy sexual fantasy, Ma 14 and the Chocolate Box phenomena. What more if we have had to deal with the alleged “A reye Pitsane” Sexual Orgy that took place between a highly placed political figure and two young girls? What more about the “Sebina councilor Paedophila and the now alleged explosive rate of sodomy ÔÇô “Matanyola” between married men and young boys.

All these present a new instability in the promises of capitalist exchange and modern self-making, and new recognition of the ways such promises remain out of reach for most Africans. The ambivalence generated by the co-existence of ideals of “traditional” social obligation and “modern” individualism has become more fraught.  I argue.

By Thabo Lucas Seleke, is a Scholar and Researcher, Health Policy and Health Systems Strengthening


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