When it comes to issues of “morality”, there is quite something to be said about male immunity against being tried and condemned in the courts of public opinion…and women’s lack of such immunity. And so when consensual sex finds itself being categorised as a scandal, you can be sure you will hear the woman’s name much longer after her partner has even forgotten he was ever part of the case.
I suppose some context is in order here. For several days now, Zambian cyberspace has been abuzz with reactions to a “sex tape”, featuring a college couple from the Zambia Centre for Accountancy Studies (ZCAS) that has been leaked and circulated online. The comments, which are well in their hundreds or even thousands if you count across different online platforms, are varied yet their recurrent theme is the censuring of the young woman. She has been called lots of names, some of which even professional hookers would take offence at. I went through some readers’ comments on a few sites and I was so struck by the inequality in apportioning blame; the woman was taking all the flak, lots of it, while there was heavy silence about her partner. It was as though she was all alone in the video.
So last evening, I shared this observation on twitter and pointed out how all the reactions to the video were stark reminders of the fact that what is condemned in women is often tolerated and even glorified in men. I cited how 99% of the reaction (read condemnation) is targeted at the young woman and the 1% where the young man is mentioned is largely comprised of marvel at his anatomy and praise for his sexual prowess. As it turned out, a number of Zambian tweeple (twitter users) spread across the world shared my exasperation and within minutes, a whole conversation was going and it carried on beyond an hour.
The reactions around the said video confirm quite a number of things many of us already know about patriarchal logic. One quick example is how the 1 % affirms the dominant narrative that sexual prowess equals real manhood…so the readers in this category have interpreted the encounter as being about submission and conquest. Their comments are about this real man and what he did to her and so on. This is the logic that inspires that rather unfortunate pursuit by some men to assert or realise their manliness through sexual intercourse with a woman who is then almost always considered a conquest afterwards. So while, in the public’s eyes, the young woman in the video is being widely stripped of her femininity, her partner is walking away with an enhanced masculinity.
Remember the biblical story of the woman who was caught in adultery ALONE and brought to Jesus for him to judge? The woman whose situation motivated one of my favourite quotations in the Bible “let he who has no sin cast the first stone”? I have always wondered how this woman’s partner managed to so neatly stay out of the picture. He was never named and shamed and definitely he was never considered deserving of judgement and the anticipated punishment that would have followed had Jesus not set a new standard on the inappropriateness of a flawed human being judging another. The times, technology etc may have changed from the days Jesus walked this earth to now but some thinking has remained constant through the thousands of years. And if the people that dragged that woman before
Jesus were to be miraculously brought to life today, they would be positively overwhelmed by how much their own mindsets would resonate with those of most of the people commenting on the video.
I find it interesting, the gendered way in which “morality” is generally invoked. Consider how when a baby is dumped, the focus is on a “negligent mother who has abandoned her baby”. Men disappointingly fail to make an appearance on the societal blame sheet even when biology firmly puts them in the picture. And in the days when pregnancy in school resulted in expulsion, did any of you hear of any boy who got expelled alongside the girl?
Sometimes women seem to be the most intolerant of fellow women’s supposed failings. Consider concurrent sexual partnerships and what happens when some married men are discovered by their wives. A married man is discovered to be cheating by the wife, she goes after the woman he is cheating with, roughs her up, calls her all those colourful names and leaves her with a stern warning of what she will do to her if she dares go near her husband again. Then she goes back home, cooks for her husband, cleans up after him, laughs at his dry jokes and just pretty much preoccupies herself indulging her amnesia. She feels satisfied that she has sorted out the enemy who was trying to separate “what God had put together!” From where I stand, it looks like leaving the fire in the house to go and tackle some smoke outside. The ‘jezebel’ you have tackled was a simple manifestation of the real problem – your partner’s infidelity – which you are busy nursing like a favourite child. It is most likely just a matter of time before you have to go and beat someone else.
Finally, if you have ever witnessed a woman being called out for ‘improper dressing’ you will know who leads the pack and speaks loudest even encouraging unruly call boys to “teach these women” a lesson or two.
All my many digressions aside, my point is if you are going to bash the young woman in the video for “loose morals” or whatever it is, then extend it to the young man. If you are going to praise the young man for his prowess then by all means extend the honour to his partner.