Monday, March 27, 2017

50 Shades of Sex

What are you?
I'm a man.
Is that why you beat your wife?
I beat her to teach her the value of discipline; discipline is good.
Is that why you also rape her?
She is my wife: sex is good; I don't want her to lose out.

What are you?
I'm a man.
Is that why you beat your daughter?
I beat her to teach her the value of discipline; discipline is good.
Is that why you also rape her?
Is that why you rape her?

I'm a man...

This  text appeared as the leading comment of the Times of Swaziland Sunday on 13th August 2006, under the subheading A disintegrating society... but it could have been published yesterday. We're eleven years on and seemingly no progress has been made as far as gender abuse is concerned. In fact, even a cursory glance at a week's newspapers and the social media for a single day suggests that things have even got worse since then. 

What does this tell us about the level of violence in our society? We don't even need to talk about terrorism in the world--what goes on in our homes? 

At the same time, sex is everywhere and in the open. It didn't used to be.  In the pre-AIDS era, people didn't practice safe sex but equally they didn't talk about it either. Now condoms, circumcision, safe sex and even gay, lesbian, and bisexual are words that people use freely. This new-found freedom of speech is perhaps a good thing, but it accompanies a widespread acceptance of porn, which isn't. Porn is everywhere: it's certainly on a cellphone near you. Porn is most usually associated with violence. Consider, for example, the massive commercial success of 50 Shades of Grey, with its million-selling books and box-office winning film. Whether it's porn or not, it's definitely sex plus violence. And it's not only tolerated, it's imitated.

At this moment in our lives, music streams like Channel O routinely screen soft porn while  stronger videos of sex and violence are whizzing around the webverse from cellphone to cellphone via social media and from laptop to laptop via flashdrives. One of the current viral videos is of an underage girl and boy in South Africa. The video has already brought untold anguish upon those involved. There were some loud voices saying how sad and how shocking this video was. But there were many more clamouring to get themselves a copy so they could see it for themselves.

If we are going to leave anything worth leaving for our children and children's children, then we have to do more than admit there is a problem. We have to act.

One way to act is through legislation. Legislation works by giving a clear message about what is considered acceptable and what is not. At the end of last year it was widely anticipated that a new Sexual Offences Bill would be passed this year. That hope has begun to fade, with reports implying that the Bill has been deliberately stalled and will remain unimplemented. This is a tragedy that will merely accelerate the downward spiral that we're already in. Legislation would be a public way of admitting that we have a serious problem.

Another public way would be for the churches--and there are so many of them--to also campaign for change in this area. Sadly, that also looks unlikely to happen.

The best way then is to do what wisdom tells us we should do: begin the change within ourselves. We could do worse than choosing the words of the apostle Paul, who also lived in such a time as this:

In the end, all change must begin with us.



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