Disclaimer: I have not watched any pornographic video by any minister in the Patriotic Front. But I have heard and read.
Sex is the hottest topic in the whole world in all human history. Sadly, the story of sex is punctuated by ignorance, bigotry, discrimination, repression, and exploitation. Swathes of the Bible are dedicated to ignorant and often-times misogynistic portrayals and prohibitions of sex. Unfortunately, many of us Zambians have grown up on an overdose of Biblical indoctrination. It is our moral prism through which we evaluate sex acts and speech acts about sex. The Internet and pornography have catapulted each other in a smooth symbiotic love affair to multi-billion dollars global prominence. A new form of pornography has spiced up the pornography terrain erotically, aesthetically, and ethically. This new form of pornography is a direct child of ICT. A phone with a camera and with Internet, and we are in business! Sex tapes are upon us and here to stay. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of who’s next. Today, I will zoom in my philosophic lens on a rather boring contribution to the sex tape archives of Zambia. The only interesting thing about it is that it featured now fired Minister of Education, Honourable David Mabumba. What are the moral lessons from the incident?
To define a term or word is to explain what it means. One technique for defining terms is ostensible definition. This is basically just pointing to a case or to some cases clearly identified as pornography. I can point you to a picture from the Hustler magazine, show you a video clip of two or more people in a sex act. Or, perhaps even better, provide you with a link to a site which, upon a click, opens up thumb nails of videos for you to choose from. Bon appetite!
The link will define pornography better because it will open up genres of pornography which may lead the inquirer to fish out what is common to all or most of them. What do I mean? Imagine I just show you a picture of a man and a woman in missionary position. You may be mistaken to think something like pornography means the sexual position of a man on top of a woman. But because the link will bring up variety, this mistake is avoided. If I go into the other techniques of defining terms we consider in Critical Thinking, I will run out of space for other nice things I wish to delve into.
Before moving to the interesting parts, let me give my own definition of pornography. Pornography refers to any form of representation, visual or otherwise, depicting some sexual activity. Usually pornography is produced for entertainment, erotic or otherwise. But it can also be for education, amusement, or disgust. Some pictures in some biology textbooks do amount to pornography. Usually there is some pecuniary motive as well. However, usually does not mean necessarily. Hence, my definition is broad enough to include sex tapes, shared or leaked. I see sex tapes as a subcategory of pornography. An ostensive definition will do. A sex tape is a video with sexual content such as those featuring Kim Kardashian, Iris Kaingu, Bobby East, or some steamy romps in the defunct Big Brother Africa reality TV series.
The question of utmost interest for me is the moral one. Is pornography morally permissible or morally prohibited? Let me be clear. I address this question only with regards to pornographic representations that depict sex acts I find morally permissible. Non-consensual sex is morally reprehensible on or off camera. Rape, bestiality, incest, and defilement are all at least prima facie cases of sex without consent or with potential to fan non-consensual sex. Non-consensual sex are cases of sexual activity in some participants have not given consent to participate or their consent is so compromised that it is a linguistic and moral travesty to call it consent at all.
So, before accusing me of defending immorality, be sure that you do not accuse me of defending (1) (2) any sex that is with prima facie undermined consent or of (3) any sex that may have the general tendency of promoting sex without consent. Anything else goes! Outside of these conditions, it is game on. It is pretty much a matter of taste and experimentation.
The right to get turned on
Africa has demonstrated sexual liberality for centuries before the Victorian sexual puritanism and hypocrisy of early missionaries who were quick to label African sexual liberty as pagan. Many African dances, traditional and modern, are emblematic of the witty and apt saying that ‘dancing is the perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire’. There is so much thrusting of the pelvic area and gyration of the buttocks. It does not take a pervert to drool at some of the performances that mimic as well as induce actual sexual activity. Some dances are not so subtle but escalate to horizontal performances for the benefit of those who lack the imagination to invert the vertical to the horizontal. Such dances are clearly pornographic expressive art. Some such dances have creeped into the churches. Some dances are spiced up with not so subtle nudity to the delight of the presidential entourage with wide eyes and naughty grins across their faces.
So, why pick on David Mabumba? What has his sexual enjoyment, fantasy, or experiment got to do with his performance as Minister for General Education? The problem with ethics is that everyone feels they are an expert, to individuals’ and society’s great detriment. Ministers are human with diverse sexual interests. They can be as kinky as they want and still provide exemplary public service. They can spend as much resources as they want on adult and consenting sexual partners, male or female, and it is truly none of our business. They can watch, record, and share videos of themselves doing sex. Some of the most successful, just, and benevolent rulers or chiefs were also famed for their sexual mischief. Chemistry professor, Nicholas Goddard, at the University of Manchester, rightly said, “What I do in my private life is my business not the university’s” following his exposure in 2015 as a part-time porn actor.
Sex tapes arise wilfully, accidentally, or maliciously. Some people record themselves so that they can review or enjoy their performance afterwards. People record themselves crying, running, or eating. Sex is just another one act for exhibitionists. An anecdote says that the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope masturbated in public for he saw no difference with eating in public. This was a philosopher who Alexander the Great, himself a student of Aristotle, admired so much that he said, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” Diogenes argued that social attitudes against public masturbation were merely an unsubstantiated convention. The issue of corrupting public morals is not empirically or morally justified. It is but a vestige of misguided religious sexual puritanism.
Accidental sex tapes can and do happen. You can accidentally send your video to the wrong WhatsApp group. Although it is hard to resist the temptation to share, the morally right thing to do is to not share a video you know is only accidentally sent to the group. Those who record others’ sexual acts or share without permission others’ sex tapes or use such videos for blackmail should be sanctioned and not those in the videos. Being a jealous spouse is no excuse for capturing or leaking what is meant to be private. If the spouse participated in extramarital entanglements and you cannot take it, divorce or take your life.
Let us get it right once and for all. Sex is simply an erotic mental stimulation usually accompanied or caused by some physical friction on the genitalia. Let us demystify this simple experience and free it from its religious or customary hullaballoo that serves no purpose apart from sitting in the way of the right to pleasure oneself. Sex is neither sacred nor dirty per se. Sexual liberty is a fundamental right.
The Bible is a huge culprit on the bigoted social response to sex tapes. It is so pervasive and obsessed with sexual prohibitions that the missionary position takes its name from what was deemed by Christian missionaries as the only godly position. Many women are so guilt-ridden that the beautiful joy of orgasmic sex continues to be a fleeting illusion; reduced to faking it for their macho husbands and boyfriends. How do you explain the Catholic Church pronouncing as sinful the use of a condom to prevent conception or HIV transmission? Isn’t this an ideological crime against the people of Sub-Saharan Africa who have been so ravaged by HIV and AIDS? Isn’t that first grade blasphemy reducing God to someone who frets over whether you are wearing a translucent sheath on your penis during intercourse?
You have not truly respected someone unless you can imagine them in all sorts of consensual sex acts. If you imagine your heroes and people you look up to (e.g. your pastor, minister, or teacher) only in missionary position and not, say, doggie style, then you do not respect them truly. In fact, you are petty to include sex positions or taste in sex in your matrix for respect. Respect is when you hear your MP has a sex tape receiving oral sex and your simple reply is, “So what?” Being intelligent, competent, fair, brave, just, incorruptible, and compassionate does not mean she cannot or should not get freaky.
What’s worse: Mabumba’s amateurish sex tape of a largely solo sex act or pastors and politicians’ display of their obscene fleets of automobiles and mansions while their cadres and congregants wallow in poverty? What would Jesus say? “You brood of vipers!” To Mrs Mabumba, this is the “worse” in your marriage vows; stay put.
Julius Kapembwa, PhD
The author teaches Ethics, Critical Thinking, and
Philosophy of Religion at the University of Zambia