*DEATH AND SEX: THE FORBIDDEN TOPICS*
By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
In our every day conversation some issues are off the table. And
that's because Africans have a long list of taboos and
superstitions. Death, for instance, is not a subject most of us are
comfortable with even though, as humans, it crosses our minds. Death
is inevitable, yet we loathe talking about it. It is not a subject
we liberally and willingly discuss. The fear, I would guess, is that
if we speak about it, it will either come to pass or haunt us in our
dreams. What is it about death that makes people fearful?
In Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, death is everywhere: on the high
seas, in the deserts, in refugee camps, on the door steps of clinics
and hospitals, on our streets and homes and everywhere in between.
Death is common in our society, so much so one would think Africans
don't value life. In some parts of the continent, it is better to be
dead than to be alive. Everywhere you look, you get the feeling
death is cheap: high infant mortality, high incidence of death from
starvation, disease and political crimes. Life, on the other hand,
is quite expensive. Millions of Africans still scavenge food from
Except in one or two African countries, there is no middle-class.
There are mostly two extremes: very rich or very poor. In some other
countries, you have the miserable and the poor (with less than 0.05%
in the "well-off" section.
Within the last two decades or so, contracting political
assassination has become as common as swatting a housefly or
thumping a cockroach. Death is cheap! Killing is free! If you don't
lose your life in the hands of your political opponents, some
wayward police officer or the rampaging Nigerian army will do the
job. If you escape all these, the environmental conditions will do
the trick. Consider for instance the number of people in the Nigeria
who loses their lives as a result of boko haram invation, the environmental
degradation brought about by the activities of Shell, Chevron and
other oil multinational corporation. Sadly, when people die, most
will attribute it to witches or the will of God.
Aside from death, sex is another matter Africans don't like talking
about. But you see sex is everywhere. One way or the other, once or
a thousand times in ones lifetime, we'll all engage in it. Yet, you
most likely will not find or hear an African having an open debate
in all matters concerning sex. Not even in the privacy of their
homes will some Nigerians talk about it. They'll engage in it; but
will not speak about it. Some even hide the fact that they engage in
it. They act as though sex is bad; as though speaking about it is
heretical -- an act likely to incur the wrath of God.
In recent years, the born- again phenomenon has been putting fear of
damnation in the hearts and minds of the unschooled. Any mention of
sex is considered sinful, hence the generation of Africans who marry
without understanding the nitty-gritty of sex and sexuality. To
speak about sex is to be thought of as perverse. To write about sex
is to be though of as a porn-dealer and a peddler of immorality. To
liberally speak, write and crave sex is to lay oneself open to
ridicule and reprimand from some Nigerians who parade themselves as
paragon of morality. A few even claim to know what was intended for
mankind in all matters sex.
The aforementioned oddities remind me of something in the USA: Every
now and then, grownups in America will chastise adults for using
profanity in the presence of children. I find these reprimands dumb
and supercilious. Isn't this the same society, where, at any given
time of the day, one will find dozens of suggestive commercials, sex-
laden TV shows, and violence of every imaginable degree? This is a
society where women are allowed to bare their 38C or 44C breasts so
long as their tiny nipples are covered; yet, "fuck you," or "screw
you" or the word "cum" or "dick" can not be spoken in public without
being frowned upon.
And you know: pornographic movies and magazines routinely outsell
mainstream movies and magazines. Ultra-violent music and movies also
routinely outsell their mainstream competitions. Before most
Americans turn 19, they would have smoked marijuana, drank or gotten
drunk on alcohol, engage in oral or full-blown sex, or mimic scenes
in adult movies. The more I think about these contradictions, the
more I wonder about both societies.