A nation of hypocrites?
Collins Onwochei, one of the actors in Room 027, insists he isn’t making porn, and calls Nigerians hypocrites who don’t raise an eyebrow when watching sex scenes in TV shows like Spartacus. Nollywood bad girl Tonto Dike voiced a similar opinion when fans started hyperventilating over her own “porn” movie, labelling her critics “pretenders”. “Why would we enjoy seeing nudity in Hollywood? It’s a fucking profession peeps, grow up. I am all out with my job and fuck you hard if you find otherwise. Rubbish fucking pretenders…”, she said. Benson Okonkwo, who appeared in the “gay porn” movie Pregnant Hawkers, is also quoted as saying “…it’s only a movie and make-believe…We watch movies like that in Hollwyood. Nigerians are hypocrites.”
The release of a trailer for Destructive Instinct 3 & 4 a couple of months ago got everyone in a tizz again and made the female lead AfroCandy notoriously popular with bloggers and online versions of Nigerian newspapers eager to interview her.
Like Collins Onochei and Tonto Dike, AfroCandy calls out the hypocrisy in the reactions of Nigerian netizens, reminding her critics that Nigerians enjoy watching Big Brother Africa, in which housemates have been known to have sex. She also points out the sexism in the reactions. I must say, judging by the trailers only, her work seems to do a better job of portraying consensual sex.
Unless they’re being disingenuous, none of the professionals think what they’re producing is pornographic, but Nigeria’s moral police disagree. Read the comments below articles about these so-called porn movies and if you’re anything like me you will find yourself rolling your eyes in disbelief at the amount of puritanism on display. The furore over sex in Nollywood is partly a reflection of our schizophrenic attitude to sex, one attitude behind closed doors, one when things are out in the open. We are like the conservatives in America, who are the largest consumers of porn but also the loudest voices railing against sex in cinema, and against almost anything to do with sex in general. We know, for instance, that Nigerians rank in the world’s top 5 in Google searches for gay porn, yet we’re among the most vocal in spouting anti-gay sentiments.
Instead of our over the top reactions and hypocrisy, we could be using the issue of sex in cinema to criticise Nollywood’s role in normalising rape culture in Nigeria, or discussing the extremely exploitative ways in which gay people are portrayed in some of these movies. But we would rather claim the moral high ground and pretend that despite being a highly religious country, sex pervades every single aspect of Nigerian society. Thus we are lectured to about the evils of pornography and made to believe that using sex toys means you’re having sex with demonic spouses, while Nigerians frequent strip clubs and support a thriving sex economy. There is amarket for porn in Nigeria that has nothing to do with Nollywood. This double consciousness is perfectly illustrated in the fact that AfroCandy saw fit to thank God for the success of her movie, scandalising a few more people in the process.
The Ghanaian connection
It is hard to read about the so-called growth of sexually obscene films in Nollywood without coming across mentions of Ghana. “We [are] extremely shocked at Nigeria’s sudden affiliation to the whole soft porn syndrome. Most Nigerians were insolent to the emerging Ghanaian soft porn movies. Little did we know they were going to take it to the next level” wrote one blogger. Anothergoes “I wonder what it is with Ghanaians and pornography, maybe it is the only way they can put their movies on the map”. Yet another notes “We have been complaining in Ghana about how some of our movie producers enjoy putting a lot of unnecessary sex scenes in movies, but unfortunately the trend has now been shifted to Nigeria”. Oh, so it’s our Ghanaian brothers who have led us chaste and innocent Nigerians astray? Hmm, I beg to differ. The fact that we eagerly consumed Ghanaian films like Wapipi Jay (which you shouldn’t search for if you reading this at work) shows we’ve long had an appetite for sexually explicit movies. But we like to have our cake and eat it too, watch the films and be titillated so we can speculate about whether the sex was real, and then claim to be scandalized.
With Nollywood expanding and an increasing number of actors willing to show some skin, I expect we’ll be seeing many more films pushing against our conservative threshold, and until such movies really do cross the line, I think we should all just calm down and stop pretending to be such innocent, morally upright pillars.