Today, we swim in a sexualized world that is saturated with the murky waters of celebrating the mundane. There is an increasing commodification and commercialization of sexuality. In the world of business, commerce and industry, capitalist moguls are employing sexualized ads (advertisement) to lure unsuspecting members of the public. Most adverts are now laced with a half-naked woman who is literally used to entice customers to buy these products. Even when the product that is advertised has no relationship with a nude Lady, advertisers conscript such alluring concepts to cajole customers to patronize their products.
Interestingly too, media outfits are no less guilty. There is an avalanche of attractive women in the news room today who have no business been there. They are not there because they are topnotch journalists. The reason they are there is because those behind the news are taking advantage of their pretty faces to attract viewers to their medium in what is described in media studies as media fandom or para-social relations. Operators of these media firms ensure that these beautiful ladies are packaged or “costumed,” if you like, in such a manner that their make-up and cleavages attract people to be glued to their channels. The idea behind media fandom or para-social theories is that viewers would fall in love with these TV personalities in such a way that they replace them with their (viewers) actual relationships. That way, the channel gets more viewership.
In like manner, there is this sad reality that has eaten deep into the entertainment industry. It is a scenario that is hatched out of a sexualized environment in which roles are either exchanged for sex or female actors are made to play a role which exposes their vital parts; in the end, this sexualizes them as mere objects and not “subjects” or human. This is tempting for upcoming actors who have no sound moral background. What is more, musicians who make more money today are those who produce full-blown or semi-nude videos. These videos that are packed with sex and violence are the most downloaded online. While these artistes are smiling to the bank, the youths suffer the brunt. Perhaps this explains the high rate of rape in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho. It is estimated that about 30% of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual violence or the other in their lifetime.
It is crucial to note that one of the effects of globalization is what Pope Francis calls “ideological Colonialism” or simply cultural imperialism. Many youths in Africa are increasingly falling cheap to anything Western. The number of American and European movies shown on foreign channels is not helping matters. The advent of the internet which is the largest and cheapest market for pornography and nudity has worsened the situation. It is likely to find young people with more pornographic materials on their Smartphones than photos of family and friends. No thanks to cultural imperialism occasioned by access to internet service and Smartphone technology, there is overreliance on foreign entertainment, education and values. To opine that this is detrimental to the moral and spiritual upcoming of the young in Africa is to say the least.
Another monster which is foreign to African culture is same-sex relationships otherwise known as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ). By proscribing same-sex union, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni and Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s former President seemed to support the view that homosexuality is alien to African culture. The Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta supported this view during an interview with CNN in April 2018 when he maintained that LGBTQ rights are not an urgent issue for Kenya but reiterated that homosexuality is opposed to the cultural beliefs of majority of Kenyans and invariably Africans. Perhaps this explains why with the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde Islands, LGBTQ rights in Africa are limited compared to Western Europe and North America. What is worrisome is their desire to adopt children. Who would give birth to such children and what would they (LGBTQ) teach them?
Again, various cases of premarital sexual promiscuity, divorce and extramarital sex revolution partly points to Western influence. In a society where acts like these were associated with guilt, naming, shaming and punishment, the current sexualization of values has made Africa a centre for sex revolution. For instance, the current problem (except for COVID-19) of child prostitution going on in Madagascar by expatriates is a humanitarian crisis. A survey conducted in 2018 found that in the 21st century, more than two thirds of young people in developed countries like Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, UK and US had premarital sex while in their teens. In developing climes across Africa, Asia and Latin America, the same report noted that there is increased prevalence in premarital sex (Chamie, 2018). The most recent stats from South Africa published in May 2018 for example disclosed that “there was a 0.3% increase in divorces to 25,260 divorces granted from 25,326 before.” These staggering figures are scary!
The truth is, moralists, Christians and people of goodwill are daily scandalized because society has been sexualized. As a result, the missionary enterprise has become an uphill task. Being descent and holy is almost a crime today. It is even seemingly becoming a crime to teach or preach same. Secular humanists and atheists see organised religion as either a waste of time or a major obstacle in furthering their agenda. The Church has often come under heavy criticism because some people see it as “the strongest moral voice or conscience of society” that is still standing. Surprisingly, the sight of a priest in cassock and a nun in veil annoys some people. The question that readily comes to mind is: How does the missionary hold his or her head high in matters of faith and morals in a sexualized society like ours?
Well, more than ever, we need to imbibe the true African spirit. We must return to the traditional values of virginity, chastity and modesty in speech, dress and mannerism. On top of that, advertisers ought to shun commodification of sex even as media corporations desist from celebrating nudity. Experts in the movie and music industries ought to equally expunge pornographic contents from what they sell to the public. By the same token, it behooves on political leaders on the African Continent to checkmate the effects of globalization and ideological colonization through prompt legislation.
Also, in a world of sexual revolution, the onus lies on parents, traditional and religious leaders as well as educationists to teach the young and young-adults on the dangers of premarital sexual promiscuity, divorce and extramarital affairs.This can only come about if the family is stable. It is the desire of this author that moralists, Christians and people of goodwill should act fast to protect the African society from total collapse. To this end, it is safe to conclude that the modern missionary who is not in touch with his or her Master Jesus and the dictates of the Church, risks losing the faith in a sexualized world where both premarital and extramarital promiscuity have combined with same-sex unions to dwarf us. Indeed, with the Master in the boat, nothing would deter the Church from this onerous yet exciting task of casting the Net in polluted waters.
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.