Trending news

PreviousNext
Home | News | South Africa: The Sex Regulators

South Africa: The Sex Regulators

By // News

Any sensible person who has seen the film 'Of Good Report' will be scoffing at the Film and Publications Board's effective banning of the film on the grounds of child pornography. The film narrates the descent of its main protagonist, a school teacher, into madness, leading to his murdering three of the four main female characters. The scenes depicting the teacher having sex with one of his pupils is descriptive, but by no means explicit, which makes the accusation of child porn even more ludicrous.

This is the third time recently that the Board has lost its head on matters sexual. The first time was when it banned a film called 'XXY', which explored the sexual awakening of an intersexed youth. Then they banned all reproductions of 'The Spear'. Yet on all three occasions these rulings have been overturned on appeal. Clearly there is something seriously wrong with the Board. But what exactly ails them?

The Board seems intent on ignoring the fact that the Constitutional Court has placed artistic expression beyond their censoring reach. Free speech advocates were unable to win a blanket exemption for art in relation to child pornography; so the compromise that was arrived at was that journalists and documentary film makers who needed to possess child porn on public interest grounds, would have to apply to the Board for an exemption to do so: a difficult compromise as it amounts to a form of prior restraint.

But in spite of this difficulty, the Court actually dealt with the collision between artistic freedom on the one hand and the need to prevent child abuse on the other, quite brilliantly. In considering whether a particular form of expression was child porn, it first considered whether it was porn at all.

In this regard, it introduced a distinction between forms of expression that arouses aesthetic feelings and those that arouse erotic feelings: while it acknowledged that the line between the two was often grey, if the expression veered towards the former, it was not even considered to be porn at all. This distinction meant that the Court introduced an artistic exemption from child porn by sleight of hand.

Yet the Board has consistently chosen to ignore this distinction, failing to realise that artistic expression is, to all intents and purposes, a no-go zone. The only thing that saves the Board's credentials is an excellent Appeals Tribunal.

It can be inferred that the Board's focus is not only on classification of films and publications. Rather it has taken on itself the larger role of a moral regulator, whose task it is to uplift society. If this is their own understanding of their mandate, then it stands to reason that it would keep art in its crosshairs.

This is because art has the potential of being inherently transgressive. Although it has also become highly institutionalised in capitalist society, and can often be profoundly system maintaining, art still offers free spaces for imagining human relations, and even society itself, afresh. In fact, really good art never ceases to question the society in which it finds itself.

As a result, social conservatives often have huge problems with artists, as they are seen as moral degenerates, corrupting others in much the same way that they themselves have been corrupted by too much freedom. This is why authoritarian nationalist governments down the ages, including fascist ones, have controlled the activities of their artists, writers and other creative people. Intent on engineering society from the top, these governments cannot allow society to be imagined differently from the dictates that they themselves impose.

This control agenda applies to sex too. Sex is an exceptionally powerful emotion, and also ensures the continued reproduction of society; so in the same way that political classes have sought to control the means of production to their benefit, they have also sought to control the means of reproduction.

This means ensuring that defining the terms and conditions on which sex takes place remains a male prerogative, while actively discouraging sexual practices that interfere with this control. As a result, lesbians, gay people, transgender and intersexed people are stigmatised as unnatural. Rape, too, plays a regulatory role, in that it disciplines women especially, ensuring that they live in perpetual fear and reducing their autonomy.

Authoritarian nationalists, including many social conservatives, believe that the state has a moral purpose, which is to enforce a moral code to ensure a virtuous citizenry. Ironically, Christian Nationalist ideologues under apartheid also believed that the state had a moral purpose, namely to secure white peoples' status as the superior 'race'.

This ideology promoted hidebound gender relations, allowed white men to control the terms and conditions of sex. It also informed the work of the Board's predecessor, the Publications Control Board, for many years. As a result, the Board fetishised sex by banning public displays of sexuality and preventing proper public debates about sexuality, especially sexual practices that clashed with what they interpreted as Christian teaching.

The democracy-era Board started on a good footing, but since 1999, the role of the Board appears to have reverted back again to that of a moral guardian. Around that time, it fell under the sway of social conservatives, using violence against women and children as the excuse to begin reinstating morality as a basis for publications control. The Board also attempted to extend its jurisdiction to the press, seeking the status of 'super-regulator', suggesting that it had arrogated to itself a broader social mission. Thankfully, it failed with respect to the media.

The Board appears to believe, as their apartheid predecessors did, that their role is to police the sexual practices of society, by controlling what they consider to be deviant sex and deviant art. Clearly they fear not just the power of sex, but the power of art. In fact, the judgement on 'The Spear' strongly suggested that art must be made according to their prescripts. Needless to say, their conservatism has found particularly fertile ground under Jacob Zuma's administration.

The Board is on an extremely dangerous slippery slope. The recent controversies have been about sexual expression, but it is only a matter of time before political expression falls foul of the censors. Social conflict is increasing, and so too are the state's mechanisms of social control.

It has become apparent that the ANC government can no longer count on the support of miners and other key sections of an increasingly restive working class. Neither can they count on the support of an increasing number of film makers, artists and writers. In time, this growing crisis of legitimacy could well threaten the political authority of the state. As the state increases its mechanisms of social control, it could be anticipated that new forms of cultural control will follow. And, undoubtedly, the Film and Publications Board will be there at the ready.

Professor Duncan is Highway Africa Chair of Media and Information Society, School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

Do you have a story that you would like us to publish? Send it to story@africanseer.com

Tagged as:

No tags for this article

AfricanSeer Articles

Write Your Comment

Nigerian Movies

TOP STORIES EXTRA

Whose Fault 2

Features: Emelia Brobbey, Nana Ama Mac Brown,Nana Hayford
Whose Fault 2

Dansinkran 2

Features: Kwadwo Nkansah, Apostle John Prah, Davis Asuman, Adjoa Konadu, Bernard Adusei Poku, Sabby Debra
Dansinkran 2

Native Fowl 2

An Igbo man faces resistance from his meddling family over his choice of a cantankerous Yoruba girlfriend. A trip to the village to officially introduce
Native Fowl 2

Girls Of Destiny - Part 2

Sequel To Native Fowl An Igbo man faces resistance from his meddling family over his choice of a cantankerous Yoruba girlfriend. A trip to the village to
Girls Of Destiny - Part 2

Pictures of Uche Jumbo Finally Shows Off Baby Bump

Nice | 10/27/2014 10:08:42 PM Nice my role model,can't wait to see ur baby.i love u and may d good Lord grant u safe delivery.amen
Pictures of Uche Jumbo Finally Shows Off Baby Bump

Former Mr Nigeria, Kenneth Okolie Eyes Politics

Nollywood actor and model, Kenneth Okolie, has disclosed that dating an actress is the worst mistake an actor can make. The former Mr. Nigeria, who is
Former Mr Nigeria, Kenneth Okolie Eyes Politics

Up Close and Personal With Genevieve Nnaji In Pictures

As a photo journalist, it was fun displaying my camera stunts on superstar actress, Genevieve Nnaji. Her presence on the red carpet turned on my
Up Close and Personal With Genevieve Nnaji In Pictures

Cool FM’s Freeze Abandons Wife, Runs To Mother-Of-Four Lover

If news making the rounds about outspoken presenter with Lagos-based Cool FM station, Ifedayo Olarinde, better known as Freeze, is anything to go by, it
Cool FM’s Freeze Abandons Wife, Runs To Mother-Of-Four Lover

Mum, I Told You Things Would Be Alright - Phyno

  During the formative years of a child, Nigerian parents try to model their wards towards a career. At most times, they want their children to
Mum, I Told You Things Would Be Alright - Phyno

Nobody Can Touch My African Queen………..2Baba Reveals

Tuface Idibia has disclosed in an interview that getting married to Annie Macaulay was not easy and indescribable as he would have gotten injured if
Nobody Can Touch My African Queen………..2Baba Reveals

I am Lacking Behind in Nollywood Because of My Poor English……….Madam Saje

Nollywood actress, Fausat Balogun popularly known as Madam Saje, may have done well for herself in the Nigerian Yoruba movie industry, but she is still
I am Lacking Behind in Nollywood Because of My Poor English……….Madam Saje

PHOTOs!! Why do Kenyan LADIES love taking such photos nowadays?

Just out of curiosity why do nairobi women are so into nude pictures n posting them on social media how millions do they get from
PHOTOs!! Why do Kenyan LADIES love taking such photos nowadays?

PHOTO!! Introducing VERA SIDIKA’s husband and son, Aaaawww! Eh Eh Eh

DAILY POST: PHOTO!! Introducing VERA SIDIKA’s husband and son, Aaaawww! Eh Eh Eh loading..  
PHOTO!! Introducing VERA SIDIKA’s husband and son, Aaaawww! Eh Eh Eh

Watch Saudi Billionaire King - "GIVES DAUGHTER PURE GOLD TOILETS AS WEDDING GIFT."

Wealthy King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, has presented his daughter with a golden toilet as a wedding gift. According to reports, the toilet
Watch Saudi Billionaire King - "GIVES DAUGHTER PURE GOLD TOILETS AS WEDDING GIFT."

Zimbabwe University of Zimbabwe Bans Kissing and S3x

The Zimbabwe students’ union on Thursday made war not love over a new code of conduct banning students from kissing on campus at the country’s
Zimbabwe University of Zimbabwe Bans Kissing and S3x

Tonto Dikeh Remembers Late Mum In A Special Way

Nollywood actress turned singer, Tonto Dikeh, keeps making the news either for good or bad reasons. She is not new to controversies and she has
Tonto Dikeh Remembers Late Mum In A Special Way

Osaremen Ehi James is encouraging "9ice" to Forget Politics Now, Improve Your Spoken English First,

Each time I listen to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, I tell myself this is the kind of leader we need in Nigeria, not
Osaremen Ehi James is encouraging "9ice"  to Forget Politics Now, Improve Your Spoken English First,

2Face Idibia Releases New Video To Diaspora Woman Featuring Fally Ipupa

2Face Idibia’s Diaspora Woman, off “The Ascension” album, featuring Congolese internationally acclaimed artiste, Fally Ipupa. The video directed by multi-award winning music video director, Moe Musa, was
2Face Idibia Releases New Video To Diaspora Woman Featuring Fally Ipupa

Watch Pictures Chika Ike Goes Unclad with Manager in Dubai, Rents Yacht for $24,000

These days, we see various Nigerian celebrities getting married and having successful union. While some crash due to lack of understanding, some marriages still last
Watch Pictures Chika Ike Goes Unclad with Manager in Dubai, Rents Yacht for $24,000
Go Up!