By Chris Anyokwu
Recently sex has been in the news, particularly what in polite circles and conservative cultures may be regarded as forbidden or illicit sex. Cutting to the chase, this has to do with alleged sexual coitus between a girl and a dog. Amid the din and distraction of Destination 2023 and its abhorrent spin-offs, the internet literally broke with the lurid and salacious story. The event was said to have taken place on Victoria Island, Lagos. According to social media reports, the lady in question decided to sleep with the dog because of the prize-money on offer, namely ₦1.5 million. Expectedly, like wildfire, the extremely disturbing news has spread on social media with nearly every Nigerian, both old and young, vouchsafing an opinion on the sad occurrence. Given the immoral nature of the act, most, understandably, gave the lady in question short shrift and also consigned her in the process to the camp of the condemned.
The Cross and the Crescent denounced her and her evil deed; parents (those pious and pietistic pretenders!) have been most vociferous in condemning her as well; even our morally-deregulated, sybaritic youth (netizens, as they’re called these days) have guillotined her at the stakes; and the street where she belongs has gone atypically silent, stonily tight-lipped in an effort to put daylight between itself and its poster-girl. The radio silence of the street may be reasonably understood and interpreted in the context of its own patently immoral constitution, a perennial site of social deviance, of psycho-social dysfunction and ethical rudderlessness. Perhaps what could further be decoded and deciphered from the silence of the street can be reformulated in proverbial terms, to wit: all dogs eat excreta; it is the one caught in the act that is singled out for vilification. Somewhat disambiguated, street lore has it that the girl in question was not alone; she was not the first person to indulge in such abominable act of bestiality.
It is fairly prevalent and pervasive in contemporary society, especially among the well-to-do and the well-heeled, those who love to fancy themselves as being entitled to life’s little extras, to the unprintable and the unspeakable on account of their stupendous wealth, power and privilege. Contrariwise, poverty and privation tends to hamstring the poor from giving free rein to their prurient phantasmagoria. They only entertain such taboo fantasies in the castle of their mind. Sadly, reports also have it that the practice of human – animal sexual liaisons are rife and widespread both here in Nigeria and abroad, notably Dubai and other parts of the Middle East. Before now, we were aware of the so-called “Italian Connection”, a catch-phrase denoting the booming sex trade or international prostitution rings spread and scattered all across Europe with Italy as the epicentre. Time was when single girls and even married women from a particular state in Nigeria were pioneering international prostitution. It was alleged at the time that some husbands even encouraged their wives to get on the bandwagon in order to contribute to the family economy (see Akachi Ezeigbo’s novel Trafficked and Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street).
If we can overcome our righteous rage for a moment, it should be clear to us that bestiality is nearly as old as creation itself. Evidence of this abounds in Greco-Roman lore as it does the Bible. Recall the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra. All of this underscores the fact that human beings are by nature evil-prone; immoral. We were shapen in iniquity and in sin did our mothers conceive us, to paraphrase Scripture. Moral philosophers have been at it through the years, trying to make sense of the nature of man vis-à-vis Evil. David Hume and Thomas Hobbes can’t seem to decide whether man is a fallen angel or a rising imp. However, there is an ontologico-epistemic consensus on human penchant for lawlessness and evil. Small wonder, therefore, the necessity of law and the law in traditional cultures and societies made sex outside marriage an offense, a taboo, in some cases attracting severe punishment. Accordingly, brides were expected to go to their husbands’ homes as virgins as we see in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God in which Ezeulu’s daughter, Akụ1ata, was said to have been “found at home” (i.e., a virgin). It is the same thing we see in the Bride in Wole Soyinka’s play Death and the King’s Horsemen. The Bride’s virgin stains are testament to the union of the Dead and the Living and the Unborn. Thus, the rupturing of the hymeneal membrane by John Thomas is a sacred rite of the first night, hence powerful men of yore tried to deny plebeians their nuptial rights. Given, thus, that traditional society was wrapped up in some kind of ritualism, girls of surpassing beauty could afford to strut their stuff in broad daylight without fear of molestation. Sex was especially conceived of as a quasi-spiritual act. The Genesis portrait of sex or marriage makes us believe that it is designed to be for protection, partnership, procreation and pleasure. Among the ancient Indians, for instance, sex was pure ritual. The Kama Sutra, a sutra-genre text, furnishes episodes and scenarios pertaining to the pleasure-oriented faculties of human life. It is a theory and philosophy of love.
It is fairly prevalent and pervasive in contemporary society, especially among the well-to-do and the well-heeled, those who love to fancy themselves as being entitled to life’s little extras, to the unprintable and the unspeakable on account of their stupendous wealth, power and privilege. Contrariwise, poverty and privation tends to hamstring the poor from giving free rein to their prurient phantasmagoria.
Returning to our immediate environment, forbidden love, notably fornication and adultery, attracted severe sanctions in pre-modern cultures. Among the penalties for violating this taboo included public denunciation and ridicule of culprits or offenders (i.e., scapegoatism), ritual cleansing of offenders by priests or priestesses, ostracism, or isolation for a stipulated period of time, divorce or exile. However, given man’s subversive nature, he has devised many ingenious ways of having sex by other means. Firstly, sublimation of sexual drive through workaholism, religiosity, social activism, musicianship (singing and dancing), sports, and other forms of physical and mental activity. Secondly, sex as muse: society or social development is testimony to the creative and salvific potentialities of Eros (Freudian theory of Sex). Thus, farmers, doctors, architects, engineers, singers, athletes, and writers and scholars achieve excellence in their various fields of endeavour thanks largely to sublimated sex. In trying to impress one’s object/subject of tender love and care, be it one’s mother, aunt, sister, cousin, mistress, wife or even daughter, one fulfils oneself in daring feats and staggering achievements. In this regard, sex becomes the engine of growth and development.
In written literature, for instance, literary history reveals the fact that most great writers have women in their lives to thank as muse for their creativity. James Joyce was said to have been inspired by his girlfriend, Nora Barnacle, W.B. Yeats by Maud Gonne, William Wordsworth by his sister, Dorothy and Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Sara Hutchinson. Perhaps it might be interesting to try to find out who inspired our own Wole Soyinka, Niyi Osundare, Femi Osofisan and others. Curiously, though, Soyinka is careful enough in his Dedication page of his memoir Ibadan: the Penkelemens Years to remember “[…] other unsung volunteers who gave silently, spontaneously and with unflagging commitment”!
At this juncture, we are forced to ask: What is it about sex? Are humans fundamentally different from animals in this regard? We know for a fact that animals mate, but humans make love or have sex or copulate (i.e., fornicate or commit adultery), or sleep with each other as married couples. Animals mostly mate to procreate and this during rites of spring or summer when they are on heat. We understand that the stimulus to mate is the result of a photoperiodic response. Even so, some animals, like octopuses and preying mantises, kill their dates for food usually after mating (a case of post-coital disgust?). The physical or physiological make-up of humans is equally vital here. Biology teaches us about the erogenous regions of the body such as the lips, the breasts, and genitalia. But in reality, in the heat of passion, the entire body is erogenous, in varying degrees. Such is the pleasurable nature of the titillation of the body that people are willing to risk life and limb to satisfy their sexual fantasies. This is why the jury is still out (and may remain out for all time) on the question of whether or not love truly exist. (We may distinguish amatory or romantic love from Agape, filial, Platonic or patriotic types). Is love lust refined? Is it transactional; a cash-‘n’-carry affair such as our originating variety? Sleep with me or with my dog and pick up ₦1.5 million, pronto? Or can a man really and truly love a girl/woman “with no strings attached”? With the growing instrumentalisation, the exchange-value and use-value of everything in today’s world, can we in all good conscience speak of altruistic, genuine love qua love?
We are reminded of a lust-turned-love situation with Mr B and Pamela in the novel Pamela by Samuel Richardson. We also reminded of love finding erotic fulfilment in ageing bodies in Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera. How about Miss Havisham who waits in vain for love in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations? If anything, one of the discontents of the postmodern condition is sex/love. Ethical deregulation, social permissiveness and Epicureanism of the present age are all by-products of the postmodern culture of decentred consciousness, lack of moral certitudes, indeterminacy and flux. Friedrich Nietzsche speaks of “God is dead”, thereby highlighting the Enlightenment elimination of the possibility of the existence of God. Unsurprisingly, a Godless universe breeds impunity, licence, excess, bestiality. The Beast, rather than the Beauty in man is unleashed without the restraining leash of a moral compass encoded and enshrined in a body of laws (i.e., constitutionalism), a Moral Code (i.e., The Bible or the Quran, etc.), social conventions, rules and regulations, among others. Furthermore, the rise of so-called rights movements such as the LGBTQ+ Movement spells doom for a morally-sanitised world. Unregulated freedom is inverted bondage.
The total collapse of humanity, or, what Achebe in Arrow of God describes as “the collapse and ruin of all things” (p. 229) exemplified itself in parental irresponsibility, school systems in disarray, compromised religious authorities and temporal authorities delegitimised by trust deficit through misrule. Has bestiality always been with us or/and are we witnessing a resurgence? Can we put the blame on social media alone? Not at all. The get-rich-quick syndrome, the glamorisation and glorification of crass materialism; the My-Mercedes-is-bigger-than-yours mentality typify the present culture of shallow showiness, which in turn is our comeuppance for cutting ourselves loose from our spiritual moorings and moral anchor represented either by Ifa or the Christian God or the Muslim Allah or any Higher Authority, including nature itself. He who breaks the hedge, the serpent will strike. Today, the digital superhighway, the internet is awash with myriad forms of bestiality – so-called sex farms where humans have sex with horses, dogs, goats, sheep, cows, dolphins and even snakes! A few years ago, a German lady gave birth to some puppies in South Africa. She had started sleeping with her pet dog because her boyfriend had reportedly jilted her. We have seen pigs giving birth to half-pig-half-human creatures on social media. A British lady recently got married to her dog with clergy joining them before an ecstatic audience. The dog was suitably attired in tie and suit complete with a bowler hat! Someone also wedded a dolphin in Israel many years ago. With the sexualisation and eroticisation of everything from furniture and automobiles, footwear and fashion, food and drink to perfumery, music, speech, and gait, bestiality – humans and animals copulating – is a logical consequence. The globalisation of debauchery, immoralities, of evil only fuels the local objectification and commodification of the female sex. We hear our laws criminalise bestiality. That’s fine. But the greater, more urgent question is: How do you rein in, control and silence the BEAST in humans which manifests in antisocial behaviour?
Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos.