By Bisi Lawrence
A lot of excitement was recently aroused in Nigeria with the law which allows men to marry men, and women to marry women in the United States of America. So what?
The U.S. of A has every right to establish any marital order that suits it. It really is none of our business, except we have a way of thinking that Americans should be right in everything in order that we may copy them. They are an integral unit of what mentally constitutes our “role model”. We had the European countries for that part, stemming from our colonial upbringing. America later joined in when she became our source of inspiration in the desire to attain political freedom as our right. And that has happened officially, though the “pupil mentality” is still extant.
But an irony is snagged in that psychological process. If we would wish Americans to behave properly, that is according to our light, it might make sense if it were because we wished them to imitate us. We have our sense of propriety and can discern what we believe is right from what is unacceptable. However, it appears we would have them to be clean so that we could retain them as our role model… so that we might still preface our justification for some of our actions with “that’s what happens in America”. As it happens, that now would be for the so-called “gays” to fling at those who used to be considered “straight”. So, no one is any longer to be considered “queer”, or “bent”, or anything out of the ordinary. In any case, a country like Canada had legalized same-sex marriage some ten years ago, and several other countries have followed.
The rejection of homosexuality is based mostly on religious grounds, at least, for healthy Christians. But even among the Jews from whom Christianity came, it was regarded as an abomination purely on moral grounds. No mention of it was made, for instance, in the Ten Commandments, although the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the indulgence of the citizens in the abominable act. But it surfaced again. It seemed to have outlasted even The Flood. Perhaps that is why the Church of England has found it so easy to accommodate several aspects of the “gay” life. When it started the ordination of “gay” priests, it found a stiff opposition from the Anglican Communion of Nigeria which led to an eventual break. However, we now hear that a Nigerian priest is appointed to be secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the Head of the Anglican Church of Britain. It seems we are yet to make a clean break.
It would appear that the practice might have been with us in this country for quite a while. I never believed it until a co-worker recounted, years ago, how he was intimately embraced by an expatriate “gay” gentleman who was our boss. According to him, he ran out of the office in utter confusion. But the man never repeated it, as far as we know. However, there were many stories of such encounters which even involved some highly-placed Nigerians as far back as half-a-century ago, and it has almost become commonplace these days.
One cannot imagine Nigerians accommodating the practice as a way of life, all the same, because of the moral depth of the rejection with which it is viewed in all parts of the country. The idea that America is trying to put pressure on our high officials to declare a legal acceptance of the “gay” life may be just another manifestation of what has been described as a “global arrogance” foisted on the rest of the world by the USA. We do not have to do what anyone else does if we do not believe it agrees with our way of life. But then, the issue is such a personal one since it involves sex. It used to be treated as a private matter, but since it was largely induced to “come out of the closet”, and sex has itself taken a new dimension in common interaction, the power of desire in its naked intensity has overwhelmed an alarming proportion of universal interests.
View it from the ordinary meaning of love—which is accepted as what is being perpetrated in the normal act of sex. That is what copulation equates in normal conversation, isn’t it? And in no way is it truer that “love makes the world go round”. Nature has endowed the act with such an overpowering sensation of mixed yearning for possession, and desire for conquest that, ultimate satisfaction leaves the performer totally drained of passion. But while the feeling lasts, nothing appears too far, or out of reach, to sacrifice in the quest to win.
It cannot indeed be rightly limited to the desire of a man for a woman for variations exist even outside the scope of homosexuality. There is the case of polyandry, for instance, in which more than one man marry a single woman. It sounds obscene, but it is a distinctly accepted tradition where it takes place. How would a man know which of the children from such a marriage is his? But that is a consideration that applies only to those who are involved.
But it is probably not more morally acceptable than polygamy in which a man marries more than one wife. This is more widely practised all over the world including, of course, Nigeria. Well known also is the situation among the Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints based in the United Saints. They flagrantly flaunt their polygamous way of life and have done so now for well over a century. When Brigham Young, their most famous leader died in 1877, he was survived by 17 wives, from 27 marriages, and he left 57 children behind. Does that ring a bell?
Well, there was our own Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He might not have compared favourably with Brigham Young in head count, but he put the Mormon leader in the shade when it comes to pace: Fela married all of Young’s marital aggregate in one day.
A variety of reasons is usually given for any kind of multiple marriages, but Fela was very honest about his own motivation. As he admitted, it was to gratify his urge to sleep with women. You see, he had no inhibitions about sex which is normally ingrained in our upbringing. We are made to shed the garish connotations of having sex, or of normalizing sexual relations, by wedding ceremonies. That is really no more than what all those rituals signify: the man is now free to take the woman to bed.
But Fela knew where it is all going to, and lifted himself above the pretences and inhibitions. He brought out the truth with half-dressed young women who flaunted their sexuality in the faces of the audience. Hubert Ogunde, as a matter of fact, did so earlier, but could not go so far. But Fela brought it all home, and two generations are still following in his footsteps. Now in America, when a “gay” marriage takes place, it only means the man or woman is free to have sexual relations with someone of the same sex. What may be off-tune is that society is being made to approve the deed as though it were normal. But it is not normal, and never will.
It could be worse—or better. Just think if the “gay” idea were to be extended to accommodate homosexuality in polygamy. What a real roundelay we shall be singing then. Let us face it: sex, not love, makes the world go round.