These thoughts were first presented at “Deputy Boyfriends & The Sex Revolution: A Debate” hosted by the CUT Debate Society on the 10th of May 2017 at the Central University of Technology (Bloemfontein). They were later refined for presentation at TEDxYouth@Kingsway on the 20th of December 2017 in Maseru. Herein is that latter presentation in it’s entirety.
First of all, it goes without saying, thanks to all of those who made today possible.
I want to use the opportunity we have been granted to speak here today to reflect on the state of our sexual relations as – to quote the sagacious words of one Snoop Dogg – the young, wild and free.
I will be guided in this reflection by the memoire – “Pope Chronicles: The Ministry of Deputy Boyfriends” – of the former pontiff of the Holy Alliance of Deputy Boyfriends, His Hornyness Yosef abuYeshua, Second of his name, honorary member of the National Association of Husbands and Boyfriends (NAHAB), patron saint of the National Union of Ben10s in Southern Africa (NUBSA), co-founder of the Emancipatory Friendzone Federation (EFF) and candidate for the Blessers Leadership Forum (BLF).
In chapter 10 of these memoires, the Pope Emeritus writes:
“The walls of patriarchy are slowly crumbling down. The cultural pillars of it are being chopped down by the decolonisation wave that has put paid to Victorian ‘Africanity’. Its economic pillars are rattled by the rise of slayers. Its social pillars cannot whither the ratchet storm. Politically it is formally dead, ethically it never had a leg to stand on, morally it is utterly bankrupt. We impatiently await, and tirelessly work towards, patriarchy’s last breath. As that fateful day dawns, new ways of relating must be imagined. The old ways, most if not all girded by patriarchy, must fall.”
No truer words have been spoken. All people of healthy mental disposition know that patriarchy must fall. It is happening in all spheres of life; in business, politics and sports we have #BlackGirlMagic. Socially many women have and are getting rid of restrictive and oppressive cultural norms. Men too. There’s also a growing consciousness of the fluidity of gender – that it is not just binary. Phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” are losing relevance in our epoch.
Today here we reflect on what this fall of patriarchy mean to the sexual and romantic relations between heterosexual women and men.
How does patriarchy affect our sexual relations?
Patriarchy is so pervasive that it affects each and every interaction, however miniscule, between people. None more so than sex. Ridding ourselves of patriarchy also means building new relationships based on a new logic – based on love, respect and most importantly, equality.
The greatest crime patriarchy has committed against sex is turning it – a beautiful thing it is – into a war. Wherein sex is viewed as either conquest or prize. It has rendered sex a fetish, a means to an end, and as a result our romantic relations with each other have taken on a similar cynical disposition.
There’s an element of cynicism among our generation when it comes to love, more often than not disguised as a celebration of sexual freedom (aka “hoeism”). But this cynicism is not even an authentic one, neither is the hoeism a real libertine expression of sexuality (in fact one finds that most of us are very much sexually conservative) – it is a mere fetish to hide the fear of being hurt in love or, worse still, not finding love at all.
The latter being the result of having extremely low levels of self-assurance. Hence we always have to claim how self-assured we are – as the adage goes: “Any man who must say I am the king is no true king.” We deem ourselves unworthy of being loved, notwithstanding the fact that no one is worthy of being loved (Jesus) or that love is always unmerited (Kundera).
So to escape the existential quagmire we develop shortcuts like “to hell with relationships” and “#HoeIsLife” (btw hoe cannot be life if you’ve never had any other option); which though they may be phrased as an ever forward march, are nothing but a capitulation to our fears and inadequacy.
Hoeism is cool and all; but no amount of intellectual acrobats can fool anyone into believing that it can replace nor sate the desire to love and be loved.
And it is not as if libertine sexuality and love are mutually exclusive, which renders the whole ‘fuck love, hoe is life’ injunction pitifully juvenile. One example of this is Simone & JP and the fictional characters Frank & Claire Underwood. What I mean is monogamy does not equal love, or vice versa. So to say you’re not for that relationship steez coz it’s restrictive is pure lies. In fact it has been proven time and time again that love – on top of the confidence, peace and tranquillity it grants one – is the most liberating thing anyone can experience. Hence people in happy stable relationships can out-hoe any woeful ilolo singleton searching for their name (that is; sanctuary, belonging, acceptance, meaning) between varied thighs; this is so because for the former hoeing is a choice not a need, it is not sutured by hope that this one might be the one.
This pseudo romantic cynicism is part of a much larger problem, or rather is at the root of another problem, a socio-political one. Sloveian rockstar philosopher Slavoj Zizek speaks of this too that people believe in all manner of crazy advancements in technology and biology, where nothing is deemed impossible, but soon as one tries out other possibilities, much needed advancements in the social, economic and political terrain – all of a sudden there is impossibility. We hear them say we can’t all be rich, we can’t all be happy, we can’t all be equal – that “the poor will always be amongst us”.
So we believe we can make a full human being from one cell, settle on mars, but somehow can’t end world hunger coz “you must understand how the economy works”?
This madness is only understandable when you look into a person’s heart – if a person fears to love and be loved, and capitulates to the defeat of hoeism, you really can’t expect much from them. Cuban revolutionary Che Guevera was on the money; there is a direct correlation between loving and being a revolutionary.
One must understand that science and technology are deities of the new world, no one knows how they work but we all depend on them and place our full trust in them. So our belief in advancements in these fields is not a belief in ourselves; hence we can cheer them on so loudly without doubt.
But advancements in socio-economics have to come from us; and in as much as in love we capitulate to the defeat of hoeism, in socio-politics too we capitulate to market-fundamentalism. Which much like hoeism we understand very little of – but it’s the lowest hanging fruit so we hang on to it for dear life.
Hence I hold steadfastly to my aphorism “no romance without Fanon”. Because anyone who can’t fathom a world that is just, beautiful and black and the need to fight for the end of this world to build that one is absolutely incapable of love. They’re low hanging fruit pickers; they settle for convenience, they reach for nothing grander than what they can imagine. And love by definition is a reach for greatness, for the divine, for beauty – anything else is just semantics really.
The most painful thing of this pseudo-cynicism is that people are not even doing this hoeing thing right. What is happening now is what I term cynical hoeism – which I contrast with ethical hoeism. The ethical hoe has a great deal many sexual partners simply because they enjoy it – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whereas the cynical hoe does so because of some emotional/psychological baggage, or worse still; because that’s “how things are done.”
Also out of patriarchy flow two other problems: transactional sex and possessive sex.
The problem of transactional sex I want to highlight today is not the one of Blessers that is at the root of high HIV infection rates, but one much more perverse. We have reduced sex to a currency for other desires, be they economic, social or emotional. Meaning sex no longer becomes an end itself as it should, but a means to other ends. We expect to get something out of it – a favour, social mobility, or love.
Equally – on the question of possessive sex – we have turned sex into a tool or measure of control and ownership. The great patriarch is the one that can control the sexual life of all women in their lives – from their daughters all the way up to their mothers. I have argued elsewhere that the reason insults concerning our mother’s sexuality have the most sting has got nothing to do with the love we have for them but our patriarchal need to control them. Everyday too in relationships sex is used as a tool of manipulation. Used as punishment and reward.
It is no longer about the sheer beauty of it.
And all of this; transactional sex, possessive sex, and cynical philandering is how patriarchy has ruined sex for all of us.
There is a sexual revolution looming
I am confident that we here are all in agreement that sex is too beautiful – and important – to be reduced to a fetish for our emotional and ideological hang-ups.
Now the great question becomes, now that patriarchy is in its death throes, how do we imagine our sexual relations anew? What will this new paradigm look like?
Firstly, obviously, we get rid of all nonsensical heteronormative patriarchy restrictions imposed on our sexual relations. Even more importantly – all nonsensical and oppressive tenets must be dealt away with, for example:
- Man as the head of the household
- “It is the Alliance’s understanding that “patriarchy is abusive on some of us men who are not interested in leadership, as it forces us to be leaders in families. We want partners to co-govern with; not wives who will submit to us. We don’t want be heads of anything but our lives. If this fails then polyandry must be practiced, and we shall form Governments of National Unity. In the meanwhile, we remain Deputies; without any trace of bitterness.”” – Ch.10
- Man as the only being with sexual agency
At the core of the new sexual relations will be consent and honesty. Two (or more) people in the relationship should discuss and agree on the nature of and the covenants & treaties that govern their relationship (this must never be externally imposed by neither society, religion nor state).
Sexual relations will take many forms – and each will be legitimate (monogamy, bigamy, polygamy, polyandry, polyamory).
The role of Deputy Boyfriends in this coming revolution
A very important stakeholder in this revolution is men. Women – at least straight thinking ones – are convinced and have, consistently and generously, brought to the fore “the unethical foundations of our relations that even the most dunderhead of us cannot deny”. Elsewhere His Hornyness asserts:
“The unimaginative amongst us, the likes of AWB and PLOW, have sought to put brakes on this tide, they have clung to every imaginable straw from religion to biology in a bid to deny this naked truth”
Unlike the class or race struggle, the gender/sexuality struggle is not an antagonism but a contradiction. It is not a “one must die” situation. It thus becomes important to bring men into the fold – “to drag them into the 21st century.”
The above duty cannot fall on women. Hence His Hornyness says “It is thus incumbent upon us, the enlightened of our sex, to bring these poor wretched creatures to the light.”
It is this that places deputy boyfriends – as defined in the book – at the forefront of this struggle. “We have elected to work amongst our own, to prepare them for the new world that must come, to divorce them from the old world to which some cling so closely to.” ~ Ch.9
Deputy Boyfriends as defined undermine both transactional and possessive sexual relations, and also – to some extent – cynical philandering:
- Transactional sex
- Unlike other relationship modes – Ben10, Blesser, Friendzone – Deputy Boyfriends are in it with no ulterior motives, with no expectation of any compensation whatsoever, except for the happiness of the other party. It is a completely selfless exercise. It is a bit more like oral sex – completely altruistic.
- Possessive sex
- In tandem with Dr Chinweizu, a Deputy Boyfriend “does not believe in being owned by any woman; nor does he believe in owning any woman. He recognizes that the owning of a human being by another was abolished long ago, and quite rightly too, and he has no interest in having the practice revived in any form.”
- Cynical philandering
- Deputy Boyfriends say, instead of all the cheating and backstabbing, let’s put it all out in the open. Let us adopt Frank Underwood’s wisdom that “one person cannot give everything to another person.” And accept help where it is offered.
We Need New Ways To Love!
The way we relate here really needs a shakeup. We cannot continue like this – the trauma we cause each other is unprecedented. With every break-up, every act of infidelity, every unanswered and unreturned call, every blue tick; we create psychopaths. I read with pain on some thread when someone commented in all sincerity that, and I quote verbatim, “true love does not exist.” We need new ways of relating! We only offered the Ministry of Deputy Boyfriends here today as an example of how we can reimagine how we love anew.
It doesn’t end there, I am also somewhat on a righteous path of developing a theory of authentically cynical romanticism. One leg of it is the Fanonian belief in the possibility of love and therefore exposition its imperfections and perversions. Another is the belief that love is impossible, therefore one must relentlessly pursue it because human agency is after all a demand for the impossible. To this end a friend of mine accused me of always going balls deep into love just to prove that it doesn’t exist – I rebuke this. Even I am not that perverted. But undeveloped as this theory might be, it is authentically cynical. Not this thing on the streets now borne of fear of being hurt or being unloved. It’s not even cynicism it’s pure childish sulking.
However more often than not I am convinced in the possibility of love, especially when I see half-baked attempts at it crumble down like butter-deficient shortbread biscuits. I am however caught between applauding the victims of such a tragic failure for even attempting, or condemning them for not going the full Monty. I must though admit that my trepidation when it comes to taking a side on this matter is due to my non-relationship with the women who have made such asinine attempts at loving me. It is almost as if to take the congratulatory route would be a capitulation to the politics of “at least”, it would be a disavowal of my principle to always demand full accountability. However with the growing pseudo-cynicism when it comes to love, one feels compelled at all times to keep the #LoveLivesHere fire burning even though it might be steam sa paraffin. One must join hand with Gregory Porter and declare that “there will be no love dying here” by all means necessary – even if those means are “at least” politics.
To conclude, let me quote my intellectual leader Yeshua benYosef: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”