Something is wrong somewhere. Go among the youth. Listen to what they discuss about their diverse relationships. You will be shaken. Check the Aunty this Aunty that write help columns in the newspapers. Read the kind of romance and sexual dealings for which young people are seeking advice. The question that comes to mind is: why is AIDS not being factored into the sexual calculus?
Recently there was a debate about the high rate of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers and the need to ‘charitably’ adjust Nigerian abortion laws. The fact that there are unwanted pregnancies confirms that they are not using condoms. My finding was similar two years ago during a research project among medical, dental, nursing students and house officers in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). The research was about their contraceptive usage after sex, and abortion. The one-on-one interviews were dreadful. I began asking myself should these students and young professionals not more enlightened about HIV and more in touch with its realities? Have they not been involved in HIV/AIDS courses, enlightenment and counselling programmes and have they not even seen the grisly effects of the virus on its patients? Something is wrong somewhere. Is it that the enlightenment campaigns are not strong enough to help or is there really something in sexual urge that makes its people abandon the factor of unwanted consequences?
Ethically, to have sex with somebody is to permanently abstain from others. To be abstinent till marriage and to resist the sexual longings outside marriage, one needs discipline. To use condoms always to avoid HIV, one needs discipline. But there is a behavioural theory of consistency of discipline or indiscipline. Infidelity or promiscuity is the result of a breakdown of the sense of discipline a.k.a. self-control. Once indiscipline drives someone to despise the rules of chastity, it is difficult not to engage in premarital polygamy or promiscuous dalliances. It is also the same reason why you cannot get an armed robber that is chaste. The lack of self-restraint that drove somebody into armed robbery will always be there for him should his sexual passions be aroused.
Now, how can an AIDS prevention formula be ‘if you cannot control yourself then use condom?’ Where would somebody get the discipline to use condoms always when there is no discipline to control yourself? Even those who swear to the use condoms, none looked deeply into his life and could say he used them in all rounds of his five intercourses he last had. One excuse after the other: ‘it was heat of passion… we were carried away… I wanted one more round… how can you tell me that you are pregnant, a sugar daddy told his campus aristo, when you should have done what your mates do to unwanted pregnancies’? etc
The problem is not basically that the youth are ignorant of or are indifferent to the deadly virus neither is it the unavailability of condoms; it is because the condom with the obsessive faith in it, rewards indiscipline thereby it is shooting itself in the foot and planting the seeds of its own occasional un-use. It is the lapses that smoothen the progress of the virus.
What is more, our post-modern sex is a process with an elongated foreplay that requires upgradeable arts. Part of this is blowjob. How would condoms prevent HIV during blowjobs? After all the virus spreads through sero-serum fluid exchange. It is a wisdom of safety for health workers to treat each patient as if he/she is an HIV carrier in order to be supremely cautious.
When this wisdom is extended to sexual acts, that is treat your sexual partner as if he/she has HIV is quite revealing as I encountered in another field work. No one, male or female, is willing to transact sex even with condoms, with anyone if they know surely that that partner has the virus. What does this tell us? Beneath every sexual encounter there is this deep-seated notion that one’s partner does not have HIV. This is why the utmost precautions are not taken and why AIDS is winning.
Any positive HIV/AIDS control policy must confess that there is an intimate connection between pornography and the spread of the scourge else the policy becomes a mere paper tiger. Pornography blazes the human desire for sex in a fast-fast mode. Its prevalence makes people to have more and more sex any time and anywhere because it not only oversexualises the mind, it also makes the mind autosexual. This puts self-control in short supply. Pornography is the magnetic teacher from whom youth learn wacky sex styles that despise condom use. Porn is a chairman of our popular culture. Our fashion, our music, our videos, jokes, adverts from that nonsensical Delta soap billboard to Legend Extra stout Express Yourself adverts, our Nollywood, our preferences are all aspiring to become porn.
The society has become an obscene home video. Sex is being used to sell everything from GSM handsets to bank services to common paracetamol. This has ushered in an age of ‘nuclear sexing’ characterised by a decayed sense of sexualism; no respect for human dignity, and where women become mere things for sexual pleasure yet they themselves accepting this debasement as an illustration of being attractive, beautiful and being fashionable. The presence of obscenities subtly displaces the sense of discipline in the mind. Driven to conquer a partner, you begin to see conquest everywhere.
We need to desexualise the mind. And in our environment. Our popular culture works on, enriches itself with, and glory in lack of self-control and in excesses. AIDS is only a reply. AIDS is a boomerang. It is a problem from cause and effect. If we want to value self-discipline, we can equally raise a campaign and make the society conducive for its practice.
I feel the truth of Nadine Gordimer, the South African Nobel laureate: even if medical science lifts the dread on AIDS, she said, another monster will roar its ugly head because the psycho-social conditions that gave rise to the monstrous dimensions of the epidemic are still in place.