Kagure Mugo
Kagure Mugo

Why are public displays of sexual images so unacceptable?

This is a question I asked myself as my laptop froze while on a certain social media site and a particularly risqué photo filled my screen. As I fear judgment I must state that I had not purposefully clicked this link. The link title had been … misleading. I had been promised something far more thought-provoking and less sexual in the title.

Suddenly I was sure that everyone in the whole restaurant could see what I saw, namely the nether regions of a copulating couple.

I struggled through all the digital processes.

Clicking another tab.

Alt-Tab. Control-alt-delete.

All methods that would have worked had this been another website failed. Murphy’s Law applied in this case. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. A new tab opened with the exact same content and then jumped and proceeded to freeze on the first tab.

Google Chrome clearly hated me.

The waiters were now passing my table at a glacial pace and I cursed my laptop for shaming me. I vowed I would get Wi-Fi at home and never have to endure this public humiliation again.

But the question is why am I far more upset at my insidious machine freezing on this site rather than, say, a news site? Or online encyclopaedia? Why is it, as a society, we are so uncomfortable with sex? Something that comes so naturally?

I will not lie, the talk of sex sometimes upsets my “good-Christian-Kenyan-girl” sensitivities. As Oscar Wilde once said “I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they do not practice it in the streets and startle the horses”. Getting too deep into the subject matter sometimes has me screaming in my head “you know your mama did not raise you like that!”

But I remain conflicted.

My analysis leaves me with the conclusion that the reason why we are so uncomfortable with the idea is tied to notions based in religious, cultural and moral ideas of what is appropriate and what is not. Albeit the ideas are almost random in their nature yet they are deeply ingrained.

For example why is it acceptable to wear a bikini on the beach but it is not considered good form to wear underwear in a busy shopping centre? Why can we not shop for our veggies in boxers? A bra and underwear boast more fabric than a sexy two piece. Why is it appropriate to show a knee and not a nipple? And who made up these rules?

As a wise older entity in my life once said, “I am not mad at it” I just want to know.

Well, possibly I am a little mad because I want to know why and cannot merely accept the reasoning “because that is the way it is”. Why is it appropriate to have the kinkiest, freakiest, nastiest sex behind closed doors but use euphemisms to describe it in real life?

We are all doing it.

Well, most.

Probably a more pertinent question is why are words like “nasty” and “dirty” used within popular culture to describe sex? Why do we use the word “freaky” about sexual acts as if it falls outside of the realms of what is normal? This speaks volumes to how we see something that is completely natural and have made it seemingly, unnatural. Who’s to say who the “freaky ones” are? I dare anyone to claim that they have not had what society may term a “dark sexual thought or two”.

To make sex taboo seems ridiculous. Would we all one day suddenly stop talking about breathing? Or eating? Because those two things are as natural as sex. But sex has been confined to whispers and those who speak brazenly on it are often judged. Why not shooting someone? Parallel parking? All can be considered awful things that can dismantle the fabric of society yet they are far more accepted.

If someone was to decide tomorrow we must never speak of the colour green or that wooden tiles are “the worst” would it not be as arbitrary?

Being one of the masses who judge those who talk too openly about sex I can safely say that I can offer no answer other than, it is not right. But I can give no concrete answer for my argument. This answer will no longer suffice for me. Thus I am at an impasse. And shall fence sit.

And this is also not to argue that we should go and flash strangers or have “no pants Thursdays”. I am not trying to give the answers, I just need to ask the question. Why is sex so taboo when it is at the basis of human creation, cohesion and maintenance?

If it is not being harnessed for its monetary power it is being condemned, used by the powers that be to regulate marriage, gender relations and sexual practices. There are many who are shamed into silence. This does not only apply to lesser cases of being able to tell your friends that you are having rubbish sex and asking how to possibly fix it (there is always that friend who knows how) but also much more grave cases of sexual assault.

That shame that surrounds the topic has allowed a small portion of society to monopolise the ideas surrounding sex. The porn industry, the advertising market and the media have utter and complete control, leaving us on the outskirts, denying us agency of something so personal and natural.

Personally, I remain confused to the seemingly arbitrary confines within which we have been placed and much as I attempt to escape I am that woman in the café hitting the escape key as if it is a lifeline.

Tags: , ,

  • Patriarchy bad for men too
  • Vagina politics
  • How not to write about African women and sex
  • Facebook’s ‘other’ gender problem
  • 10 Responses to “Why are public displays of sexual images so unacceptable?”

    1. aim for the culprits #

      Neat thoughtful article with a sprinkle of humour … about, well, you know whatsit

      January 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    2. David Maimela #

      You are as candid as the sex you describe and debate.

      I once asked a partner: why don’t you walk to the parking lot in your lingerie? She asked why. I replied: Just assume you are wearing a bikini.

      I have also argued that human beings behave the same as animals when it comes to sex: it is as natural and personal as it is in the animal kingdom. For instance, humans just like animals, have had sex in all natural places: in the air, on the water, inside water, in a park, on the tree, on the streets, on rocks, in mountains, in the pour of rain, day and night, by the beach etc. Everywhere.

      Then I pondered: when will we have sex publicly and it becomes normal? Maybe not in my lifetime. But I learn that in Tembisa, incidents of public sex are happening and increasing.

      So, again, values and morals change as culture and habits change…For practice produces culture overtime, and culture evolves.

      Enjoy, D.

      January 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm
    3. I have been examinating out a few of your articles and it’s pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your site.

      January 23, 2014 at 6:08 pm
    4. Momma Cyndi #

      Blame the puritanical movement which was brought to Africa by the missionaries (we don’t call it missionary style for nothing). Before that, sex was pretty much a non-entity in anyone’s life and other people’s sex life was not even vaguely our problem.

      The puritanical movement killed the feast of Bacchus, the joy of a slice of chocolate cake and anything to do with sex. It is a very sad part of history. Ironically, the showing of an ankle was considered to be the height of sexuality during that time. Naked boobs pillowed on lace was pretty much just common fashion and codpieces were too. Somehow, being miserable became a saintly pursuit.

      Saddest of all is that the human body is considered to be a ‘shameful’ X rating, but people murdering other people is considered no more than PG rating.

      (oh, and open a Word document until you can get ctr-alt-delete to work)

      January 23, 2014 at 8:19 pm
    5. Dawiem #

      Excellent article. You highlight the indoctrination under which we grow up and never question. How free are we really?

      January 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm
    6. Cam Cameron #

      Even though there is a famous and quaint fountain in Belgium in the shape of a small nude boy urinating — the “Mannekin Pis” — we generally draw the line at depictions of defecation. Even though it’s a perfectly natural deed — even royalty and the most glamorous of glitterati do it.

      Just because something is natural doesn’t mean we ought to do it in full public view.

      January 24, 2014 at 11:53 pm
    7. Well, the display of sexual images are frowned up because we human beings derive physical and psychological pleasure from it, as opposed to animals who only engage in sexual congress for the sake of procreation. This implies that sex between humans have sociological and psychological implications and would you honestly be able to say that it would create absolutely no emotion or doubt in your mind if you found out that your husband/boyfriend had sex with you and your best friend on the same day for example?

      The other aspect you need to keep in mind is that sex should be a consensual deed between two human beings, so it invariably involves someone else, which something like breathing does not. You have no problem with someone taking big gulps of air next to you in the coffee shop, but what if the oxygen supply for the two of you were limited?

      The reason we frown upon sexual images in public, is the same reason why we ban smoking indoors and do not show pornography to ten year olds; it affects them as well as ourselves.

      February 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm
    8. Interesting post ! I founded it on the internet when I my self was wondering and proceeded to initiate a general search on the internet,…”why we as human beings fell sex is at a subliminal level a taboo subject “…Attempting to answer for my self why we as individual human beings are so intimidated and or some how fearful of sex engagements but at the same time at-least as a male think about it constantly But .If somehow it is exposed as part of us as a individual human being in a public setting . Defensiveness is the first reaction of that exposure then serving to expose our deepest thinking and desires of sexual intimacy natural to us as a individual in society and or a recipient of what is cultural acceptability and or that cultures socially acceptable sexual norms.

      I think it has to do with in the prospect of somehow being sexually exposed in our thinking and being known. In that being know is the possibility of the negative prospects of being used abused misunderstood and generally being taken advantage of by allowing ourselves to have been exposed and revealed.. Regardless of it’s voluntary or involuntarily done. So most people culturally in general across the board has opted in its general practice and social mores ,including sexuality to just play it’s (((safe))) rather than pay the price involved in being truly known. Consequently it becomes the thing desire and dream of the most quite often in a human psychic by the repression or suppression of…

      March 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm
    9. Sorry for the double post or triple post here now but this medium keeps frustratingly cutting off the last word of my post of which should end in order to make sense Even though the characters available say I was more than 1500 characters yet. So I’ll post it the last sentence as it should properly read independently to complete my thought and end.

      (((…Consequently it becomes the thing desired and dreamed of the most quite often in a human psychic by the repression or suppression of it. … )))

      March 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm
    10. Matt #

      If I could hazard a guess? I reckon it’s because it suits a misogynistic, patriarchal society to do so. To do anything else would shift “too much” of the power into the women’s favour.
      Possibly a bit simplistic on my part but I don’t think I’m far off.

      May 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Leave a Reply

     characters available