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.

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