Sexual Conservatism as Front for ‘Unspeakables’ of Sexual Liberalism: A Reflection




By Herr Zilch

Just like 10 years ago when I was leaving my state for undergraduate studies in the far north, the last advice my mom gave me when I wanted to leave for yet another academic sojourn was to ‘beware of Jezebelic girls. ‘I learned that girls offer themselves freely for immorality over there, she quipped. Months later, how I wish I could tell my ‘deeper life’ mom that the sexual liberalism she alluded to in her advice to me is actually laced with and latched on institutional framework that guard against abuse. In what I would call cultural shocks and acclimatization joules, I have heard colleagues talking freely about sex; I have had a class where a professor used Michael Foucault’s dispositif of sexuality to analyze why one sexual position is considered taboo and the other is considered good; I have seen one-on-one behavioral tendencies that are interpretable to mean an open invitation for sex, mainly in Nigerian urban cultural codes.

Nonetheless, the framework of control here is consent, which is devoid of skewness in the balance of power. What’s more, the dynamics or balance of power are not yours to interpret. For example, a teaching assistant in a consented relationship with a girl in his tutorial class could be interpreted as a forced consent since the power dynamics are in favor of the TA. Money, privileges, positions, and other dynamics of power are considered in the appraisal of consent.

Just recently, I engaged in some sort of reflexivity by benchmarking the so-call ‘sexual liberalism’ in the West with the ‘sexual conservativeness’ of my home country, using university campuses as the locales of this mental synthesis.

In summary, I believe that our system uses the pretense of conservatism to condone the “unspeakables” even in the clime of sexual liberalism.

During my 4-year sojourn within the four walls of the university, I remembered a lecturer ‘whining’ openly in class about how the members of the opposite refused to acknowledge and cater for his sexual needs during an academic excursion to one of the coldest cities in Nigeria. I recollected how a friend hinted me about how a lecturer ‘had me’ in the darkest part of this psychical apparatus simply because I was ‘rolling’ with a girl who had refused his sexual advances. How could I ever forget the story of a young girl? a fresher who, in the opinion of one of my associates, wasn’t overly academically gifted and was introduced to me for academic mentoring. Her narrative to me after she was advised to withdraw from the academic program was that ‘how could this happen to me after I was pummeled left, right, and center’ by those that wield the power of ‘passing and failing’?

How could I forget the accounts of the “near escape” or the ones that were contrived to conceal “shame” from my female friends? They are all about how the “bridges,” beneath which our water always passes, are weak in suppressing their urges and subliminal pressure-seeking inclinations. Why is it that, for the majority of female students, to drink from the spring of knowledge now involves another reality that activates and aids in releasing the fountain of knowledge’s libidinal drives? This question, in my opinion, is only one of many that have their roots in the extraordinary social tragedies that sum up our nation’s customs, institutions, and systems.

Perhaps hope is more about x-raying the present and foretelling things that will never be than it is about looking forward to better times.

Herr Zilch is a graduate student in Ontario’s foremost Communication studies department grounded in critical research traditions. He can be reached via