MY INSTALMENT for this column on August 22, 1999, was called “Imperialism, racism and HIV/Aids”. Five years later, my concerns in that instalment were confirmed when the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Applied Psychology and Gynaecology published a booklet called ‘The Zimbabwean Male Psyche With Respect to Reproductive Health, HIV, Aids and Gender Issues’.
My concerns in the 1999 instalment included the following:
Whether or not HIV and Aids was the result of experiments in biological war, the consequences for Zimbabwe were going to be far worse and more complicated than those of UDI and the war of liberation. Therefore, African society in Zimbabwe needed to mount its own cultural and spiritual response to the disaster which should be far bigger and more sophisticated than previous mobilisations against war, invasion, UDI and apartheid.
Apart from mounting deaths, HIV and Aids would inflict a pervasive and intrusive destabilisation of the entire society — individuals, families, communities and institutions. This was because HIV-related diseases attacked the psychological and spiritual health of society and destroyed relationships and institutions long before it finally destroyed the infected body.
The dementia or madness which individual sufferers exhibited in cases of terminal Aids-related illness was a symptom of the collective madness which was going to descend on the entire society, hence the need for a collective cultural and spiritual response.
Because of the overwhelming involvement of donor-funded NGOs in the HIV and Aids awareness programmes, there were two obvious risks for the African community: In the name of combating Aids, donors would use the HIV and Aids pandemic and mass disaster as an opportunity to attack and overturn those African values they have always feared or viewed as obstacles to their influence.
Therefore, the confessional and individualistic approach to communication in HIV and Aids programmes and advertisements was a real risk, since it tended to vilify African society in the name of fighting stigma against individuals. It treated a mass disaster as a matter of individual fate and personal rights. It would not be possible to dignify and protect the individual sufferer while denigrating or defaming the society and community.
In that 2004 UNFPA booklet — the authors, P. Chiroro, A. Mashu and W. Muhwava — wrote as follows: “It was hypothesised that the Zimbabwean male psyche is characterised by an internalised, insatiable and self-centred desire for sex with multiple partners, coupled with an intolerant attitude towards women who are perceived to be, primarily, objects of sexual gratification and child bearing.”
Without any reference to control studies based on other societies elsewhere in the world, the authors concluded thus: “The results of the study provide strong support for the research hypothesis in that the Zimbabwean male psyche appears to be characterised by an internalised, insatiable, self-centred desire for sex with multiple partners, coupled with an intolerant attitude towards women who are perceived to be, primarily, objects for sexual gratification and child bearing.
“In addition, the results of this study showed the following:
“Most Zimbabwean men and male youths hold very poor sexuality standards which are characterised by a strong reluctance to engage in safe sex practices during high-risk sexual encounters.”
“The study reveals that the majority of Zimbabwean men and male youths view women as inferior to men. Adversarial sexual beliefs and gender role stereotypes are used to justify violence against women and to deny their sexual and reproductive health rights.
“The culture and legal system in Zimbabwe provides a fertile ground for the propagation and perpetuation of adversarial sexual behaviour among men and male youths. This exposes them and their partners to the risk of contracting the HIV virus as well as compromising women’s human and reproductive health rights.”
In simple language, what was this UN agency and the three university researchers trying to say? The English dictionary meaning of psyche is the human soul, mind or spirit. So, in what way could the UNFPA claim to have pin-pointed and isolated a definite factor called the soul of the Zimbabwean male or the spirit of the Zimbabwean male, which could then be made responsible for the spread of HIV and Aids in this country?
Indeed, the UNFPA and its consultants attempted to tell the whole world not only that there was definite, separable power called the Zimbabwean male psyche but also that they had demonstrated that this definite force or power was responsible for promiscuous sexual behaviour, lust, discrimination against women, abuse of women and girls and the spread of HIV and Aids. They also meant that the Zimbabwean male psyche was so different from the psyches of other societies that it could be identified as typically Zimbabwean.
What the authors also implied was that we could select indigenous African foods such as dovi, muboora, nyemba, madora and grains such as mhunga, mapfunde and rukweza for use in fighting HIV and Aids, but the culture which created the ingredients forming this healthy diet was no good, especially in its male form. That culture had to be suppressed together with the virus itself. Since that time, the defamation of the African in HIV and Aids campaigns and adverts here has followed that highly questionable theory of African tradition and the presumed inherent nature of the African male psyche and male sexuality as responsible for the spread of HIV and Aids.
Although it does not require a great scientist to prove that the allegedly inherent African male psyche is neither typically African nor typically male and Zimbabwean, too many African scholars have complained privately and never dared to challenge this racist re-invention of the 400-year-old myth of African sexuality for fear of losing donor support and fear of being labelled male chauvinist pigs. Yet one simple way to demonstrate that this thesis of an inherent Zimbabwean African male psyche is a fraud would be to look at scholarly studies of sex and sexuality in non-African societies in other countries.
‘Re-Making Love: The Feminisation of Sex’, is a book published as far back as 1986 by North American white female researchers and dealing primarily with what can be called the response of the white middle-class woman to the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. Chapter 6 of that book is called ‘The Politics of Promiscuity: The Rise of the Sexual Counter Revolution’; and it documents cases of sexual promiscuity and sexual aggressiveness among white North American women.
The promiscuity and aggressiveness are almost identical to the sexual promiscuity, aggressiveness and casualness which UNFPA and the UZ writers chose to present as caused by a typical Zimbabwean male psyche. In the North American book, the chapter on ‘The Politics of Promiscuity’ opens by introducing Ellen (34), who thinks she has made “a nice little life for herself”, because she has earned enough to buy a small house and because she has “what used to be called All-American good looks — straight, gleaming hair, and clear blue eyes” which enable her to attract the lovers she wants.
“Her present relationship is just one more phase in her continuing sexual exploration.” She was “randy as a teenager” and it “was a relief to let my sexual needs explode . . . I made a lot of demands on men too. I chose them for their sexiness and sensuality.”
But readers may say that is just one woman; what about collective surveys? Redbook magazine sent out a sex questionnaire to which 100,000 women happily responded in 1975. And “a considerable number were having affairs while happily married to men they loved and nine out of 10 of the young women . . . were engaging in intercourse before they married.”
Five years later in 1980, Cosmopolitan magazine also sent out a sex questionnaire to which 106,000 women responded, reporting that “on average, they had had nine lovers”.
One of them was quoted as saying: “I have lovers because what else is there in life that’s so much fun as turning on a new man, interesting him, conquering him?
By 1983, three magazines — Playboy, Family Circle and Ladies Home Journal — decided to survey married women whom they described as “sexually enthusiastic, confident, romantic and satisfied”. Whereas in 1958 Alfred C. Kinsey had reported that 6 to 26 percent of married women were engaging in extramarital affairs, the 1983 surveys showed that the percentage had jumped to between 21 and 43 percent, depending on the type of magazine doing the survey and the type of readers.
“Among Playboy’s readers, young married wives were ‘fooling around’ more often than their husbands”.
The attack on the Zimbabwean male by UNFPA and its sponsored authors can be explained by quoting a passage from Re-Making Love:“These experts all assumed that women hated casual sex and (were mere victims of male lust and aggression), but they offered no explanation for why so many women were engaged in it.”
One woman tried to correct the misperception about men saying: “If you (as a woman) go ahead and give in to your desires (not his desires) . . . and you do go to bed with him, then lots of times you really will lose the man because they (the men), without even realising it, feel like you’ve been too quick and too easy.”
It is also implied in the foreign-modelled HIV and Aids campaigns that the societies whose donors fund our pseudo-feminists here have solved the problems of gender violence. In fact, they are very sick violent societies.
Here is a description of US society borrowed from a male scholar by feminist Professor Mary Daly for her book called ‘Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy’; “Culturally, the emergence of male homosexual sadomasochism from underground has coincided with a burgeoning of overt sadism against women in all the communications media. This coincidence has not been by chance. While gay activists were campaigning against stereotypical images of ‘gay people’ in the media, male homosexuals who have direct access to media have been promoting with a vengeance all stereotypes of female masochism.
‘We are witnessing (throughout Western society) the convergence (coming together) of what was once deemed a gay sensibility with what was once deemed a ‘heterosexual sensibility’. That convergence . . . now reveals itself as fully thriving on female degradation.”
It, therefore, means that the UNFPA and its UZ consultants put forward a generalisation which can be dismissed objectively as a fraud. They failed to separate and define such concepts as culture, instinct, drives, habits and needs. They presented an ideological assault on the African male as if it were a new scientific discovery. In doing this, they adopted a racist strategy and technique established way back in the days of slavery.
When it ceased to be feasible to justify slavery on the basis of religion, white society invented anthropology as a pseudo-science to do the job, because a “scientific” justification would appear to be unquestionable. This is indeed the subject of Professor Bernard Magubane’s book, Race and the ‘Construction of the Disposable Other’.
The disposable other in the UNFPA study is the resurgent African male whose energies need to be separated from the energies of the resurgent African woman in order to keep Anglo-Saxon imperialism in power for a bit longer. There is therefore a need for a different approach to Zimbabwe’s struggle against HIV and Aids.
More on this later.
Tafataona Mahoso is a columnist for the Sunday Mail newspaper