Superman and the Virgins: Marketing Sex and Stigma in Ghana

bitters

Mighty Power, Kasapreko Alomo Bitters, Cargo Gin Bitters, Joy Dadi, Agya Appiah, Adonko Bitters and now Guinness Ghana’s Orijin Bitters. These are just examples of the growing market of unapologetically bitter alcoholic drinks that promise the sweetness of sexual odyssey. I say odyssey because like the Greek mythologies, these drinks are championing a shift in how sex has been socially handled in Ghana, from a women-shaming exercise to a men-as-hero shaming game. It is subtle and yet disturbingly powerful, and someone has to say it. Can I?

Once upon a time, female virginity was a virtue. Today, well, who knows? But I remember the days when the conversations on sex was heavy on keeping girls in check to ensure they were married off as virgins. Weird part is boys were set free to explore their sexual machines and so you wonder who they were sleeping with, if all the girls were thus being kept in the virginity loop. I remember when Reggie Zippy had that “Virgin” hit where he markedly queried that “every dude says he wants to marry a virgin, but it is the same dudes who do not let the girls keep their virginity”.

Skip the irony and the underlying politics was even more questionable. Religious and Moral Education was geared towards taming girls right between their legs. Priests used the story of the woman caught committing adultery and brought before Jesus to remind women that they, not the men, would be the gongs of shame if they don’t keep their legs closed. Stigma was piled on teenage pregnancy, and in every school I went there was always that girl who was branded the “chop bar bowl”, “school prostitute” or “area girl”. Meanwhile, guys shamelessly shared their conversations between sports and how many girls they had slept with.

Sex then was a tool of women-shaming and control. I am not really sure that has disappeared entirely but certainly now the value of female virginity has diminished. Women now take an active part in conversations on sex, and frankly do not mind talking about their sexual adventures with others. In fact, the collective narrative has so shifted that in the movies and media, sexual conversations are now more vivid and led by women. This has slowly confronted many of the taboos on sex, ripped off the sacred mask of virginity and largely dismantled the sex-as-women-shaming cultural machinery.

But this has led to a massive change in the conversational tide on sex, and it is both fascinating and disturbing. Sex has now become a men-shaming tool…and it lies subtly within the army of products that are advertised with the promise of increasing sexual performance…for men. Let me explain.

Now that it is no longer shameful for women to have and talk about sex, men must be ready to have sex as long as women want. The man who is unable to do that is a disgrace to all men. Hence, the marketing campaigns call on you to get your hand on one of these sexual-performance enhancing products so that when you go on the road, you don’t run out of fuel before you reach the woman’s desired destination. The banner word for men-shaming is premature ejaculation, where mature ejaculation is decided by the evaluative tastes of your woman. Just as we used to shame non-virgin women and heralded virgin women, now we shame the bedroom Usain Bolts and hail the Haile Gebrselassies of sex. The tides have turned.

I have had conversations with guys who boast of their ability to have sex for hours. There must be an exaggeration in there, right? Maybe. But I am fascinated by this successful creation of the mentality that a real man—the new Superman— is the man who is able to take a woman on a sexual marathon till she wants no more. The man who is unable to do this is no man, and should be ashamed; his place shall be among the eunuchs!

And this is an issue even for married people. If you don’t perform in bed to your wife’s satisfaction, you are toast. I know guys who court other people’s women by asking them if their men perform well enough in bed. If you slack, before you know, someone is eating your thing for you. Hmm!

Oh yes, and girls are pushing this agenda big time. For girls, it’s not only the performance, even the size of the manhood counts. A girl once told me that girls have a way of telling if a guy is small or big: guys with big butts tend to be small in between their legs and vice versa. Some guys are checking their behinds right now, I tell you! So girls do share stories with their friends about their sexual experiences, giving grades on the guy’s performance, and if they will “do” the guy again based on his performance. My guy, you know that’s what happened to you and that’s why the girl is no longer replying to your text. From a marketing perspective, poor performance does not beget repeat purchase, but you see where the conversation is going.

This change in the cultural discourse on sex is what is now transpiring in the massive marketing of sex-performance products for men. Sex doesn’t have to be healthy anymore; it just has to last long. The woman will decide the duration, and the man must simply keep it up and standing, ready to “open fire” on call.

So the next time you see that advert promising you a better sexual performance and you find your insecure self considering a purchase, think again. And if you go about strutting your stuff as a sexual superman, reconsider if you are not simply playing to the script of shame, where you recognize the shame, and worship it by showing how you appease its sanctions. Sex as a tool of social shaming has simply swapped its gender victim, and I don’t know where to stick my moral dart on it. Sigh. I need a drink. No, not Adonko Bitters! God!! Were you even reading!!!

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