We shouldn’t try hide rape video

2012-04-28 16:00

A couple of years ago Professor Njabulo Ndebele analysed the mindset behind prejudice against gay people which highlighted society’s misunderstanding of homosexuality.

Placing homosexuality on an equal plane with heterosexuality by dismissing society’s common refrain that private homosexual practice is unnatural, he explained that: “imagining what heterosexuals do in privacy can be no less reassuring than imagining what homosexuals do. There are many things heterosexuals do in their bedrooms which may be disagreeable to others.”
So, recalling this example,

I am shocked at how easily many have jumped on the bandwagon, denouncing the fact that the video of the 17-year-old’s rape went viral and that some, even after hearing of its depraved content, still wanted to see for themselves. Renowned cartoonist Zapiro artistically satirised such curiosity as gang gape.

As Ndebele explains, “few things excite the imagination more than sex, even more so when the mind imagines sexual phenomena conventionally regarded as not normal.”

But this only tells half the story. It doesn’t describe the discomfort at the prospect of being caught or the threat of others accusing you of being the instigator. It does not tell of the enormous effect this experience has on the individuals concerned: it may turn one into a depraved

sex-obsessed pervert or result in a lifetime discomfort of the misogyny with which pornography portrays women.

We must be alive to this as we question ourselves about the morality of a nation that watches such a video. Not all who watched it did so because it aroused them. Even some who acquired it with that intention were soon disgusted by its content, perhaps instantly deciding how never to treat women.

So morality is not as one-sided as some would have us believe. It is multi-dimensional. There is something raw and valuable about seeing something for yourself and deciding for yourself there is something wrong with it.

It is certainly better than seeing a news clip of a Gauteng MEC pontificating about the ability of a mob to “iron out” the culprits and saying they should rot in jail “until the walls fall on them”.

Perhaps once our anger subsides we will recall too that there is a 17-year-old who is also scared, who at best was not a willing participant and at worst is a child misguided about sexuality.

It’s also a lesson about the role of new media in society and how our news packaging is becoming increasingly one-sided and irrelevant. We should equip our nation to determine for themselves what is right and wrong.

At the end of the day, as depraved as the video is, it is also part of the process of ensuring that justice is done.

We throw the baby out with the bath water when we bemoan the fact that such a video could go viral. We should rather be comforted that this video has reinforced our collective morality about what is acceptable in our society.

Hidden, it would never have had the same impact.

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