SEX in the age of #MeToo is tricky territory — more so for the male species. Historically and across cultures, men could always get away with taking what they wanted from the weak (these included weaker tribes in war and, of course, loot in the form of treasure and women).
Though the rich and powerful still get away with doing similarly, societies across the globe are becoming more and more intolerant to the “takers”. Some, however, say the subject of sex has become so weaponised that sometimes the truth is hard to see.
The entertainment industry is replete with stories of powerful men who have accessed the bodies of unwilling women just because they could. But some high-profile types are beginning to pay for their sins of the past.
Bill Cosby is one of the African diaspora’s foremost cultural icons. He exemplified the countercultural black man of American society. His content, such as The Cosby Show, typified the aspirational middle-class black family with both parents present in the household.
I remember growing up on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon series. There was always that moral voice and authority in whatever content Bill Cosby put out. He used his platform to speak to issues bedeviling Black America. It did not always go down well with members of the community.
In fact, the downfall of Cosby was in a sense precipitated by a fellow comedian, Hannibal Buress, who made a joke which reverberated around the world mocking Cosby’s public image.
“Pull your pants up, black people — I was on TV in the ’80s. Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”
In 2014, a month after that joke went viral on social media, fresh accusations popped up. The rest, as we say, is history. Cosby is languishing in jail after being sentenced to over a felony sexual assault charge.
Cosby maintains his innocence despite saying that he never engaged in non-consensual sex with his accusers, some of whom alleged that he had drugged and sexually assaulted them.
The case is one which triggered so much debate and is, of course, regarded by the #MeToo movement as vindication of their efforts to win justice for victims of male abuse. “America’s Dad” is in jail and it is a mighty fall.
Another Hollywood movie industry maven, Harvey Weinstein, has been convicted after being found guilty of criminal assault in the first degree and third degree rape. The conviction is the culmination of a journey which began with the publication of a New York Times article chronicling allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein.
Hollywood actresses came forward to allege that Weinstein had indeed sexually assaulted or harassed them. The trend is one of him asking for sexual favours in exchange for advancing movie careers. Weinstein at one point issued an apology acknowledging that he had “caused a lot of pain”.
He did, however, dispute the allegations that he had spent three decades harassing females. He was finally sent to jail this week.
Jabulani Hadebe is not famous in that given name. He is Sjava, a hit-making musician to his fans. He is the latest high-profile man to face possible jail time over sexual abuse. The case has gripped the South African popular imagination.
On one hand, there are those who say that given the known facts, Lady Zamar (born Yemikani Janet Banda), also a singer, should have reported the case earlier to police since it allegedly happened in 2017 and she only came forward in 2019. They say she continued to date Sjava (who happens to be married) and she is only coming out now after discovering that he is happily married.
On Lady Zamar’s side, there are those when a woman decides to tell on the man who abuses her is neither not there. It does not amount to reasonable doubt. Society tends to be very judgmental of women in rape cases. This, in part, explains why some are reluctant to come forward because of the stigma associated with rape cases.
If a woman is dating the person, or is his wife, is rape even an issue, some have the temerity to ask. Non-consensual sex is rape. It does not help clarify matters, though, that recently a recorded conversation between Lady Zamar and Sjava in which she pines for him saying I wanted you to acknowledge me or words to that effect has emerged on social media.
Still, rape cases are complicated in nature and indeed there are some women who have used accusations of rape to torpedo the lives and careers of powerful men. There are no ready stats as to the proportion of fake rapes to real rapes. That, of course, does not alter the fact that rape is heinous.
Ultimately, it remains for the competent courts to determine who is guilty and who is not. Sjava, the South African musician of the moment, is under the negative spotlight for rape and has been losing invitations to perform at high-profile events such as the Cape Town Jazz Festival. He may yet lose more. But the National Prosecuting Authority is yet to lay charges against Sjava.
Dear reader, do not forget that local hitmaker Jah Prayzah was also similarly accused by one of his dancers, Pamela Zulu aka Gonyeti, of sexual abuse. The case did not go far because the accuser appears to have capitulated due to public pressure. The story of rape may be with us for a long time.