Is this really porn?
The list of home-grown sexually-explicit movies is surprisingly long for a country suddenly taken aback by sex. There’s Destructive Instinct 3 & 4 by US based Nigerian actress Judith Opara Mazagwu, aka AfroCandy, and Bold 5 Babes, an erotic comedy about women who turn men into BlackBerry phones by having sex with them.
Opening with an explicit sex scene between two men was enough to get the film Pregnant Hawkers labelled a “gay porn movie”. There’s The Benjamins, rumoured to have been directed by a teenager, which follows the lives of university students into hip-hop and sex, and of which one commentator concluded “shows too much flesh for the Nigerian context”. The list continues: Bedroom Assassin, Sinful Act 1 & 2, Taboo!, Lesbian, etc. Somebody’s buying this stuff, cos say what you want about Nollywood, it’s not an industry to experiment with content it thinks it might have a hard time selling.
These movies clearly do contain sex scenes, but sex scenes explicit enough to be labelled pornographic? Nigerians have a tendency to exaggerate – it’s not unusual for scene involving a half naked man kissing a woman in lingerie to be labelled a sex scene – but we don’t label Hollywood films with similar amounts of sex pornographic, so why are viewers judging Nollywood films, and actors, by a different standard? One possible answer is that Nollywood has long been seen as a means through which African cultures and mores are celebrated, thus, in the opinion of the morally panicked, sexually explicit scenes are demeaning because they show how the lack of moral values in the West is penetrating the African consciousness.
Some Nollywood fans have noticed this double standard, and the tendency to exaggerate; as one, commenting on this page, asks: “When will Nigeria start [making] blue films [pornography] and stop this nonsense they call sex? Are they shy or what?”. Another writes: “when you think of doing something that has sex, let it convince the viewers not make them furious over nothing”. But these lone voices are drowned out by the much louder voices of people scandalized by nudity and some relatively tame sex scenes. Male actors, producers, but especially female actors involved in such films are routinely called out and shamed, though some of them don’t take the criticism lying down.