Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa: Introduction
Every intellectual gain requires a loss in sexual potential. The civilized white man retains an irrational longing for unusual eras of sexual license, of orgiastic scenes, of unpunished rapes, of unrepressed incest. […] Projecting his own desires onto the Negro, the white man behaves ‘as if’ the Negro really had them (Fanon 1952/1986:165).
Whatever the processes involved, ‘the black man’ like ‘the black woman’ is defined as quintessentially sexual, albeit in different ways. While black (colonized) women are tantalizing objects for white men’s sexual dreams and fantasies, sexu – alized, large-penis bestowed black men are differently positioned in the white imaginations—as threats and rivals, objects of fear and loathing. Fanon, not unlike Mbeki, rehearses the myths: “as for the Negroes, they have tremendous sexual powers. What do you expect, with all the freedom they have in their jungles! They copulate at all times and in all places. They are really genital. They have so many children that they cannot even count them. Be careful, or they will flood us with little mulattos. Things are indeed going to hell… Our women are at the mercy of the Negroes” (Fanon 1952/1986:157). As Fanon acknowledges with a sigh: “The sexual potency of the Negro is hallucinating” (Fanon 1952/1986:157).
Thus, “if one wants to understand the racial situation psychologically, not from a universal viewpoint, but as it is experienced by individual consciousnesses, considerable importance must be given to sexual phenomena” (Fanon 1952/ 1986:160). Ratele (this volume) goes on from here; based on analysis of essays written by male students at the University of Western Cape, he wants to say something about South Africa today. Taking a point of departure in Fanon’s rhetorical question: ‘Is the sexual superiority of the Negro real?’ he follows the gist of Fanon’s own answer: “Everyone knows that it is not. But that is not what matters. The prelogical thought of the phobic has decided that such is the case” (Fanon 1952/1986:159). Ratele is dealing with myths as they materialize and multiply in the minds of their onetime objects—not unlike the Christian morality which, as shown by Becker, turns into ‘African tradition’. “Kinky politics”, Ratele says “follows the fetish of, and re-fetishes race. There can be no racism without this constant re-fetishisation. … Kinky politics is personal and institutionalised practices, politics, programmes and cultures that naturalise, objectify and stabilise difference”. As a protest against the constructions of ‘race’, Ratele writes the word with a strikethrough. This strikethrough is an expression of the “insubordinate vigilance against simple categories” and the “enduring revolt against naturalizations”, which for Ratele are necessary precautions under present conditions. “Against the backdrop of continuing ‘nature’ discourses, pushing for varied and more sophisticated positions… retains urgency” he says.
The object of Ratele’s investigation is present-day South African politics and the ways in which “in spite of good intentions transformation debates and resultant politics, institutions and programmes have tended to reproduce certain old, as well as creating novel cultural, social, economic and political divisions.”—
Arnfred Page 20 Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:38 PM