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Gomora & the portrayal of sexual violence against the male body

The show explores the sexual violence that boys endure before they become men, and social dialogue around it has been very concerning
Thu, Dec 17, 2020

At face value, in the world that we inhabit, it is unfathomable that Teddy (played by Sicelo Buthelezi) on Mzansi Magic's telenovela Gomora, is feeling the slightest bit violated by his high school teacher Miss Manzi (played by Sihle Ndaba).

Firstly, Miss Manzi is beautiful. Beautiful people can't rape. Wait no, that does not sound right – that can't be why she is unable to appropriate violence. It must be because Teddy had a crush on her; worse, his perverted subconscious led to wet dreams about her. There was no way he was raped, he wanted it.

Does any of this sound like victim-blaming? But, really, is Teddy a victim?

This subject matter's body of opinion outside of woke Twitter is worrisome and indicative of South African male attitudes towards rape.

Instinctively, some of the reactions on the ground at taverns and ekhoneni is one of disappointment in Teddy for not having the balls to rise to the occasion Miss Manzi set up. What kind of man was he? Why was he not yielding the power in this situation?

The question of power, as Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola has observed is that, "rape is the communication of patriarchal power, reigning in, enforcing submission and punishing defiance". Teddy refuses to speak to Miss Manzi after losing the fight with his mother about not attending school because of what she assumes is heartbreak from being rejected by his predator.

Miss Manzi does not take this lightly, she instead exploits the power she has as an educator to summon him out of class, where he has no choice but to oblige.

Gqola goes on to explain rape as, "an extreme act of aggression and of power, always gendered and enacted against the feminine. The feminine may not always be embodied in a woman's body; it may be enacted against a child of any gender, a man who is considered inappropriately masculine and any gender non-confirming people".

It is now clear how he does not yield power in this situation. He simply does not have it. He is the child in this situation and that alone strips him of the manhood that he is burdened with.

The hypersexualising of the black man has done a great deal of damage to entrenching harmful ideals that have been normalised in our daily lives. As a result, the visible or invisible fraternity of black maleness or manhood does not naturally make room to engage cases like Teddy's with the care and gentleness that it requires.

This has a lot to do with the fact that addressing these concerns, honestly would require us to let our guards down and experience ourselves as vulnerable. We were never taught that. This leaves an age-old epistemological dilemma. How do we create spaces that make it difficult for such gross injustices that are sadistically clothed in infatuation to take place? How do we draw the line between desire and being devoured? When does our masculinity stand in the gap to protect us from a world and system that is specifically designed to break us?

The fraternity of black maleness does not naturally make room to engage cases like Teddy's with the care and gentleness that it requires

Perhaps the beautiful ones are born because the masculine bond between Teddy and his friend Langa (played by Siya Xaba), whom he finally confides in, create that safe space, where Teddy can unravel, spiral and climb back to himself, as he is assured by his mate that he believes him.

A small gesture that can shift the narrative around the sexual violence that boys endure before they become men.

  • Gomora is on Mzansi Magic, weekdays at 7.30pm. You can also watch episodes on DStv Catch Up and Showmax.