Talking Sexual Violence: Victims & Violations

Woleosho steals the show and the law is an ass

Talking Sexual Violence: Victims & Violations

Panelists: Kikelomo Woleosho, Florida Uzoaru, Femi Oyebode

Moderator: Bim Adewunmi

Much, much later on Saturday, many festival goers would lose all propriety under the influence of alcohol and music. But a long way before that, just before Arsenal pummelled Spurs into submission, sporadic applause broke out for Kikelomo Woleosho, whose pointed commentary delivered with Jenifa-style theatrics sat well with the audience at Saturday’s first, very lively panel, Talking Sexual Violence: Victims & Violation.

 

Herr Sigmund Freud may have been proud, but not a few members of the audience would have shifted uncomfortably as Woleosho located the source of “deviant” sexual behaviour in the trauma of childhood abuse. There’s every possibility, she seemed to contend, that that woman who sleeps around today was abused as a child. There are merits to Freudian psychoanalysis of this sort, that our earliest experiences are formative and we may be seeking in adulthood things lost in childhood. The problem is its totalization of sexual exuberance in an atmosphere of f is for feminism. For instance, I did not think Mona Eltahawy would agree. Asides trauma, can sexual exuberance simply be the indiscriminate—relatively—slaking of a healthy appetite?

Someone from the audience wanted to know to what extent demonstrable psychiatric malaise could be separated from criminal behaviour. Is there any difference between a crime and what you’re psychiatrically condemned to do? It was perhaps the morning’s most difficult question, but for Professor Oyebode, nothing was more straightforward. Everything redounds to the law, he submitted. It was left for lawyers to bring the law’s attention to their client’s possible plight. If corroborated by expert evidence, then perhaps said client would be subjected to treatment rather than go to jail. We’ve all heard of murderers who have successfully outsourced culpability to their psychiatric constitution.

Yes, we have. But the answer to the question might not be as straightforward as the good professor submitted. There are, for instance, ongoing reckonings with criminal law owing to the realization that the animating forces behind human actions are more complex than previously understood. The law, of course, is an ass that takes direction from human consensus.

I cornered Professor Oyebode afterwards to share some of my misgivings. There was far too little time; appearance at the festival imposed certain media obligations on him. I could not tell him, too, that but for his less full, less white hair, he could easily be mistaken for Wole Soyinka.

I had carefully rehearsed my opening—there was to be no repeat of my experience with Dayo Olopade. You’ll agree with me that the law only addresses what it can assume, I began, which explains the existence of lacunae and which renders your submission on the question slightly problematic.

Consider this as well. Some deviant behaviours are increasingly being found to have genetic provenance, in certain instances at least. There was, I’d read long ago, a convicted paedophile who was found to have a brain tumour sitting on the part of his brain that regulates the ability to control impulses, impairing his ability to control against paedophilic behaviour—the essay, published in Aeon Magazine, made a distinction between paedophilia, a psychiatric condition, and paedophilic behavior, the actioning of paedophilia. Once removed, the man’s paedophilic behaviour disappeared. When the tumour relapsed, the behaviour resurrected. Was this a problem for the law or a public health crisis?

Professor Oyebode would not budge.. I was unsatisfied—the opioid crisis sweeping the USA and Nigeria, for example, were recent exemplars to the limits of the law. But Jessica wanted to take him away for an interview and I was keeping him. We shook hands. Are you a lawyer, he asked me? In another life maybe. In turn, I wanted to know if he knew he was a dead ringer for Wole Soyinka were his head of sporangium fuller and whiter. I decided it was enough that I knew.

 

Kayode Faniyi