Re­mem­ber: This is about Anni’s mur­der

CityPress - - Voices -

Some of the pub­lic and pri­vate com­men­tary about the Shrien De­wani mur­der trial feels like it could be play­ing out two decades ago, when sub­tle – and not-so-sub­tle – ho­mo­pho­bia was ram­pant.

Sup­pressed ho­mo­pho­bia was given a li­cence to come out of the shad­ows. Here and abroad, many glee­fully rev­elled in the old spec­tre of gays as per­verted child mo­lesters.

Would there have been this level of moral out­rage and gen­i­tal panic if De­wani was on Tin­der, not Gay­dar? If he slept with dom­i­na­tri­ces not “sadists”?

On the face of the ev­i­dence, De­wani may be self­ish, clos­eted, cruel and bloody-minded. You get good gays and bad gays, good straights and bad straights. But in a con­ser­va­tive het­eronor­ma­tive world, bad gays are bad twice.

The fact that he re­port­edly chose a mod­er­ate dat­ing site to live out his dual life with like-minded, con­sent­ing adults is ig­nored.

In­stead, the sub­text is that ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is de­viant, S&M sex is evil and pornog­ra­phy is for per­verts. Are the mil­lions of straight peo­ple who watch pornog­ra­phy per­verts? Con­ser­va­tive views around pornog­ra­phy and those who watch it (both ho­mo­sex­ual and het­ero­sex­ual) also find their place in the dis­course around De­wani’s bi­sex­u­al­ity.

Like­wise, the idea of com­ing out and ad­mit­ting one’s bi­sex­u­al­ity, which of­ten mim­ics the process of con­fess­ing to a sin or wrong­do­ing, has also played out. He “ad­mit­ted” he was bi­sex­ual as if “we” had al­ways sus­pected it. Once again ig­nor­ing how prob­lem­atic it is that be­ing gay is some­thing one must ad­mit to, con­fess.

We live in a femi­ci­dal so­ci­ety and it is no se­cret that South Africa – and the rest of the world – is an in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous place for women. You only need to look at the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence statis­tics to get this con­text.

It is clear that De­wani’s sex­u­al­ity will play a big part in the state’s case to prove he had mo­tive to kill his wife, forc­ing the de­fence into that ter­ri­tory. This all makes for great voyeurism ma­te­ri­al­ism. But let us not for­get that this case is about the mur­der of a young woman called Anni De­wani and not about sex­ual pref­er­ences. It must not be an op­por­tu­nity to re­hash back­ward prej­u­dices.

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