Nigeria is the second most religious country in the world with 93% of the population describing themselves as “religious” according to the 2012 Win-Gallup International Religiosity and Atheism Index. The two most popular religions, Christianity and Islam, emphasize abstinence before marriage with a huge expectation on girls to remain virgins before marriage. Though deviants are not legally punished, except in some parts of the country where Sharia Law is operational, people generally despise girls who are considered to be “sleeping around” .
So when some girls were asked how many boyfriends they have in front of a camera, one would expect them to either deny having any boyfriends at all, or claim to have only one boyfriend. Yet, most of the girls interviewed by the the producer of this video freely confessed to having many boyfriends, advancing economic and emotional reasons for their decisions. While there is no indication that there attitudes represent the majority of Nigerian girls, it was still significant enough to warrant serious debate online and offline.
Reactions to the video on social media and in the Nigerian blogosphere have been overwhelmingly negative, with most people criticizing the girls for being deviant and “promiscuous”. These reactions are interesting because they reflect not only the conservative and patriarchal outlook of Nigerian society but also the hypocrisy of the critics. Those who criticized the girls for being “promiscuous” did so partly on the assumption that a girl should have only one boyfriend, if she must have at all, while a boy can “freelance.”
If the video producers had interviewed boys who claim to have many girlfriends, the same critics would likely have praised the boys for being “cool”; they seem to insist in this instance that girls are not boys and should not try to be like boys. This shows how society maintains a double standard for its male and female members, holding girls to high moral standards while being lax on boys.
The last girl that speaks in the video claims that “when ladies sleep around they depreciate.” There seems to be an implicit assumption in that statement concerning boys who sleep with the girls: When boys sleep around they appreciate. That is the point of the video, on the whole is to highlight the supposed contrasting impact of social relationships on different genders in society.
To say that Nigerian society is “patriarchal” does not mean that women do not play important roles in society. Women occupy important political and corporate positions in Nigeria, though one could argue there is a lot of room for improvement. However, in the social sphere, women, and by extension girls, are sometimes still subjected to unrealistically high moral standards to which men are unwilling to submit.
BattaBox, producer of the video, was founded by a Lagos-based former CNN correspondent for West Africa, Christian Purefoy. The video channel attracts cultural and entertainment material from different parts of the country.