1oC9QUdN4Akj5dMDzRwe4Yg

The Newest Porn Economy Is in Nigeria

‘Porn Around the World’: An industry struggles to take hold in a deeply conservative nation

A young woman with magenta-streaked hair and a short, sporty dress enters a stucco home from the bright daylight of the street in an unnamed city in Nigeria. The friend she’s looking for isn’t there, so she waits with the man who’s seated on the bed inside. They comment on the heat and share a joint. After a quick time-lapse, they’re naked and having unprotected sex. Bright sunlight filters through the window. The sex is athletic, covering a variety of positions. It’s difficult to make out the performers’ faces, however; they’re often cut off at the neck as the scene is filmed from above, with whoever’s holding the camera likely perched on a chair. The bodies on camera don’t look like those of typical porn stars: The woman is round in the belly, and the man is rail-thin. The sounds they make are more guttural and less practiced than most of what else can be found on the tube sites. And though both participants seem to be having a great time (she’s particularly voracious), the film cuts out before the money shot.

Nevertheless, this is one of the more explicit scenes produced in Nigeria. In fact, much of what’s online from the few small companies currently operating there features far less acrobatic sex, fewer closeups of penetration and a lot more kissing and light touching of non-erogenous zones than American porn. Still, it’s American porn the Nigerian directors are after. “The USA has played a huge role in influencing the African porn industry,” says a man who calls himself Freeman, a spokesperson for FreeThinkers Productions, the company behind the video I’m watching on Xvideos (unceremoniously labeled “Africa/Ganja girl fuck!!”). “I mean, the USA is like the pioneer!”

FreeThinkers doesn’t have its own website yet; instead, it uploads most of its content to the tube sites for distribution. Freeman tells me that FreeThinkers has been filming hardcore porn for about 10 months, and its NSFW Twitter page (which has since been suspended) proudly declares that FreeThinkers is the “first Official Nigeria/Africa porn company.”

That claim is definitely up for debate — e.g., a man named Kingtblak informs me that he’s been making videos of himself having explicit sex with a rotating cast of women for almost exactly a year (a full two months before FreeThinkers reports getting its start). Either way, Nigeria’s porn history isn’t long, regardless of who made it first. “[Nigerians] are still very blinded and full of superstitions,” Kingtblak says. “Most people here aren’t comfortable being nude. They genuinely don’t want to be a porn star.”

Surprisingly, for a country that’s deeply religious — and split along Christian and Islamic lines — Nigeria does not outlaw pornography. It goes unmentioned in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and even in the country’s Criminal Code, “obscenity” is only loosely defined as any article whose effect, “taken as whole is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt” those who are likely to see it. And while the state of Lagos has outlawed the public display of graphic sexual material, and Muslims in the national government have proposed a nationwide block of porn sites, there’s no ban currently on the books for explicit films showing straight sex. (Homosexual activity in Nigeria, however, carries a 14-year prison sentence, according to Freeman, so all domestic porn right now is heterosexual.)

How American Porn Came to Rule the Industry

But the relatively lax legal climate doesn’t necessarily change strong social taboos. “I’m not killing or stealing,” Kingtblak says, but he’s been treated like a criminal anyway. “There’s been little issues,” he continues, “like some owners of hotels throwing me out of their hotels and arresting me for taking nude pics with girls in their hotel rooms and posting on social media, which resulted [in the] seizing of my laptop and iPhone 6s Plus, which is still currently in police custody.” He says that in the process of being detained, he was slapped multiple times, spoken down to and generally treated as if he were breaking the law.

When Derrick Walter, the director at NollyNiozgate, a company that produces feature films that Walter maintains aren’t “porn per se, [but] adult movies,” released iPhone 7 Babes and Feast of Death, two independent films that featured explicit sex scenes earlier this year, the Benue Association of Movie Producers (a trade organization for producers in the Nigerian state of Benue) and the Actors Guild of Nigeria publicly condemned both as “archaic, barbaric, uncivilized, illegal and against cultural norms.” Walter says that ever since, he’s “just being quiet … because I don’t want to create more enmity for my job [or more] negative views.”

Experiences like these might be why OrgyNajia, a self-proclaimed “amateur group who have an interest in the orgy/swingers lifestyle,” says it doesn’t make porn. Rather, it creates short documentary films on the premises of sex parties it hosts in large cities like Lagos and Abuja. “The short films posted on our [NSFW] Twitter page are for promotional use so people can actually see the parties,” an anonymous spokesperson explains. Still, their URL appears prominently on numerous tube sites under search terms like “Nigeria” and “Naija” (a slang term for Nigerian pride), and the videos are obviously explicit. The attendees might wear masks to shield their identities, but the camera closely documents the sexual escapades of bodies of all shapes and sizes as they sprawl across beds, chairs and floors in couples and groups.

All the while, Nigeria’s “legitimate” film industry — dubbed “Nollywood” in 2002 by The New York Times — remains exceptionally prolific, making an estimated 2,500 films a year, second in volume only to India’s Bollywood. That productivity has played a large part in the rapid expansion of Nigeria’s economy over the past two decades, with at least a million people working in the industry, stimulating Nigeria’s employment opportunities and exporting its culture across Africa and the world.

Most Nollywood films are short, independently funded and shot over the course of about a week. They tell stories familiar to other Africans — witchcraft in rural villages; wealth and fast cars in big cities; and love and sex everywhere.

As a matter of fact, sex plays a big role in most Nollywood films. But until recently, most of it was simulated, with lots of dry humping, gyrating under blankets and filming from the waist up. Over the last decade, though, standards around sex on film have changed, in no small part due to the influence of a 45-year-old woman called Afrocandy, who got her start as a model and Nollywood actress in the 2004 movie Dangerous Sisters. A year later, she moved to the U.S. to get married and start a family. Somewhere along the way, she began starring in sexy music videos, producing her own pulp films that featured nudity and less-simulated-looking sex and appearing topless (and sometimes bottomless) on her membership site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG2yPcpiYN0

“The Nigerian movie industry wasn’t as exciting as it used to be,” Afrocandy explains. “The movies were dry, and people were losing interest. So I figured maybe if I put a little flavor to it, like taking off my clothes, [I] could change things. And I did! Look what happened! People actually loved something like that!”

Although most of her work has been filmed in America for more than a decade, her frank depictions of sexuality sparked curiosity and outrage in Nigeria. “People have been interested” in sexual entertainment for a long time, she says, “but nobody had the balls to do it until I came out with it. They criticize me. They castigate me. But now, it’s common. A lot of people are coming out with it.”

Though she’s denied that she acted in any porn before this year, the Nigerian press has long dubbed her the country’s first porn star, and her blatant sexuality and shame-free nudity has started a nationwide dialogue about sex and sparked the interest of a new generation of sexually adventurous filmmakers and performers in her home country. “I get tons of emails from people,” she says, especially young women, “telling me that [my work] has inspired them. They say, ‘I can do this because of you!’”

Freeman of FreeThinkers is one of them. “I used to read about [Afrocandy] before I even thought about making porn movies a reality,” he says. “She’s popular [because] of her courage and determination.”

And a lot of other people are getting interested. “I’ve gotten over 4,000 calls and e-mails from Nigerians home and abroad, also from other African countries, wanting to participate in the movies,” he says. (He claims he’s even been contacted by Nollywood producers who want in on the action.) Not surprisingly, these volunteers lean more male than female: “I’ll say getting the females is a bit challenging. But we try to encourage them and lecture them, make them see it as a profession. Most guys/men want to act for free. They’re surprised and overwhelmed that such thing is starting in their generation, so they wanna be part of the fun.”

For her part, Afrocandy released her first explicit sex scene just last month. It features her and a man she simply calls “Mandingo.” (Not the Mandingo of American porn fame, though: “There’s actually an actor called ‘Mandingo.’ But it’s not him in my video. It’s my own Mandingo that I created.”) The Nigerian press is ecstatic, happily announcing that the country’s original porn starlet has “finally taken the plunge” into full-on sex scenes.

Beyond the media coverage, though, the movie is causing less of a stir than it would have even five years ago, now that hardcore pornography isn’t such a foreign entity there. “I knew they were ready,” Afrocandy says. “That’s why I did this. I had to go more explicit. I know they’re ready now, so let’s roll!”