Like every other piece of popular entertainment in Nigeria, Big Brother Naija is designed for the heterosexual gaze. As such, relationships in the house conform to normative ideas seeded from patriarchy. Compulsory heterosexuality is a thing, governing how male housemates should even interact with each other. A clip of Kiddwaya in bed with recent evictee Praise surfaced online, and quite far from what people will deem as socially acceptable behaviour. Praise leans comfortably into Kidd, allowing Kidd’s arm drape across him while talking to other housemates in the room. Shortly, Kidd pinches Praise’s nipple.
— AE (@AssistantEbukaa) August 21, 2020
It is the absentmindedness of this act that makes it adorable, both men living in the moment and without signs of awkwardness. Another clip shows Praise seated at the dining table, and complaining about housemates drinking beverages without consideration for others. Kidd walks towards him and rubs his shoulders to pacify him, then plants a kiss on one side of Praise’s head. There have also been moments of Praise playfully spanking Kidd’s butt and vice versa.
These interactions between Praise and Kidd have particularly come under scrutiny, complicated by the suspicion from fans that Praise is gay or bisexual. Praise’s mannerisms, waist-whining athleticism, and disposition to pockets of drama have shaped fan theories about his sexuality, albeit having a fiancé and child outside of the reality show.
On the other hand, Kidd is a little hard to read, if we are to go by the problematic profiling of gay men. His relationship with Erica continues to cement itself in public consciousness, and his sexual shenanigans with her seem enough to avert interrogations towards his sexuality.
Yet, it is not considered ideal for Kidd to touch Praise in the way he has done. Why? Because they are men. While there won’t have been eyebrows raised if the housemates were women, given that women touching each other is positioned as something that exist to fulfill the fantasies of most men, the criticism towards Kidd and Praise shows how patriarchal conditioning deprives men from receiving something as basic as human touch, specifically from other men.
That men shouldn’t hold hands, or show affection in the form of prolonged hugs or cuddles, are just examples of how patriarchy continues to confine men to its toxic programming. To do otherwise is to be seen as ”soft” or ”weak,” these set of behaviors reserved for women to participate in. And because patriarchy denotes women as ”lesser than” due to misogyny, men engaging in these acts are lumped with them, punished and ostracized from the acceptable ranks of masculinity.
This is how homophobia is formed, harming gay men while also putting heterosexual men in check. Also, Kidd and Praise don’t need their eyebrow-raising interactions qualified as ”bromance” because it implies that certain acts and behaviours between men have to be given palatable terms to prevent men from feeling emasculated. It is also the logic behind many gendered products marketed towards men, to keep them safe in their masculinity.
Kidd and Praise’s kind of relationship (if we can call it that) is important because it shows what gay men ordinarily do but get chastised and marginalized for. While two men sharing moments of affection could simply mean two men sharing moments of affection, without the need to question their sexuality, there’s also nothing wrong if these men happen to be gay. The refusal of patriarchy to democratize platonic intimacy for all men, to show vulnerability and fragility within respectable boundaries, explains why men are notoriously known for bottling up their emotions and being unable to process them in healthy, non-destructive ways.
In the light of this, the high rates of male suicide shouldn’t surprise anyone. Men can’t continue to reinforce patriarchy at their own detriment, and maybe Kidd and Praise can teach us that intimacy is perfectly normal.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies, anime and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.