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‘A Nasty Boy’ tests Nigeria’s masculinity

Richard Akuson

Make no mistake Nigeria’s “A Nasty Boy” is not a gay online magazine.

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | In a country where homosexual acts can be punished with 14 years in prison, this provocative website featuring photos of men in mini-skirts is simply “pushing the boundaries and exploring masculinity”.

Richie Akuson, the 23-year-old founder, makes up for what he lacks in years with confidence and audacity. Even in “bum shorts” — the local name for hot pants.

“Last year, I challenged myself — walking through Abuja with silk shorts,” he told AFP. “People insulted me loudly, they were making insulting comments, it was quite a painful experience.”

He decided to recount his experience in Bella Naija, the country’s leading digital lifestyle magazine where he worked at the time as fashion editor.

His article, titled “Why I Wore Bum Shorts Around Abuja For a Day!”, provoked a fierce online debate.

The comments flooded in — many to accuse the young provocateur of exhibitionism, others to congratulate him for his principled stand against convention.

– ‘Huge, huge ego’ –

“I was surprised by the reactions, and I thought that we really need to debate these issues, to debate around what is masculinity in Nigeria,” he said.

His site’s first online posts, published last February, were at best baffling to many in a country where everything associated with homosexuality is seen as an affront to religion.

Androgynous male models wearing make-up were pictured posing on a beach in Lagos, oozing sex appeal.

Another article was illustrated by men sporting oversized Afro-style wigs and towering on high heels, lifting their denim mini-skirts.

The images are undoubtedly provocative, but never sordid, and their quality is on a par with the major fashion magazines on sale in Europe and North America.

Richie claims that Nigerian men typically have a “huge, huge ego”, and that his work is intended to hold up a mirror.

“Nigerian men are always on edge to protect what they define to be masculinity: you have to be strong,” he said.

“No compassion for others, and a lot of money. The paradox is that it makes them very fragile at the end, behaving like bullies.”

Having scandalised many with his initial web offering, Richie now plans to launch a print magazine to extend his brand.

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