Dear Male Rape Survivor,
Your timing sucks.
There’s nothing wrong in your message. Whether we like it or not, no matter how we try to ignore/downplay it, men get raped too (click here to read my story). It is an uncomfortable reality; one even some other males refuse to accept. However, speaking up ONLY when another female rape case is breaking makes you look bad.
It really is in bad taste.
I do understand it. I understand how it feels; to have your pain and torment and shame made light of – just because you’re some way. Something has to happen to a woman for it to be taken seriously, to get public attention/outcry – or at least for it to trend on social media. Men and their plight are largely ignored – unless they’re doing something wrong.
I’ll tell you something in case you didn’t know; men get sexually harassed ALL THE TIME. Men get propositioned frequently. From the attendant at the filling station to the cashier at the supermarket to the cashier at the bank to the customer care person to colleagues, co-workers, groupies; literary or otherwise – trust me. Sex is hurled at men with the frequency of power outage.
You don’t want to see some of the unsolicited messages in some men’s inboxes. I promise.
Unfortunately however, it’s not supposed to be a big deal. Men ARE SUPPOSED TO LIKE IT. After all, ‘men think about sex every nine seconds’ (I wonder how they arrived at those figures – tie a man down, activate a stopwatch and said, ‘every time you think about sex raise your hand’?!). Men LIVE, BREATH, SING, EAT, SHIT, DIGEST sex – or so ‘they’ say.
Men don’t think about anything else. Frankly, men don’t have the time to think about anything else. Not according to ‘statistics’.
So men smile. And laugh. And suck it up. After all, it’s not anybody’s fault you’re a man, is it? And that’s what men do – suck it up because complaining, whining, crying about – of all things – sex and attention; even when unwanted – is shameful and weak.
Because; as much as we think we know in this day and age, the idea of a man turning down sex is preposterous – almost blasphemy. Such a thing is unheard of.
‘So how is it ‘rape’ if you wanted it, anyway? Are you not a man? Don’t men like sex?’
No. Not all the time they don’t. Just like women.
But that’s beside the point.
I understand ‘men get raped too’ because it seems like it’s the only time ANY ATTENTION can be given to the unfortunate, oft-ignored minority – the male abuse/rape victim. It feels like, ‘shebi I shared my rape story and nobody said anything? How is her rape story different?’
It’s not. However, snatching the microphone from her and pulling a Kanye is not the best way to plead your case. Trying to downplay a rape story because ‘men get raped too’ is not the best way to get people to listen. It is not a competition. Nobody’s measuring dick length by who gets raped the most.
We should learn to talk about male rape whenever we can – not just when the story of a 14-year old raped to death breaks. It makes us look selfish and insensitive – even though we mean well.
Rape is a shitty, horrible thing for anyone to go through, and we should all talk against it. Please, okay? Can’t we all just get along for the good of all?
Not all the time gender war, biko.
Rape and the Man Child
Close your eyes.
Or don’t. You need them open to read this after all.
You’re fourteen. You know about girls – well; you’ve seen movies, read James Hadley Chase and Danielle Steele among others. You have elder brothers who always have an errand for you to run whenever their female friends are around – and they are around a lot. You know to disappear when Daddy starts touching Mummy one kind. You know your way around girls as long as you’re not touching them. You’ve never actually seen a porn movie, but of all your friends you’re the only one – so you say you have. You’re curious – but not exactly in a hurry.
There’s a woman you have a crush on – you and almost every male in the neighborhood, weight and size regardless. She’s almost three times your age but it doesn’t matter. She’s that hot.
But you tell yourself it’s just a childish crush. Besides, she’s friends with your mother. You go to her house on errands sometimes and she smiles at you. Touches your head; your hair. Smiles at you some more.
But you tell yourself it doesn’t matter. She’s friends with your mother.
And then one day, everything changes.
There was something about auntie that afternoon that made you hot and bothered. She was nicer than usual, her hand lingered just a bit longer than usual on your chest; thigh – but it didn’t matter. When she asked if you wanted something to drink you nodded and when you saw the bottle, instead of protesting you saw a chance to impress her. So you poured 60 percent proof rum down your innocent throat, bringing involuntary tears to your eyes.
But you didn’t cough. You became dull – almost lethargic, but you didn’t cough.
So when auntie started to throw your clothes off, caution was somewhere in the back of your throat steaming in rum. You pawed her just as eagerly – and when you saw her breasts – breasts that looked nothing like you imagined – you were ruined.
And thus went your innocence.
You fell asleep on auntie’s bed – but before you left that day you ate a big Sweet Sensation meal and had ‘sweet sensations’ with auntie two more times. When you walked home later that evening, your shoulders were square; your head was high. You had eaten something men three times your age wanted to but couldn’t.
As you neared your house, you saw your mum waiting and the smile that had lightened your features disappeared. Your face darkened as you remembered auntie’s warning; Don’t tell anybody.
What you did must have been wrong.
Who could you tell anyway? You’re the black sheep of the family. No matter what happened it was your fault; always. So you shut your mouth and kept going, acting like everything was okay. But every time you went to auntie’s house, something inside you got smaller and smaller and smaller…
Until you went away to boarding school.
Years later, you still cannot shake the feeling of guilt. Men cannot be raped after all, and since men think about sex every nine seconds you must have somehow enjoyed it.
You must have, right?
But if that was what it was, how come you feel shame every time you think about it? How come you still have not told anyone about it? Why do you find it difficult to be entirely intimate with someone – with anyone? You think back on it; and while it wasn’t too bad as far sexual experiences go, you hate(d) that you didn’t have any choice in the matter. Something was taken from you without your consent.
You were little better than the cap of a bottle; the nylon wrapping of a new book – something to be used and discarded. You were meat.
Now close your eyes and walk in those shoes for a while.
It saddens me when people say stuff like ‘men can’t be raped’. ‘Men like sex so much they take it whenever wherever and however they can get it’. These are examples of the kind of thinking that makes people become weird, strange and alone – because something happened to them and you help them think it’s their fault.
As ‘boring’ as the concept of virginity is made to seem nowadays, I would have liked to hold on to mine; at least a bit longer than I actually did. But that was a choice that was taken from me at a time I could do little about it – and that is something I cannot get past no matter how I try. I felt – I still feel taken advantage of by someone I liked and looked up to – in a manner of speaking. I’m still all fucked up about it. I’m afraid of being vulnerable.
I’m a man. And yet, the shame I feel every time I think about it is almost physical. At times I drift and realize I cannot form deep bonds with people because I’m afraid of being taken advantage of again. That’s why I write a lot of the things I write; somewhere in here there’s a little boy still running around trying to figure out why what happened to him happened.
In a manner of speaking, I’m still trying to find closure.
We get raped too. We get taken advantage of, lied to and used by people we thought the world of. It’s bad because when as a man you say; ‘I was raped’ some people think you’re joking, some think you’re crazy for hating it and some say ‘so? Are you not a man?’
To think some people still think there’s no such thing as rape.
Don’t get it confused. This is not meant to make light of women’s pain; neither is it trying to compete or compare my/our pain to theirs.
Men get raped too. And it hurts too.
The Curse of the Nigerian Male
I’m coming from the Island; Ikoyi to be exact (anywhere from Marina to Epe is the Island; deal), from the Waterside where I’d just had fish peppersoup and Smirnoff Ice with a friend. It’s a few minutes after eleven; I’m racing on the Third Mainland Bridge eager to get home. There’s usually power at this time of the day; I’m thinking. And if there isn’t, I still have some fuel in the gen.
I want to get some writing done before I sleep.
A few meters past the Ebutte Metta exit I spot a motionless vehicle. Beside it is a woman who’s equally just as still. I should stop; I think. I should stop and ask if she needs help. Besides, she isn’t safe where she is. That’s the humane thing to do.
Thinking back, I wonder if I was gunning for the Nobel Price for Stupid because anyone who’s familiar with that stretch of road knows it’s usually bad karma to be caught there at that time of the day with motor trouble. All sorts of sordid tales have been told over the years; from robbery and assaults to rape and molestation. I really don’t know what I was thinking; I doubt I was even thinking. I stop the car and exit it, feeling like some superhero.
I intend to ask if she needs help; if she’s okay. I get as far as opening my mouth when she screams and reaches for something in the backseat of her car.
Gun; my hyperactive imagination shrieks in letters of fire. For a second I think I’m in New York again; pulse pounding as I am pushed against the wall by a policeman who probably thinks every black man with a hand in his jacket pocket is packing. Whatever the case, I am not waiting to see what she has on her backseat. I do a 180, run – run – back to my car, jump in and go from zero to ninety in five seconds.
I can still smell rubber burning.
I am at Ogudu before I realize my car is screaming; I am at Ogudu before I’m aware of anything again. My heart is doing hoops and spins; my teeth are chattering, I am scared. I have to verbally tell myself to take my foot off the accelerator before I can slow down the vehicle. By now I am approaching Alapere Estate, so I just ease into the filling station just past the estate exit, turn off the engine and get out of the car.
My legs are trembling so much I have to sit on the tarmac. Sweat pops from all over me like a pure water sachet just pulled out of a really cold freezer; I look at my hands and to my absolute horror, burst into tears.
I am crying.
After living in predominantly-white countries for a bit, you get used to people crossing the street to avoid you, people changing seats on a bus when they see you approaching or women clutching their purses and walking faster because a young black male is approaching. The thing is in Lagos, the crime is not being black.
The crime is being male.
At a time when just one of my friends had a car and we wanted to go out, we would dump ourselves into the vehicle but be on the lockout for police checkpoints. Once we spotted one up ahead, the car would stop out of sight, about one or two of us would get out, walk past the checkpoint and wait for the vehicle to catch up.
Three or more males in a car? Potential suspect things. Even if you weren’t caught with any illegal goods, the time wasting alone was insane.
Maybe those are too-serious issues. Maybe I should talk about how you’re looking at a woman and she’s looking down to see if she’s showing too much flesh. Or how you want to ask someone for directions and they just look straight ahead or hurry past you, assuming you want to beg for transport money. Or maybe I should talk about how I hesitate to invite a woman over to the crib these days; not because I’m afraid of her refusing, more like I’m afraid of her reasons for refusing.
I’m not a rapist; I want to scream.
But should that be her problem?
What is the problem – or maybe we should begin like this; is there really a problem? If so, what is it and how can it be solved?
I can’t lie; one phrase that makes me clench my teeth and want to hit something is the all men are dogs something. I mean, ‘statistics’ seem to support the ridiculous notion that men think about sex every nine seconds. Just think about the implications of such a bogus statement. So; I’m paying a woman a compliment, she thinks I want to get between her legs. I’m smiling politely at a female receptionist she’s thinking I caught a glimpse of her breasts. I offer to help a stranded woman; she wonders at what point during the journey I’m going to make my move.
How about the unfortunate reality that quite a number of guys actually lost their virginity to an aunt, the house girl, ‘mummy’s friend’ and so on? How about the most unfortunate reality that Nigerian law does not acknowledge that a man can be raped? ‘Unlawful penetration’, that’s what the law calls it – and since it’s the man doing the penetrating…
How about the service girl at the bar, the fast food outlet, the store – who keeps flirting and making suggestive remarks just because I’m a guy therefore I am susceptible to her charms and feminine wiles? How about the bank cashier who cannot seem to get enough of my charm?
Or am I paranoid? Am I guilty of the same crime that ‘politeness is so rare these days people confuse it for flirting’ meme seeks to address?
The truth is, most people – most guys are moving so fast through the day they barely notice any of these things. Unfortunately, I’m a writer. All I do is notice. I cannot bury my head in the sand and act like well; sexism is a global phenomenon and it’s our turn here too, so I should just man up and deal with it. Unfortunately; sometimes it’s as intense as hearing voices in my head. I cannot turn it off.
Finally; I am done crying. My chest is still heaving; I’m still sweaty and shaky but the leaky faucet in eyes is exhausted for the moment. I stand up and brush my hands off, and briefly wonder what exactly made me cry; that I had run from a screaming woman or that I had been scared by a screaming woman.
Or maybe I’m just tired of humanity’s collective bullshit; how we can hardly resist treating one person a certain kind of way just because they are.
Black. White. Brown. Straight. Gay. Religious. Atheist. Fat. Thin. Male. Female. And all other categories we put ourselves in.
I remember a while ago I resided in some area ago; I was coming home one evening and as I walked towards my apartment, wondering if NEPA had been gracious enough during the day and I would get cold water to drink, my landlord’s last born tells me his father summons.
Sighing, I ignore my apartment and instead climb the stairs to his, open the door –
And find the Oputa panel waiting.
I am shown to a seat and before I am addressed I ask for a cup of cold water. The panel looks offended; but I couldn’t care less. I didn’t owe rent; so they were the ones interrupting. They could wait.
I drank my fill of water before looking at the panel members. “Yes?” I asked.
The landlord was equally blunt. “Young man, are you the one that impregnated my daughter?”
It was so unexpected I could only ask, “Ehn?” with my mouth hanging open after the question.
Then I realized; he had asked a question, not made a statement as he would have if he knew the answer. I adjusted on my seat and asked, “Have you asked your daughter?”
The man eyed his fellow panelists, looked back at me and nodded.
“What did she say?”
He folded his arms against his chest and grumbled. I knew then his daughter had refused to answer him so I said, “As soon as your daughter answers, I will.”
And I stood from my seat, intending to leave.
“Who else can it be?” He complained. “You’re the only irresponsible man in this area. A man your age – why are you not married?”
Irresponsible being the same or equal to being unmarried.
I stopped and turned to face him. “Baba, shebi you are married?”
“Ehen?” he answered aggressively.
“That must mean you cannot impregnate a woman again, shebi?”
“Who said – “ he shot forward in his seat, starting to evoke all sorts of gods and incantations. And then he realized what I had said. He sat back in his seat, eying me like a well-fed lion would eye a fat buffalo.
“Goodnight sir,” I said, bowing from the waist before exiting the building. It wasn’t long after that before I was evicted; but not before they discovered who had impregnated the landlord’s daughter.
Yinka, the manager of the bakery next door. Married with children. How many? I lost count (and interest) after attending the naming ceremony of the sixth.
Is it my fault I am male?
I get home at something past twelve and put on my laptop. Life goes on. I think about the woman I meant to help and try not to blame her; who knows what she’s been through? Yorubas say ‘if you close your eyes for a bad person to walk past, that’s where you’ll be when a good person goes by’. I think about the policemen who are occasionally extra-rough with me just because I’m male; I think about the cab I stop that drives past me to stop for the woman up ahead.
I think; and wonder what life would be like as a woman. It can’t be that hard to wear a skirt; I think.
But then, I remember the bra. And smile.
Maybe life as male in Nigeria is not so bad after all.