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.
And by ‘men’ I’m referring to the male species exclusively.
You know, the third-leg-carrying specie, the one for who it is most acceptable for to have hair on his face – the usually beer-guzzling viewing-centre-arguing video-game-thumping…
You get the point.
Yes; man. This one is for us by us. And it gives me the utmost shame to inform you that we have failed.
We. Have. Failed.
I was online several weeks ago – and I saw some hashtag thing all over the place. It didn’t take too long to find out what was behind it. Turns out that a group of people came together to raise funds to give women self-defense classes to protect them from rape.
Okay. Hold up.
For a man born, raised and bred in Africa, I have the understanding that the male is the protector of the female – at least physically. Maybe today we have independent women who don’t need men or whatever (more on that later), the basic understanding I have is the man is the head of the home. That doesn’t make him superior to the woman, it just gives him the responsibility of direction. Of stability. And protection.
At least, that’s what I understand and believe.
And a lot of us secretly harbor resentment for a woman who thinks she is our equal. The only reason we have ‘accepted’ this gender equality thing is because it’s popular – but how many of us are actually comfortable marrying a woman who isn’t ready to ‘bow and scrape’ before us? How many of us can marry a woman who will not stay at home to care for the kids – a woman who probably earns more than we do – a woman who will not be ‘controlled’?
Would our ‘African’ male ego accept that?
So – is it not a slap in the face when the women have to take self-defense classes, not because they want to, but because they need protection from US? The ‘men’ who are supposed to be their champion/defender/protector/knight (even if said armor is rusty in too many places)?
And maybe that’s not exactly a solution – I’m referring to the self-defense classes thing – because not only does it still make it look like it’s the women’s fault they get raped, what if after self-defense classes they meet a rapist who is stronger and better trained than they are?
Guys, let’s take a moment to reflect on that.
Statistics according to RAINN show that 2/3 rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. To quote;
Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.1
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.1
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.1
28% are an intimate.1
7% are a relative.1
- S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Study. 2005.
Even though this data was not gathered in Nigeria, it isn’t too far from the truth.
Men, when did we become like this?
Shebi you’ve seen October 1? The most recent of Kunle Afolayan’s movies?
Remember the near-climactic scene – in which the villain has pinned down the leading lady and is ripping her clothes off – and she says “You would forcefully take that which I would willingly give you?”
And even if she doesn’t want to give you – should she not have the right to decide who or what gets access to her body?
After all, it’s her body isn’t it?
I know some parts of this letter would be me repeating myself – after all it was only six months ago in April I wrote something on this issue – but the truth of the matter is; we’re not talking enough. We’re not doing enough.
I was at the police station (Area F to be specific) about two years ago, to sort out a friend who had gotten into a spot of trouble. While waiting for his CO, I noticed two policemen; one male the other female, bantering with a pretty young girl. I really wasn’t listening – but after a while I couldn’t help but hear what they were saying and it made my head hurt.
Apparently, girl had gone to her friend’s house and met the friend’s boyfriend at home. One thing led to another (as they usually do) and friend’s boyfriend had forced her to sleep with him.
I don’t remember the story blow for blow but that was the gist.
But that wasn’t what I found bothersome. That wasn’t what gave me the headache.
What got to me were the responses of the policemen – especially the female officer.
“How e take rape u? No be ya leg u carry waka go dere? E tie your hand? Abegi! Na so una dey do – maybe de guy do finish e no settle u na im u vex!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This was another woman talking.
After a while though – they finally took a statement from her and agreed to follow her to the guy…
After a while.
Why this apathy when it comes to rape? Why are people so indifferent to this heinous crime?
Men – why do we rape?
Why do we rape?
Is that how your – how our fathers did our mothers; so we’ve come to think it’s normal? Do we have sisters who come home weeping, talking about how their boyfriend/husband/boss (the various roles we play in other women’s lives) forced himself on them – and we laugh and pat her on the back and say ‘that’s normal na! Why are you crying? Kini big deal?’
Kini big deal – about rape – really?!
Guys, how is it a woman’s fault that she got raped?
If we’re talking indecent dressing, why aren’t the Allen Avenue evening ladies getting raped regularly? How about the rag-wearing mad woman?
If we’re talking ‘because she came to our house’, since when did trust become a crime?
If we’re talking because we spent money on her, then we should also rape our mums, we shouldn’t have any female friends – and that woman who brings her kids to our car window to beg should be the next victim.
We should be ashamed of ourselves o – we really should be.
I mean, if we say we’re superior to women, then we should be their protectors and champions – not the ones they need protecting from. We should protect their rights to choose – the exact same way we would protect children and animals.
And if we say we are equal and the same with them – they should be able to decide what they want and don’t want, and we should be able to respect that.
So what is the problem? Guys, can we have a conversation?
Can we realize it’s in no way a woman’s fault a man decides to act beastly? Do we understand that because we are not taking up the mantle to speak and defend our women is why they are taking it upon themselves to protect themselves? Shall we agree that no excuse is good enough – and that the only person whose fault it is in a rape situation is the rapist?
I mean, we should consider the fact that there are yet several of us who see women dressing in some very provocative manner – and the fact that not all men are rapists puts paid to the generalization that the victim did something to provoke that reaction.
Men, let us be responsible. Let us do the needful – and be responsible men, fathers, brothers, cousins, nephews, friends – magas; even!
Let us protect the woman. The girl-child.
From ourselves, if need be.
I hope this letter makes some sort of sense to us – and even more than that – I hope it provokes a certain kind of response. I hope it makes us speak. I hope it makes us think.
More importantly, I hope it makes us do something positive concerning this rape thing.
Ever been robbed?
Ever been asked to surrender all your worldly goods at gunpoint by people you know if it came down to it; if it wasn’t for the gun(s) they were carrying, you could and would do them some serious harm?
Ever been stripped naked and tied with your own shoelaces, and then dumped on the Third Mainland Bridge, where you spent hours of peeing and crapping on yourself alternately till you were rescued by one mad woman who chewed through the wires binding your wrists and ankles – while you prayed she would think that thing that dangled a few inches from your wrist was a sausage?
And as if all that wasn’t enough, you still have to contend with how to get to your six-flat house?
Now multiply that – multiply EVERY single emotion/trauma you felt by twenty. That would begin to give the layman some sort of idea of what rape victims go through.
Just an idea. It’s not even close.
BE CLEAR: At NO POINT is RAPE OKAY. NONE. Let’s just get that out of the way.
Somehow, the perception of rape being the victim’s fault has pervaded our society – to the point where victims get insulted and harassed at Police Stations – the very same place where they’re are supposed to feel the safest.
I cringe in shame. And horror.
Consider for a moment statistics from a survey carried out in a school…
While the response from the males is horrifying enough; what I find most frightening is the reaction of the females! I do not understand why someone…ANYONE would think it’s okay to rape someone.
And if you look at the stats above – you will understand that it’s starting to look as though rape has become a way of life – something to be accepted; condoned and explained away. And even though that is supposed to have been recorded in a ‘first-world country’…isn’t the same true for us here?
I mean, we all remember the infamous Basketmouth joke, right?
No Way. Violating anyone at ANY POINT; drunk or sober, dressed or undressed – as long as there is NO consent; is a crime against humanity.
What bothers me most, however is that according to a research carried out a while ago somewhere, most of the victims of rape know the person who raped them and have a relationship with the person.
It’s just somehow. How it’s the person you love the most is the one who hurts you the most – or something close.
Some guys have an entitlement mentality. Because they spent money, taken her out to wherever she wants – she has to sleep with them; whether she wants to or not?
And because she trusted him, she’s so ashamed…she’d rather keep it to herself.
People talk about how the way a lady dresses might be inspiration for rape. Really?
So a madwoman walking on the streets in rags; showing more than she’s covering should be raped too?
It’s a shame that the same people who are supposed to protect women are the same ones responsible for the pain and hurt. There’s no rationalizing rape anyhow. There’s no explaining it; there’s no defending it. Rape is completely and totally WRONG.
If a guy feels spending money on a woman and not sleeping with her makes him look stupid; I suggest he goes looking for prostitutes. After all, that’s why such a trade exists; spend money to get sex!
Non-consensual sex is a crime. NO means NO.
Point blank period.
For the sake of repetition and clarity – at NO POINT is it okay to rape someone – anyone.
Even a dog has rights. How much more, fellow humans?
Let Us all come together and fight this scourge of society.
If you; or anyone you know is hurting, please call 01-8209387 or 08052004698 or 08037178963.
There are people ready to speak with you on those lines – people offering help and care. Your anonymity is guaranteed.
God bless us all.