I hate that I have to write this. I hate that I have to type one more time why it is not right that one’s sense of dignity shouldn’t be defaced, that women, girls and infants (how am I even typing this) shouldn’t have to live in fear, shouldn’t have to worry when leaving their homes or cross-check over and over the type of male friends they keep. They shouldn’t have to walk around with paranoia for men like its cologne and shouldn’t have to make local sprays that fend off worms that might infest their souls. The statistic on rape is so alarming we need to start asking if our neighbours aren’t complicit; because these men are like you and me; every day, John Doe(s) go about their daily life, supposedly fending for greener pastures.
Drivers, journalists, motorcyclists, bankers, and teachers; they are everywhere. So it isn’t farfetched when the protest reads ‘stop raping us’. It isn’t preposterous or an unfair generalization to say stop killing us because all of this is happening to people we know by people we know. Why might this be? Why might it be okay to defile a person and seemingly get away with a heinous offence? I think it begins with these;
A Rape Culture
A system that questions rape and blames its victims has a low percentage of convicting accused rapists in rape culture. A culture is a way of life; therefore, a system that trivializes things leading up to rape breeds rapists, lets them thrive, and gets a kick out of it. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SATISFYING SEXUAL URGES BUT A SKEWED VIEW OF POWER AND CONTROL. Meaning these rapists get gratification when they overpower their victims sexually, typically done under duress. So, it’s not a matter of where you were or what you wore; it is a skewed mind that has come for you. However, a system that allows it to thrive is the greatest injustice of all.
Scores of cases have come up in families where uncles, brothers and fathers carry out this cowardly act but are covered up in the name of protecting the family name. What is family if it can’t protect you? (But this is the gist for another day). Rapists must be convicted and given actual jail time that serves as a deterrent to others. In a country where less than 20 people have been convicted of rape in its legal history, it says a lot about its stance. Acceptance is key to being free; hence the need to see it as an active problematic choice> is a behaviour that is wrong and illegal. The current situation begs for a culture where consent is as sexually appealing as sex itself. Giving yourself up to another person shouldn’t be seen as a right; it is a privilege. It is the highest form of vulnerability to be naked in front of another, let alone have sex in a society that continually bashes women for being sexual in any way (sic sexually liberal, deviant or curious).
The rape culture involves name-calling, remarks, unwarranted non-sexual touch, coercion and manipulation, revenge porn (leaking a person’s nude photos/sexual encounter because of spite and stupidity) and numerous forms of exploitation that shouldn’t sit with any humane soul. During this period of rage on Uwa’s case (a 23-year-old, University of Benin student who was raped and killed) tons of female friends have spoken about how bike men (motorcyclist) and cab drivers tap their behinds or pinch their breasts. Dastardly acts like these must be condemned as much as rape itself because as we say, “na from clap dance dey start” and this is not a song we should dance to its tune.
Where were you? What were you wearing? Why you were alone, as if she could have predicted what would happen. Like we haven’t heard countless cases of friends, colleagues and potential date partners (date rape) who forcefully have their way with women known to them. Implying that grown women can’t live and make choices is on us all as a society. Rape is ENTIRELY the fault of the rapist, and if you can’t help with counselling or funds for treatment, it is best you keep your opinion to yourself.
The Little Things
I did my National youth service at a news agency, and my ears caught the conversation of two men and a woman, staff of the agency. The conversation immediately veered into sex talk, and one of the men said to the woman, ‘don’t allow him near you; he will tear you to pieces. Her mouth agape and a stifled uncomfortable laugh were how she steered the conversation into the job that brought them there. And I wondered what statements (that showed male prowess?) had been said to other women, other girls going about their day only to have their ears rinsed with rubbish talk. Why is it so necessary to validate ourselves with a conversation on how we decimated the sheets, private encounters meant for the parties involved? But it goes beyond the conversation; it’s the touching, the pinching, and the suggestive handshakes that sum up uncomfortable scenarios. All of these build up the thought that you can have your way without the express permission of another.
You can hate what men do and not hate men. And so, when men rape and women say stop raping us, it isn’t an attack on the gender but an attack on those perpetrating it. Authentic listening will not only bring healing (because we then begin to suggest ways to combat this), but it also speaks to how we might prevent these from happening. ‘Not all men’ or ‘my man will never’ are bullshit mechanisms that help no one.
The reality is our women are not safe, and the least men (I am one too) can do listen. It doesn’t have to happen to your daughter or sister to understand that this is an alarming situation. For every four women, you see at least one who has experienced/is experiencing assault in one way or the other. All men should feel a sense of responsibility and all men should do better. Life is hard enough; the least we can do is eliminate obstacles we create ourselves.
I hope this moment speaks to our conscience and goes beyond the hashtags and retweets (hell, a rapist might be doing the same). I hope it means we now have a moment when we can call out these rotten eggs and truly have meaningful discussions on how to put away these men for good. To all men, we must do better in our relationships with women. We have to accept the responsibility that comes with consensual relations. It is time we accept consent is every bit as sexy as sex itself.
Damilare Sanusi is an obsessive observer with a biting tongue.