There is something very wrong with both our men and women

This is not your usual response to the rape issue in Nigeria. It is not a rant and I have no interest in censure. In fact, I am more concerned about the broader societal issues that frame the subject matter. If intrigued, then by all means read on.

I begin with a story. 6 months ago, I was on a date with an urbane and I must admit very fine Nigerian brother. I met him as most meetings occur; randomly and fortuitously. I was tired; he made me smile; he asked for and got a date in response. One date became 2 then 3. On the 3rd date we regaled each other with University tales and he told me two stories that chilled me to the core.

In school, he resided in a hostel notorious for loud frat parties. The dorm had developed quite a reputation for freshers welcome gigs. At the end of the annual drink fest, guys and girls would pair up and the lucky guys would lead their fresh conquests to their rooms for a night of sweat and sex. I thought this was all pretty normal till he told me about the screams.

Every year, after the parties, there would be screams of women rising through the halls of the dorm. On deeper inquiry, he told me somewhat shamefaced that these were the screams of women who were being “punished”. “Punished”, I asked? “Yes”, he replied. “Punished for leading guys on. For enjoying a night out on the town, spending a guy’s limited money, partying and flirting suggestively, then refusing to repay the night of fun with sex”. He then told me another story of a friend who was infamous for assaulting women anytime he was drunk. He’d been in trouble many times. All his friends knew but no one spoke up because of some weird Code of Silence. I wondered briefly if the same code applied if the guy chose to date any of their sisters.

I recalled this conversation with my unfortunate and never again seen date when the latest outrage about rape filtered unto social media (arising from an ill-timed, tasteless joke by a renowned comedian). You see, I have heard many of the “reasons” adduced for rape and surmise that many of our men do not even know what rape is or at the very least secretly believe that in some cases, it is justified. For dialectical purposes, I shall define rape here: “The unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse” ( Please note the word, unlawful. I shall refer to it later.

I have been concerned for a while now that I live in a society where many of my educated and not so educated peers feign ignorance of or permissiveness for such a straightforward definition. It gives me cause for pause. I see an insidious psychology at play here that few pay attention to; one that has been caused and fostered by BOTH men and women. The next couple of paragraphs provide context. Ignore or dismiss but they paint a chilling portrait of the children we are now breeding in Nigeria.

I have talked to many men. I hear the deep pain, disbelief and then raw rage over being financially raped by countless women who pretend to love them but whose sole mission was to take from them. The level of deception is Machiavellian in conception and Napoleonic in execution. While many mothers teach their daughters to avoid predators; who teaches the men to avoid same? Sadly, bitter experience does. Arguably, a woman’s most precious possession is her body; for a man, it’s his ego and money earned by toil. When he is summarily fooled and taken for granted, the animalistic response is to fight back by taking that which is most precious to the woman. Many times, it’s not the woman who perpetrated the crime who suffers. She is long gone, anyway. It’s the next woman or wife who is raped and “punished”.

The only difference with this scenario in Nigeria and in developed countries is that no matter how many times a woman commits this alleged financial “rape” against a man, the consequences of the law restrain a man from sexual rape. Similarly, no matter how skimpily dressed women are when a man travels to a developed nation for Summer; it rarely occurs to him to rape the women because of the long shadow of the law. We cannot have a robust discussion about rape without discussing the legal protections for women in Nigeria. Without consequence, mankind runs amok. A wise man once said, “where there is no law, there is no sin”.

I’ve also spoken to men who feed on porn and sad victims of sexual addiction. They have been subtly programmed to believe inflicting pain is a sign of masculinity and that rough sex doesn’t need to be consensual. I have had to say NO quite loudly to a boyfriend who stopped seeing me in the midst of his own sexual drive and need. This brings to the fore the subject of mastering one’s sexual drive. How many people have?

There are boys who feed on music videos and believe that any half-dressed woman with a big booty or enticing titties is fair game. After all the celebrities say so and endorse such behaviour.  There is no mass counter-culture. Very few say differently. Few discuss the issues (and the attendant trauma) in chat rooms, on social media, in religious places of concourse, in families, in relationships and in marriages. There are very few sexual trauma centres in Nigeria and even fewer counselors at affordable rates. Our society is exposed to Western culture without the social safety nets of the same culture. At the point at which Nigerian traditional values (whatever they may be) co-joined with Western values, who exactly was tasked with dealing with the fall-out? Who takes care of raped minors, by the way?

There are entire families reeling from generational abuse; fathers teaching sons to denigrate women; politicians purchasing virginity for school fees; deacons sponsoring monthly orgies in palatial homes. The list goes on. Is it any wonder that sexual molestation is tolerated in Nigeria? Do we even have respect for sex or the body that provides it? Aren’t sexual partners easily traded anyway? Remember Nigeria is said to have the 2nd largest population living with HIV in Africa.

Men say to women, “if you don’t want to have sex, don’t play and don’t turn a guy on”. Perhaps there’s some merit to this. But how exactly does this apply in a trusted committed relationship when you are taken advantage of in a moment of weakness? At what point do you lose your right to say no? Should all girlfriends take a vow to stop visiting their boyfriends’ houses for fear of rape?

My submission is this. Addressing the rape issue in Nigeria includes speaking against it and speaking the truth about it. It requires a deeper understanding of the factors that fuel it and the players – both men and women. It requires a cleansing of the legal system, the reorientation of the culture that empowers it and a robust response to the media products that compound it.

Finally, why did a comedian become the poster child for the outrage against rape and not our fathers, brothers and friends who we know? My thinking – Some attack to score points and to vent hidden pain. Others are alarmed because of the power of a celebrity to confer legitimacy on what is wrong, evil, stupid or base as long as he or she can get enough people to buy the bullshit.

I rest my somewhat disjointed case.

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