Men Rape Women
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
On twitter, or at least the Nigerian chapter of it, a boy, Tife, met a girl, Sansa, and they fell in what they thought was a tolerable approximation of love. We do that sometimes. The need to love and be loved is irresistible, all-consuming, inexorable; only a little less so than the joy of being in love. To his great love, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Most loved of all loves, my soul clings to your soul, my life is your life, and in all the world of pain and pleasure you are my ideal of admiration and joy.” Lord Byron, another great man, said to one of his many great loves, “I was, and am yours, freely and entirely, to obey, to honour, love and fly with you, when, where, and how, yourself might and may determine.” What sweet surrender!
When there’s love, true heart wrenching love, there must also be sex - “emotion in motion.” (Mae West) “Sex without love is as hollow and ridiculous as love without sex.” (Hunter S. Thompson). And so it is hardly surprising that Tife and Sansa, believing themselves to be in love, on the way to love; aspiring to be in love and undoubtedly asking themselves at every step, favour or fight, if what they were doing was love, or sex, went on to have sex... repeatedly.
There’s a quote I like which says, “Everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” When we fall in love, or any of the approximations of love - lust, friendship, mentorship, there’s an exchange of power. I give unto my friends my secret thoughts, because it is these things that reveal my truest self. Once I have done so, they carry with them a piece of me. Where they, the carriers of my heart, go, I go. This is love. But hidden within that is an exchange of power. My secrets can be weaponised against me. My trust can be abused. And when this happens... My spirit is grieved. My soul is distraught. My heart is heavy. Sex, emotion in motion, is one of the most profound languages of love. It reveals how we give, how we take, our bodies, our desires, our secrets, all laid bare in front of another. It is never without meaning. It is a mirror that reveals our truest selves.
The organs of our sex, foundations upon which we construct our genders and our identities, are important. If sex is important, to communicate love, desire, emotion, and to perform the magic of procreation - things inseparable from our humanity, then we must admit, if not publicly, then at least to ourselves, that our private parts are more significant than perhaps any other body part. Does a woman’s understanding of love not change when the fruit of her loins passes through the organ of her sex? It is magical. It is spiritual. It is powerful. I have heard Beyonce talk about it. I have listened to my friends describe it. It is precious; for men as well as for women - precious.
Sansa came down to Warri from Ife to see Tife because it was his birthday. At some point during the trip, they both took off their clothes. She put the condom on him and then they had sex. At some point during the activity, it started to hurt Sansa. She told Tife that it hurt. She told him to stop. She cried. He didn’t stop. Tife says that this was not rape. Sansa says that it felt like rape.
Our bodies are sacred. It doesn't matter the part. If I tell you that you may only touch the polio vaccine scar on my right shoulder, then that is the only part of me you must touch. To do anything else would be a violation of myself. I will not easily forgive you. My reasons are simple. There is nothing that is more profoundly mine than my body. I was born with it. I have carried it with me for 30 years. If you disobey the rules I set regarding its treatment you deny me my humanity. You treat me as something less than you. This is why there is no such thing as a small liberty when it comes to my body. Even the slightest feel could drive me distraction. Every violation no matter how small is a very big deal. I find that the same is true of most of us. So if this is true of a finger, an arm, a leg, then what about our most private places? I know this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Those who abuse love, trust, power, will continue to abuse and justify their abuse. Everyday the victims of abuse scream that they deserve lives without abuse, but their abusers justify their right to abuse, tirelessly, endlessly, frantically.
Tife has complained that the allegation is nothing but fiction created by Sansa to ruin his life. He has had suicidal thoughts, but is being strong for his family and friends. He has questions about the incident. “Why exactly will I rape someone that when we both had consensual sex. Did I threaten you? Did I blackmail you to give me sex? Were you drunk? Haven’t we been having sex for more than 5 months already? Didn’t you agree to have sex with me that night?” He does not ask why he didn’t stop when she said stop. He does not ask why he didn’t stop when she started crying. He has, however, revealed what he thinks rape is. The end product of threats, blackmail, or wanton drunkenness. He is not alone in his thinking. Some men will say if they did not beat you, it wasn’t rape, or that if you consented to being kissed, it meant that you had also consented albeit tacitly to the touching of other parts of your body.
In claiming, complaining, that Sansa’s accusation is a thing she concocted, designed, to ruin his life, his stunning life, full with the promise of opportunity, prospects and big achievements, Tife evoked his privilege as a Nigerian man. In the story he will tell of his journey, Sansa will be Jezebel, Delilah, Monica Lewinsky, a strategically placed distraction on his road to success. He will say nothing of her pain. He cannot understand it. He will claim no responsibility for the night she asked him to stop and he did not. He will refuse to see that before she ruined his life by speaking about that night, he did the same to her by not listening to her. She will carry the memory of that night with her for as long as she lives. It is a heavy difficult thing to bear.
Maybe sex isn’t what I think it is, emotion in motion, a love language superior to all others, a mutual exchange of power, desire and need. This definition of sex as an agent of love doesn’t wait for the word “No” to be said before stopping. It is generous and kind and good. When men like Tife tell the stories of sex they insisted on having even when the other participant in the team sport said no, and then insist that it wasn’t rape, could it be because, in the minds of some men, rape is also an acceptable kind of sex that is had? It is as Judith Lewis Herman said, “Women quickly learn that rape is only a crime in theory. In practice the standard for what constitutes rape is not set at the level of experience of women’s violation but just above the level of coercion acceptable to men.”
Nigerians in general know that the possibility of rape is high. Women have policed themselves to the point of exhaustion. Men, the ones doing the raping, and even the ones not doing the raping, have aided them in the policing of themselves, in the hope that women will escape the terrible plunder of their bodies.
Don’t wear short skirts, don’t wear revealing clothes, be careful of the company you keep, don’t go out at night, never move around alone, be fearful of male family members, don’t be beautiful, remove your clitoris, turn to God with fervor, don’t take taxis alone, don’t go to church alone, don’t allow any men to see you, don’t wear skirts, don’t wear trousers, pepper spray is essential, tasers are essential, get a gun, wear two pairs of trousers, carry a knife in your purse, never be a sex worker, be careful of your male boss. Madness. Women have never been the problem. The problem has always been men. If we do not make men stop raping women, they will always rape women.
In the 2014 National Survey on Violence Against Children in Nigeria, 1 in 4 women experienced sexual violence when they were children. 7 out of 10 of these women say it happened more than once. And for adult women, we don’t know, because according to a paper called The Trends and patterns of sexual assaults in Lagos south western Nigeria only 2 out of 40 women report it.
On Saturday the 30th of May 2020, a young woman, only a girl at 22, Uwavera Omozuwa, was raped and then murdered, in a Redeemed Church near her home in Benin City, the capital of Nigeria’s Edo State. Nigerians on twitter complained about the prevalence of gender based violence. They uttered the age old foolishness, something that roughly approximates to women should take great care lest they be raped. Some asked, also foolishly, if we were raising our sons properly; a stupid question. The answer is no.
So where are women safe to live, love, have sex, be alive without reservation? The answer to that is nowhere, especially not in Nigeria, definitely not in Africa, and certainly not on this planet.