(Trig­ger warn­ing – dis­cusses top­ics of sex­ual abuse)

THISDAY Style - - CONTENT - WITH SEYI ALAWODE Twit­ter @Seyial | Email – hello@mer­aki­girl­

The topic of sex­ual as­sault (un­con­sented sex­ual con­tact) and r*pe is fi­nally be­ing spo­ken about on a wide-ish scale on Nige­rian Twit­ter. Thanks to the women brave enough to get the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing within the past few days, many of us re­alised on a deeper level that it just ISN’T safe to be a wo­man in Nige­ria, even around men you think you know and trust.

Be­fore I carry on, I’d like to use this op­por­tu­nity to thank the coura­geous women who started what I see as La­gos’ mini ver­sion of the #MeToo move­ment, prompt­ing equally as coura­geous vic­tims to share their sto­ries and con­se­quently un­der­stand that they are not alone and have heaps of sup­port await­ing them. Ap­pre­ci­a­tion also goes out to or­gan­i­sa­tions such asDSV RT La­gos & We Will Not Be Silent La­gos–the for­mer pro­vides med­i­cal, le­gal, phys­i­cal, so­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port for vic­tims of gen­der-based vi­o­lence while the lat­ter seeks to spread aware­ness on the afore­men­tioned is­sues and de­mol­ish the so prom­i­nent r*pe cul­ture (RC) that ex­ists in Nige­ria – and sev­eral other groups of sim­i­lar na­ture.

I’d also like to state that given the sen­si­tiv­ity of the word r*pe and the pos­si­bil­ity that it may be trig­ger­ing for some to read over and over, this ar­ti­cle where nec­es­sary, will en­com­pass it un­der the um­brella of ‘sex­ual abuse’, along with sex­ual as­sault. So, what is RC, then? This term refers to the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of sex­ual abuse and mis­con­duct in a given en­vi­ron­ment and un­for­tu­nately, it is ever so prom­i­nent in Nige­ria. I re­mem­ber last year fol­low­ing my mother around La­gos mar­ket and con­stantly be­ing called at and grabbed by ran­dom men as I walked around. Upon ex­press­ing (very vo­cally) my dis­gust, their re­sponse on av­er­age was, ‘Ah ah! No be man she go marry?’ If you thought in your head as you read that ‘Al­low them. Boys will be boys. She over­re­acted. They’re just play­ing with her’ or any­thing along those lines, then un­for­tu­nately madams and sirs, you have in­ter­nalised RC and most likely passed it on to your kids. Your sons, es­pe­cially. And it’s prob­a­bly about time you un­learned it and taught your sons to do the same.

De­spite be­ing a so­cial sci­ence un­der­grad, I can­not ac­cu­rately tell you the ori­gins of pa­tri­archy and male dom­i­nated so­ci­eties. What I can tell you though, is that rais­ing your sons in these so­ci­eties with­out teach­ing them ba­sic re­spect for women has its con­se­quences, hence why I write this ar­ti­cle. Be­low are 2 of the most per­va­sive ways of think­ing held by Nige­rian par­ents, from my per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion, that con­trib­ute a whole lot to RC. 1. ‘Boys will be boys’ Ah, a clas­sic. A lazy, sim­plis­tic re­sponse to male mis­con­duct. A sub­tle way of im­ply­ing that men should be ex­cused for bad be­hav­iour sim­ply be­cause… they’re men. Thanks to this harm­ful phrase & men­tal­ity, sev­eral men gen­uinely seem to be­lieve that their sex­ual ‘urges’ are un­con­trol­lable. That they there­fore have to act on it, un­con­sented or not, be­cause they’re men. That sex­u­ally abus­ing a wo­man be­cause she is wear­ing min­i­mal cloth­ing is war­ranted. 6

If you raise your sons up with this men­tal­ity, how on earth do you NOT ex­pect them to grow up think­ing trashy be­hav­iour is part of their ‘na­ture’? Are you rais­ing a hu­man or a wild an­i­mal?

From a so­cial sci­en­tist stance, with­out get­ting too techy, I can con­firm that there is no gene or hor­mone (no, not even testos­terone), that de­ter­mines that un­con­trol­lable sex­ual urges are a nat­u­ral part of the male body.

Men­tal­i­ties like this are learnt, hence why it is im­por­tant we un­learn them for the sake of women’s over­all safety and just gen­eral, hu­man de­cency.

If we must, let’s also look at it from a re­li­gious (Chris­tian, in this case) point of view, too. I re­mem­ber read­ing on Twit­ter a while back that a wo­man’s dress­ing was to blame for her be­ing cat­called, as men can­not help be­ing ‘tempted’. I’ve heard sim­i­lar toxic, ir­re­spon­si­ble mes­sages be­ing preached at church, that women should re­frain from ‘tempt­ing’ men via their cloth­ing. At this point, I’d like to re­mind you lovely read­ers that ‘LUST’ is one of the 7 deadly sins. A wo­man’s dress­ing, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, is not. Again, hu­man not an­i­mal. Thank you. 2. Not rais­ing sons and daugh­ters the same !!!!!!!!!

Al­though I’ve pre­vi­ously ranted about this be­fore, it’s central to the per­va­sion of RC, there­fore it is im­por­tant I re­it­er­ate.

If you must teach your daugh­ter to as­pire to mar­riage, teach your son to do so as well. If you’re teach­ing your daugh­ter ‘wife’ like skills, teach your son ‘hus­band’ like skills. Stop telling your daugh­ters to clean up af­ter their broth­ers. Stop baby­ing your sons while si­mul­ta­ne­ously treat­ing your daugh­ters like pseudo-moth­ers. If you have (a) son(s) and daugh­ter(s), quit acting like your son is the great­est gift to this God given earth be­cause he quite frankly isn’t.

Whether you re­alise it or not, baby­ing your sons and rais­ing them up in an en­vi­ron­ment where ev­ery­thing is done for them and they are treated par­tially for no gen­uine rea­son other than their gen­der, al­lows them to grow up with a su­pe­rior com­plex think­ing they own ev­ery­thing – in­clud­ing women and their bod­ies, thus hav­ing no re­spect for ei­ther. Do you see a pat­tern?

Here, I am linked to the very pop­u­lar, toxic phe­nom­e­non that is vic­tim blam­ing/sham­ing. I’ve read sto­ries in the past where very young women have opened up to their par­ents as vic­tims of sex­ual abuse and in­stead of sup­port­ing them, their moth­ers have in­stead blamed them for be­ing too ‘loose’, dress­ing too ‘re­veal­ingly’ and so on. On the other hand, I’ve also come across sit­u­a­tions where, Nige­rian adults have pretty much de­fended male sex­ual abusers, be­cause they’re al­legedly ‘young and dumb’, ‘mean no harm’ or ‘men­tally ill’.

I ask that we main­tain the same energy for young men as we do women. Fail­ing to do so re­pro­duces the no­tion that men pos­sess own­er­ship over women’s bod­ies and fur­ther shames vic­tims out there into si­lence, po­ten­tially de­ter­ring them from get­ting the sup­port they need.

Though there are many other things I’d like to ad­dress, I have to keep things short for the sake of space! My over­all point is that Nige­rian par­ents are very com­plicit in the con­cen­tra­tion of r*pe cul­ture (RC) in Nige­ria. Set better ex­am­ples for your kids. Teach your sons to re­spect women and raise them the same way you do with your daugh­ters. Stop baby­ing your sons. They do not and will never own women’s bod­ies, even when (if) they get mar­ried. Stop vic­tim blam­ing and sham­ing. In­stead, pro­vide love and sup­port for the abused.

Un­der­stand that is­sues such as these is why we need fem­i­nism. That’s a wrap!! As usual, I in­vite you to (sen­si­bly) con­trib­ute to this con­ver­sa­tion on Twit­ter us­ing the hash­tag #FTM. Al­ter­na­tively, you can email me at hello@ mer­aki­girl­

**PS – I will not en­ter­tain con­ver­sa­tions to do with false ac­cu­sa­tions or the ‘not all men’. I can as­sure you that is not the hill you want to die on. Have a lovely Sun­day, un­til next time!

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