FROM THE MILLENNIALS
(Trigger warning – discusses topics of sexual abuse)
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@ merakigirlhub.com.
**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!