I have often said that many men can be sexual assaulters and don’t even know it. They say of rapists and women beaters “Oh I am not like that monster in the news, or “I can never do such a horrible thing,” forgetting that the culture that allows for rape and violence justifies them, favours them, gives them privilege.
When I was much younger, I thought sexual assault victims were in the minority. Minority in that if you were in a safe place without too many boys or clad in decent clothing you couldn’t get raped or harassed even. This was mostly because the assault stories that made it to the news were mostly of girls who chose by themselves to dress provocatively in skimpy skirts at night and go to where there were too many boys and so deserved any manner of rape that they got.
I am very ashamed of being fed that narrative from people most especially the media as a young girl, I am furious that my mind didn’t even think to process it but I’m glad that I learned and unlearned and relearned.
Rape culture ensured that in my teenage years, I wore a hoodie over my blouse in the scorching sun, or baggy trousers that pooled at the ankle when going out. It was something I did instinctively, after too many men I hardly knew had whistled at me and called me yellow paw paw, ripe paw paw or my angel when running errands in my neighbourhood, in sexual tones that my thirteen year old self did not need to hear. “Yellow suzie, baby girl, you are now a big girl o.” some said, grinning stupidly and lingering too long before handing me my balance for whatever I had bought. I did not understand their need to want to touch me or pull me close to them in uncomfortable hugs.
The eagerness of these men terrified me. I am not sure which is worse, the fact that I felt terribly harassed and violated even or the idea that they thought they were doing me a favour by calling me suzie. Because it was a “guy” thing, it wasn’t something that anyone put in check. Men are allowed to harass you if they think you are beautiful and if they think you are ugly, you should be grateful even that atleast a man is harassing you. No one has told them that this is plainly intimidation and bullying.
Usually, the moment the sun started to dip around 4 or 5, I hardly went out. If I did, it somehow occurred to me to defend myself from them by wearing “protection”, in the hope that a big sweater concealed whatever angelic baby girl these adult men were seeing.
Recently, Donald Trump’s name has been in the news for the rubbish and nonsense he has often said about women and their bodies, and while I am happy that his sexism and blatant mysogyny is coming to fore and starting necessary conversations that can hopefully ruin his campaign for good (as should be), I am not in the least surprised because everything he said in all those released audio is the typical boy talk that has since needed proper addressing.
Forget alcohol consumption that can let you speak rubbish often. Go and listen in on typical guys during their “boy” time, in locker rooms, when they are play stationing with friends, when they are analysing a female character in a movie, they sound no different from Trump. They take on full rights to the female body parts, discuss possible scenarios of a sexual encounter.
Walk through any Nigerian market, and watch men disgustingly cat call women both fully and scantily dressed and make reference to her shaking backside, or call her breast mountains they want to climb or oranges they want to eat or even go ahead to draw her close in an uncomfortable embrace and get away with it because it is just a guy thing, just locker room talk. If you so much as flinch whenever one touches your arm or slings his arm remorselessly across your shoulder the next predictable sentence would be: “Is it not a man that will marry you? As though it is enough justification to be violated like that. Such self aggrandization!
This foolishness, this bad behaviour that Trump has called locker room talk in the hope to sweep it under the carpet (and of course get away with) is what needs to be addressed. It is not locker room talk, it is harassment. It is what rape and violence culture has thrived on over time such that we leave what’s important and shame women for wearing mini skirts, shame them for drinking, shame them for going out but exonerate men from responsibility when we say stuff like boys will always be boys. We don’t realise that such statements enable their excesses, enhance their poor decisions and bad behaviour.
No, boys will not be boys. Boys will be held accountable for their actions just as girls have been for years and years now. Your doltishness and indiscretion is not locker room talk it is harassment, it is against the law and you should start getting punished for it.
The lack of punishment of any kind is the reason Donald Trump can say the things he has said and still even offer a non apology (which is worse) so we can all just move on as though we are making such a big fuss over nothing.
You don’t deal with this root cause, what you get is continuous victim blaming and a generation of men who will always see women as another toy or trophy. You end up with men who don’t see that their words will at some point translate into actions. They don’t look like it because they top their classes and are fantastic entreprenurs, gifted doctors, possibly even church workers.
If you are a guy, check yourself. Ask yourself questions about how many times you have violated women without necessarily having intercourse. No one should have to be threatened by the simple fact that another self imposed alpha gender exists across the hall. Perhaps you do not understand well enough that these actions are a threat, fearful, something that make us feel violated in every sense of the word. You do not understand the gravity of it, what it does to destabilise the mind.
Perhaps you should ask your mothers, and sisters, and your daughters too. And for their sakes, do better.
And if you are convinced that it is still all locker room talk, a typical guy thing, just know that these conversations are happening and will continue too. Something will have to give soon. You see the way Trump is imploding?…
I’ll just leave that there for you to think through.