We’ve Had Enough of These Excuses from African Men!

January 13, 2024
7 mins read

By
Mary Shorun

Friday, November 21, 2014.

A few days ago in Nairobi, Kenya, many young
women took to the street to protest against a series of vicious sexual assaults
on women who were attacked for wearing mini-skirts or ‘immodest clothing’. In one of these attacks, a young woman was sexually assaulted by several
young men who stripped her naked, beat and kicked her in the genitals. The men
later told local media that she had been ‘tempting’ them by being ‘indecently
dressed’.

When a woman is raped or gang raped in many
African communities, Nigeria and Kenya included, people ask questions. They
want to know: was she wearing a distastefully seductive outfit that neither
covered her midriff nor protected her plunging cleavage from the wandering eyes
of the male or did she intentionally walk into a room/dark alley where a
sexually undisciplined male was lurking, waiting for prey? Was it a classic
case of vendetta, where the boy had asked the girl out, and she had rudely (and
disrespectfully) said no? Or perhaps, this is a simplistic religious phenomenon
— was the victim possessed by an evil spirit who, through her, tempted the
male culprit?

Proponents of the first reason argue that men
are inherently unable to tame their sexual urges on spotting a scantily clad
woman — female arms, neck, thighs, armpit, shoulders, can make men fall. Thus,
women wearing miniskirts, shamelessly parading those long spindly legs, are
just too desperate to draw a man’s lewd gaze and hence, they should be taught a
lesson that they will never forget. They should be punished. They asked for it.
They should get it. This is a retarded way of thinking because of this: it
excuses animalistic behavior and provides a free pass for dysfunctional human
beings. This male proprietorship of sexual
entitlement — feeling that they ought to be able to have sex with a woman
whenever they want to — is infuriating. This delusion of male
vulnerability in the face of sexuality is a
long-running one, and honestly, it’s rather demeaning — that men are slaves to
their hard-ons so much that the slightest trace of sexually-related activity is
enough to reduce them to savages incapable of anything other than the immediate
satisfaction of these silly cravings.

One cold Saturday night last
year, armed robbers attacked my friend’s family in Lagos. They gang-raped her
and three other females. Subsequently, neighbors were curious about what the
girls wore to sleep that night: Some skimpy silk nightgown? Shorts that barely
covered “butt cheeks?” They must have made themselves alluring to those
robbers. This logic, that men’s caprices cannot be subdued
unless women enshroud their bodies, actually
incapacitates men to a
pervasively crippling extent. Boys in Africa are even tutored from childhood to
understand that they are not expected to be able to moderate
their reactions to sexual stimuli, that it is some kind of fundamental truth
that males are puppets under the direction of their impulses, entirely
incapable of making sane, ethical judgments, lacking
personal rectitude. Thus, African mothers will offer to adopt love
children of their teenage sons but will castigate (or in some cases disown)
pregnant teenage females. If  humans truly are not capable of
restraining themselves sexually, then men should dress virtuously too —
otherwise we women would be seduced and rape men in short sleeve shirts,
shorts, or even those who don’t cover their heads. After all, in
body-concealing Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every
eight hours. I ask these questions: Do male gynecologists get erections every time
they examine female parts? What about masseurs?

Vendetta. Rejection.
Humiliation. Men with a history of victimization or rejection, such as
experiencing childhood physical or sexual assault, emotional abuse or childhood
abandonment, rejection from several women, are more likely to commit sexual
violence than those without such a past, according to studies by the U.N. This
will not be the case if Africans cease to view therapy as an embarrassing
process. Africans don’t want to talk. They don’t want to address childhood
traumas. They bury deep feelings of anguish, and when they do, the consequences
become dire. A good number of Africans have suffered some form of childhood
abuse, but they do not find someone to talk to about it. They do not address
it. They choose to suppress these agonies and when they do, their minds push
the buried objects back to surface in another way, shape, and/or form. All
those rejections from women are weighing down on their self esteem, yet, they
refuse to consult some of the many resources available on how to deal with
rejection.

The
last explanation is the most ridiculous. Yes. You’re the victim. But you
tempted the man (perhaps with the help of an evil spirit growing inside of
you). Africans are sometimes overly religious — every situation can be
explained and reduced to mere black or white; good or evil; Satan or God. Your
light-skinned aunt is impeding your progress in the spirit realm. Your
stepmother will axe you to death in your dream. And we bring these mentalities
into sadistic crimes as rape. Victim-blaming
originates from our inborn inclinations towards viewing our world as fair;
believing that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad
people. God is a just God.

Most Africans just cannot comprehend sexual abuse, so by
criticizing the victim’s conduct, we can view the crime as a mystical kind of
karma happening because the boundaries of cultural requirements were pushed too
far (who defines cultural normalcy anyway?) Furthermore, numerous African
women, myself included, are groomed from
childhood to protect ourselves. Otherwise, whatever happens is our fault. We
have been conditioned: “Cross your legs when you wear a skirt; don’t play
soccer with boys; never step out of your room without a bra on, and the bra
better not be a push-up bra (because when breasts are pushed up too close to
the chin, they invite men); protect those men out there so that nothing will
happen to you.”

We, African women, are told that our safety is in our hands,
and if we follow all the rules, we have better chances of being safe and secure
with/around men. And we wholeheartedly believe this principle. In fact, we now
own this principle and go as far as propagating it. Our grandmothers and great
grandmothers have passed this information down through generations and now, we
have given wild men a pass. We have accepted responsibility for our security
with men and concurred that men are not capable of curbing their sexual urges;
so if we tempt them or allow an evil spirit to tempt them through us, we must
accept the consequences.

This is how we can tackle this problem: Men must join the
movement. Society must commit to empowering young boys with the consciousness
that they have the ability to make responsible decisions. We must din into boys
a sense of propriety rather than powerlessness in the face of sexuality. And if
men do not acknowledge this as a crucial gender issue that they are also
involved in, then the erroneous beliefs that fuel the disturbing gender
disparity in African communities will never be corrected. We must change our
primitive mentalities and raise our males differently.

These questions that we ask, they’re flawed. What we should
ask: How can we stop stigmatizing victims but rather help them overcome the
emotional (and sometimes physical) trauma? How can we put the culprits away
forever? How can we stop absolving the attackers from responsibility? How can
we help these selfish, small, ego-less men understand that their libido is not
the boss of them?

Mary
Shorun was born and raised in Kwara State, Nigeria. She now lives and works in
the U.S. She enjoys writing, cooking, and travelling. Her stories and poems
have been published on nigeriansinamerica.com, The New Black Magazine, and Panorama.

We’ve Had Enough of These Excuses from African Men!

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