Recently, I came across several news reports of rape: the usual ones – a much older man forcing himself on a much younger girl; and the not so common one – two cases of male rape.
The incidence of male rape is increasing, due, not to an increase in the occurrence, but in the reporting of it. That tells me one thing: the increase awareness and numerous conversations on the issue is yielding results – less stigma and shame. It is a small victory.
Despite these conversations, these incidents still occur. That is the disheartening part. My very good friend, Seun Odukoya, in a response to an earlier post on this blog – Rape: straight talk, says it is impossible to win this war. I think his view is based on the knowledge of the evil that humans are capable of, and how easy it is to carry them out these evil actions.
I am not willing to accept this truth. I prefer to live in Utopia – that idealistic castle floating in the clouds where all things are perfect.
So, for every occurrence of this plague – this deadly, dehumanizing, debasing disease – that occurs, we will take a cane – no, a whip, fashioned after the roman whip – and flog this issue, this rape issue. We will keep writing, speaking and holding conversations on it.
Victims of this heinous crimes are speaking up, and succor is being offered by several NGOs and charity organizations; health services and counselling are available to help deal with the physical and psychological consequences. But these are not enough. We need more such services, we need laws to be enacted and enforced; we need people to become human, to learn self-control, and to develop empathy.
We need more victories – rape perpetrators prosecuted and convicted; social welfare services provided for the victims; shame and stigma banished. I believe we can have all these.
As we are having these conversations on the subject, we are raising awareness, beaming the light on the monster that has grown big by hiding in the dark – that taboo we mustn’t talk about.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me about rape in the context of a marriage: does it exist? I was unequivocal in my answer.
Central to the concept of rape is ‘consent’. Consent is the continued verbal agreement given by a partner, throughout the stages, and for all forms, of the sexual act engaged in.
Consent is embedded within the core of autonomy, the right to life and the right over decisions over one’s body. Being a wife doesn’t lead to a loss of that autonomy, and a ‘wife’ is not a property to be handled at the discretion of the husband. A wife is an equal partner (not necessarily in assets but in the stakes) in a marriage, and as such demands to be treated accordingly.
It is acceptable for a married woman to say ‘No’ to her husband’s demand for sex, and this is regardless of her motives. She has a choice and it is to be respected. She is aware that all choices have consequences, which includes her choice to refuse her husband sex (which is not necessarily a right choice).
Autonomy has nothing to do with right or wrong; rather, it is in the ability to control one’s choices, and be responsible for how to be treated, what to offer and what to withhold. Autonomy is the ability to choose either good or bad, knowing fully well which is which.
Most arguments concerning marital rape has hinged on morality: it is not right or proper for a woman to refuse her husband sex; some argue with religious texts. While those arguments have the semblance of truth, they do not take into cognizance that the woman is an entity that has a right to be: a right to feel, to want, to desire, to refuse and reject.
We all know that fire is dangerous and shouldn’t be played with, we might be advised not to play with fire, but ultimately the decision to play with fire or otherwise refrain from doing so, lies with us. In the same vein, religion might tell the woman not to refuse her husband sex, but the woman still reserves the right to obey or disobey religion. And she should not be shamed for it, nor made to suffer humiliation or be stripped of her humanity, which is what happens when the husband forces himself on her.
Rape in whatever form kills the soul of the victim; it is a death that happens several times over. It leaves only a husk – and because the woman is really a super human – going about the motions of everyday living with the semblance of normalcy; laughing and smiling and crying inside and dying in piece meals.
I think a man is devoid of love for his wife, who coerces her or forces her to have sex. A woman is like a flower that opens up to the rays of the early morning sun; she opens up to attention and love. If a man demonstrates thoughtfulness, appreciation, kindness and true affection towards his wife, she opens up, desires him and would not need to be coerced before yielding her body to be devoured; it will be a mutual congress and consummation of love renewed.
Sometimes, when men become weak and insecure, they seek to find their manhood in brute thrusts; they beat and rape their wives, finding temporary ego boost in robbing another of her humanity. Desperate for power and control, they resort to humiliation as the cheapest way to attain it. Such do not deserve to live among men; they are repulsive and repugnant.
Real men treat women right – do not beat them, do not force themselves on them; real mean love and cherish; adore and nurture; pet and pamper their spouses.
But what if she withholds sex as a form of punishment or a tool for manipulation? That is the power of autonomy; that right to make choices driven by personal motives. Choices, which though we might not like, which might be hurtful to us, but which we have to respect, deal with and come to a compromise on. We can do all except to threaten, coerce, bully or beat in order to reverse the choices that she has made; and if she stands resolute, to capitulate.
Utmost respect for women, and womanhood is respect for their choices in all areas, including reproductive health – sex, decision to get pregnant or not, number of children, and mode of delivery – basically respecting their rights of choice over their bodies and what they wish to do with it.
It is hard, especially in a patriarchal society such as ours; hard, not impossible. Mining gold is hard too; and great heat produce diamonds. Great men of character and strength are produced from great choices – choices to uphold others’ rights to their choices, especially the rights of the female: her right to life, to have a say, to be heard, to have equal opportunities, to close her legs, shake her head and say ‘not now honey’ while you are shaking with need, aching and seeking release; understanding that there is great honor in not placing your wants and desires above hers, and knowing that no matter how far gone you are, you can always control yourself (with sheer force of will), and letting her take as much pleasure as you when she is finally ready to…..
Rape is rape is rape. Rape happens when any sexual act continues after “NO”; when consent is not given or it is withdrawn, regardless of the relationship between the two nor the circumstances involved.
Rape is evil. Period. The end.