creatively sharing inspired thought one word at a time
It is not often that you tune into a radio talk show and hear that the upcoming section will feature a rape victim and her former lover who she alleges raped her. So when Ms. Tlhabi made the introduction my interest was piqued for several reasons. I assumed the man was not forced into attending the show, hence the belief that he was repentant. Secondly, as a male who has struggled to understand how fellow men manage to enjoy sex that is not completely consensual, my interest is often piqued and empathy heightened when I hear a victim summon the courage to shed light on a violation that thrives in the dark and whose grey definition empowers violators.
For so long the argument in bars, chat rooms, online forums, blogs and sofas of living rooms across the country and in places as far flung as the corners of the continent have been what constitutes rape? Is it the absence of acquaintance between victim and violator? Is it the presence of coercion? Is it still rape where no force was involved? How can it be rape when love is present? How can rape be scoped in transaction sex? Can oral sex constitute rape and violation of any sort ?(I heard a female ask this recently). The act of violating another’s body is dis-empowering and lacerating enough but when so much grey areas make the victim to doubt her violation then we find ourselves building a wounded and broken society. It also empowers violators and hinders a few genuine ones from seeking redemption as in sincerity they refuse to face up to the demon within them.
For a reporter with Ms. Thlabi’s pedigree, she did not see what was coming in that segment of her show. The victim, a very eloquent, well educated lady with a thriving career gave a detailed account of the abuse and how she had addressed the pain of violation. Furthermore, she talked about confronting her lover who had abused her and how he had agreed to support her in the NGO she had formed to address rape victims and was even open to the idea of sharing speaking platforms to give a male perspective. The poo hit the proverbial fan when the guy joined the show over the phone and on national radio denied the rape accusation, questioning if technically the act in question had been rape since she enjoyed it despite her subtle withdrawal of consent? At this point, the victim was speechless and simultaneously livid with anger. The rest of the show is better imagined than described.
My major worry besides the bemusement that had just unfolded on air was how statistics portrayed this malaise. In a country where over 25% of men in KZN admitted to raping someone when anonymously questioned in a study about prevalence of rape in South Africa, you begin to wonder how much higher the percentage would be if the grey areas listed earlier were universally accepted as rape? Certainly the victim’s lover in Redi’s show would have ticked NO in that survey but that would have no bearing on the brokenness of his victim and the emotional pain her violation would have dealt her.
My attraction (I refuse to call it an addiction) to blogs is well known. I often find it ironic that certain issues seem to resonate on different diverse platforms at the same time. I find human angle stories often trending at the same time in different forms on blogs geographically diverse as possible.
Any one with a passing interest in British blogs and/or newspaper online editions with comments below the line (BTL) must be familiar with the Ched Evans story. Details of the case can be found here https://www.crimeline.info/case/r-v-ched-evans-chedwyn-evans but the summary was that in 2011 Ched and his childhood friend had slept with a 19 year old lady without her express consent. The case went to trial after the lady reported to the police and after trial Ched Evans was sentenced to five years in jail. After serving half of his sentence, he is out and wanting to resume his career at Sheffield United. The victim still has no recollection of the events of that night as she was severely drunk. Ched has maintained his innocence (he claims it was consensual) and is appealing the judicial process in some form. His girlfriend has remained loyal to him and his stand, supporting his innocence. The opinions have been as varied as the crowd at Bramall Lane (Sheffield United’s home ground) on a Saturday afternoon.
There are those who say that Ched does not deserve to resume training even training at Sheffield United (a petition at change.org has been signed by over 150,000 signatories), those who have attacked and threatened the former group, several persons have cut ties with the club for even offering him a chance to train in the first place, some others have voiced an opinion that Ched could make his reintegration into the football world easier if only he would acknowledge his wrong and stop claiming innocence, not forgetting the usual section of opinion holders who think that while society should seek to reintegrate felons after jail terms, that footballers are such role models that reintegrating Ched Evans into the game sends the wrong message to young children. I often think this last view is held by lazy parents who are doing a poor job of influencing their children. If a daughter’s fashion views are influenced by Beyonce’s skimpy outfits, then the mother has failed. Parents should be their kids primary source of influence. If the lifestyle of a man who kicks a round leather on a grass is too strong an influence for your child then I question the content such a kid is being exposed to and there is no one else to blame but the parents.
Sorry for the off-ramp rant! We were highlighting the cacophony of voices in the Ched Evans case. These differing voices barely expose the arguable nature of rape and why differing interpretations make it difficult for victims. If it is this blurry in a society like the United Kingdom where laws are basically respected, judicial system is functional and the police will treat such reported cases with the delicate touch it deserves, I wondered for a moment differing the views and blurry the line will be in an environment like Nigeria? Within a month of following the Ched Evans’ case, a blog topic in a popular Nigerian forum highlighted the similar sentiments like those expressed in Britain over Ched Evans.
A supposed activist had written an extensive review of a trending song by one of Nigeria’s most celebrated indigenous rappers. My knowledge of the language is rudimentary and I while I have heard the song a couple of times, I had no inkling what the guy was singing about. The article was discussed on the forum and the lyrics analysed line by line with interpretations. The view of his stans who came out in support was that all that matters is the beat and that the lyrics was secondary and almost irrelevant. A few others agreed that the lyrics were lewd but not suggestive of violation of womanhood in the form of rape as the reviewer had alluded to. Another minority view was expressed that if the song was suggestive of rape, it was not enough reason for anyone to rape because you don’t go shooting people because you saw Daniel Craig shooting his way through in a Bond flick. A summary consensual agreement of the lyrics interpretation was this; the guy wants to drink some local aphrodisiac, afterwards smoke some joint. Then he heads to the clubs with the intent of getting laid and he comes home with a girl. She claims not to be in the mood, she claims that she will be late for her curfew at home as it is getting late, she is feeling faintly and she says she does not want to have sex with him. He dismisses all her excuses as fables (using a local slang hidden in the title of this piece). He proceeds to have his way and the girl actually turns out to match him in bed and even overpowers him sexually. These much were agreed as the direct translation of the lyrics both by the stans and critics, yet just like the Ched Evans case there was a cacophony of opinions and manifestation of blurry lines afterwards.
While I was musing over these two issues I made a regular trip to one of my favourite blogs and noticed a comment by a regular who was seeking out the view of others on an issue that seemed to trouble her. She said on more than one occasion, her boyfriend had made sexual advances at her and for whatever reason she was not keen at those moments and made it clear to him verbally. However, he proceeded to have his way and while she did enjoyed the act as much as the times when she consented, she felt violated afterwards. So, her question was whether it was rape or not. Again the cacophony of voices descended and a blurry line appeared. Some asked how emphatic her NO had been, others asked if she was saying NO while kissing his ears or holding the shaft of his male organ? Yet, others asked if she did feel aroused during the act?
It dawned on me that in all of these cases, NO was being qualified and/or an absence of YES was being implied to mean an absence of NO. The jury that tried Ched Evans watched the CCTV footage showing the victim entering the hotel and she was visibly drunk and disheveled. She was in no state to consent, has no memory of what happened and only woke up in the hotel room over 5 hours after the violating act by two men she did not know had ended. Yet, Mr. Evans claims to be innocent of the rape charge and his girlfriend stands by him. In all of the Ched Evans case, my question has been besides the issue of consent (which was seemingly absent from all evidences in the public domain), how do you even enjoy sex with a girl who is too drunk to even remember afterwards? Isn’t sex meant to be an act enjoyed by both parties? At least if one party is not enjoying it as much as the other, there is obvious bodily movement to aid the other’s enjoyment. In the case of the song, how can a song that glorifies ignoring the woman’s verbal refusal of consent be even remotely arguable? What part of NO is difficult to decipher? What happens afterwards is inconsequential. It does not matter if she proceeds to perform Kama Sutra afterwards or squirts like a fountain, she has been violated and that is the end of the matter. The excuse that after the woman has been wined and dined, the fables told to ‘avoid’ sex are unacceptable is a lame excuse in my view. Even when the sex in view is a transaction with clear monetary exchange, my view still remains that proceeding in the absence of consent is a violation. Failed contract execution is no reason to take the laws into your hands and this case is no different.
Women can do us men a world of good by being more assertive with their NO (nothing to feel guilty about, you are no sex machine). However, until they do so an absence of express YES means NO and must be respected. Anything else is a violation of womanhood and there is no blurry line there. Not a thousand different interpretations of it will make it right. Irrespective of your sexual orientation and fetishes, sex in all its forms should be enjoyed and not endured. Even fetishes that involve pain should be mutually satisfying. At the root of rape and sexual violation is a selfish and greedy instinct to enjoy yourself irrespective of the enjoyment, satisfaction and consent of the other. Such enjoyment only breeds wounded, broken and emotionally tormented partners.