I Am Going To Break Into You
I wanted to title this What Else Do You Want Me To Say. But I had to change it to this. Some days ago, I messaged Flower and told her I needed to get a blog post out this week. It had been a while I published something here and even though I have a bunch of posts I intend to publish, I could not bear to put any of them up when the whole world was going up in smoke. I knew I had to wait for this shit to either die down or I could respond to it, add to the noise that would overwhelm the government and make them act, add to the shouts that would drown the injustice and wickedness out of those who see other women’s children as their objects of sexual satisfaction. When I told Flower I needed to post something, she said immediately: Write about what is going on currently.
The response that came to my mind was, What Else Do You Want Me To Say? Honestly, I did not have anything to say. I did not know if whatever I said would matter in any way. I did not even have the energy to write anything, to say anything. It was all just too overwhelming. Against the backdrop of Coronavirus, we see black people hitting the streets of America to protest an ideology that found its way into the soul of America in the 1500s and refused to leave after more than a hundred years after it core source had been abolished. At the same time, we see rape take over our country and from every corner of the country, we see people reporting, telling stories, shocking stories, unbelievable stories.
Which is where I will start from. When you hear a story of rape and it seems unbelievable, that is probably the more reason why you should believe it. It should never make sense. It is not supposed to make sense. There is nothing sensible about forceful sexual intercourse. All the rape stories I have heard did not make sense but then, it did not make me doubt them once. These things are abnormal. They should not make much sense to you unless you are a rapist or a rape apologist. And when you hear that unlikely story, take it.
Really, the concept of consent is still something I am trying to understand and I am going to be honest with you that I do not understand it fully well. I am learning from YouTube videos, Instagram stories, tweets, WhatsApp status updates, LinkedIn articles. I am learning from everywhere. And really, my curiosity is from a place of caution and a place of concern.
It is Saturday and all the rape stories are taking over the internet. An elderly man I respect sends me a message on WhatsApp. He says: I know you are an authority on this gender and feminism thing. I am seeing all these things about consent on Twitter. Michael, I think I may have raped my wife last week. I am not sure. How are you not sure sir? You see, Michael, we were in the middle of it – it being sex, for the primary six children here – and then she said, Stop! Stop! And I stopped, really. But she began to cry and turned to the other side of the bed. When I asked her what happened, she did not say a word. In that moment, I felt as though I had raped my wife, like I had forced her to have sex with me even though she was the one who initiated it, even though I stopped in the middle of it when she asked me to. I still felt like I had raped her. What really is ‘consent’, Michael? Is it in me stopping like that? Does that change the fact that she still felt raped? That night still sits between the two of us like an ugly child; quiet, numb, unsettling.
I did not know what to say. I did not know what to tell this man. Can we safely say the fact that he actually stopped meant he did not rape his wife? Or the fact that she felt raped meant she was raped? What’s the concept of consent? Can you rape someone and not even know it? if that is a possibility, what is our response to that? What is the penalty for that, assuming it is even a possibility?
These are the questions I cannot answer. These are the questions that are running through my mind as I type this, listening to Asa telling me to Stay Tonight.
But then, there are questions I can answer. There are stories that are clear to me, that I remember vividly, that I can never forget.
The first time a girl would tell me she was scared of being raped, I was in SS 3. We had just finished in chapel and she came to me, and whispered into my ears that she felt she was going to be raped. I did not understand. There are no rapists in this school, I thought. We were in boarding school, a safe zone. Imagine the irony. When I asked her why she thought she would be raped, she told me she had dreamt of being raped by some boys in our class.
“And my dreams always come true, Michael. My dreams always come true.”
I looked at that girl that night and I did not know what to say. How would I assure this girl that I loved and cared about that she was safe and that she was not going to be raped, and that maybe her dream was just what it was? I cannot remember how I responded that day and it is sad how I have not seen that girl since 2015 and how I have never remembered the event until today.
The second time a girl told she was going to be raped, it was much more real and I can remember this vividly. I can remember that we are in 100 level in Obafemi Awolowo University and I am walking with this girl from AUD 1 through Motion Ground to SUB. And she is telling me that she is scared, that one of our classmates has been disturbing her. And when a girl tells you a boy has been disturbing her, it means he has been making advances to her despite her obvious lack of interest. (Which, by the way, is still one of the things I do not understand. If you ask a girl out once and she says no, why do you think she will have a different answer the second time? Let us even imagine that you go the second time (you, not me. I would never go a second time.) and then she still says no, why can’t you drown your love for her and move on? What is the point of going back and going back until you become a nuisance to the society and to an innocent girl’s life? What exactly is your problem? Have you no shame? Can you not respect yourself and move on. What is it with you? Pepe is shaking his head for you.
So we are walking through Motion Ground and she is telling me about this guy, our classmate which I still saw in class today, looking like a child of God. But then, I knew my friend. I knew she was not lying. I could see it in her face, in her eyes, in the way her lips trembled when she spoke, in the way she gripped my wrist while he spoke, looking behind her cautiously to be sure we were not being followed.
“Why do you think you are going to be raped?”
“He said he is going to rape me. He said it, Michael. He said what is it that I am keeping, something that they will tear and enter if I was not careful.”
You have to have read that with your Yoruba brain. Do you know what it means when a boy tells a girl, A ma ya wole? It means, we will break in. ‘We’ suggests multiple actors and ‘break in’ suggests force. That there, is a threat of rape.
And so for weeks, my friend and I were always walking around in groups of three or four. And I always kept an eye out for the guy. When I suggested to my friend that she reported him, she looked at me and hissed. It did not make sense to her that I would ask her to open herself up to some lecturer who would only compound her problem by saying things like, ‘Has he touched you? He has not touched you now.’
When I read about rape and I see people’s comments on the current issues, my heart is drained. Rape is more about power than it is about sex. If it is all about sex, what happened to the brothels? You’d find prostitutes who are willing to have all the sex you want with you with a merge sum of money. So why not go to them if you are pressed for sex? Why go to a 3 year old who is incapable of ever giving consent or even any real sexual pleasure? Why go to an 11 year old? Why go to a girl reading in a church?
Rape is about power, about overpowering the victim, about dominating. For you to rape someone, that means you consider yourself more powerful than them (and I do not just mean physically more powerful) and you believe that you can overpower them and there is nothing they can do about it. That is why when you hear rape threats, you do not hear so much about the sex itself. You do not hear the rapist talk about how much he is going to enjoy the girl or how beautiful she is or satisfying the sex will be. Rather, you hear them talking about ‘tearing their way in’, banging her, ‘finishing’ her. You hear things like, ‘I will have sex with you till you die! I will make you regret the day you were born! I will fuck the life out of you!’
These are not romantic words. There is nothing sweet about this. Rape is a sexual assault. But it stems from an overwhelming domineering nature that most rapists have. And do I need to remind you that most rapists are men? And that most rapists and rape apologists do not see their female victim as their fellow human but as the weaker sex, the lesser being? You see where this is going? You see gender inequality rearing its ugly head?
There are those who will come now and say things like, ‘men are being raped too’. Now, that is a true statement but already, I have explained in previous blog posts on feminism why comments like this are from a place of folly. Communication is a two way street. If I am saying A is a letter of the English Alphabet. I am not talking about the other twenty-five letters. I am talking about the letter A. If you want to support me, then you join me in saying A is a part of the English Alphabet. You do not say, ‘But B is also a letter.’ Saying that would be unwise. Unwise because you have broadened the scope of our conversation thereby reducing the focus on letter A and letter A is the one this conversation is about. Letter A is the one in need of help. Now you bringing up letter B at this exact moment is not wise. You know why? It will neither help letter A nor letter B. Instead, it will make all the other letters come out angrily and begin to shout and before you know it, we do not even know what we were talking about.
Politicians, misogynists and rape apologists are three people I know who use this mechanism to change the course of a discussion. You hear some politicians say things like, ‘Racism is a terrible thing that needs to stop and we have to do that by coming together as a united country, not by looting our fellow brothers. What do we gain by looting? We once again turn ourselves to thieves and robbers. We are not thieves. We are not robbers. We are law-abiding citizens.’ You hear that and you wonder, what were we even talking about? The politician has successfully shifted your attention from the issue of racism to that of being peaceful and law abiding. It is a classic tactic to change the topic of discussion without even saying it loud.
Another example: ‘Rape is bad but you people too should stop wearing skimpy clothes. Cover your body. You are less likely to be raped if you dress decently. We are all children of God please. We are not glorifying God by exposing our body. Ladies, your body is your glory. Do not expose it to anyone who has not paid for it. Say after me young ladies, My body, my glory! My body, my glory!!’
Do those two examples above sound familiar to you? It is an evil tactic used by those who do not want us to address the issue on ground. So they try to distract us from our focus. They know what they are doing. They are rape apologists. They are not concerned about dressing decently. They are just being manipulative.
There is time to talk about decent dressing but not during a rape discussion, not brandishing it as the solution to rape when we both know that it is not the solution.
I do not understand everything about rape yet. I am still reading and learning daily. I do not know all about ‘consent’ but then, I know about my friend that had a dream that she was raped and she knew it could actually come to pass. I also know about my friend who we had to escort to anywhere and everywhere for three weeks because a potential rapist had told her he would break in.
What I do not know is more than what I know but then, my ignorance does not invalidate my knowledge. And this is why I am writing this. Tell me, what do you know? What don’t you know?
PS. Forgive me if this is a bit disjointed. It is not easy writing about many evils at the same time. And I am still trying to understand everything.