I have a bit of a reputation at work. I always eat gorgeous food. I always eat alone. And I almost always eat at my desk. Also, I chew really loud. My workmates complain a lot, and some have accused me of being a (food) tease. Case in point, this is what I had for breakfast. I dolloped it onto a massive slice of home-made black forest cake.
The other day, I was having mashed potatoes and stuffed chicken (which I didn’t cook). I microwaved it, put it on my desk, then went back to the kitchen for a cup of lemon tea. Yes, that’s black tea with a slice of lemon inside it. While I was away, two of my favourite workmates stood at my desk, ogling my plate, debating on whether or not they should snatch a piece of my chicken. It’s not like I would know who had done it.
In the end, they decided not to. And because they are my friends, they later confronted me about it, suggesting I should try eating somewhere else to spare them all the gastronomical torture. Because they’re my friends, I laughed it off, and the very next day, I had my divine breakfast at my desk.
Sexual crime is a lot like this. Someone violates someone else because they think no one will ever know. I’m not just talking about rape. I’m talking about groping a woman in a crowded place, cat-calling some stranger who can’t recognise your face, molesting a child – male or female, shooting or sharing nudes without permission, doing something sexual that you know is wrong simply because nobody can stop you.
Here’s another way that sexual crime is similar to my so-called food teasing. My workmates blame me for their appetite. I have delicious food and I display it yet deny them from enjoying it. It’s not their fault for wanting food that doesn’t belong to them. It’s my fault for having it. The solution is not for them to stop smelling or looking at my food. The solution is for me – and my tempting food – to stay away from their senses.
And here is the third – and best way that not doing sexual crime is like my lunch. The guys wanted my food. They blamed me for advertising my food. They had the opportunity to steal my food. But they didn’t. They stood, they looked, they sniffed, they questioned, they viciously debated … and then they walked away.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
I had an interesting conversation with a male friend. We both have tweenage children, and were worried about their exposure to adult sexuality. He tried to remember what he was like at that age. He has a distinct memory of looking at adult women in swimsuits and feeling an odd stirring. He didn’t know what it was or what to do with it, he just felt super excited and hard.
He says he was too young to fully – or even partially comprehend sexuality. He didn’t know how to masturbate or what a wet dream was. He just knew something exciting was happening and he didn’t have a way to express it, sate it, or make sense of it.
Years later, as an adult, he does still get stirrings. Of course now he knows what they’re about and can respond appropriately. But he explained something I’d never quite understood – that male sexual responses – and by this I mean erections – are a reflex. They can hide it, they can attempt to maintain it, they can even try to reduce it. But they can’t actually control it.
Lesson two: Boners can be triggered by just about anything. A thought, a word, an image, a fabric, anything. And it isn’t always sexual. A man can suddenly stand up and as his trousers rub against his crotch, his penis takes notice. Or he could be excited about work, success, a brilliant goal, a fast car, and suddenly his manhood is saluting. Oddly enough, erections can even be triggered by panic or intense fear. Hence the awkward boner … and morning wood. Sorry ladies, it has nothing to do with your curvy nude self lying next to him when he wakes up. While we’re at it, baby boys can get boners. It often happens when you change their diapers, and there’s nothing oedipal about it. Sometimes, those diaper boners pee in your face. Literally.
Also, guys, to throw a little cold water on your arousal, nipples are exactly the same. Our areolar attention is rarely about sex. It can be about a cold breeze, a baby crying, a shift in the fabric of your bra or blouse, a chilling scene in a slasher movie, an excellent joke, anything really. And sometimes they poke your eyes out for no reason at all. *shrug*
Now then, if a man cannot control his boner, are all our sexual harassment and anti-rape arguments moot? No. Because while a man can’t control the rigidness of his penis, he can definitely decide what to do about it. My workmates left my chicken out of respect for me. A man can choose not to cat-call, or grab, or grope, or rape, or share, or troll, or slut-shame, or give unsolicited attention … even if his nether regions are screaming otherwise.
We are often told that the female body is dangerous, and many feminists think that statement is body shaming. I disagree. I think the female body is dangerous, because it invokes desire in men, and desire – in the wrong loins – can lead to people getting hurt. Not just the woman that is desired, but also her loved ones, her defenders, anyone that gets in his way.
I also know without a doubt that it is WRONG to blame a woman for having a dangerous body. She didn’t choose to have a vagina and breasts. It’s how she was made. From ribs. Or mutation. Or evolution. You can’t punish anyone for their anatomy.
I learned another thing from my male friend. Compartmentalisation is real. Whenever we see a man mistreat a woman – either by his deeds or with his words – we tell him to imagine that the woman was his daughter, or his mother. We think this will put him in place and make him rethink his actions. And often, it does. But then we wonder why he can’t see all women as his sisters, daughters, mothers, and therefore, respect and protect them all.
Well, here’s the thing. Freudianism aside, if men saw all women as their mothers, well, they wouldn’t have any daughters. Or sons. Or grandkids. It turns out that male compartmentalisation is essential to the growth of the human population, because only very twisted people want to reproduce sexually with their daughters and their mothers. And people like that are lost.
You know what else is dangerous? Lions. Lions are dangerous. They can kill, they can maim, and they can’t help it. It’s just the way they are. So do we teach lions to stop hunting gazelles? Do we ask them to walk around with blaring sirens that yell, ‘Lion coming!’? Do we train them to mute their roars into zebra-friendly whispers? No. We take necessary precautions.
PLEASE NOTE THAT IN THIS ANALOGY, THE LION IS NOT A MAN.
THE LION IS A WOMAN.
And yes, I know I could have said lioness,
but even though she does all the hunting,
no one is afraid of a lioness.
Except maybe this dude.
Every day, we tell human lions – i.e. women – that because they are dangerous to men, they need to knock out their own teeth and learn to whimper instead of roar. Which is ridiculous really. If anything, it’s the men that need to temper themselves to avoid being hurt by the lion. Nobody wants to be eaten (and chewed, and swallowed) by a lion. Pun intended.
I’m not saying men need to hide in caves and avoid women like the … lion. I’m saying that while they may have no control of their awkward reflex boners, they are perfectly capable of restraining their desire to whip it out and stick it in the nearest female, either verbally or otherwise.
A woman can’t help having breasts or a vagina. It’s kind of – you know – what makes her a woman. Even if she has a mastectomy or hysterectomy, she still has phantom boobs and a phantom womb, so, you know, still a woman. Still a lion. So asking her to ‘hide’ her womanhood doesn’t make men any less susceptible to those ‘charms’. After all, they’re still there, and it’s silly to blame a person simply for being who they are.
On the other hand, you can blame a person for what they do. You can blame a woman for what she wears, sure. It’s easy. But you can’t say your actions were directed by what she’s wearing. Minis have nothing to do with being cat-called. Or groped. Or raped. Proof? A man can wear a mini and still not be raped, because a mini doesn’t give him boobs or a vagina.
A woman in a mini is not raped because she’s wearing a mini. A woman in a mini is raped because she has boobs and a vagina, and because her rapist knows nobody can stop him. Which is exactly why half naked models and actresses are never, ever, ever raped on red carpets or catwalks. So it’s about time we shifted the discussion away from policing women. Because all the burkas and buibuis and maxi skirts and shapeless trousers are not going to stop her from having breasts and a vagina.
Female parts excite male parts. I get it. Male (and female) parts get erect without permission. I get that too. But the deliberate action of taking that erect penis and using it to attack a woman with your words and/or your actions is not an automatic event. Stop it. Control yourself. Get your other head back in the game. After, all, you’re a thinking man, not a horny dog.
♫ Hivo ndo kunaendanga ♫ Majirani, Kenrazy & V-sita ♫