What exactly is rape and to what extent does seduction affect the granting of wilful consent?
It isnt clear when this conversation took place. But we all know it did. Sometime, in our history, people decided to do something about the rising number of divorces, cheating in relationships, and general dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Marriages were failing. Relationships were breaking up. And the question, what to do?, was answered with: we need to be more creative and innovative in our sexual relations with one another; we need some excitement to keep our partners happy; we need more effective ways of showing love to keep our homes intact. Couples turned to more active ways of expressing their sexual desires. Different positions were tried in bed as lovers embraced newer activities from their partners in order not to be considered frigid or uncool, in order not to be another divorce statistic in the society.
As a result, pornography was highly craved for. Now, imagine the acts carried out in movies or adverts. You are warned not to try them at home because they are mere stunts. And at the end of the day, diving from a 30-feet storey building is just dangerous. The same goes for pornography. But nobody warns you since the aim is to gratify and hoodwink you into coming back for more. After all, a constant consumption means more gain for the market.
When you watch porn with the hope that you will become better at lovemaking, you will fail. In that regard, the more your effort does not bear fruit, the more frustrated you become. Eventually, this emotion is let out in other ways, on others, and mostly, in violent manners.
If after all of this, satisfaction is not attained, the human mind has a great capacity for innovation. And what appeals to the darker sides of this nature can be terrifying at times. It is at this point that you begin to convince yourself to try other unusual ways.
This led to fathers turning their attention to their daughters. How wrong could it be? And what if that was the zenith of pleasure? Women wanted to try men the ages of their sons. Adults wanted to know what it felt like to penetrate minors. And boys saw their female counterparts as being disrespectful when they turned them down. So the only way to teach them a lesson was to forcefully take that which they consider sacred.
But the original intent was to save marriages, to save relationships. And because this didnt change, the culture of silence and secrecy became fashionable. Wives protected violent husbands. Parents shielded their children who have committed heinous crimes from public scrutiny. And the society tacitly agreed to shroud this evil eating away at them.
Fast-forward to the 21st century. Isms were born: the fight for rights –women, men, children, and animals; the quest for a fuller human life and sexuality. These were necessary talking points. A few brave ones came out to admit that violence does take place in homes, couples hurt one another, and strangers think it is okay to touch the bodies of others. The message was clear: this affects us all and it is wrong.
But not many are willing to break this culture of silence or acknowledge the sexual abuse happening in their homes; that they have been seduced into accepting this way of life as a norm; or that their consent was more or less, forcefully granted.
Now, imagine the surprise when after all you have been doing — in hopes that you and your partner are having the times of your lives, you find out that your partner has only been too afraid to say, No, stop. You are hurting me. Imagine the affront that comes with such discovery, and then, maybe, you will understand the sense of entitlement most men wear when they approach the issue of rape.
When we talk about rape, we make the mistake of focusing too keenly on the heinousness of the act and less on the reason for its existence. We are shocked that some people cannot relate to the pain and damage which rape births.
And this is where consent comes in. Wilful consent can only be said to be granted where there is no fear of losing something, being punished in any way, or held accountable. You are said to have granted consent only when you understand fully what is being done to you and agree, without fear of repercussions that it should continue to be done to you. That even upon reflection, you will have no misgivings or feelings of worthlessness as a result of what has been done to you.
We all equate rape to violence. So at what point does a consensual relationship move from being agreeable to a violent one? How do we ensure that this line is never crossed? Should we be looking to safe words where everyone understands that beyond certain points, you are said to have raped or have been raped? Should couples have a more open conversation about the expectations and limits they have for each others bodies?
But this is a solution for two consenting adults, right? What about strangers in dark alleys, or minors whose sole crime is being innocent, naive and trusting? In this case, there is no issue of consent. To find a way out, I would have to borrow from all that has been said in the past; we need to do better raising of our children; young girls and boys should be taught to respect others, their bodies and their decisions; we need to disabuse ourselves of the mind-set that boys have more sex drive than girls, and hence, are more susceptible to their sexual urges. This is telling boys that they are animals with little or no self-control. And this is wrong.
In conclusion, I would like to digress a bit. There is this false assumption many men believe that the only reason why women are so bent on fighting for laws against gender based violence is so they can have better weapons to victimise men. And that the integrity of every great man, whether politically, socially or economically, can be swept away in one instant with a false allegation of rape.
So, what happens is that this fear creates room for a lot of dishonesty, and blatant disregard for the evils of rape. These men will rather politicise the issue instead of fight it. They would, if put in a position to bring about positive changes, relegate it to the background in preference to other assumed less volatile and consequential issues.
At the end of the day, it is the society that suffers. For there is no one worse than the person who accuses another falsely of rape except of course, a rapist. This is because, just like rape victims, they both suffer. The one who is raped is destroyed from the inside out, while the one who is falsely accused is destroyed from the outside in.
We all need to learn the ethics of being truthful, of protecting the lives of everyone irrespective of gender or class. We need to get in touch with our humanity and learn to empathise with others. We need to be real enough to admit our wrongs in hopes that we would all do better henceforth.
It should however be noted, there are many out there whose soul has been corrupted and there is nothing anyone can do to fix them. This op-ed is not for them. Some might suggest medical help. Some might suggest killing them out rightly. I would say, may the laws of our land serve its purpose and protect us from harm.
Halima Aliyu writes from Kaduna.