sexual stereotypes

Why Are We So Casual About Sexual Assault?

Google Images

Google Images

A couple of weeks back someone, somewhere, decided to share the gruesome video of a man being sodomised by several men in turns. I don’t know who recorded the graphic video and who thought it was worth posting online, but it was posted all the same and widely shared before the video was pulled down. The man’s crime to warrant such vile treatment, according to the story accompanying the video, was that he had been caught red handed sleeping with another man’s wife. And so these other men, “tasked with maintaining law and order in the community” (personally I think they are rapists and  should spend the rest of their lives behind bars)  were simply teaching him a lesson.

What kind of lesson?! And for someone to actually record it and post it online as if it was the most noble thing to do. These are not people maintaining law and order, according to me. These are heartless criminals hiding behind the veil of gangs, that met out punishment to supposed wrongdoers and in the vilest of ways. My heart went out to that man who despite his indiscretions, had been forced to go through such an ordeal under the glare of phone cameras, for a crime which could have easily been sorted out by the area chief.

Fast forward to a few days back. I think at the start of the KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination)  and this candidate sitting her exams was attacked by 4 men, who proceeded to rape her, on her way to school in the morning. So the story made it to the prime time news. And how her ordeal had been handled shocked me. In a wise move, she had been rushed to a medical facility for immediate treatment and counseling but for some reason, the people handling her case decided that she was okay enough, to still sit for her paper as she was taken back to school to continue with her exams. I couldn’t believe if what I had heard from the reporter was actually true.

This is a young girl, 17 or 18 years old, still a teenager, who had just been raped and adults somewhere, actually assumed that she could sit for her papers just hours after being raped?! That the little counseling she had received deemed her fit mentally to concentrate on her final exams for her secondary school education. Who reasons like that?! Since when did examinations become more important than a person’s psychological state?

These two horrifying incidents are what have led me to firmly believe that quite a number of people still display some level of casualness regarding sexual assault. There are things that a section of people, continue to consider harmless regardless of all the awareness on sexual assault, that they have been exposed to in the past. Sexual assault, according to a definition by Wikipedia, is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

It is refreshing to note though, that the aforementioned video was greatly condemned by many who got to view it. That shows that there is still hope in this war against violence of a sexual nature. We need to take stern action against perpetrators of this heinous crime. One of the issues of the Nairobian newspaper, spoke of parents in Western Kenya protecting relatives who had molested minors in the family. According to me, when such a thing happens, the parent should step up as the child’s guardian, put all blood relation considerations aside and have the perpetrator arrested.

Why are we allowing our children to continue living with inflicted scars that they dare not speak about? Do we want those poor children, unfortunate enough to have been molested by a relative, whom the family later protected from facing any criminal charges, to equally grow up thinking it is okay to molest children as adults? Do we want them to take their own lives because they cannot bare the shame and torment that the incident caused them?

It is time that we collectively spoke up against sexual assault. Whether it is sodomy or rape or any of the other forms of sexual assault, it is still sexual assault. No man or woman asks to be raped or sodomised. No child asks to be molested. We need to be responsible adults. We need to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive adequate counseling and medical help. Parents need to clearly state to their children from an early age what is appropriate touching and what is not. The more we treat sexual assault casually, the more the rot seeps deep into our society and that is not a society worth being a part of. This is more like a wake up call for all of us to give sexual assault, the seriousness it deserves and in the process, protect our society from sex offenders.

 

An Increasing Number Of Kenyans Are Addicted To Pornography

I know the title of my post today is going to set tongues wagging but I state the above with good reason.

I’m a frequent guest of cyber cafes. I have been a blogger for close to 3 years now. Actually, I clock 3 years of continuous blogging on different blog sites and this particular blog next month. And in all that period, I have frequented cybers and logged into computers for public use, several times only to be accosted by images of naked men and women. Meaning that the previous user(s) was/were viewing some pornographic material online. Forget the warnings of “No viewing of pornography sites” that many cyber owners like to paste on their walls. An increasing number of Kenyans are addicted to pornography.

Now I’m not trying to be a moral judge and point fingers at people. On average, I think all Kenyans have come across images of near naked men and women alike in addition to simulation of sexual acts in mostly raunchy and risque music videos, soap operas and movies. Born again Christian or not, Muslim, Jew or Hindu, if you are a user of our matatus sometimes the screens overhead showcase all kinds of risque music videos which you have probably glanced at, albeit unwillingly. It is a fact of life that sex is believed to sell and therefore, entertainers maximize on their sexuality.

Anyways, this morning was no different for me. I log into a computer and see one of the sites being surfed by a Kenyan was a pornographic site. It is an observation and a worrying observation. And while some people may choose to argue that pornography has no grave effect on a person and may even spice up sex in a relationship, I tend to slightly disagree. I’m not going to dictate what my fellow countrymates should watch or shouldn’t. It is a personal adult choice.

However, I am going to state that an addiction to pornography leads to feelings of guilt, shame and often an addiction to sex. In this era when HIV/AIDS is a reality in addition to numerous life threatening STIs, an addiction to sex is a road I doubt any normal functioning human being would like to take. Pornography addiction often fuels a lack of respect toward the female gender. Most of these female adult movie stars tend to be violated by the opposite sex in the movies. It might be for show but for the viewer, it only does a good job of instilling the sexual stereotype that women are sexual objects and should be treated as such. Many sex offenders have been known to have a secret addiction to pornographic material. Sex in these movies is often depicted as a sense of dominance by a man to a woman.

Bestiality acts are a constant feature in some pornographic material. Kenyans may laugh and create memes mocking individuals who have been caught red handed having sex with animals and maybe beaten to death by irate residents but in reality, this is a sad situation. For a normal human being with sexual desires for a fellow human being to end up choosing to have sex with animals, something in his psychology must have been previously corrupted by something else. I refer to a he, because in all the incidences Kenyans have heard concerning bestiality, the perpetrator is often of the male gender. However, I state again that I’m not using my post to judge but to enlighten.

Paedophilia stems from pornography addiction. Children have been molested by guardians and adults who are charged with protecting these children. Children have been lured into shooting pornographic material for perverted individuals, who only care about feeding their warped sexual desires in addition to making money in whatever unscrupulous ways. Nobody wakes up one morning deciding to molest a child. He/she must have gotten molested in the past as a child or corrupted gradually to the point where the act being committed does not seem warped to him or her anymore.

Lastly, pornography is breaking marriages and relationships. Forget the belief that it can be used to revive an otherwise dead sexual aspect of a relationship. Pornography will only give an individual unrealistic expectations for his/her partner. The saying of “I want a lady in the streets but a freak in the bed” further proves the kind of unrealistic expectations we are setting for our partners. Of course sex needs to be enjoyed but expecting your wife to do what you saw some woman paid to do it for entertainment on a blue movie, is in reality unfair. Rape happens in marriages and all because we allowed our minds to be drawn to pornography and we are now on a path to sexual self destruction.

The most vulnerable are our children of this generation who are growing up in a technology fueled era where they can access all kinds of gadgets. If you are already a parent, it is time to check if your young son or daughter is already being exposed to pornographic material. It might save you future heartache.

For Men, It Is A Pleasurable Activity; For Women, It Is Often Laden With Stereotypes.

I’m a talkative person. Perhaps that is what makes me privy to sometimes, weird conversations. I shall not reveal identities for obvious reasons but I shall definitely share.

Someone of the female gender this week, shared with me that someone else of the male gender, had warned her against allowing a female friend of hers from holding her infant child. Why? Because according to this man in question, since he suspected that the lady friend to the one who shared with me the info was sleeping around, then she would be dangerous to the baby. In short, when a baby is handled by a person sleeping around, a woman for that matter, then that baby constantly falls ill.

thisisafrica.me

thisisafrica.me

I don’t know if this applies to other African countries but in my country, there is that cultural belief among some ethnic groups, that your baby should not be handled by a cheating husband or promiscuous woman. Sadly, this person who also happens to be my friend wanted to find out from me if it was indeed true. I didn’t even know what to tell her. But I had so many unanswered questions in my mind that I doubt will ever get satisfactory answers.

Did that mean that single women were not supposed to hold their married friends’ babies because they were unhitched and definitely sleeping around? The lady in question is single and the one with the child is married. Does that mean that men now have the mandate to decide for a woman, who is to hold her baby and who shouldn’t considering the fact that this man, has no relation whatsoever to my friend? Explain the relation between sexual activity and being a contagious transmitter of illnesses to young children. And why are women often judged so harshly in matters sex?

Sometimes it is really difficult to question culture and tradition. And especially, when belief is deeply ingrained in individuals. As a matter of fact I found the whole conversation to be in bad taste. I felt as if the stereotype of women engaging in sexual activity as being dirty, was further being propagated against someone, I was made to vow never to disclose the information to. Of course I wouldn’t. How would I start even?

The fact that it was a man who had come up with this whole conclusion made it even worse. What right did he have to judge a hapless woman who probably had no ill intentions toward the said child? Why didn’t he warn my friend against letting both men and women handle her baby because of their so called philandering ways? Why only the woman?

And was it a possibility now for my friend to avoid her friend and therefore create a rift between them because of this information? Would she be blamed for being suspicious now of her friend’s motives each time she wanted to hold her baby? Isn’t loving one another as we love ourselves the right thing to do?

The fact that in many societies the sexuality of women, is always associated with negativity while the sexuality of men, is often associated with some sense of pride, further contributes to some of these deeply ingrained notions. Indeed it is so bad to the extent where some people believe that women who get raped brought it unto themselves. Perhaps they wore the wrong attire or they attracted the wrong attention or they walked in the wrong places after dark, are the reasons that this section of people use to justify why a woman got raped.

I have encountered misplaced stereotypes in the past against single women living alone. With some men thinking that a woman renting her own place has all the freedom in the world to invite different men to her house for sexual activity. Nobody judges a single guy living alone even though in some cases, the evidence of a string of different women spending the night on consecutive days, is open for others to see. But they are just being typical guys! We often assume. Men and women alike. That is what guys do! We conclude. Save me the explanation that men cannot last long periods without sex.

Since when did chastity only apply to women and not men? But that is how society has over time defined the sexuality of men and women. That is why malicious sexual propaganda is often targeted at the female gender and not the male gender. It is a sad state of affairs and one laden with double standards. When I see learned people who have lived in urban areas thinking the same, I know that it will be nearly impossible to change how things have been.

 

Why Having Many Children Still Raises Eyebrows

And by many, I mean 5,6,7 children and over.

Children have always been considered a blessing. A source of wealth in African society. If a couple lacked children, then that particular aspect tended/tends to be a source of great misery for the couple. In the past, let’s say about 25 years ago, having many children was considered normal.

My parents for example, come from fairly large families. My father and his siblings total 11 children. On my mother’s side, it was a bit reasonable. Together with her siblings, they total 7. For my maternal grandfather, together with his siblings, they total 15 children. Two died in childhood.

Further afield in the West, renowned Country Singer Dolly Parton comes from a family of 12 children. Celine Dion comes from a family of 14 children. Quite a number of Americans and Europeans born in the 50s and 60s came from families with children totaling over 10. So from this, we can tell that having many children was not really a big deal globally at some point in time.

However, in recent times and with increased awareness of contraceptive use and family planning methods, a possibility of regulating the number of children you got as a couple was created. Having more than 4 children started to seem a little too unwise for a couple.

If a couple intended to give their children a better life than what they had themselves, then the number of children they got had to decrease significantly. In some countries in the world for example, there was a need to restrict the number of children a couple got just to have a control of the population.

One such country which had a more than 35 year old one-child policy was China. Currently, the Chinese are allowed 2. Still restrictive in my opinion, despite the fact that China is considered one of the most populated countries in the world. However, to restrict a couple from having the number of children they would have initially liked to have, does not sound quite appealing to me irregardless of demographics and economic planning.

Just the previous evening, I happened to be a part of a conversation which ended up transforming into a criticism of a certain couple that I have not been acquainted with. According to one of the story tellers, this couple was still in their mid twenties yet already had 4 children. So in jest, she wondered if sex was the only thing on their minds.

It might seem thoroughly unwise or stupid even for this young couple to keep on bringing children into the world but if we decide to be rational for a moment, how many children a couple decides to have is really none of our business as third parties. In recent times, too many children in a family is a sign of poverty and not wealth as it was in the olden times in Africa.

Poverty stricken couples have always been associated with large numbers of unkempt young children tottering around without diapers and with unsightly running noses. The argument has always been if you can barely afford yourself as individuals, how then can you afford children bordering on the tenth number?

Some denominations equally restricted their faithfuls from engaging in the use of artificial family planning methods but rather to rely on the often unpredictable natural method of family planning. The end result, quite large numbers of children in such families that followed their religious denominational rules to the latter.

So when Pope Francis mentioned something bordering on the “Catholics don’t have to breed like rabbits” lines, it was sure to elicit some form of reaction and especially from the conservative Catholics who have in the past stuck to natural modes of contraception. However, it should be noted that Pope Francis’ statements were aimed at addressing responsible parenting.

In my view, if a couple can afford to give their children the very best then the number they decide to have should not be of concern to outsiders. It should equally not be associated with stupidity on their part. There are people who have a preference for large families and equally people, who have a preference for smaller families.

American author Danielle Steel has nine children herself. One unfortunately took his own life as a result of the bi-polar disorder he suffered. Steel grew up as an only child to surprisingly Catholic parents, who decided to have only one child as opposed to staunch Catholics who were known to have many. It should be noted that Steel deciding to have nine children was a personal choice and she was in a position to provide equally for them all.

The famous Kardashian family is a family of six children. Kris Jenner decided to have four children with her first husband Robert Kardashian before adding two more with her second husband Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. Funnily enough, not so many fingers have been pointed at the Kardashian brood for being a large family. I attribute this to the fact that they have spent quite a significant amount of time in the limelight and have firmly imprinted in the minds of their viewers, that they are a family capable of catering for its needs.

However, in my opinion, it would be unreasonable for a couple to have so many children if they can barely provide for them all. If they can take breaks in between just to improve on their livelihood before adding another family member, then that would be less strenuous on their part. But as much as I may think that way, the choice of the number of children to have remains solely with the couple irregardless of whether they are monied or not.

Pointing fingers at a couple for having a number of children YOU consider to be many, is basically judgmental really. So the fact that it still raises eyebrows is quite baffling. Isn’t it time that we minded our own businesses and stopped bothering with why the next couple has 6 and not 2 children?

Are You Comfortable With Your Number?

I got to watch the movie, What’s your number? starring Anna Faris (whom by the way, I find quite entertaining) while in campus. I thought it was quite a bold move by Hollywood producers, to settle on such a story line seeing that many people, are quite uncomfortable discussing the number of sexual partners they have had in their lifetime. And more so if they happen to be female. But that’s what Hollywood is synonymous for, pushing boundaries. So here was the character of Anna Faris, a female, talking about 19 partners already!

I also found the movie quite thought provoking in the sense that several critical questions arise just from watching it; Is it necessary to keep count of the number of sexual partners one has had? Could one of them end up being a lifetime partner? Is it OK to have quite a large number? Is a woman cheap for admitting to having so many?

whatislovedrcookerly.com

whatislovedrcookerly.com

A 2014 Kenya Demographic & Health Survey draws the conclusion that 2 out of every 5 Kenyans have 2 or more sexual partners. The introductory line of an article on the Standard Digital website dated January 15 2016, by Paul Wafula states;

A man in Kenya has an average of 7 sexual partners in their lifetime compared to 2 partners for women on average.

I am not utterly convinced by the latter statistic judging by the fact that many people are hardly, entirely truthful when discussing their sex lives. For women, this is worsened by the patriarchal societies we come from, which arrogantly assume that women should be sexually pure. If not, to at least pretend to be and to sound convincing enough.

I emphasize on the word arrogance since men have always been treated less harshly in matters, sexuality, unlike women. In some African societies, for example, polygamy and the keeping of concubines by men is endorsed and the women expected to automatically accept it as manly nature. It is quite interesting to note that some women in such societies, participate in creating situations  for their husbands to have additional sexual partners.

Just this past week, I encountered a very weird scenario when an older woman complimented me on the gap between my two front teeth. She then proceeded to inquire from me on whether I was married. When I replied in the negative, she mentioned that looking the way I did with that gap, she would not mind getting me as a second wife for her husband. She seemed to be half joking, I really wanted to believe but then while speaking in a low tone, she sounded equally, half serious.

I asked her whether she wouldn’t be afraid if I proved to be a competition assuming her husband fell hard for me and ended up forgetting all about her. To which she replied with a sense of confidence that since I would be the younger wife, then I would definitely be under her instructions. To be quite frank, this conversation which I guess had been intended to be good natured, ended up leaving me feeling very funny in a weird kind of way.

In Africa, it is not entirely uncommon for women to find additional wives for their husbands. This further proves the liberal nature that male sexuality has been accorded by society. And seeing that this woman was from my mother’s generation and had probably been brought up in the village like many of that generation, she must have been well versed on tradition.

We cannot entirely blame her for being backward in her reasoning since women in my generation too, have been forced by society to excuse men for having multiple sexual partners. I keep hearing the notion that men cannot survive long periods without sex and elaborate explanations as to why this is so. Women on the other hand are usually branded slutty for having several sexual partners no wonder the inherent need to fiercely guard their number as a secret.

So if it is indeed true that men cannot go long periods without sex, then they must be highly sexually active in their lifetime, from the very first time they experimented with sex. This first time being perhaps in their teenage-hood and all the way to their late 20s and early 30s, depending on the time they settled down in marriage. Then the average number of sexual partners for Kenyan men, could actually be higher than what is given in the survey. The same applies to women who have over time taken to keeping their true number a well guarded secret.

With the onset of the HIV/AIDS scourge, openly discussing one’s number is made all the more complex for fear of the sexual stereotypes that come along with that admission. It is often assumed that a man or woman who unashamedly admits to sleeping around may probably be having some sexual disease of some sort that he/she is spreading around.

High libidos are many times frowned upon as being proof of one’s promiscuous nature. A woman in a marriage may feel inhibited initiating sex as a result of the sexual stereotypes attached to women who seem to be possessing high libidos. Society has created situations where, a woman is not supposed to seem too eager to have sex. Yet the man should exercise confidence in asserting for sex, irregardless of whether he wants it from one woman or several women.

However, with the knowledge that HIV/AIDS is in existence, wouldn’t it be important to hear a truthful account of one’s sexual history that you had an intention of getting into a sexual relationship with? And wouldn’t it be unnecessary to hold it against the woman because of her number, if you too as the man, equally has a number bordering on the same?

And while women have always felt the pressure to cover up for their sexual indiscretions, some high profile women have gone against the norm and publicly spoken about their number. At some point in time, Ex supermodel, Janice Dickinson admitted to having slept with close to 1,000 men in her lifetime including actor Sylvester Stallone. Knowing how Janice is, I’m sure she cared less what people might think of her. Proprietor of House of DVF famous for it’s iconic wrap dresses, Diane Von Furstenberg in an interview with Post magazine sometime in 2015, centered around her memoir The Woman I Wanted To Be openly stated, “I slept with a lot of people and I’m glad I did.”

It would be unnecessary really, to hold it against these women for being openly unapologetic of their sexual past. As a matter of fact, I find these women quite comfortable with the way they chose to live their lives whether society would eventually judge them for it or not. I tend to think that they derive their confidence from the fact that irregardless of what could have been considered slutty by others, these women ended up to achieve notable feats in their respectable fields thanks to their individual talents.

The decision to openly discuss one’s number depends on an individual and whatever he/she expects to achieve with the admission. Whether it is necessary or not to keep track of one’s number depends solely on the initial drive behind it. However, sexual health shall always remain very important and something to keep in mind while engaging in sexual activities.

 

Has Africa Done Enough To Cub FGM?

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of globalhealthstudents.blogs.ku.dk

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of globalhealthstudents.blogs.ku.dk

In 2011, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was outlawed in Kenya. A law was equally passed clearly outlining the illegality of practicing FGM or taking someone out of the country, to have the procedure done. However, despite a law banning FGM existing in my country, some communities still actively engage in the heinous practice till date.

According to a definition by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in 1997, FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. World Health Organisation (WHO) goes further to expound that an estimated 91.5 million girls and women above the age of 9 in Africa are currently living with the consequences of FGM. A further 3 million girls in reference to the report by WHO, are at a risk of undergoing the cut every year.

Indeed as I was going through the FGM related images on the Internet for this post, I couldn’t help but find a huge chunk of them to be too graphic for myself and I believe, my readers too. I chose to settle on a milder form of the images. But is there really a milder form of FGM for those women who have undergone the worst form of it and have to further undergo reconstructive surgery in order to consummate their marriages? Worst case scenario, die in the process or develop complications during delivery because of being victims of the cut?

I sought to understand what lies in the mindset of female circumcisers and ended up stumbling on an article dated July 3rd 2015, by Felicity Thistlethwaite on the website http://www.express.co.uk. Two female circumcisers had been interviewed by MailOnline in their village in Kenya (Names have been omitted for this post to avoid ethnic profiling).

Woman 1 had this to say about the deeply entrenched practice in her community;

Girls are cut to ensure they remain faithful because the sexual organ is not there anymore. When you are cut you will not be like a slut looking for men here and there like a prostitute. You are docile waiting for your husband because after you are cut, sex is for having children not for anything else.

Woman 2 further added;

When you are cut, that is when you grow healthily into a woman because the bad blood is not there anymore. In the body, there is good blood and bad blood. After a girl is cut, the bad blood is gone.

Just by looking at these women’s reasoning, it was quite evident to me that a female’s sexuality has always proven to be a bone of contention. In most societies in Africa and across the world practicing FGM, the main intention is usually to tame the girl child from being sexually active before marriage. We can also capture a patriarchal kind of brainwashing in women toward what marital sex constitutes.

If sex in marriage is only for making babies and nothing else, then happens a situation whereby the husband craves sex but with no intention of getting his wife pregnant, then will sex in marriage have lost its meaning? And is it in order to conclude that women do not desire to engage in intercourse with their husbands except in situations where they have a plan to conceive? How then can we explain troubled marriages whose main cause is them being devoid of sex?

Indeed, there lies quite deep connotations of patriarchy in this whole business of FGM in societies which actively pursue the practice. It may come out as cheap feminism banter if we decided to question the liberal nature that has been accorded men when it comes to their sexuality, in comparison to the subdued nature accorded to the women’s sexuality?

And while FGM has always been painted to seem like it advocates for morality in matters sex, truly, its main intention is to further oppress the weaker sex in society, and that is the woman. To deny her a voice and a right to own her sexuality. To equally deny her a right to exercise her own self control while giving the stronger sex, the upper hand to decide what to do with regards to what should actually be a female responsibility.

Some of you may argue that no man participates in the cutting of women and that women, in most cases are actually willing to undergo it. I attribute this fact to the patriarchal brainwashing I previously mentioned. When you live in a society where the major decisions are being undertaken by one gender, then it becomes acceptable over time and a way of life. Unless enlightened, sadly, the situation remains the same and you will find women echoing what has been put in place for generations. They will not even think of questioning its validity in their lives.

You may agree with me that most of the societies engaging in active FGM are societies that lie on the deeply entrenched patriarchal spectrum. And that after the girls are circumcised then they are considered ready for marriage. Why not ready for other aspects pertaining to their lives as women? I leave that for you to judge. Yet FGM is considered a must for women in these societies and a woman who has failed to undergo it is subject to malicious gossip, shunning and taunts.

Apart from the sexual aspect of FGM, the girls are equally exposed to a horde of other risks. There is the risk of contracting the virus due to the poor sterilization standards of the crude razor blades used, bleeding to death, experiencing difficulty in delivery as well as the whole experience being traumatic for the girl.

I once watched a docu series where a circumcised girl in one of the communities in my country, had to walk kilometers after the practice under the hot sun in pain and bleeding. And all the while villagers awarded her with notes of cash. How that is supposed to prepare someone for womanhood beats my logic as the only interpretation I’m getting from it is that, this girl will probably conclude that womanhood is often traumatic. I fear that she may never view her womanhood as a cause for celebration and equally fulfilling.

An expose at the turn of the year by NTV’s Enock Sikolia on FGM among one of the communities in Kenya where the practice is heavily rampant, revealed that some trained nurses also perform the cut on unsuspecting, uncircumcised, pregnant women as soon as they go into labor. I found this unsettling in so many different angles.

First, a nurse is someone who has been to medical school and is therefore literate as well as enlightened on the dangers of FGM. Second, a nurse is someone a patient trusts to handle them professionally. Third, circumcising a vulnerable woman in the throes of labor pain is akin to maliciously abusing this woman physically and emotionally, while overlooking her right to stay uncircumcised. It would therefore be in order for parliament to pass a law that will ensure such rogue nurses, are liable for prosecution if it is ascertained that they indeed did circumcise a pregnant woman in labor.

The expose further shed light on the circumcisers change of tact. Instead of performing the practice during the expected periods by authorities, keen on pouncing on such offenders, they opted to circumcise girls at a much younger age or in hospitals. Here is where the role of some of the nurses came in. However, as a result of pressure from the community, many married women had voluntarily decided to get circumcised in a bid to save face. A sad state of affairs.

WHO states that the prevalence of FGM varies significantly between regions with ethnicity as the most decisive factor. The specific FGM procedure performed also varies by ethnicity. As of 2008/9 the prevalence of FGM in Kenyan women and girls between the ages of 15-49 years was 27.1% (www.compassion.com)

An article by Silas Irungu, a Compassion Kenya, Field Communications Specialist titled Fleeing the Knife on the website mentioned above narrates;

Young (insert tribe name) women undergo female circumcision as part of an elaborate rite of passage that initiates young girls into adulthood and ultimately early marriage.

The practice is deeply ingrained in the culture such that women who have not gone through it are not considered for marriage or if married, the bride price is heavily discounted much to the disappointment of the bride’s family.

Silas Irungu goes on to state;

The law in Kenya prohibits female circumcision and other cultural practices considered to be violence against women. It is difficult to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM because of cultural allegiance. Usually the practice is done in private under the cover of darkness.

To sum it all up, FGM is a thorn in the flesh and it is quite refreshing to witness many anti-FGM women crusaders up in arms against the practice in Kenya. Educational centres have been set up in communities where the practice is rampant, with an aim to shield young girls keen on pursuing their education, from undergoing the cut and being married off. Former Marakwet East MP, Linah Jebii Kilimo is one of the many high profile women against the heinous practice of FGM. She rose up to become a female leader in her community, despite being uncut.

Which firmly proves that if the African girl child is to truly prosper, then the practice of FGM needs to transform into a thing of the past. A retrogressive aspect of culture to be shunned and forgotten. Despite the many loopholes that we face in completely eradicating this practice, with one voice as Africa, it can be achieved.

What has your African country done to cub FGM?

 

African Women And Sexism: Sara Baartman

As I was going through my Facebook Newsfeed earlier in the day, a status update caught my attention. It was something to do with an African woman once upon a time in history, being displayed to curious onlookers as a result of her unusually large derriere. As is my nature, I quickly Googled the story and what I read presented to me the worst form of sexism and racial discrimination that an African woman has ever had to endure.

I have to say that being a Kenyan, I have been very lucky to be spared racial discrimination of any kind during my lifetime. Not that I’m gloating over that fact knowing that there are quite a number of Africans in their own respective African nations, who have unfortunately had to endure being treated as minorities by foreigners in their land. My forefathers did suffer racial discrimination and especially during the colonial times. I’m sure it was a really tough and annoying time for them. Other people from races considered minorities by some backward minded individuals, still continue to suffer racial discrimination in this day and era.

Again, I consider myself very lucky to have been spared most of the harsh sexism that other women have unfortunately had to endure or grapple with on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that acts of sexism do not elicit any form of reaction from me! As a matter of fact, just the mere thought of a woman being discriminated against because of her sex makes my blood boil with rage!

I consider it an injustice of the highest order for this poor woman called Sara ‘saartjie’ Baartman to be lured from her home country of South Africa under the guise of going overseas to work as a domestic servant and to be exhibited for entertainment purposes. It is said that she did sign a contract for it before leaving which is highly unlikely considering the fact that she definitely was illiterate. For my readers who are getting a bit confused, Sara is the woman I read about today after seeing the status update concerning her.

Born in the 1700s in the current Eastern Cape of South Africa, Sara was a Khoikhoi woman who was sold to London to work as a domestic servant as well as for the entertainment purposes. She was about 20 years old at the time. She would later be nicknamed Hottentot Venus. The reason why she was considered an entertainment of sorts was the fact that due to a medical condition, she had unusually large buttocks.

In addition to that, it was rumored that Khoikhoi women had elongated labias which hang down almost 3 to 4 inches in some women. This was attributed to the fact that since Africans were considered savages then, the body parts that were of normal size in other normal  human beings had to be abnormal in size in the so called “relatives of apes”. Don’t ask me why but I simply do not know what kind of weed the scholars of that age were smoking.

A disturbing picture indeed of onlookers "marveling" at Sara's so called unusual asset. Picture courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

A disturbing picture indeed of onlookers “marveling” at Sara’s so called unusual asset. Picture courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

You see, being from a community that definitely practiced labia elongation in women, Sara could not have been spared from the practice. Labia stretching, also referred to as labia elongation or labia pulling, is the act of elongating the labia minora through manual manipulation (pulling) or physical equipment (such as weights), according to a definition by Wikipedia. The practice happens in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Malawi and some countries in Sub Saharan Africa. The Khoisan were equally known for it.

However, to the onlookers on Piccadilly street in London where Sara was paraded due to her skin coloring and the behind, her elongated labia was equally an oddity attributed to some African sexual stereotype. But Sara refused to expose her private parts considered sacred in her community though many would have liked to gawk at them and always had them covered in a small piece of garment.

Her exploitation caused an uproar among abolitionist circles. However the fact that it was claimed and proven that she had signed a contract, her exploitation was made to appear consensual on her part. Eventually, Sara was sold to a French man who took her to Paris where she continued to be exhibited in a cage together with a baby rhinoceros. She would later end up prostituting and bordering on alcoholism.

After her death at around 26 years of age, naturalist George Cuvier was given custody of her body which he made a plaster cast of, took out her brains and genitalia which he preserved in laboratory bottles.It is said that as late as 1975, Sara’s genitalia and brains were being displayed in a museum in Paris.

When I look at this whole narration of what this woman was put through I can only attribute it to the fact that her naivete was thoroughly taken advantage of. In addition, the racial stereotypes of the time contributed greatly to her exploitation. I find it the worst form of women degradation bordering on the primitive. The fact that a woman’s body part considered out of the ordinary can be put on show for people to amuse themselves is truly sickening. Worst case scenario is the go ahead given to the naturalist to continue making fun of her bodily aspects in death in the name of research.

I am indeed glad that I was born in the 20th century where racial stereotypes of such a magnitude had somehow been completely done away with. It is clear that even in primitive societies, there was objectification of women based on what was considered curious or sexually odd by their onlookers as opposed to sexually enticing in this age. Perhaps the stress of one’s private part being put on display, gawked at, groped, made fun of and  equally the pain of being equated to a wild animal on a daily basis is what drove Sara to a life of prostitution and alcoholism in the end.

It may have been painted to seem like she was a savage without feelings yet this was an African woman who was as normal as the women of other races then. The only difference was her skin color and level of exposure or education! And maybe what was considered an unusually large butt then could just have been an average big butt today! How times change that big butts nowadays are considered a must have by a section of women and men alike!

Seeing how disturbing her story is, I can now understand why a South African chief told off celebrity,  Beyonce, for wanting to write and star in a film based on the life of Sara. South Africans still have a long way to go when it comes to matters healing. This is a country that suffered the extremities of colonial injustices for the longest time possible on the African continent. I can only understand why they would not want to stir up the racial discrimination they have endured in the past, with a film on a fellow country woman who underwent the worst form of it starred by a foreigner.

Perhaps they have a preference to let the past remain in the past if at all it only conjures painful memories. And isn’t it time that Sara was finally allowed to rest in peace?

Additional sources from a couple of articles on the Internet on the life and times of Sara Baartmann.

 

“Busty Women Love Sex”

I have put the title of my post today in quotes because it is something I heard from someone else quite recently actually. And sadly, from a fellow female. I don’t know how that came about, but this minute we were talking about something else and the next, she was like she has heard that phrase being thrown about. And the way she said it seemed like she really believed in it. My first reaction was rather personal, as I took it as a direct jab to my physique which falls in the said category. My next reaction was, appalled. In that state, I wondered who had come up with such a nasty truth sexual stereotype which I had never heard of before.

I mean, everyone loves sex. But we are all a bunch of pretenders who tend to paint sex as something dirty that resides only in the minds of perverted oversexed individuals. And that a woman who sleeps with several men is a whore whereas a man who sleeps with several women is macho blah, blah, blah…

favim.com

favim.com

Indeed we do believe so much in the latter stereotype that two rappers we know of in the music scene ended up concluding that the woman, both of them had slept with, was a whore. They didn’t look at themselves and see that they were probably lacking in integrity, for lusting after the same woman or the other one in the picture, who decided to sleep with his pal’s girlfriend was actually malicious. Since they are typical men full of themselves with their ego, successful rapping careers and money, they both decided that she had to be a whore for accepting to get laid by the two of them. So automatically, the woman is lacking in morals and is therefore cast aside and the men assume they were manly for sleeping with her and carry on being buddies. How warped??

Relationship blogs tell women that they should wait certain durations before giving themselves to a man they have began dating recently. I’m equally guilty of stating the same here in this blog. However, never have I stumbled upon a relationship blog which stated the duration of time a man should wait, before bedding a hot lass he has just started seeing. The story usually goes, men will always be men and that sex is a constant feature in their minds, which of course drives them to try all sorts of tricks on women in order to get laid. If the women in question fall for the tricks, usually because they are a bunch of clueless females, who believe that sex equals emotional bonding with the man, then they have themselves to blame for being too cheap.

Certain societies go ahead to further claim that a woman needs to have certain parts of her genitalia removed so that she can be tamed sexually. For men, it is a rite of passage. For women, it is to curtail her desires to want to have sex. As if God was nuts in designing a woman’s genitalia to include all those parts it has. These societies do not factor in the fact that by tampering with what was initially designed for a purpose, they are denying the woman the right to have a fulfilling sex life. Worst case scenario, causing her further unnecessary complications during childbirth and her menses. It is all for the sole reason that if left the way she was, designed beautifully, then she will automatically transform into a promiscuous female. Indeed there are women out there who point fingers at their fellow uncircumcised sisters as being dirty or whores.

This practice is so deeply rooted in some societies, to the extent where learned individuals residing in urban areas, still see the need to take their girls upcountry to get circumcised. It has actually taken the intervention of female activists to try and get some societies to understand that an uncircumcised girl is not flawed in any way. She is not inadequate as a woman and therefore does not need to be cast aside and subjected to ridicule. However, there is still a stretch of a journey left before FGM is totally done away with.

As a female, I feel as if we have been brainwashed to the extent where we have started believing in some of the nasty sexual stereotypes being thrown around with regards to women. For someone to actually point out that women endowed in a certain way are lovers of sex, is totally absurd. For some to go ahead and state that women from certain communities can’t keep their legs closed is even more absurd.

And then this same people are the ones who will go whining to radio stations that their wives are total logs in bed. Or they are ever laden with excuses as to why they don’t want to get intimate. If loving sex for women is a crime, how then do you expect this same women to enjoy the act of sex? Personally, I do not believe in anything such as someone loving sex. We all do for a fact. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be getting highly dissatisfied in relationships or marriages which are lacking in sex. We would be totally content and carrying on with our businesses as if nothing is amiss. As a matter of fact there would be no such term as “sexual frustration” neither would there be extra-marital affairs.

For women to be given a time limit on when they should get intimate in relationships is actually furthering a sexual stereotype that should have long been buried. For the self-righteous moralists, who are already pointing fingers at me for stating that, I’m not in any way encouraging immorality. And should women who sleep with men so soon after getting into relationships with them be branded loose or immoral, then the same should be applied to men who actually take the next step in sleeping with those same women so soon into a relationship. There should be no double standards as the act being carried out is the same.

Sex has always been a tricky subject and I’m totally convinced that it will be a long long journey before equal standards in this issue are attained. More so due to the patriarchal thinking by some.

Are women settling for less in relationships???

I think so.

I come from a society which places age limits on women when it comes to settling down. The first time i encountered this was when i was talking to a friend over the phone and all of a sudden, he mentioned that i was remaining with only 4 years before i became ‘expired material’. I was 24 then meaning according to him, i ought to be settled by 28. The second time was yet another male friend who acted genuinely concerned, by letting me know that in 3 years time, i should be settled with a hubby. The third time, it wasn’t directed at me but to all women generally. This female lecturer was telling us in class how she had met one of her former students who was already in her late twenties and not yet married. According to her, she was concerned as to why this particular former student opted to first concentrate on her career before settling down and advised her to hurry up and find an eligible man.

Welcome to Proudly Feminist, where such stereotypes are trashed!

Women have been pressured by societies to the point of settling for less in relationships because they don’t want the `expiry date’ to catch up with them. As long as the man seems willing to settle and the woman is in her late 20s, then she has no qualms moving in with him, never mind whether they are indeed compatible or not or whether he will ever make it official or never. Makes me wonder at times when the `expiry date’ for men is since some stay till 35 years of age before they think of marriage. I have heard of men claiming that women who have reached their 30s while still single are no good, because of the number of sexual partners they have had from the time they broke their virginities. Others claim that by 30, a woman is already aging. Who talks about the number of sexual partners a senior male bachelor has had? Who talks about a man aging by the time he hits 30 while still unmarried? Never mind that some 30 year old men already have a beer belly thing going on in their bodies. All these people furthering these stereotypes need to know that a marriage is for a life time and that the period of time you date someone also matters.

thatstotallytarot.com

thatstotallytarot.com

Many people have been led to believe that the dating period does not count. I don’t dispute that fact as there are indeed people out there who dated for less than 6 months and ended up in wonderful, solid marriages. However, for those women who are for the idea of dating for a longer period of time and are also a little scared that age is catching up with them, my only advice would be not to fret. I personally, do not believe in age limits. The placing of age limits on women by society is what makes women rush into marriages without getting to know the men properly. It is what makes women settle for bogus men because they are scared of society pointing fingers at them. Yet there is a good reason why people date in the first place. So as to learn about each other more and to find out whether you can handle each other’s shortcomings or not.

Why should you put up with less only for a marriage to break 2 or 3 years down the line?

What women need to know is that having a man in your life is not a direct ticket to happiness.  It is equally not an escape route for personal insecurities and problems. Another thing they also ought to know is that it is perfectly OK  for a woman to have standards as to what kind of a man she wants. It doesn’t matter if it will take her 10 years to find that man. As long as she is clear on her specifications, then she should not worry what society thinks of her. Some women are equally known to point fingers at their fellow unmarried counterparts by claiming that they are single so that they can prey on their husbands. If at all you married the man of your dreams and trusted him fully to the point of living with him in the same house, why then are you worried that a single woman somewhere is going to snatch your man??

It is this pressure that society places on women that makes them settle for men they are not sure of and have them turn into these paranoid monsters, who in turn will face ridicule from society yet again, for watching over their husbands like hawks. Nobody places this rush on men to marry. As a matter of fact, men are allowed to pursue their dreams, make their investments and enjoy their singlehood to the fullest and even though some concerned parents may at times ask for grandchildren from their sons, it is never that serious. Women on the other hand are made to feel odd for wanting to pursue their careers, make their investments and enjoy their singlehood. They are made to feel that with a man in their lives, everything will just fall into place and that their worries and fears will just fade away once in a marriage. What society fails to acknowledge is that in recent times, everyone is for himself and therefore, you may get into a marriage where the man is hardly a provider. You then need to have something to sustain you and your family while in such a situation.

There is nothing absolutely wrong with delaying marriage no matter what age a woman is. A woman needs to be very assertive when it comes to relationships. The same way a man points out clearly the kind of women he would settle down with and the kind he would not dream of even getting near, should be the same way a woman points out the exact kind of man she wants. When society kills that assertive spirit in women by making it seem like they need to do something so as to get that societal respect, then we have many women getting into marriages for the sake of it. They do not get married to the ones they really want rather they get married so that they can have kids before a certain age catches up with them or to beat the outrageous `expiry dates’ placed on them. The end result is people tolerating each other in marriage and not loving each other enough to keep the marriage bond strong.

A woman’s tribe and sexual prowess??

I come from a country of 42 different tribes but the number could be higher, judging by the fact that, a few smaller tribes claim to have unfortunately been excluded in the number and also the fact that a section of Kenyans, including moi, are of mixed tribe. Of the 3 East African countries (there are other East African countries too but i would like to talk of the 3 now), Kenyan women are the ones known to be more outspoken, less submissive (according to some) and more aggressive when compared to their Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts.

Ugandan culture requires the women to kneel while addressing the men as a sign of respect. Something that our Kenyan men dream of one day happening here. As a typical Kenyan woman, i can confidently attest to the fact that kneeling for our men will never happen. First because it is not a part of our culture and second, i can almost imagine a Kenyan woman going `What the hell??!’ `Nimpigie magoti kwani yeye ni Mungu?’ (I kneel for him what for? Is he God?). Yep, the hard truth. I once read an article where foreign men (mostly European and American) who had at some point dated a Kenyan woman, were currently dating one or married to one were being interviewed on what they thought of us. The interesting bit is that most claimed that we were too aggressive (careerwise) as well as outspoken but overall good or exciting if you may.

When it comes to sexual prowess, according to rumors flying around for years, Ugandan women have been said to rate higher. There is talk of traditional sex aunties in Uganda who train the pubescent girls as well as those about to be married on how to treat a man in bed. If there is any Ugandan woman reading this, kindly clarify. There also has been talk of if a Ugandan woman manages to nab a married Kenyan man, then his Kenyan wife should prepare herself to forget him for good cuz word out there is that he aint coming back. Again, i need clarification on this. Back home, Kenyan women’s sexual prowess has always been rated according to which tribe a Kenyan woman belonged to. There are those women from certain tribes who according to our men, are tigresses in bed, others from another tribe who are supposed frigid and boring in bed, others from yet another tribe who are purported to want sex morning, afternoon and night time…and the list goes on.

About 3 weeks back, i was travelling to a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi and there was this guy who was sitting next to me that decided to start chatting me up immediately after we left the city. He was basically a stranger to me so i was very guarded on how i engaged him but he was the very chatty type and soon he was telling me about a past girlfriend of his from a particular Kenyan tribe. Now the thing that caught my attention was a statement he made regarding her which went something like `you know (tribe name) are naughty.’ I immediately interpreted that to mean naughty in bed because of the next thing he continued to say…`she had gotten me used to some things which i found hard to adjust after we broke up.’ Well, i didn’t bother prodding him further about the `things’ as i didn’t want the conversation to head in a direction that i wouldn’t be comfortable with. But i couldn’t help making the conclusion that there are so many deeply entrenched stereotypes regarding the Kenyan woman’s sexual prowess.

Of course society and culture plays a huge role on how women view and engage in sex. In conservative societies, sex is mostly associated with procreation purposes and women from early childhood, are trained to know that sex is dirty and something that shouldn’t be enjoyed by the woman. Sex to them is actually an unnecessary bother for the enjoyment of the husband. So if he asks for it, he shouldn’t be denied and in most cases, since society and culture prohibits the woman to use contraceptive methods, she may find herself pregnant each time she has sex with her husband. No wonder some societies go as far as encouraging FGM to further cub the enjoyment of sex by the woman. The idea behind societies engaging in FGM is to make the girl not to engage in sex acts before marriage so those parts in a female’s genitalia designed to bring pleasure and satisfaction to a woman during sex are usually cut off or tampered with. And soon after FGM in some of those societies, the girl is married off as a sign that she is now woman enough. I don’t want to go further on this particular female circumcision issue as it could still be a highly sensitive topic to some which may generate a lot of negative as well as positive debate. However, the point i’m trying to drive at is that changing some deeply entrenched societal and cultural matters in an individual and a woman for that matter, could be very difficult.

But then sexual prowess may also depend on the open mindedness and exposure of the woman never mind the fact that she could be from a community where the women are considered `boring’ in bed, if there is such a word even to describe the sexual prowess of a person. In such a case, i don’t think it would be fair for the men to generalize. Just because there are rumors flying around concerning how women from a particular community are in bed, doesn’t mean that all the women in that tribe are actually the same. This is the 21st century and most Kenyan women are enlightened and learned. Most are also interested in having fulfilling sex lives with the men in their lives and therefore, they may not be that inhibited in bed. If indeed there are those who still choose to be inhibited, then it is a matter of personal choice and not the tribe she comes from.