How avoiding sexual discussion perpetuates rape culture

We all come from sex and yet it is one of the most side stepped and avoided conversations ever.

February 28, 2021

The way we interact with the subject matter of sex and sexuality increases the number of rapes and sexual crimes that are committed. Our discomfort and overall disdain, especially within the African context, for discussing sexual matters has led to a lot of angst, depression and dangerous sexual practices.

As of 2020 approximately 80% of all rapes go unreported and only about 30% of all reported rapes lead to a criminal conviction. This means for every 100 rapes that occur only 20 are ever reported and 6 lead to a conviction. Juxtapose this with the fact that every 73 seconds 1 person is sexually assaulted and 60% of all sexual assault victims are under the age 30. This translates to your future wife, your sister, your friend, your daughter even your son.

The male statistics on rape and sexual assault are even more appalling. 98% of male sexual assault goes unreported and only 5% of all reported cases lead to a conviction. For every 100 sexual assaults on males only 2 are reported and of those 2 only 0.1 lead to a conviction. It says a lot when a criminal statistic is a decimal number with whole number being zero.

In light of all this we still treat the idea of sex, sexuality and sexual crimes like it is taboo and uncommon. The irony of this is not lost on me. We are all a product of sex in one form or the other whether consensual, non-consensual, artificial insemination etc. We all come from sex and yet it is one of the most side stepped and avoided conversations ever. As humans we are more likely to discuss death than we are to discuss sex and yet we forget that most victims of sexual crimes have to find a way to continue living after that.

I have witnessed families opt for alienation from the community and society they live in for harboring a known murderer. And yet as soon as their daughter comes home pregnant, she is discarded faster than a used condom. And her existence is denied to everyone. This reflects our problematic views and interactions with the topic of all things sex related.

The side effect of all this results in the statistics stated earlier. More often than not we turn a blind eye when a sexual offence occurs. We treat sexual assault like it is a unicorn. The little girl claims it is there and she saw it, but the adults ‘know better’ and think she will eventually grow out of it. The act of sexual violence despite its prevalence and destructive nature is unfathomable and all but alien.

AN AFRICAN CHILD’S STORY WITH SEX

Coming from a highly progressive African family means that everything is open to discussion. Everything except sex because when it comes to sex, there is no discussion, you are told, like a canvas receiving paint. How the paint flows, whether it sticks or runs matters not. When it comes to sex our opinions as the ones who are most at risk of sexual exploitation and experimentation do not matter because God forbid, we actually have any opinion about it to begin with.

THE EARLY BLOOMER

At age 10, Sara started grappling with issues about sex and sexuality. She knew that she was supposed to like boys but she also liked girls which led to her convincing herself that she was losing her mind. However, she could never say anything or ask anyone and eventually the pent-up frustration began to seep through the cracks.

Fast forward a few years later her mother finds some rather poorly drawn images depicting graphic acts between two females. This leads to one of the worst beatings of her life.

After this she became known as the problem child. A few more years later she falls pregnant and she gets a beating befitting that of slave and a one-way ticket to get out of town because a respectable family does not keep garbage.

A few years after that, Sara gets raped. Sara never reports the case. Eventually her parents find out what happened to her. Her mother denies the act and tells her that she is lying. Her father, despite being confronted with evidence of the perpetrator admitting to the rape, chooses not to acknowledge it. In true sweep it under the carpet style, he side swipes the entire conversation and pretends like nothing happened.

Now why do you need to know this story? I tell this story to shed light on how much our silence on sex and disregard of adolescents’ views on sexual matters is highly detrimental to their safety and wellbeing. If Sara’s parents had opened up the discussion of sex it would have been easier for her to tell them what she thought and how she felt as an adolescent. They would have been able to aid her through the process of getting justice for what happened to her.

Because a conversation was never had, Sara’s rapist goes free. As a direct result of being deathly afraid of having an open conversation with our children about sex, our sons and daughters become victims and predators. And they fear talking to us even when they are in danger.

Because a conversation was never had, Sara’s rapist goes free. As a direct result of being deathly afraid of having an open conversation with our children about sex, our sons and daughters become victims and predators.

THE SEX TALK

The sex talk for males is really quite an interesting and very hilarious thing to watch because of its absurdity and pure cartoonish nature. The ‘talk’ can basically be summed up into a five-sentence story;

*A man has a son. The man one day realizes that his son is now on a teenager. The man goes to a shop, gets a box of condoms and tosses them in his son’s room. The man and his son share a look. The man closes the door behind him and life goes on.*

This is the ‘talk’ that most boys get about sex if they get any talk at all.

Tossing a bunch of condoms into your son’s room says a lot despite your saying nothing. It trivializes the idea of sex and its effects. It tells him that sex should not be talked about or discussed with anyone, even his partner. Sex can be taken when he wants it consent and discussions beforehand be damned!

As a result, most young boys learn about sex from other boys, porn and “older women”. And need I point out how dangerous, highly unrealistic and detrimental these are to the boy and all his future partners and children.

The sex talk for girls is basically a retelling of a doom and gloom horror apocalypse caused by her opening her legs just once. The exaggeration here is not over stating it, I have met young women in their twenties who for a long time expected that if they had sex, they would get pregnant, AIDS and start on drugs as soon as they tried it for the first time.

Young girls grow up believing that sex is forbidden and they should not have any feelings save apathy towards it. They grow up being taught to hate the idea of sex and to cherish their hymen (of which the things we are told about the hymen are so untrue they belong in fairy tales). The idea that a woman’s worth is dependent on how much sex she has had is drilled into us to the point where regardless of how or when that first time does happen 95% of all women regret it instantly.

Telling your daughter that sex is forbidden invalidates her feelings, her sexuality and makes it impossible for her to have sexual autonomy. She learns that she should never talk about anything sexual even if it is to her detriment.

In the end your daughter has sex taken from her. She is hurt and violated in the most terrible of ways. But because sex is forbidden, nothing is said. Our interactions with sexual topics perpetuate the invalid association of sex with the under belly of society and the feared ‘other’. We seem to forget that we exist because of sex, all of us are as a result of sex.

The fear that our African parents have instilled in us about sex and sexual issues has left a gaping hole in our lives. As result we carry so many scars and generally terrible sexual experiences. We grow up to be old and sexually frustrated. Which in turn leads to parents with terrible mental health and a sexually non-existent syllabus. I am definitely not advocating for parents to let their children have sex willy nilly.

However, if parents became a bit more open to a discussion about sex and they actually entertained the idea that their children have opinions about sex, the children would be a bit more open. And maybe just maybe there would be fewer “accidental” sexual assaults, fewer rape victims who did not get justice and a few more sexually woke individuals engaging in safe and consensual sexual acts.

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