How did we sink to stripping women in the streets?

“You will drive men crazy if you dress like that.”

This common “compliment” smacks of the warning I once found in “Open Heavens”, a daily devotional from a Nigerian pastor. The devotional for the day said that if women “loved their neighbour” (see men) they would not dress in a way that distracted them from perusing the fullness of goodness and instead lead them down the road of destruction.

We bear the burden of the world’s morality and it is quite a load to bear.

The thinking is that men can control the world economy, companies, politics and all other realms that call for logic but when the trouser snake is involved, logic is for the weak and the less virile.

When sex comes into play what seems to happen is reminiscent of the “Turn Down For What” video.

We live in a society where apparently women are the overly emotional and illogical creatures who cannot be trusted except with ensuring that men are not held accountable for any sexually destructive behaviour they engage in.

A list of things men have actively stated they cannot be blamed for as they are women’s fault:

• Staring.
• Cheating.
• Touching you in the street.
• Stripping women in the street.
• Rape.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

The question is: How have we raised the sort of monsters that can strip a woman in a street when we come from the fairytale history of women wearing little more than a piece of cloth to cover their groin area? How is it that now that a miniskirt or a tight pair of jeans can suddenly unleash an animal inside a man?

Is it that with the rise of “civilisation” has come an irreconcilable coexistence between hyper-sexualisation and hyper-conservatism?

The conceptualisation of sex and sexuality has becoming wildly distorted as it does its deadly dance with certain religious and cultural outlooks and with that the woman’s role in the larger sexual paradigm has become something dangerous and disgusting.

Nkiru Nzegwu’s essay “Osunality” speaks of how the modern-day African erotic has been wildly shaped by religion. It argues that African sexual ontology is quite progressive and is a resilient stronghold of female power as she embodies the entire fertility process from arousal to birth. It further argues that moving towards an African ontological framework highlights the sexuality component that recognises sexual fulfilment as a personal and social good, which nurtures well-adjusted individuals.

As women we have gone from being the heroes of the sex tales to being the villain.

Some religious figures portray women as the “devils in a red dress” ready at any moment to collapse the world social order and send us all slipping and sliding into a hedonistic pile of orgies and debauchery.

We are a force that needs to be contained and reined in and some men have taken it up themselves to do that.

Religion, culture, legislation and other powers tell women what is inappropriate to wear while men go shirtless in the streets the minute it is even slightly warm.

The African erotic is based very much in the female and the power of the vagina. Oshun is a West African goddess through who “all life flows and is the epitome of sensuality and sexual pleasure”. She represents female-centred, life-transforming energy that courses through and animates life.

Oshun, like other African fertility goddesses, reinforces and empowers female sexuality without negating male sexuality. Unlike certain religious and cultural beliefs it is not a never-ending battle characterised by temptation and dominance.

Nzengwu argues that the power of Osunality is a critical force which, while being a seat of women’s power, is also vital for “[modulating] men’s propensity for aggression” by acting as a calming force.

Nevertheless the power of the female sexual organs was diminished with the rise of the idea of penetration brought by foreign phallocentric ideas.

“I hit it” “Will slide up in it.” “Giving her the D.”

The vagina merely seems to lie in wait.

But have you ever thought of the vagina as engulfing the penis? Literally drawing it in and holding it tight until it is ready to let go. Or have you ever considered the fact that once a man comes there is a need to re-load where as a woman can just keep going?

Multiple orgasms are a reality.

The female sexual organ was seen as the holder of life, a gateway from a previous life to this one.

We have gone from being a people who understood the power of the erotic and how that fit into proper interactions between men and women to being a people whose (black) masculinity is synonymous with violence.

In many African traditions we knew about the nature of sexuality. We understood the fluidity of gender, we understood the sexual power of the woman and how that complimented rather than conflicted with that of men.

Now we have forgotten and are filled with a madness that brings about sexual rage. Raping and stripping women in the streets because we are so confused about this idea of sex.

We are frankly better than this, on so many levels.

An understanding of the way that sex and the sexual plays out rather than having a hysterical fear of it will ensure better social interactions. Not only will it diminish the violence, bring about better gender relations in all realms of life but we could also get some very rocking sex in the mix.

Image – Protesters rally against gender-based violence on November 17, 2014, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. A Kenyan woman was attacked and stripped by a mob at a bus stop in an incident that was captured on video and went viral online. She was accused of “tempting” men because of her clothing. (AFP)