This week, I found myself in the company of a group of mature, successful and well-educated men. I found it somewhat amusing when one of them introduced himself as the Zag (story for another day). At some point in the evening, I could not help but ask them to share their thoughts on the recent massive eruption of sexual harassment allegations that have hit Hollywood. It started with actor Bill Cosby and now have peaked into the ongoing drama with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.
All the gentlemen in the group were very clear and unanimous in their opinion that sexual harassment does not exist in the African context.
As expected, they quoted from African history, myth and folklore where most love related matters were approached with a fair amount of push and in some cases combat. Someone mentioned instances of forced kidnapping, beatings which were the staple in the traditional male-female seduction rituals. This discussion got me thinking about this sexual harassment business. While not wishing in any way to downplay sexual harassment, I must confess that there is a thin line between seduction and sexual harassment.
You see, the relationships between the male and female species in and outside the human race are wired for a certain ‘tug of war’ when it comes to matters of love. The male is expected to put his best foot forward and convince the female that he is worthy of her affections.
The female is conditioned to resist, to play hard to get because her resistance ensures that the males try harder and she gets the benefits of their efforts — like better offspring and more assets to live on.
Seeds of sexual harassment
In many African households sex education for the girl was summarised in one line, ‘when he shows any sign of playing bad manners, you say no.”(by the way, why is it that in African sexual education, people do not have sex, they play it?). The boy on the other hand is taught that the playing of sex must end with a score.’ This ridiculous approach to sex become fertile ground upon on which the seeds of sexual harassment grow and flourish.
Fast forward to the 21st Century where women have become liberated and have freedom and fashion that allows them to literally flaunt all their womanhood, sexuality and sensuality in the faces of their men.
Thanks to good diet, better skin care and lotions and sometimes help from the knife, women have become sexy and increasingly hard to resist.
Nowadays you have cleavages so luscious, so deep and so well packaged that they are moving billboards for sex. This is even before we get to derrieres and legs which when sheathed in the right pair of jeans or spandex are runaways into the world of naughty and dirty thoughts. Most men who we know are fickle when it comes to matters of the flesh, find it nearly impossible to resist the temptation to bite the apple of sexual pleasure presented before them.
How can they when women have spruced up their eyelashes and turned them into weapons for come hither summons and turned their lips into luscious invites for pleasure?
Most men naturally respond to all this buffet of sexual stimuli with some form of sexual advance that kicks off the ‘yes and no pattern of response’ from women.
Sexual harassment is a dirty word and one that threatens to destroy the interesting and exciting dance of seduction between men and women. Yes, we must agree that we have many dirty men who confuse using the advantage of money and position to circumvent the route to seduction.
They recognise that today’s world is also full of young and naïve women who are unemployed and broke. They refuse to accord these women the natural dignity that comes with the prescribed seduction rituals and instead choose to fondle, paw and bed them at the first sighting.
These dirty men use their power and position to bait not seduce women (and in some cases men) into bed therefore creating a nasty shadow over the once beautiful landscape of love and seduction.
These men also know these women will say ‘yes’ because they need what the men offer and they will keep quiet because as fate would have it society always blames women when it comes to sexual harassment.
I cannot help but wonder if Africa will import and embrace the concept of sexual harassment. I wonder if African men will even appreciate its existence, let alone deal with it. I wonder if African women will embrace the concept of spilling the beans about sexual harassment.
I cannot help but wonder if the concept of sexual harassment might mess up the exciting world of sex and seduction. Only time will tell.