Two men had their penises chopped off in Nyeri County in under a week in a harrowing episode of domestic violence. In the first case, a married woman reportedly turned on her husband after he reappeared after a two-day disappearing act, empty handed save for a pocket stashed with condoms and drunk.
The next incident involved a disagreement over money. Both men were attacked by their intimate partners and mutilated in a fashion that would be filed as a hate crime in a war zone.
I watched how casually the reports of these criminal acts of genital mutilation against men were treated. The commentators appeared to be suppressing the urge to burst into laughter. The stereotypical jokes about the wrath of a scorned Nyeri woman did their rounds. Witty Whatapps memes of contrived travel advisory to men traveling to Nyeri County offered all manner of armoured protection for male genitalia.
The Commanding Officer of the Police Division was captured on TV advising men to be wary around angry women and finished his statement off with a loud chuckle. Male genital mutilation makes for entertaining news and a breather from mundane political rivalries. According to this social narrative, losing a penis is an act of extreme negligence.
We are a society socialised to believe that men bring harm to themselves by doing stupid things. A straight line is drawn from the act of savagery to the preceding deed of male idiocy to justify the woman’s behaviour. That is principally the explanation given for men who get the ‘Bobbitised treatment’.
The term came to prominence in 1993 after an American woman, Lorena Bobbit chopped off her husband’s penis with a knife and made international headlines. The poor victim, John Wayne Bobbit, was lucky to get restorative surgery. Lorena described recurring sexual frustration and abuse from her husband as grounds that precipitated the turn of terror.
The assault was a mixture of sexual defence and insanity. The jury ruled that it was a crime of impulsion in the midst of an emotional crisis. The penis became a weapon of dominance that had to be destroyed to guarantee the woman’s safety. After an extensive deliberation, the jury found Lorena not guilty due to “insanity causing an irresistible urge to sexually assault John Bobbit”. Lorena would go on to remarry and enjoy some modicum of celebrity. John on the other hand had a failed stint as pornographic actor and his life trajectory spiraled from bad to worse.
The Bobbit case set the precedent of society condoning and accepting violence against men. Where women are the tyrants, media tends to frame the occurrences as retaliatory and justified violence.
Many fail to acknowledge, that men and boys comprise a significant portion of domestic violence victims. The oppressors are usually intimate partners, caregivers and parents. Since ready statistics place women as disproportionately victims of domestic violence, it leaves little or no sympathy for a man on the receiving end of his intimate partners rage.
We are taught that domestic violence is largely attributed to men. It is a black and white issue. Men are bad. Women are oppressed. Men are privileged by maleness. Women are undermined by patriarchal structures.
Ingrained is the idea that men are natural born oppressors who deserve to be ‘taught a lesson they will never forget’. Hence the growing cult of women in relationships developing a thirst for revenge and humiliation. To escape the harsh consequences of failing to become a ‘real man’, the accused male seeks the escape the cheap alcohol provides and get firmly entrapped in an addiction cycle.
The demand for ‘real men’ has brought about a culture of male public shaming directed at men who flop as amorous lovers, financial providers and able daddies.
Without these basic attributes, a man is genuinely considered a waste of space especially when they emerge from lower economic stations. On the contrary, women are not responsible for their failings.
As the storyline goes, behind every female distress is an offending male. Where there is no man within reach, we can blame patriarchy. Patriarchy as taught to men brought up largely by women. The first influence in a boys’ life tends to be a woman.
Most of the sexist attitudes men pick up will be from women. Such as the notion that men have to expend resources in exchange for sex. When the resources dwindle, sex is withheld and punishment meted out!
Men and boys who suffer physical and emotional violence from their intimate partners are socialised to take the blame. Their punishment is a necessary evil in their path towards becoming good boys and real men.
Men are taught to look down on their well being because there is honour in suffering in silence. The pain of the suffering woman with a bloodied knife one hand and a severed penis in other, is what demands attention.