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The Problem With “Home-Training”, Slut-Shaming And Victim-Blaming

The Problem With “Home-Training”, Slut-Shaming And Victim-Blaming

Growing up as a woman in Nigeria, one can almost guarantee that your first instance of slut-shaming came from within your family.

For clarity, slut-shaming is the act of criticizing and condemning girls and women who are perceived to have violated societal norms in behaviour related to their sexuality.

Usually, because we are brought up oblivious to these things, we do not even notice them until we become aware of what slut shaming is. For some of us, it started small.

When we were 8 or 9, one +“uncle” in the compound became nice to us for no reason and being children, we innocently responded to that kindness. In turn, when our mothers found us talking to “uncle” or clutching the sweets he had gotten us, we were beaten and called “fast” or promiscuous.

For others, one pastor or the other woke up one day and decided that the spirit of fornication was in us, that we were temptresses and, of course, it was our fault – more slut-shaming. 

Numerous girls were not so lucky to get off unscathed. They were molested, raped, abused and after mustering the courage to tell these stories to their families, they were beaten, called prostitutes; these girls were asked: “what were you doing there?” “why were you nice to him?” Literal children.

I saw a video once that shook me to my core. A man raped a toddler and in an interview, her mother spoke passionately about how this child “ba aye ara e je”. The mother said the girl was “always crawling up and down” and so the girl willfully “ruined her own life”.

Now you may see this and as the anger bubbles up inside you, you think to yourself, “how dare she say that?” but you see nothing wrong with putting young girls in boxes, limiting them and blaming them for the actions of unfortunate men.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how slut-shaming gives birth to victim-blaming and is a reason why rape victims do not get justice and rapists are not held accountable properly. The extents that people go to absolve men of the blame for their nefarious actions is ridiculous.

Men are deemed infallible so, even in the face of despicable evil like rape, there will be those who excuse their actions.

This is not to say that these men do not get punished (even though they hardly ever do) but, before said punishment is meted, the victim is further traumatized by doubt and shaming from those she trusted with her story.

Victim blaming starts small. It starts when you tell your child to change what she’s wearing because you have male visitors. It starts when you do not wonder why a child needs to protect themselves from sexualization from grown men rather than these grown men simply not sexualizing children. 

God help you if you hit puberty early as a Nigerian girl. The presence of breasts on your chest and other signs of the bodily maturity that comes with puberty are a perceived threat to those around you.

Older women assume the *child* MUST be having sex. They shame her, beat her and call her all sorts of names. It is important to note that underaged children CAN NOT CONSENT TO SEX. It is statutory rape.

Also, I do not know where the belief that early signs of puberty are because a child is engaging in sexual activities (again, rape). You will see grown women actively slut-shaming 10-year-old girls and calling them prostitutes because these sick people project sexuality on them.

Maturation aside, simply having bodily features that are desirable by men is a threat. You’re desirable? Shrink yourself so that men don’t see. How is it logical to bend these girls out of shape for their bodies instead of educating men not to see women as sexual objects, especially children?

It should not even need to be said but, being as deeply embedded in the patriarchy as we are; the onus is conveniently placed on the victims and not the perpetrators. 

In secondary schools, girls are not allowed to wear long socks because it will “seduce the boys” or the male teachers. Some schools went as far as telling female students what sort of earrings and wristwatches to wear, telling them not to wear perfume or lip balm and so on.

We had all those “special talks” teaching us about chastity and how to be good women. We were conditioned to pander to and coddle men while our male counterparts received no training on respecting our bodily autonomy. They were not taught about consent and, most importantly, they were not caged as we were. 

People often say it is easier to raise male children than female children but this notion only exists because the parenting effort goes into female children, usually centring men and their desirability to them (“will you do this in your husband’s house?” while male children are left to run wild. 

These experiences make us question our self-worth. When your own mother or aunt has called you a prostitute, you are numbed to the effect when random men on the street call you a prostitute too, for simply existing.

To many Nigerian men, and “patriarchy princesses”, we are all prostitutes. No matter how hard you try to fit into the standard of societal acceptability; you will be called a prostitute for being too nice, for not being nice enough, for being rich, for being independent, for walking at night, for having male friends, for going out, the list is endless. And as women, growing up as we did, we do not question these things.

We do not wonder, “Why do these people get away with saying these things to me? Why not face the perpetrators?” Instead, we continue to shrink ourselves hoping that it will save us from harm but it doesn’t. Women and girls are not safe at home, church, school, literally anywhere, as long as these men and the mentality enabling them to continue to exist. 

Read Also: Why Equal Representation Of Women Matter

12 Comments

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