By: Olamilekan Mashika

Image Credit: Business Day NG

One of the questions that brought about this piece is how society reacts to harassment. And when it happens, how it sides with the victim and condemns the perpetrators.

The irony in this is its double-edged nature. The same society sometimes sides with the perpetrators and shames the victim. These two worries have existed over the course of time in our society and we seem unable to bridge this gap of mishaps. Truly, the right question to ask is how the society is guilty of harassment cases, how it allows harassment to occur. How it sometimes legitimately accepts the cruel concept of harassment as a normal occurrence. We ponder on these questions, but we never get an answer. I also never got an answer until one fateful afternoon, a warm quiet afternoon.

Verily, it is perhaps not false to say boys are mostly the perpetrators of sexual harassment. This is not to say boys aren’t victims of these acts themselves. Yes, boys get raped too. But have we ever stopped to consider why this is so? Why do these men think it is okay to sexually harass an individual of the female gender? The purpose of this piece is not to shift blames, but to put into light what seem darkened by our non-focus and negligence towards a very pressing issue. What transpired during this warm afternoon on my street brought into light why our society thinks it is okay for boys to harass a girl.

This very afternoon in question, an innocent girl was walking down the street with the hope of arriving home safely, but unknown to her, her day was about to get lousy. A guy approached her to show his interest. This she refused. Clearly this is the signal anyone needs to back off, but the guy persisted. Yes, persistence sometimes gets the girl, but does that include touching her body? As this guy, in hope to further his attempt of being noticed touched her breasts. At this point, hell broke loose, and a quiet afternoon within a matter of minutes got very rowdy. He should never have touched her, and the girl made this known. But strangely, he thought it normal to touch a girl and he stood his ground. To him, touching her breasts was nothing wrong, and to make things worse, his friends also shared in his views. Although after pandemonium had reigned, he acknowledged his fault and made a futile effort at an apology, but his friends still thought he wasn’t in the wrong. Hell then continued to break loose.

Perhaps everyone has a fault. Yes, we aren’t perfect. But when we realize the source of this fault, then we should be able to correct it. What transpired in the story above was not what inspired this write up, the reactions of the people did. They go as follows:

“What! He’s only showing interest in her na, don’t people do more than that to her”
“He’s a man, he’s only trying to pursue his desires”
“What if she were outside, would she have taken of up on her head like that”
“All these girls sef, as if we don’t know what they do in secret”
“Will she say that is the first time someone is touching her breasts?”
“He likes her ni, she shouldn’t make a thing out of it”
“A man can touch a lady he has interest in. That is not a new thing. It is not the first time such is happening”

These are just few of the reactions that people had. Thus, I begin to wonder what, whom, and where are the roots of harassment of the female and the male genders? It is of communal sensibility that can we conclude the “who” in the roots is of course the society. Yes, the same society that nags about it. Amongst those who made the above statements were mothers and fathers, people who train their children, who are in charge of instructing their boy-child on what is wrong and is right. People who set these boys on their paths had those reactions. Then you begin to wonder, why a boy will not forcefully attempt to impose himself on a lady he supposedly likes, if apparently, according to his parents, it is not a bad thing to express your love to a stranger or someone you barely know by touching her in parts that are private to her. This is not to say the culture of touching is unique to boys alone. Indeed, girls also do such to boys. Some touch the chests of boys and feel it is nothing since boys do not possess breasts. Perhaps it should be reiterated, except when given the green light, you should not even attempt to touch someone where you are not supposed to.

Our boys need to be shown that these backward thoughts are not right. You are not in any way entitled to anyone’s body. You do not have any right to touch anyone where you are not supposed to. This worry makes mockery of the fact that these same individuals, who supported the act of the man that afternoon, are those who are tasked with raising highly functional men in the society. The sad tale then spreads when these boys go on to do what they’ve been told is right and these boys are condemned. Is that not telling you that the society supports harassment from its base, but when the act is done they condemn it? Apparently, the fire that was burning in the bush was caused by the farmer himself, who has refused to put off the light he lit beside the kerosene well.

We all know that to have a big tree which would produce a good fruit the roots has to be watered sufficiently and given the nutrients. Won’t it be of great delight to take the lives of each male and female child that way so as to water them with the right ideologies on how to behave, reckon, speak and live with each other? But it seems that in the world we live in today, the females are getting these nutrients more than the boy, because boys are supposed to have it figured all out, apparently.

This is a wrong notion, one we have carried about, and it is affecting our society. Do not neglect the boy-child; he needs attention as much as anyone. He needs to be watered, to be given the necessary nutrients, in other to become a big tree that yields good fruits.
With all that has been outlined, you see the society will continue with putting its blames on the victims saying they knew it was coming or also on the perpetrator. We always find someone to put the blames on. But as we live our lives let us cast our minds to the popular psychological research from men like Sigmoud Freud, Karl Max and so on. Their research all hits to almost one common perspective which says that for every behavior, development in the human race those behaviors must have been triggered at early stages of our life. It simply means that what we teach our boys or girls now, is what defines and shapes what they might become. So, parents do not encourage your child on any form of harassment. Do not teach them that it is right to feel a sense of entitlement to someone else’s body. Tell them not to keep quiet about any form of harassment. Do not tell them that lady was raped because of what she wore. Tell them that it is wrong to say that a person provoked another such that they could not resist harassing. Tell them that if it is not consensual, then it is a no-go area. Teach them, so they may become individuals that the society is proud of.