A Woman Is Not a Sexual Being
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
I am an angry Black woman.
One Tuesday evening in mid-November 2019, something happened to a woman I don’t know and it made me completely livid. The story is quite simple: there was a woman who for this story I will call Tam. Tam was recorded having sex by her partner without her knowledge then he shared the video with his friends who shared it with their friends. Eventually, a random man who knew neither Tam nor her partner got his hands on it and posted the video on Twitter. What followed was not so simple. The tweet went viral on Nigerian Twitter and there were multiple reactions: some people blamed the complete stranger who posted it, others were angry at the partner who shared the video with his friends, then people—like me—were just pissed. Then there were those who were disgusted by Tam’s “behavior” (being a sexual being) and blamed her for “placing herself in that situation” (having consensual sex). Later, Tam’s university found out about the video and following their bullshit Puritan code, she was expelled for “inappropriate behavior.”
That night and even the next day, I called everyone who bothered to pick up the phone– just for them to listen to me rant about how revolting I found the whole thing. I wrote essay-long think pieces in multiple unending threads on Twitter calling out everyone and their mother. I fought every single person who dared—publicly or privately—defy my stance: stranger or not. I repeatedly reported the Twitter account of the man who posted the video and called on all my friends to do the same until his account was suspended. Essentially, I was not happy.
Now, I can not pinpoint what exactly vexes me the most in this story every time I tell it. At one point, I thought it was the audacity of the partner to video Tam without her consent—which in itself is a crime—and then share it to his friends to boast of his conquests. Then at another point, I was mostly angry at the men who celebrated the partner and furious at the women who blamed the victim. Then I start thinking about the individual who shared it on Twitter knowing fully well that Tam would be easily identifiable since her face was not hidden and I get infuriated. However, now I believe what makes me so enraged about this particular story is the overarching suppressive force of gender’s regulatory power.
The regulatory power of gender disciplines individuals and keeps them in the line drawn by that shithead we know all too well: the patriarchy. Also, this power not only seeks to control but to continuously shape and form the norms of each gender. Then the regulatory force is maintained by the false purity culture that dominates my country. The culture that forces women to reject the mere notion that they could possibly be expressive sexual beings. After engaging in any form of sexual expression before marriage, our culture’s rules state that the woman can be declared a whore or a prostitute. Throughout their lives, women are taught to be scared to “transgress” in the tiniest of ways so they don’t violate the expectations that their gender demands. When Tam was expelled, my people showed me and everyone else that their outrage over the audacity of a woman to be a sexual being surpassed everything else. They didn’t care that the men involved were criminals or that she was recorded without her consent but they just could not fathom the fact that a woman could dare defy their oppressive social codes.
Furthermore, although it was clear to me that the men in this story—and too many others—were the sole perpetrators of the crime Tam, not everyone saw this. Somehow, it was a debate. People argued over who was wrong and even had to gall to say if she could be a whore behind closed doors, she should not mind her activities being “exposed” on social media. “When you become a feminist, you find out very quickly: what you aim to bring to an end some do not recognize as existing… So much feminist and antiracist work is the work of trying to convince others that sexism and racism have not ended… that they matter” (Ahmed 5-6).
The people who blamed Tam and several other victims/survivors believe issues feminists and womanists scream about are extinct concepts because now women are allowed to go to school, allowed in the military, and in professional spaces. So naturally, we should be grateful. But what exactly should women be grateful for? Is it getting an education from teachers who believe women are not as smart as men or having a highly discriminatory military or for the gender pay gap? Recognize that once you become a feminist and you start to fight against the thriving products of institutionalized sexism, it seems to be so clear to you but others are oblivious to it.
What happened Tam still gets my blood boiling. Perhaps it was because there are no laws in my country’s constitution that stipulate it a crime like there are in other countries. Or perhaps because in a country where corruption, statutory rape, sexual abuse, child abuse, child marriage, and marital rape are integral parts of our “purity” culture, it is disturbing that so many people could get so angry because a woman simply had sex.