I can’t remember the exact moment I became conscious of the fact that I was not just female but that I could be the object of someone’s sexual fantasy. How do I explain this?
While at one point in primary school, I found out about sex, I still did not see myself having sex with anyone and least of all someone looking at me with the desire to have sex.
Up until I got into secondary school, I never really worried about a lot of things.
Like it didn’t matter if my dress was transparent and people could see my panties. I did not even have waist slips or ‘shimi’ or tights to wear under. My mother did tell me to sit properly and not expose myself but I never made the connection with sex. It did not even sink into my consciousness that there was anything to be ashamed of. I was just a child.
When I was going to secondary school, my mother bought me two waist slips (black and white) and a white ‘shimi’ (vest and waist slip in one). Our uniform was transparent and hence needed the underwear. I wasn’t used to wearing any. I would be halfway to the classroom and then I would remember that I had forgotten to wear the underwear. I never turned back to the hostel, it didn’t matter. It was an all-girls school. But it mattered to a lot of girls. I was constantly reminded by the older girls. Very soon, I would remember and it became a habit. All this applies to visible panty lines. I NEVER worried about that as a child. You just wear what you wear inside and face the day.
The older I got, the more aware I became of my ‘sexuality’ and cared about how I presented myself to the opposite sex. I would be supremely embarrassed if anyone ever sighted the things that I had learnt over time were meant to be hidden. I was (am) big chested. I worried about the shape of my boobs in clothing, I worried about bra straps showing, I worried about nipples showing and just a whole lot of things. I could not wear anything that showed the slightest hint of cleavage. In my dictionary brezz na brezz.
It was as though I was on a mission to hide everything that could suggest sex to anyone. As a jambite, I wore a lot of bubus and free form clothing. I would even be mortified to wear a top that stopped above my hips.
Now I see it all not as decency (which I thought it was) and more as repression. Like being female is something to be shrouded; hidden so as to be free from the sin of enticing men.
A man never walked down the path of sexual desire on his own without some tempting Delilah leading him. This was the not so subtle message passed down to me. As a woman, it was my responsibility not to lead men into temptation or to allow them to want to rape me.
My liberation (and don’t take that to mean I dey show my brezz upandan), was a light hearted conversation with a former colleague. He said that the most attractive part of woman were her hands. The way he talked about female fingers made me want to ball my hands in a fist and put them in my non-existent pocket.
So, what was I supposed to do? Wear gloves?
I gradually stopped making all effort to hide that I was deliciously (if I may say so myself) female with no regrets. I am not to blame if I am walking down the street and my side smile makes someone want to find a shelter for his magic wand. I am not responsible for the secret fetishes and uncontrolled libidos and paedophiles and rapists milling around. If I deliberately make an advance on a man, then I will admit culpability. Till then. OYO.
My colleague went to the market before coming to work. She bought leggings and tights for her eight year old daughter who looked older than eight. She said she had even tried pressing the girl’s breast with hot water to delay their development. It hadn’t worked. She gave the girl a crew cut and even stopped her from wearing earrings. She complained that her daughter sat anyhow like a man and while she was not keen on trouser wearing she had to resort to that.
I was about to launch into a sermon on how natural it was to develop as girls and that it was nothing to be hidden. I even wanted to tell her it was barbaric to soak a towel in hot water and press the poor baby’s chest but I kept quiet and really listened to her.
Her daughter was her only child after almost a decade of trying to conceive. She had her when she was into her 40s. She loved the girl to bits. She was only worried.
Worried that predators would look at the girl and not see a girl but a vagina that can be penetrated.
There was a window of time they spent apart because the mother was at work and that was her concern. Her daughter would not be alone at home but was she safe? We hear of family members violating girls every single day.
Her bright idea was to make the girl as unattractive as possible.
I did not tell her that would never ward off a predator.
The basic requirement for a predator is the presence of a vagina. And that is it.
I notice it is a common trend to keep girls with tights and tiny shorts underneath their clothing. So that they do not attract sexual advances or entice men.
It saddens me greatly. That babies can’t be babies anymore. That someone somewhere will see little panties covered with pink flowers and Minnie mouse as an invitation.
I was once in an airport lounge and I saw a man that was about 50 staring at this girl playing around. She was wearing a short dress and you could easily see her panties. She was tall but her face and behaviour belied her age. He stared and stared till I felt like stoning him.
Even if these kids know about sex, it will be years before their bodies and minds are prepared for sexual relationships. Why can’t we let them have blissful childhoods where they can just be kids jumping up and down?
It is hard for the mummies though. So hard. You know what could be so you do your best to protect them.
I am not so quick to dole out advice or condemn the steps they take.
I salute every mother doing the best she can. It really isn’t simple raising girls.