About thandokuhle

the shallow poet ...and i'm no lady i'm sun-dried concrete, golden anguish, pressed from ugly, holding flames on her breath and i'm never gagged/silenced

The Poet. The Rapist.

The man who raped me is a poet. An amazing poet, actually. He always described himself as a magician. And I always genuinely agreed. He was always one of my favourite poets. Probably THE favourite. I told him that his words were perfect–he just needed to perfect his honesty in reaching the audience. He was afraid to be naked on stage & second-guessed himself until someone seemingly more objective wanted to create a collective with him.

Lately he’s been getting a lot of recognition for his work. People are excitedly punting his prowess & shoving it in my face like I didn’t know he was a great poet long before they gave him the time of day. He was my favourite poet 2 years ago. I’ve KNOWN he was amazing and people act as though I’m begrudging him his talent when I say I don’t want people praising him where I’m in earshot or in my social media spaces.

It is unreasonable to expect me to get excited about seeing this man being praised for anything. While I recognize his humanness, his ability to be good & bad all at the same time, I can’t be expected to associate his name with anything louder than the violation he perpetrated on me. If you’ve never been violated that profoundly, you won’t know this but it is LOUD. Violation can often be uncontrollably louder than any amount of good that may exist simultaneously. All it takes is one flashback to take you back to that place–to make you feel like he’s raping you all over again. And all the fear & hatred just resurfaces as though it was never really gone. And then you realize that while you’re wasting an hour feeling this, he’s experiencing adulation. The man who raped you. The man who hurt you in places you never thought could hurt. The man who made you feel like your life was worthless. The man who took your parents from their peaceful lives and threw them into the worst kind of tumult–there’s nothing quite as scary for a parent as losing a child. HE is getting praised. Who cares about what he has destroyed in you. He builds others. That matters more. Musèe des Beaux Arts.

I will never be okay with it. I will always repudiate those who worship him. It’s not an act of violence against them so much as it is an act of self-preservation. I really cannot risk my well-being for his poetic greatness. To me… My heart only understands that he’s a rapist. My mind understands that that’s not all he is… But my heart says that that’s mostly what he is–& there’s really no reason to argue. If you want to talk about him, feel free to remove yourself from my vicinity. Have enough decency & respect to understand that it costs you nothing to separate yourself from me… But it once nearly cost me my life to see just his name written in text. And I’m really not interested in going back there.

Sex Education and Teenage Pregnancy

Adequate sex education begins at birth. Contrary to what most of us believe, parents need training in order to function optimally as teachers in their children’s lives. Very few parents actually receive any of this guidance. The years leading up to school are crucial in normal sexual development. The school-going years are equally crucial as children now start to discover peer approval and seek it quite diligently.

While curiosity begins as early as age 2, the pre/primary school years see children showing a deeper interest in theirs and their peers’ bodies. It’s now when they have questions that require a little more detail and, maybe, even visual aids.

The major responsibility of all adults interacting with children is to foster a healthy sense of self. Reprimanding a child who masturbates or shows curiosity about the body of the opposite sex (e.g. Playing doctor) is harmful to that child’s psychological and sexual development. That creates an unhealthy relationship with one’s body. It also creates a sense of guilt and self-deprecation in a child who is responding to natural impulses that aren’t understood to be private or inappropriate. They learn that they are wrong and abnormal for being curious. They learn that they must never discuss their bodies. This creates the complex false dichotomy wherein teenagers can have sex but feel uncomfortable with it. They understand this to be appropriate–the discomfort. Any amount of sex education at this point, with a shaky foundation, is almost pointless.

The major tasks of teachers who want to facilitate sexual health are thus.

1. Do not reprimand or shame a child who is curious about sex and sexuality.

This will burn a hole in their memory that they should never ask question, even later in life when they would like to explore their sexuality legitimately as adults.

2. Don’t show deference or preference towards any group. Bias is bad.

This teaches children that some are better than others. This exists particularly highly in gender/sex relations. It allows children to, more easily, accept that men like and deserve sex and women need to keep “it” safe or “give it up” out of respect for their man/men. It also makes it easier for children to accept that other ways of being (e.g.homosexual, transsexual, transgender, various fetishes etc) are wrong. This will always create false polarities that result in sexual dysfunction–including sexually irresponsibly decisions.

3. Gender should not be crafted or forced upon children

All children develop their own gender-specific behaviours. Enforcing these behaviours teaches kids that who they, intrinsically, are is wrong. When they rebel as teenagers, they rebel even against themselves. This can result in irresponsible behaviours–a self-destructive nature.

It’s inappropriate for us to shame teenagers for getting pregnant when we don’t teach them self-love and sexual responsibility. We teach them silence. We teach them that normal sex is acceptable but any variations are not. We teach them that discomfort is normal and that they should push through it.

Again. We never teach them sexual responsibility. We don’t teach them that sex is great. The only way for them to find out is to try it; explore their grown-up side. Their mistakes are our short-fallings. We teach them fear of things that they don’t understand (and, therefore, CAN’T fear). Decisions made from coercion and fear seldom make sense and seldom stick.

What we need is a revamp of the training of our teachers. But more on this later.

Take Back Your Power

(I know that that doesn’t sound great, grammatically, but… It says what I want to say more than the grammatically correct version)

One of the most important things neglected in the quest to “survive” rape is the taking back of one’s power.

Many have (in my opinion) misguided opinions about pain. It is not the enemy. It’s not your friend either–stop it with that pseudo-deep, better-than nonsense. Pain has its utility. Don’t hate it or get comfortable cuddling it. Use it. Discard it when its expiry date has come.

Some things will be painful no matter how deep you are; how eloquently you can reason things into being (or not being) and no matter how much it “shouldn’t” actually hurt. You can’t dictate to your pain. Sorry. You can deny it. Publicly. But you can’t deny it to yourself. You can’t tell it what to do. You can only tell yourself how to grow. That’s all.

In order to “survive” rape, you have to take your power back–that power that the rapist took (or tried to take) from you. This involves indulging your pain. Feel what you feel; what you WANT to feel. Be angry and tearful and unstable when you need to. Just remember not to hold on to those feelings when you no longer need them. Don’t get comfortable with then. Use them. Then discard them, always.

When you’ve taken your right (or power) to feel and be and hurt and hate, that’s when you can take your power to care less and less everyday back. That’s when you can strip him of his power to hurt you and look him in the face and not squirm or be afraid.

Your tears are power.

All of your rage and all of your angst is your right; to let them be and exist without guilt is power. Self-censorship is power stolen–by him. I don’t mean you must talk publicly about your pain but you MUST talk about it. People have different methods of healing and taking their power back but silence is almost definitely not one of them.

Take your power back… with tears and anger… with blood and swearing. And, in no time, you’ll find him ranting about how he’s a victim and you won’t even care enough to raise your eyes, let alone your voice. It’ll be a moment you’ll want to dance through. And a while after that–you won’t even notice him.

Lessons Learned in Pain

I’ve always hated it when people suggest that a bad experience was just a necessary lesson. It’s not that I don’t recognize the lesson. It’s that I don’t seek to minimize the pain of PAIN by making it something good. I don’t enjoy finding or expressing some kind of approval toward those doing bad things to people–giving them some kind of holy status as some kind of tools for good. I don’t like that. That bugs me. Privately, I learn my lessons, but don’t ever suggest that that lesson couldn’t have been learned another way. Or that the perpetrator is some kind of hero.

That said, my trudging through this rape victim-trying-to-survive thing has brought me some valuable lessons. I appreciate and honour these lessons. They’ve made me stronger and more self-involved. These are important lessons.

In my younger life, before this last incident, I was very happy to accept societal missteps as my guidance. I was very happy to be mediocre–extraordinary is so exhausting. I had spent that time disapproving of so many things but never really embracing that part of myself. I felt that I didn’t want to stir. Keep silent, keep the peace. The feminist was gagged. Now she shouts when she must–which is most of the time. I found my voice. I found my rage. I found my I-will-change-the-world. All because I was raped. This makes me smile. At least. Now I have things to smile about. (Remember–this is not a “thanks to him”. Fuck him, really. It’s just what I’ve taken from it–even though it shouldn’t have happened and I could’ve learnt this another way).

Also, getting raped specifically, by my ex: a man I still loved at the time, has made me a beast at leaving. I have learned that even the best things can go sour. And it’s okay. When they do go sour–leave. Don’t wait on hope to bring you back. If you’re out there on that ledge alone more than once with no-one showing signs that they might meet you halfway, then leave. There are many good things out there. Including better lovers and being alone. BE ALONE. Enjoy it. And there are many things that can go wrong when you give your entire self away. This is not to imply that it is your job as a victim to prevent rape. This is simply insight into the lessons I’ve learned. And I’m not saying the consequences of staying involve violence like mine did. I’m saying experiencing one of the worst possibly scenarios, made me happy alone and always ready to go rather than stay where I’m unhappy. I have to be grateful for that. It’s something I’ve always known but have never been able to own.

The best part is that I’ve found a new interest; a brand new path to change the world for the better for women that will walk this path behind me who, perhaps, are less privileged and have less access than what I do. My plans are big. All because of this heinous thing that happened to me. So now, I will take it and squeeze the juice out of it and we will gorge ourselves on lemonade.

Rape is ugly. It never completely leaves you alone. But it gets better. A lot better.

SOLDIER ON.

Kill The Rapist?

I have been struggling to find time to write about this adequately. Since the time may never present itself… I will write about it INadequately, if I must.

As a victim, it’s really easy for me to imagine all rapists dead. Quite frankly, the world would be a better place. A part of me even believes that death may be too good for them. This thought, however, is borne of emotion–often, but not always irrational. When the activist and academic in me stops to consider the implications of “kill the rapist”, she is left partially paralysed. I mean, if we can’t wield pitchforks and scream; chant; call for their deaths then, really, what do we have? And the truthful answer is: nothing. Yet. We have nothing. Just plenty to build. Anyway I digress.

The unfortunate truth about rape is that it is notoriously difficult to prove. A death penalty will not be an adequate deterrent if the conviction rates remain low. Men will simply continue to be “nice men” deemed too up-standing to ever rape and escape “punishment” that way. As they do now.

If it hasn’t become clear yet: I’m not one for punitive solutions. I want to build a society in which rape doesn’t occur rather than one in which rapists are punished severely. I’m not sure to what degree a rape victim finds more peace when the person that has raped her is punished. I imagine it isn’t much to speak of. That woman has still been raped. And I would rather that didn’t happen to anyone at all.

I think, while the phrase “kill the rapist” brings comfort and sympathy to victims and provides some mental reprieve from that feeling of alone-ness–in actuality–it achieves nothing apart from rage followed by non-action. To me, that is the worst form of sympathy. Sympathy by words alone. Not comforting at all, actually.

As I’ve also said before–punishing men for raping will not ensure that women are no longer violated, it’ll just mean the violation is translated to another form. Punishment changes nothing. In a world where jails are a dime a dozen and rehabilitation is zero to none, we really can’t afford to cling to punishment as a means to unravel social ills. We have to be able to do better. Think better. Know better. Be better.

(This is not coming forth as eloquently as I would like but… such as life. You understand. If not… ask me questions. ♥).

Basically: don’t kill the rapist. Find out why he rapes and address THAT.

Rape Axe

A few times this week I’ve come across the “rape axe”. It is described as a condom-like apparatus that has “claws” that prevent a rapist from being able to pull out without being mutilated by said claws. Its aim, therefore, is that should a man rape, he should find this surprise waiting for him… And then he would have to go to the hospital to get these claws remove–basically, turning himself in.

While the idea of mutilating anyone who would do this heinous thing appeals to my angry, broken side, I can’t help but employ some rationality here. What exactly does the Rape Axe actually achieve?

We’ve been singing this song for decades-that rape is about violence and power. Lately, we’ve also started to explore violence as an important sub-culture in RSA. This sub-culture allows all forms of violence against men, women and children to become normal, even acceptable. These are the things we want to address.

In RSA we’ve become so comfortable with fear that we struggle to perceive change (or existence) coming from any place else. Sometimes it feels like we’re jailbirds–scared to death of the outside world, so we would rather get comfortable being afraid. Fear changes nothing for the better. Fear is, typically, what is misunderstood as hate.

The Rape Axe, for me, fails those two important preventative strategies. Firstly, it’s punitive. It doesn’t seek to create behaviour. It doesn’t address the root of the problem, just the symptoms. I keep saying to people that rape comes from the desire for power and from violence. It has very little to do with sex or arousal. That means more rapes with objects will occur (contrary to what you may think, that’s, really, not any better); and anal rape. There will, likely, be many other ways to overpower women without men having to put their penis(es) at risk.

So, it fails to thwart violence, except through fear–which leads to my second point. I don’t want men to stop raping simply because they are scared to be mutilated and caught. (I suspect that this may lead them towards preferentially raping children, whom they KNOW probably won’t have the rape axe–and, additionally, rural women will not be protected from spousal rape in this way. They will not have access to it, and if they do, they will not want to mutilate their husbands). I’m tired of fear being the safest place we have to hide. Fear doesn’t breed love… Or solutions. It breeds unjustified anger and victim blaming. As long as we use fear to thwart violence we aren’t diminishing the problem-merely shifting it elsewhere. We become satisfied that we think it’s gone just because we, now, can’t see it. And while we sleep, it carries on killing us.

While I applaud the intentions of the Rape Axe (and, honestly, in my weakness and anger, would probably buy one) I’m just thinking that as a public interest tool, in a country where rape is a popular, normal subculture (not a country where rape is mostly perpetrated by psychopaths), it becomes dangerous to seek mutilation is the best solution. We need to change the culture! I don’t want to accept that our situation has become so dire that we’ve exhausted all other avenues for solutions. We simply haven’t tried. Let’s start at the beginning.