Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Penis Makes Everything Ok.



I am taking a walk around Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent onto Ahmadu Bello Way and back. So far I have counted two men peeing in public. Last week, I started counting the number of men I see everyday peeing by the road side in the city. Not as research for an article or anything, I quite like to do pointless things like that - count the number of Peugot cars, the number of women with chin hair, the number of men with moustaches. And like a game of cards, the results don't matter at the end of the day. Public peeing survived one night and now, many days after, I still can't stop counting.

If you know Abuja city, you will agree that it is one of the most difficult cities in which a man can pee publicly. There is concrete everywhere and to the public peeist (you are right, I made the word up) there is nothing as inhibitive as concrete. Grass or earth are the preferred spots. Grass and soil do a perfect job of soaking up all the guilt involved in expelling one’s pungent waste in the open. Concrete is unforgiving, constantly reminding you of the consequences, in wetness and in dryness. It takes a peeist with a faulty bladder or no conscience to do it on concrete. 

***
I walk past a woman in front of an ATM, off Ahmadu Bello Way. I assume she is trying to jump over an open part of the sewer as she starts to lift her loose, pleated skirt. When the skirt reaches about halfway up her thighs, she straddles the sewer, arches her back slightly and lets out a single stream of urine. Both men and women look on in horror. People tap others and point at the spectacle. A taxi slows down and the driver screams, asking if she has no shame. People shake their head in that what-has-this-world-come-to? fashion. 

I am curious about the mechanics: how she is able to get the urine to flow straight down without squatting or pulling up her skirt completely. She is looking straight ahead, not at what she is doing. And she is making no errors. I almost want to ask her how she does it. 

Only a few blocks before, I had passed by a male peeist doing his thing against the fence of a hotel. He didn't seem to be in any great rush so I knew he didn't have a bad bladder - he was one of those no conscience peeing-on-concrete ones. No one stopped or stared at him. But for the fact that I was counting, I might not even have noticed. 

***
I am thinking of Rifkatu who is submitting a bid for a contract with a government agency. She wants me to go with her to see an older civil servant who can advise about the bid, because each time she sees him, he tells her how great her figure is and makes her sit for a long time while he tells her about his holiday home in Houston, Texas. 

“Now he wants me to come to his office at 8pm to talk about the bid,” she texts. We both know what bid he wants to discuss alone after working hours. 

***
There are some things that never leave you no matter how hard you try. 

About 12 years ago, in university, my friend Udi told me about this huge, soft-spoken bodybuilder with a pleasant mien who had tried to violently rape her in his secluded room far inside the wooded staff quarters. A friend of hers who was present, asked her why she followed such a huge man to such a secluded location. Udi maintained an apologetic silence. 

One year after, I was in that wooded silence, visiting a friend of mine who had rented a room from a lecturer. He too told me about his bodybuilder-neighbour who tried to rape almost every girl who ended up in his room. Sometimes he succeeded. Sometimes they escaped, looking dishevelled. I was upset. I asked him why no one had reported the matter. He was upset, feeling judged by me. He said I didn't understand. 

That afternoon we heard commotion coming from the bodybuilder’s room. A woman was screaming, fighting. The bodybuilder was silent. When the falling and breaking sounds stopped, they were replaced by shrill, desperate-but-defiant screams. 

“Help me,” she shouted, “Mummy help me!”

“You see what I was telling you?” my friend said. 

We agreed to go and confront him. My friend who knew the bodybuilder very well, knocked on the outer wooden door. There was silence for a few seconds followed by the click of the key in the inner iron door. He thrust his head out of the slight opening asked what we wanted.

“Is everything ok? We heard screaming.”

“No, it is just me and my girl, we were having a little quarrel,” he said to my friend. 

“We heard shouting, thats why,” my friend insisted. 

“Don’t worry, everything is ok now,” the bodybuilder said and slammed the door shut.

We both walked away and sat on a bench in the open courtyard to hear if there would be more shouting. There was silence. About thirty minutes later he walked out of the room with a bucket and walked into the shared bathroom. After taking his bath, he spread his prayer mat opposite his room and faced the east to say his late afternoon prayers. I wondered if she heard him from inside the room as he bowed and whispered the words Allahu akbar, God is great. 

About an hour after that, the bodybuilder emerged from the room, holding the girl's hand. He said hello to us as they walked past. She too said hello, without looking at us, in that subdued tone of humiliation.

My friend and I talked about reporting the incident for weeks. We had no idea who the girl was, whether she was a student of our university or from somewhere else. Although we knew another girl who admitted to us that the same thing had happened to her, she said there was no way she was going to report the incident or even admit to the school authorities that anything of the sort happened. 

I have never stopped thinking of all the other things we could have done. 

***

Khadija calls just as I get to Adetokunbo Ademola Way. 

She asks if I know how she can find an institution where she can learn how to paint, something formal. I do not know much about this but I suggest she finds a good artist and intern there. 

“I tried one,” she says. Then, right after getting her number the painter began calling her very late at night.

“Why will he start calling me in the middle of the night just because I left my number with him?”

I know it is a rhetorical question but in my head I try to answer why. Because he is used to doing it. Because he has gone through life believing it is ok. Because he can. 

She will try to find another painter. Preferably a woman. 

***


As I reach my house, I feel the urge to go out dancing later at night. Alone. Sometimes I just want to go out and watch people dance without having to dance or talk to anyone. Partly because I like watching people but mostly because compared to most club-going Nigerians, I dance like a three legged dog. All I will need is money in my pocket. I will not need to worry about the officials in Abuja who randomly arrest unaccompanied women at night who they think are sex workers. I will not have to think about cat calls or what people will say of a woman having drinks by herself. 
I guess my penis makes everything ok.


60 comments:

  1. A subtle & tangential approach to gender inequality. Organized randomness. Parallel arrows launched to converge. Lovely nuances. Another brilliant piece!

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    1. I am glad you appreciate it Collins. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Oh Elnathan. In love with this piece. ..and you by extension. Nice.

    Ps..loads of double standards exist for the genders. A literal battle of the sexes. I quite enjoy my own company sometimes while out but the judgmental eyes that follow, na wa o.
    It is a sad affair but it is the society we've allowed.
    Pps.. I know how the peeist woman did it- been, done, albeit not publicly :-D

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    1. Hugs Roselyn! You know how she did it eh? We should write a manual o. How to pee standing.

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    2. It's a "Gift". No pesky manual needed. Apparently.

      Oh! By the way, absolutely brilliant writing!

      P.S

      I can't help wondering HOW your mind works, tho!

      LOL!

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  3. I don't know when i started reading you, but i have endeavour to read every published piece ever since. Nice. Be Safe. SM-S

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    1. Sulaimon, Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

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  5. That's the unfair society we live in. And I'm so scared it will continue this way for a very long time.

    Sometime ago I threatened to report a man who tried to rape me to his wife. He replied with with a mocking "Really? Fell free to tell your aunt. I'm sure you are not even a virgin so why are you pretending". I cried myself to sleep everyday for that week because it was a penis like his that disvirgined me without my consent. And even if I was sexually active does that give him a right to try what he did?

    The lady who sits alone in a club used to be me. Some dudes had the nerve to whisper to me "so are you coming home with me tonight?"or the ones with less tact going straight to whispering amounts in my ear. Once a man felt I was worth 5,000 naira. I still laugh about it sometimes. I got tired of giving them harsh replies and once pouring my drink on a guy because that particular one went the extra mile by grabbing my butt with his filthy hand so I don't bother going out at night anymore (except I'm with my male friends). Nowadays when I feel like listening to songs and dancing at night and none of my guys are heading out I turn off the lights in my room and dance with my earphones plugged in.

    I respect a man like you. Thank you elnatha

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    1. I am sorry to read this. That's a terrible story. Such a shame how normal this experience is for many women.
      We must break down these strongly entrenched patriarchal values. One brick at a time.

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  6. this is dope and while frustrating that it is always the introspection of those in powerful social groups that is taken seriously, it is still important for men to speak out about systematic sexism within our societies.

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    1. Yes! Yes to all of this! I addressed something along these lines in an article this weekend and the reaction from the guys was either non chalance or apprehension. I'm glad when men speak up even if it's frustrating that they are more likely to be listened to. I'll take it.

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  7. Thank you elnathan. This is exactly how we have been living in this country. As a woman you are public property and everyone has a right to judge you for daring to be human.

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  8. Thank you Elnathan... I have been a lurker but I can't express enough how glad I am that we have your voice. It's refreshing to see the things we know to be true be reaffirmed... Thank you for noticing and speaking up.

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  9. Why should you call a lady late at night without her consent or approval? That guy has many issues. I have never understood why men and women pee in public, with people watching them.

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    1. Well, in as much as it tries to portray decency not peeing in public, bladder and/or prostrate issues are a reality. Just pray not to be in that situation. I have been in situations after I was on antibiotic prescriptions [oh, they make me pee a lot], And I have to go to work [a far distance of four drops]. You can't complete the story actually.

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  10. Elnathan, as always you write to provoke the mind and yet entertain. These are the realities of our time. A friend of mine recently launched a campaign tagged "Ba Fitsari anan". She should read this. I wonder what goes through the mind of peeists. You spoke about gender equality and also how equal the genders can be when it comes to public peeing. The rape part is just another menace. One day I hope my vagina can make things right.

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  11. Will there ever be an escape for gender inequality? :(

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  12. Brilliantly done again, Elnathan.

    I grew up in a cozy environment, sheltered from the realities of society. It took a 'wooded silence' experience in university and other unpleasant experiences afterwards to teach me that there is NO such thing as a nice, friendly guy & most men do NOT have good, harmless intentions towards women.

    Now as a single woman living on my own I don't allow men into my home, even childhood friends and colleagues...not taking any chances.

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  13. Well written.Thanks.The viles of huMANity. First time reading your blog. Following pronto.

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  14. Lovely piece. Thoroughly enjoyed. U and your friend could have done something I'm sure if only d chap was of light build and not a lifter of 50kg steel.

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  15. Lovely piece. Thoroughly enjoyed. U and your friend could have done something I'm sure if only d chap was of light build and not a lifter of 50kg steel.

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  16. Lovely piece. Thoroughly enjoyed. U and your friend could have done something I'm sure if only d chap was of light build and not a lifter of 50kg steel.

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  17. Lovely one sir! At a point, I had to look again, to be sure, I was at the right site!! Most Men shy away from such topics! Keep it up with the creative front.

    @xosapills

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  18. Ah I loved the peeing woman. I think what made the bodybuilders story so sad is that there was nothing they could have done. The root lies sadly, in the humiliation she hung her head, the feeling that she had something to be ashamed of.

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  19. How did we get here? This piece have stirred up my old demons, I remember like it was yesterday when Dumebi dropped out if uni after 3 years of sexual assault from the course adviser; HOD was aware but she turned a blind eye, I remember how lecturers were acting like they were on heat and wanted to stick their penis in most females for grades, I remember at an interview the guy looked at me confidently as said ' u knw wat to do' I remember how most of my female friends expect it as the norm. I begin to ponder what if most nigerian women expect to be presented with penis in facets of their lives, in uni, at work , parties, church I mean every where u turn u are presented with penis as if it's the norm. How did we get to this disgusting place at a society? This is beyond me

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  20. Kash! Na yi latti. Brilliant as always. Of all the various instances and forms of gender inequality, I never thought of the right to per in public (much as I hate the peeists 😊).

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  21. Kash! Na yi latti. Brilliant as always. Of all the various instances and forms of gender inequality, I never thought of the right to per in public (much as I hate the peeists 😊).

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    1. Hahahaha. Hauwa. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  22. Elnathan......you espouse what every young nigerian man should aspire to be.i wonder if this is truly you or your alter ego.......just wondering

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  23. Very nice piece. This is the sad reality of this society.Women don't have a voice, and even if they try to speak, they have to really shout and even that isn't enough. They have to work 10times as hard as the man to get whatever the man got. It is so unfair! The gender equality fight will continue and one day, hopefully, the vagina can make everything ok.

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  24. This is so thought provoking...it's the sort of the world we are getting to see by day...stealthily it crept in on us...sad

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  25. Thank you for standing up for right in a society where silence is ok. Always on point with your write up.

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  26. Gender equality, a never ending saga. I do my best to treat everyone equally & even stand up if I feel male privilege is at play.

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  27. Great article. It is important for us men to recognize the scourge of patriarchy and chauvinism. I am tired of hearing people use 'culture' and 'religion' to justify what is wrong and evil.

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  28. Eketi likes this. Very much.

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  29. This is how good writing is done - I am informed as well as entertained. I am drawn into a story that promises a long and lasting relationship relationship then I'm left high and dry, asking for more. And thank you for speaking about something so important. As a Nigerian woman, I have come to terms with the fact that the fight against being relegated to the background will never end because...my vagina makes that mindset okay :D

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  30. this is brilliant. may I repost it in its entirety on my blog(house422.wordpress.com)?

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  31. I just stumbled onto this. You have great style. This is really interesting.

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  32. amazing. a friend forwarded this to me. i just forwarded it ten others.

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  33. Very good write up. Both entertaining and thought provoking.

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  34. I love it. It is clever, humorous and feministic in nature. As I started reading it, I was confused as the randomness. I was like "okay, I'm not sure I get what's going on here" but something just kept me reading on. I was not disappinted at all. Seemingly disconnected thoughts coming together to form a truly beautiful feministic piece. The title is both misleading and perfect in a weird manner. This inspired me to write a piece of my own. I will deeply appreciate if you could read through my work too. Elnathan John's opinion surely matters. Lol.

    http://kanyinsola.mywapblog.com/you-are-sexist1.xhtml

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  36. Wow!
    I really love the way you addressed all these issues. The title was what drew me to it and I couldn't stop reading till I had finished the story. Lovely piece.
    Does this make me think you're a feminist? No. I think you're just a man that has decided to open himself to other views of seemingly masculine situations. (I hope you get my drift).

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  37. I love this bro. This is so good

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  38. While the penis has no bones, it can fracture although not in the usual sense of the word. The signs of a penile fracture closely resemble those of a bone fracture – a popping or cracking sound, extreme pain, and visible bruises, among others, usually during vigorous sex. independent prosolution review

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  39. This was a nice read. It made me think about my days in Uni and how some girls who similar things happened to them would not speak up because she fears she will be blamed and how everything the man does is fine because he has a penis.

    I am not one to rant on about women's liberation and what not but I simply love how you have subtly touched on the gender inequality that plagues our culture that is why I say in my next life I better come back as a man.

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  40. Are we equals? Until the answer is yes, I think we should all do what we can to combat the inequality. Brilliant & thoughtful piece.

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  41. Dear Elnathan, what makes me happiest is the fact that this was written by a man. When I discuss stuff like this with male colleagues they say I'm exaggerating, they say I'm just bringing up an issue where there is none. Thank you for this

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  42. Elnathan, sometimes I wonder if you have the same brain God has put in our skull. U are just extraordinarily satirical.

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  43. Refreshingly subtle. Great convergence of the individual 'sub-plots'. Nice one.

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  44. I've always thought its just me...I've had to stand and scream at some peeps lately..the worst are the men..and commercial drivers, they don't even find space, just a locked corner by the vehicle in the open is okay..terrible mentality. The rape issue is a bit of societal and cultural challenges. Older men marrying minors being allowed to walk free in the name of culture. If we can scape goat those in power as an example and also amend our laws to protect the weak ones among us.

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  45. A very nice read really. Not so much sarcastic (lol), but spot on. Gutsy. The comments goes to show how appreciative we are of the truth and often powerlessness in dealing with these ills. Thank you.

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  46. You're appreciated for acknowledging privilege and using it to speak for gender equality. Very, very appreciated sir. Keep on.

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You fit vex, bet abeg no curse me. You hear?