Rape and sex are not the same thing. Rape is sexualised violence and sex… well, sex is sex. Pumla Dineo Gqola, when writing on rape, says, "… it has survived as long as it has because it works to keep patriarchy intact.
It communicates clearly who matters and who is disposable. Those who matter are not afraid of being raped because they have not been taught to fear sexual assault. They have been taught safety. Rape is the communication of patriarchal power, reigning in, enforcing submission and punishing defiance. It is an extreme act of aggression and of power, always gendered and enacted against the feminine.”
I’ll start here. I believe her. No, I wasn’t there. I don’t know neither the woman nor the Mayor in their personal capacities. I know nothing about the Mayor’s sexual history, either, besides that he thinks men who get blow jobs are incapable of rape.
However, I believe her because as a woman in Botswana today, we are literally always looking over our shoulders, fearful of men. Unfortunately, the higher up in authority the man, the more fearful we are of him, because the more patriarchy protects him. So there.
Rapists do not usually admit that they are rapists; or that what they did was rape. They generally tend to think it is a style of sex.
As a society, we have ideas about what kind of man commits the crime of rape, and what kind of man cannot rape. That’s why, when it is certain men, like a Mayor, or a Member of Parliament (because we still shall not forget) accused of rape, our first instinct is to question, “Really?! Him?!” And immediately thereafter, we jump to the idea that he is not guilty until it is proven. We also know fully well that if the matter sees the light of day, he would more likely than not be acquitted, because quite generally, women’s pain is socially negotiable.
We synonymously have ideas of what rape looks like for the victim. There are ideas that society has about the kind of woman that can be raped. This is usually women we assume are “undeserving” of rape. There are also ideas about what kind of woman is immune to rape.
Essentially, there is a frame within which rape fits. It seems there are ways of being raped the “right way”. And in those instances, the question of the man’s guilt is never publicly interrogated. The rapist in such cases that are usually accepted as believable is a strange dirty looking man, lurking in the shadows.
He has to have dragged the woman into a bush. She should have screamed and fought. She has to have been wearing a long skirt.
We think women who are capable of being raped are not the ones who occasionally or even more frequently, enjoy sex with either one, or multiple partners. She should not have given him a blow job, because, as the Mayor questions, “who gives a rapist a head”?!
The peculiar thing about rape as a crime is that the complainant is almost always the one under scrutiny. The trial is usually not only in Court, but also in public, in the media and on our timelines. Unlike in other crimes, it’s never about the perpetrator. We want to talk about who the supposed victim is.
So of course, when a “not so good girl” cries fowl, society’s immediate instinct is to tow the line carefully.
We must all be careful to not be seen to convict the Mayor before the law takes it’s cause. We forget that even the law is gendered. In fact, even the law, from its very enforcers to its technical nuances, is patriarchal. And that is precisely the reason why many rape instances either go unreported, are withdrawn, or are unsuccessful.
All a man has to show, is that the woman cared in the tiniest bit about him. And that is always our downfall isn’t it? The myth of the hysterical woman. The woman who wants a married man, has to have wanted to destroy his marriage. We forget that this woman is not the one who made vows. But she is the one we throw stones at.
The reality is, whether the Mayor did indeed commit the rape, or not is something that may never be known in the normal course of the matter.
That is why I choose to believe the complainant. She is vulnerable for the reason that she is a woman, unprotected by patriarchy.
Disposable. So disposable that her cry is addressed only in the women’s league of her party.
The party fails to realise, as other parties before it have, that as a matter of fact, rape, even the mere allegation of it, is not a ‘woman’s problem’ as you would have it. It is a national problem.
Dear Gaborone, Last week, your Mayor was accused of rape. How are you still sleeping at night?!