I used to get cat called as a young boy. I was 11 when a guy fondled me near the shops while visiting my mom’s friend’s place in a township in Bulawayo. He’d seen me peering over a high wall because they had a guava tree. He’d whistled. I’d looked. He said I was pretty. He thought I was a girl at first. I told him I was a boy. He said I’m a pretty boy.
A day later I was going to buy fresh baked bread and milk. He cornered me. He clasped my chin in his right hand while his left hand went into my shorts. I made no sound. I was confused. My face felt like I’d been stung by bees. I never told the people at the house we were staying at.
This was 2 years after another man had touched me inappropriately. This stuff leaves a soot in your spirit.
It took a while for me to accept my sexual orientation because for some reason I believed that it was connected to these incidents. Working through these thoughts and mapping through to understanding my sexual orientation was work. The question that plagued my mind was, “was I abused because I am gay or am I gay because I was abused”. At the time I didn’t realise how misguided that question was.
My point is, this intrusion into one’s sexual ownership and guardianship makes one go through intense difficulty relating to sexuality in a healthy manner. Not just in relation to other people but with oneself. Your sexual identity implodes on you giving you an unhealthy conversation with your conscience. At least that’s what it did to me for the longest time.
I cannot claim to fully grasp what women and girls go through because that is a different experience altogether. My experience is laced with male privilege. That said, I empathise. It will take men talking to men about men’s unhealthy behaviour and sense of entitlement to other bodies.
The good thing about the age we live in is the access to technology that we have. There is still a large chunk of people in rural spaces in third world countries that don’t have access to this technology. We need to become intentional about reaching them with the voices we are finding in ourselves. Let’s not leave them behind.