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The Challenge of Pleasure: Re-Imagining Sexuality and Consent

I may not be a rapist, but I almost crossed the line once. I slept with my first girlfriend without discussing the matter of consent. This episode in my life has left a bittersweet memory.

You may ask if this re-imagining sexuality and consent has anything to do with my advancing age or the rise of Black feminism, the answer is no. All I am yearning for is to clear my conscience, and start afresh as a new man. The burden of the past is too much to bear.

I take ownership of this sad chapter in my life. This is despite the fact that the act itself was not rape per se. One grew up in a community that perpetuated misogynistic behaviours, and patriarchal upbringing was a norm. I guess it is also neither here nor there that I was too immature to form criminal intent. Equally, it is pedantic detail that we continued dating with the same girl long after the sad episode.

In my adult (mature) view, if someone at any point shows an act of aggression albeit covertly towards her girlfriend or anybody, it is par for the course that the resultant sexual encounter may not necessary be consensual in a legal sense of the word. I know some clever blacks would ask, did she say no at any stage? The rhetorical question would be did I ever request her consent at any stage? Of course, the elephant in the room is that I never did. Was I naïve? Perhaps. But, in all honesty, all I recall is that at the back of our young minds, we were hell-bent on getting laid that night by hook or by crook. Thanks God, it wasn’t by crook. There was indeed implied consent evidenced by reciprocal show of affection.

This is how the story went. According my now torn exercise book (diary) that records major events in my life between 1989 and 1993 my first girlfriend was Nokwazi*. My diary entry records the event thus: “1991 July 15, ‘coronation’ day by Nokwazi*”. The word coronation in its proper English sense means a ceremony when a new King (or Queen, let’s not be sexist) is officially installed. A coronation is usually quite glitzy and full of pomp. However; in my ‘hood those days if you had a new girlfriend, colloquial speaking you will say – “ingi-crownile leya cherry izolo” literally translated that girl crowned me yesterday hence all diary entries of all new girlfriends simply records the event as “coronation day.”

Nokwazi* was not my dream girl. She was slim, dark and short. She did not exude confidence or class. She was just a normal rural pumpkin. I just so happened to have had the guts to say the magic words – “I love you” and being naïve as she was she just agreed. I must say this event of my first girlfriend was indeed celebrated.

Nokwazi* was from a neighbouring village known as Gawozi. With newly found love, a new habit of writing love letters begun. I must have written five letters a week to Nokwazi* over two years that our loveless relationship lasted. Although, we wrote to each other almost daily for five days a week, our actual face-to-face visits were a rarity.

At some point in 1991, we received intelligence from our mutual friend (a woman) that Nokwazi* and my brother’s girlfriend had been granted a night out pass to attend a local function in their neighbourhood. Our mutual friend suggested we come and attend the function and this presented a perfect chance for us to get laid.

We got so excited, and meticulous military-type planning began immediately. On the day in question, we left home at about three o’clock in the afternoon – armed with heavy jackets, and concealed okapi knives. The grand idea was that if the girls refused to accompany us home – we were to scare them. We had no intention of using force. Our journey lasted an hour on foot.

Sadly, Nokwazi* and her friend didn’t know at all – that we were coming or that their virginities were at stake. We took our position on the hill overlooking Nokwazi*’s homestead so that we could monitor all her movements. We monitored her movements until sunset. At this point, we needed better intelligence that did not rely on daylight. So we contacted our mutual friend. She promised that the said night function would start at around 08:00 pm. There was already an agreement among the girls – our mutual friend, Nonkwazi* and my brother’s girlfriend that all of them were going to the function. So we waited. Our waiting was not in vain.

At around 10:00 p.m. our mutual friend delivered our girlfriends on a platter. Although, we were in a mean mood, we were mellowed by their presence. We simply announced that we were all going to sleep at the Mncube’s that night. The matter was non-negotiable. So, we pleaded for maximum co-operation. They were stunned.

Nonetheless, they started co-operating immediately – by walking the talk towards the Mncube’s household some eight kilometres away. We reached the Mncube household at around midnight. We had our way with the girls. Surely, in the morning we patted ourselves on the back for the job well done.

After the night of the long knives, the girls were released at the crack of dawn and only accompanied half-way to their destination. They left behind their virginities and dignity in tatters. Despite the fact that there was no resistance amongst the girls nor any force used, I am not persuaded that we didn’t take away their prized personal purity, honour and worth. In today’s constitutional democracies, it may be considered as a violation, all in the name of love. Somehow; it still feels like this was wrong on many levels. I have not been able to escape the feeling of guilt that I might have just forced myself on a poor defenceless woman. On the contrary, the evidence suggest that at the time, it was considered normal to proceed only on the basis of non-verbal communication.

Nonetheless, our love affair flourished long after this sad chapter. To Nokwazi* and all young women who suffered a similar fate, I apologise from the bottom of my heart. I now know better.