rape ▸ v. (of a man) force (another person) to have sexual intercourse with him against their will. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary).
When most people talk about rape, they only talk about a man who forcefully has sex with someone he’s not married to. People never consider married people in their definitions of rape. Well, a woman can be raped by her husband and that’s what we want to talk about. Sex can happen in a marriage with both parties willfully participating or with one party being forced to participate. The former is consensual sex while the latter is rape.
Can a married woman sue her husband for rape? Well, it depends on the country. Marital rape is a criminal offence in some countries but not in some others. In Nigeria, it’s not a criminal offence. But it doesn’t matter whether the law in your country criminalizes marital rape or not. The issue is that it happens and it’s not right. It’s not every crime that has been prohibited by law. That’s why we keep making new laws. There are some things we take as legal today that will be declared illegal tomorrow. There was a time asking your kids to hawk on the streets was not illegal. Today in most parts of Nigeria, it’s illegal. I’m sure one day, marital rape will be considered a proper crime in the laws of all the countries of the world.
Why hasn’t marital rape attracted the same societal rage like non-marital rape? Because people think that marriage has voided the definition of rape. Their argument is that once a woman signs the papers, a man’s right to have sex with her anytime he wants can not be denied by the woman. They argue that it’s either the woman abides by this situation or she goes to hell. They think that the marriage certificate has legalized the man to bed the woman without the woman’s right to consent or decline. If you don’t have a right to complain, you can’t be said to be raped, can you?
Well, there’s a fundamental flaw in that reasoning. The marriage certificate does not turn the woman to the man’s slave or toy neither does it remove the woman’s right over her own body. Marriage is not a bondage or slavery. When you argue this way, you’re only adding dehumanization to your definition of marriage. Of course, many a woman can endure a whole lot just to make their marriages work but that doesn’t make it right.
The definition of rape quoted above says ‘against their will.’ That someone is married to you doesn’t mean that they’ve signed a contract to have sex with you even at the bottom of the deepest ocean. Rape removes the essence of sex for women. Many women have sex, not because of the physical pleasure in itself, but because of the fulfillment of them satisfying their partners. But when their men grow from insensitive to borderline vicious, this essence is taken away and the whole thing becomes a mechanical ritual.
Why would a woman reject sex? Why would she need to be wrongfully forced into sex by her husband? Why should something that should come naturally become something to be drawn from her abrasively? Four major reasons.
1. Not in the mood
Most women endure cyclical mood swings naturally. There are times of the month when they don’t want to bothered. Sometimes, they’re not just in the mood based on what’s happening with their biology. Other times, there’s an issue that’s bothering her mind making her to not be in the right frame of mind for sex. Perhaps she feels offended with you or some other person or just anything else. It can be anything — workplace troubles, financial burden, worry over a family member, general anxiety, just anything.
2. Physical health
When she is tired or has had a stressful day, she just doesn’t want to be bothered. Some women combine stressful office work with tedious household chores such that when the husband makes requests, she’s too exhausted to willingly accept. Instead of the guy to help out with the chores or employ a house help for her, he focuses on sex as if it’s his oxygen. Sometimes she’s experiencing the malaise of an impending illness or she might have even fallen ill already. Some guys don’t care. Even if she’s about to die, he still demands for it. Heinous!
And dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) is ravaging so many women’s bodies but they can’t complain. In this part of the world, any woman that complains of dyspareunia is either a dishonest woman that wants to deny the husband his rights or a woman who has contracted a sexually transmitted disease from outside the home. Most of the times, the dyspareunia is actually caused by the husband’s misdemeanor but he doesn’t want to be told just that.
3. Disagreement over the details
The When. The husband wants it at 2 am when she wants to catch some sleep as she will soon wake up to start the daily routine. Sorry. When someone has decided not to go to a night vigil in church, must they be forced into another night vigil at home just because someone else’s hormones are out of control?
The Where. They’ve been invited for a birthday party and just when they’re about getting down from the car, the guy wants a quickie. On the contrary, she doesn’t. Or he wants it in the kitchen but she feels comfortable only in the bedroom.
The How. He wants a particular posture, ingredient, or mannerism but it irritates her or makes her generally uncomfortable.
And what about the guy with a terrible body odour that doesn’t want to maintain personal hygiene but wants to maintain an intimate relationship with his woman? Should she continue to endure a lethal stench in the name of being married?
4. Fear of getting pregnant
He has just disagreed with her chosen method of birth control. He doesn’t want it. Or he thinks it’s a sin (some Christians think that contraception is against God’s law). Or he alleges that her intention to use contraception is because she’s planning to have extramarital affairs. But she’s just had a baby by Cesarean section three months ago. She’s afraid of getting pregnant again so soon but the guy doesn’t care.
How does rape happen in a marriage? What are the weapons the man uses in raping his wife?
Rape by physical violence
Many women have been assaulted and battered in their own homes by their husbands. Coital lacerations (vaginal tears) are commoner in single ladies but when they happen in married women, they’re almost always due to unreported cases of marital rape. Injuries in other parts of the body can also be seen. Sometimes, it’s just the threat of violence that makes the woman succumb to a sexual activity with her husband. But there are other weapons apart from physical weapons.
Rape by psychological blackmail
This is where our religions and culture come in. Twice the Bible says ‘Wives, submit to your husbands…’ (Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18) and I’ve listened to so many preachers saying to submit means that a woman must never reject her man’s sexual advances. Reject him and you’ve sinned against God. So the man quickly quotes some of these statements to strike fear into the woman. She doesn’t want to offend God. So she lets him have his way. She has just been raped as it’s against her will.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT)
3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
When you say the man’s body belongs to the wife and the wife’s body belongs to the husband, don’t we all know where it’s all heading? The Bible says this one and later says wives should submit to their husbands without saying the husbands should submit to their wives. Don’t you know the result of combining these two scriptures? The result is that in the end, the man is still the boss! He has been empowered by God’s book to plow his wife’s body whether she likes it or not.
And right there, you can see that the only reason why a couple can ‘defraud each other’ temporarily is for the sake of prayer. She’s not been allowed to have any other reason to reject her man’s advances. Prayer is the only reason. Dyspareunia or anything else is not.
Holy Quran 2:223 (Mohsin Khan)
Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will…
Combine that with this:
Holy Quran 4:34 (Sahih International)
Men are in charge of women….So righteous women are devoutly obedient…But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
You see? Breaking news — the sexually depraved man has just been been licensed to ravish his wife without her consent! If she refuses, she should be flogged, albeit slightly. If flogging a woman because of sex is not rape, tell me what is rape. And in the picture below, you can see that so many women have been brainwashed into accepting this as their own destiny.
And most cultures around here believe that women’s bodies are men’s properties. We ask men to pay dowries over the woman. Even though it’s just ceremonial, it’s also symbolic. If I pay for an item, nobody (including the item itself) can prevent me from using it the way I want when I want. So the society feels that a woman that refuses her husband’s sexual advances is not a civilized, bona fide African female.
Rape by Social blackmail
The man can go about reporting his wife. The man can go and tell her parents or their friends or even their pastor about it. They call her and reprimand her for not ‘doing her duty’ (whatever that nonsense means). The man can even lie against her. The ‘offence’ is she rejects his sexual advances: instead he goes about telling people that she’s having extramarital affairs (Tiwa Savage and Teebillz anyone?). It’s all in a bid to keep making her submit to his sexual advances unwillingly.
Rape by Withdrawal of Social Commitment
The husband can decide to withdraw from some roles he used to play. If he supports her financially, like he pays her bills, he can choose to stop paying. He can choose to stop giving her money or to reduce what he gives her. If he used to help her with household chores, he stops. I know of a guy that used to drop his wife at her shop on his way to the office. They have only one car. Because of sex matters, he stopped doing that. So he began to leave her behind for her to find her own bearing while he drove to work alone. She was left with having to take a bike to her shop. Terrible marital abuse going on just to force her into sexual slavery! If she begins to accept his sexual advances, normalcy returns. Wicked!
In some other situations, the guy had been faithful till she started rejecting him. Thereafter the guy abandons her and openly begins to have extramarital affairs to force her into submission. The wife knows about her man’s extramarital affairs, she (with the help of those around her) concludes that it’s her fault (that she ‘chased her man outside’) and henceforth begins to unwillingly let her husband have his way. This is rape. Plain and simple! I’ve even seen a situation where the man marries a second wife just to show the first wife that her market has just been deregulated. He has successfully broken her monopoly. Whether she’s happy about the second wife or not is her problem. It’s either she brings down her price to survive the market competition or she commits an economic suicide. Figuratively.
Negative Effects of Marital Rape
Why is marital rape such a terrible phenomenon? Several reasons. One, the society sanctions it and thus she can’t get any support. She tries to talk about it but she’s slut-shamed. Even in countries where it’s criminalized already, victims are still reluctant to report and the legal systems are still reluctant to prosecute. Two, it can be executed using other methods beyond physical violence. While non-marital rape can only be carried out using physical violence, marital rape can be carried out using other methods already discussed above.
Three, while a non-marital rape victim can escape and make it a one-off incident, the marital rape victim has been bound by societal ideals to remain in that abusive relationship. Divorce or separation is a taboo around here. Four, the children can know about it and grow up into malformed adults. The children can know on their own, perhaps by hearing screams, heated arguments, scuffles, or sobbing coming through the door or the window. They can also be told directly by their parents — the father can boast about it in front of the children or the mother can complain tearfully to her children.
The consequence here is that the male children grow up and think it’s normal for men to rape their wives. So they’ll do it when they become husbands too or even rape a girl while on campus. The effect on the female is two-fold depending on how she views the story: she can think that it’s part of the woman’s obligation to be raped. If she’s raped before marriage, she won’t report it. If she’s raped as a wife, she thanks God that at least she’s married. She takes it in the chin and moves on, simply enduring it for the sake of keeping her marriage in one piece. She has her mother to emulate. Or the effect can be contrary. She can begin to dread sex thinking that it’s a torture. What she observed in her parents can make her resolve to never marry or have any sexual relations with any man.
The solutions are multifaceted. Parents should bring up their kids the right way. This ‘right way’ should be devoid of any religious or cultural inclinations which tend to objectify women and see their bodies as a ‘farm’ for men. Contrary to what people derive from the Bible, girls should be told that their bodies belong to themselves and not their husbands and that their right to own their own bodies can not be taken away from them by a mere marriage certificate.
Boys should be taught about the consensuality of sex. They should be taught the importance of respecting women including when women make their choices about anything in life. They should be taught to be patient with their wives and learn how to communicate with and show understanding to women. They should be mentored to know that sex is not a do-or-die affair neither is it the kingdom of god that suffereth violence and that the violent taketh by force.
I’m perfectly cool with divorce when it’s necessary. Those who hypocritically preach against divorce actually do it when they later consider it necessary — Anita Oyakhilome anyone? Chris Okotie? I suggest that every couple should be able to sit down, get real with each other, and discuss the source of the problem and the way out. Sex therapists may be necessary. But if sexual differences can not be settled amicably, then divorce is a better option than slut-shaming or rape.
As a society, we need to replace religious indoctrination and cultural brainwashing with sound education on gender equality based on logical reasoning and contemporary information only. Basing contemporary societal ideals on archaic mentality or ideology is a no-no. Women should be empowered both financially and socially so that they can confront any form of domestic abuse.
I will also suggest that our criminal laws should include marital rape. I know that’s a very tall order in a society like ours where legislators from some parts of the country openly declared that they could have as many wives as they wished, even if some of the wives were underage girls. However, I’ve said it and it’s on record here. If a man stabbing his wife to death is a murder, a man raping his wife should be a rape too.
Thanks for taking time out to read this. Please, share this article to spread the message. And if you have anything to add, subtract or modify, please feel free to express yourself in the comments section below.