No means no! Maybe!

The no means no just became not to a simple statement of truth but a question to me when I went to a club two weeks ago.

There, I have been harassed not only once, nor twice, but thrice. Also, I would call it a sexual harassment. I haven’t been touched improper or been „pushed in a corner“. But the way those guys approached me was definitely sexually motivated. Well, they can try! For sure! But if a no comes over the lips, it is a no. I thought so. But it wasn’t. Instead, they were trying to get closer or laughing (about me). One of those guys said: „Don’t be so selfish“. Huh! Selfish?! Maybe it was meant to be a joke but I didn’t get it. A no means a no. To the other one I said: „I am not interested at all. And I don’t want that you are coming over and standing next to me. Go away!“ His answer: „Why? Come on! Come on!“ And I said: „Why? Because I don’t want to.“ He didn’t go. So I did. But just a little later, there he was again. And I said to him again: „What didn’t you get of my ‚I don’t want to?‘ I am not interested at all! A no is a no. So: back off! He again: „Yah, but I am interested!“

Others, I was telling about it, said to me: „You have been to polite.“ Maybe I was. First of all, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that those guys think they can act on me like I would be an object which can be used for their amusement.

The third guy didn’t say anything. He was only following me around the dancefloor. Just, when he was next to me I changed the place and at some moment I thought maybe I am just imagining that he was following me. But all of a sudden, there was another guy in front of me and said to me: „Hey, I saw that this guy follows you around since twenty minutes. If he gives you any trouble and you need help, I am just right over there!“ That was nice, and honestly spoken, it gave me some of my security back which I lost. But my second thoughts of this scenery just made me mad because is it still like, that a woman needs a man to get rid of another man? Or in other words spoken: Is the no of a woman not the same as the no of a man?

What I haven’t mentioned yet but what is of some importance is, that those guys had a different cultural background than I have. At this point, my anthropological thinking got activated. I memorized some scenes I experienced in Botswana and stories Batswana girls have told me. There indeed, a no is not always a no. It can be part of a game and it can be a necessity to find out about the aspirations of a man: is he really into it or just trying to make the best deal out of it?! But what does this mean for my life in Germany? Do I have to accept that these kinds of cultural differences are there and that a no is not a no? Is this part of a tolerance I have to live with? Do I have to understand this?

The thing is, I can understand where the attitude of those men is coming from but I don’t want to understand it. And I don’t want to tolerate it.

I don’t know if I am overemphasizing this whole story but it sticks to my mind since two weeks because those men were trying to interfere in my integrity as a person. If they would have tried once and than accepted my refusal it would have been a totally different story, but they acted like they would be superior, like they have the right to force their interest onto me. Of course, they didn’t thought that far. This is not the point. The point is: a no has to be a fucking no. Otherwise, I could have said: maybe.

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Once you go black you never go back

Recently, I read this above mentioned sentence in a paper of the anthropologist Christian Groes-Green. There, he describes that white men who date Mosambican women say, that they don’t want to go back to date White women because the Mosambican women were way better in bed then the Whites.

“Compared to white women, they claimed, Mozambican women or African women in general have a sexual aura and skills in bed that make white men go crazy. Time and again they reiterated the common saying “Once you go black you never go back” to explain why they could never again have sex with a European woman” (Groes-Green 2013: 112).

This just reminds me of the many conversations I had with Batswana men who actually said the opposite. They say, that the Botswana or African women were too boring and that they don’t want to try out new things in bed. So, in the Batswana case, it sems like the sexual aura and skills do not exist at all. The routine, so they say, is missionary style and not much more. The men say, they wished to have a European woman because she would do those crazy things in bed like giving a blowjob or so.

Now, I wonder what’s going on! Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Sure, sure, sure: Botswana is not Mozambique.

And obviously, there cannot be a right or wrong because who could say that African or European women are per se better or worse lovers in bed?

What’s interesting here is where the generalization about African or European women is coming from?

Is that all real experience?

And which role do media images play?

From my perspective, the sentence “once you go black you never go back” seems rather to be a romantic picture of the exotic „Other” than a once for all truth.

Source: Groes-Green, Christian (2013). “To put men in a bottle”: Eroticism, kinship, female power, and transactional sex in Maputo, Mozambique. American Ethnologist 40(1): 102-117.

Tapping those booties

The answers of having more than one sex partner are manifold. One of them is to “tap those booties”. This is what some young men told me. Always having the same booty at the side gets boring for those young chaps, they say.
This goes along with a setswana saying which could be put like this:

“Always eating porridge is boring, sometimes you have to change the side dish because you could also eat pasta or rice.”

Ok.
My question was then, why not spicing up the sex life with the current sex partner? There are many ways to have sex without that it could get boring. Or not?
The answer to this can be found in another saying which says something like:

“You won’t cook everything with just one pot!”

That’s a point.
What else is to say about that?
For me, some questions are lingering through my mind because those young men say that this is a new fashion but I guess, the sayings can be dated back much more in the past.
Is tapping a booty or changing the side dish just a thing which has been there in the past or is it influenced by pop-culture, as one of my interview partners said?
And what does sex mean in this context?
An urge which can be satisfied by and with anybody?
Is it really like tap and go?
What comes next? Tap and go again?
And after that, again?
What happens if that tapping and going gets boring, too?

Botho!

This post has nothing to do with sex but it gives me some new thoughts of thinking about being a lekgowa (a white person).
I wrote about it in the past.
I made different experiences of being seen as a white woman and as being seen as a white person in general. The former was very much related to questions of sex and gender, the latter one rather seems to be the question of some “post-colonial” influence. This refers also to the general issue of being black and being white. The post: “I don’t want to be a lekgowa, but damn I am” strechted this out quite well. Everywhere, I hear that everybody thinks white people are rich and superior. If I see some white people in Botswana I can understand this image of the makgowa. They drive big cars and stay in places like Phakalane. Additionally, media feeds this image as well. But the truth is always more complex.
Sure, I made it to travel all the way from Germany to Botswana, but who knows that I am funded by my university? Otherwise I would not be able to do my research. Beyond that, I have two side jobs to sustain for myself and my son. I wouldn’t call this rich at all. So, what I tried to practice the last six years since I travel to Botswana was to give another impression of a lekgowa. I feel bad about the fact that I obviously failed. I love this place, the culture and the people so much, but what happened to me within the last month challenges me.
I was robbed out twice!
The first time it happend in Gabs at a place where I shouldn’t have been but the second time it happend in my house, my home. When I discovered that I was like: What the hell is going on here? Why me, again?
Always, I felt like people knowing me gives me protection but obviously, it didn’t work out. At some point, I also got sarcastic and thought about if I should put a plate on my fence:

Lekgowa Tuck Shop

I am really upset about that! But besides this sarcasm there are other feelings who bothers me a lot and which I try to sort out:
I am scared.
I am angry.
I am pissed of.
I am shocked.
I am clueless.
Maybe I shouldn’t feel in any way like that because some people at the police station said about me being robbed out: “What is so special about this case?”.
Actually, this sentence gave me a lot to think. What is so special about this case? There is only one answer for me:

Ke lekgowa.

I am a white person.
And this thought brought me to another thought: the concept of botho.
Botho, is one of the cornerstones of Batswana culture and there is this saying:

Motho ke motho ka batho

Which means something like: I am because you are.
Botho is also included in the Vision 2016, an agenda build up by the government of Botswana to envision a bright socio-economical and political future for Botswana. There it is said:

“Botho defines a process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others. It encourages people to applaud rather than resent those who succeed. It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behaviour, and encourages social justice for all. It means above all things to base your thoughts, actions and expectations for human interaction on the principles of love, respect and empathy”.

I perceive botho as a code of conduct.
Actually, it’s a wonderful principle. But how is it implemented in Batswana culture? Everywhere, there is the rumor of loss of culture. (See for example, the outcry of that Modipane sex tape).
Obviously, what happened to me is no botho at all. But, this is what happens all around the world: young people yearning for a better life. That doesn’t mean that I justify such violent acts but, to some extent, I think this is the wrong place to start the blame.
But, I also didn’t feel botho in how some of the police officer treated me and this case. This is shown by the above mentioned sentence: “What is so special about this case?” but went on, when I had to go to the house of a suspect to search for my missing items. They wanted me to search for it. As the items couldn’t be found at this place we went to the girlfriends place. This girl seemed like hit by surprise to find us at her place and the police men forced me to search for my things in her bedroom. I tried to speak to this police men and tell them that I think it isn’t right that I should do that. One of them said: “Since this is a lady’s bedroom and you are a lady, too, you should touch her things, not us.”
What?
I felt really akward to sift through her clothes and belongings to hunt for my missing items.
Is this botho?
In the end I felt like this will strike back: perpetuating the picture of makgowa! It sketches out a picture of myself which I am not at all: Mourning about material things. Of course, it is painful to loose things who are my own. Things, I worked for to afford them. But this is not the point.
The point is how people treat people.
I don’t want to be treated in a different way. I only want to be treated with respect because that is how I interact with people I meet. And after all, I am just a human being as everybody else on this planet. Not worse. Not better.
I don’t want to be a lekgowa, but sadly: I am!

"Voice babe of the week"

Hey Babe! What’s gender equality?

I just found one of the previous issues of the newspaper THE VOICE which is comparable to any popular paper like The Sun or BILD-Zeitung. As in those newspapers – at least in the german BILD-Zeitung – there’s a column called something like the “Girl of the week”. In THE VOICE it is called “the week’s voice babe”.

This makes me thinking about the very popular thing to call women “babe”.

I know that this is something like a pet name. I guess it is used a lot in the USA, even for men.
I know it is used a lot in Botswana.
And I know that it’s hardly used in Germany.
Basically, I assume that babe is said to the girlfriend.
In Botswana, this seems to be extented to either girls who are in the interest of a guy or to any girl at all.
It happened to me that guys call me babe, like I have explained in one of my previous entries. People I know but also strangers on the street called me babe or ngwanuza (which is the setswana translation, as far as I know).
I don’t like it.
I freak out if strange guys call me babe.
And I also don’t get along when male friends call me like that.
First, I don’t see the sense in it.
Second, I don’t like how a woman is portrayed when she is called babe.
In my view, a babe is a nice little doll or in the case of the “voice babe” a “hot chick”. In other words: a woman reduced to a sexual object. Beyond that a babe is a little creature who has to be taken care about.
I know that those women in THE VOICE do it because they want to do it. But has anyone considered what is behind that babe-label?
Gender equality is a big issuse, also in Botswana.
Eish…Hey Babe! What’s gender equality?

How to be a good lover

This blog entry happens to exist because it was one of the days where I have to wait for somebody. In the meantime I had the possibility for a little chat with the maid of the house. So, waiting is most of the time not bad at all. There’s always something new to find out.
So it happens that we talked about men: batswana men, zimbabwean men, men in general. She said that it is highly discussed within Batswana society that Batswana women don’t know how to make love. Well, this is a big accusation and I am not saying that it is like that.
I asked her why it is said like this. She said to me that there’s nothing like a “sex education” that means no elder women who tells teenage girls how to treat their private parts, as she put it.
I heard about that this is happening in Zimbabwe already during my previous fieldwork: elders (uncles, aunts or other relatives) teach young men and women things about sex.
I asked this woman how this looks like. She said that it’s not about showing or explaining how to have sex. First, I didn’t understand what she means but then it got clear. I understood it rather as a bodily training. It looks like this:

The old lady put needles in the soil. One of the girls has to lie down on the ground. The upper back has to be above those needles. The goal is not to touch the needles otherwise it gets painful. So the girl has to push up the back to create space between the back and the needles. Then, the other girls go on top of that girl at the bottom. She has to stand strong and hold the weight of the other girls on top, moving back and forth or around in circles to keep the balance and strength not to be hit by the needles.

This is a tough one, isn’t it? It sounds like excercising.
That’s how a girl is meant to act – or let me say – move in bed.

I don’t know if this is practiced today because this woman is in her early forties. By the time she went through this teaching she was sixteen. So, quite a long time ago. But still exciting, though it’s not about Botswana but Zimbabwe.

A sex tape went viral on the web

I recently talked to a Motswana friend of mine who told me that there is a sex tape going viral on Facebook and I got curious about it: It is a twenty minutes long movie who shows three people having sex together. Two men and one woman in their early twenties. The movie was made with a smartphone and then was posted on Facebook. In this movie you can see them having sex in different sex positions and you can see their genitals in close-ups very often.
You have to know that the trafficking of so called obscene material is illegal in Botswana. So the three people have been arrested but released on the same day without being charged so far. After that, there was the news on different websites that the women accused the two men to have raped her. A while later the press said it was the mother of the young woman who went to the police. On the Facebook site of “The Voice Newspaper Botswana” (The Voice Newspaper Botswana 2015), users discussed whether this could have been rape or not. Most of them said that it was not rape:

“Rape? But how….she started by geting on top of dat guy….she f**kd him…she suckd their d**ks….wat rape?….mo iseng ha kgotleng a ye go kgwatha..she is wasting our resources
Infact..she raped those guys! (Mo 2015).

Some who said it was rape argued that she was saying that it is painful and that they should stop recording. But they didn’t stop and the person who wrote this on Facebook also wrote:

“Two guys fucking you and you try to fight them they end up killing you so she was going with the flow” (Morewagae 2015).

But it was not just about the question wether it was rape or not. Others said that they also don’t believe that they had unprotected sex which is very careless. And yet others put it in terms of morality:

“im failing to understand really cause the last few mins e fela she was moaning and drawing the guy closer…and the Ronnie guy mentioned something about Tshepang lasting for an hour the previous day..does it mean she was raped twice?…anyway these kids need councelling cause im sure NACA doesnt like this @ all instead of you people rating Ronnie as a starring he should know what he did is wrong Aids and prostate cancer are still very much alive so lesang go boka ngwana le re wa itshelela people should back off..they need to know what they did is wrong we all make mistakes but this was definetly a wrong turn..what you say to them should be something to build them for the better….anyway God be with them” (Burton 2015).

If you follow the print media one thing is very clear: it is a question about morality: The Voice Newspaper Botswana titled one article with “Whip the porn stars” and refers to the corporal punishment within the traditional law. The chief of the village Modipane, where those three persons come from, appointed a kgotla (a kgotla is the central assembly point of the village as well as the traditional law court. The kgotla comes together to discuss issues of communal interest.) meeting with the elders. There, they agreed that the three persons should be whipped to teach them a lesson of morality (Matota2015).
Despite, it is not just about morality but also about botho. When I read this I thought: “Wow, if it comes down to botho then it has to be a big thing because botho is one of the cornerstones of setswana culture. In short, botho is derived from the setswana word motho which means human being and botho refers to that as being labeled as a good human being. The Botswana Embassy summed it up like that:

“The yardstick for botho is a package of positive human attributes, including good-manners (maitseo), kindness, compassion, humility, respect, and living up to the expectations of society and one’s particular role.” (Botswana Embassy).

As I do research about sex I ask myself what exactly is immoral about this sex tape? It is because it is a threesome? Is it because you see the genitals in close ups? Is it because sex has to be a private matter and should not been shared in public or even worse on the web? Or is it immoral just because it is sex? Does it mean that sex is always somehow immoral?
When I saw some scenes of the movie I was like: “Ok, it’s people having sex.” Like I said they had sex in different positions but nothing fancy, nothing crazy…well, at least, I would say so. I also would say that this kind of sex (probably except of the threesome part) happens most of the time when it comes to have sex all around the world. So, again: what is shocking about it?
Maybe it’s not about the sex act at all but about what else sex is surrounded by. The theoretical approach of my current research projects has the presumption to say that there is no sex before culture* which means that if it comes to sexual intercourse it cannot be seen or understood without including a various set of things and ideas, practices and values, interactions and beliefs. If one looks upon sex like that the sex tape does not only show three people having sex together it is a reflection of norms and values, of understandings what is assumed to be right or wrong.
Whatever is immoral about that video, one thing is for sure: sex is viral.

* get more information about this approach HERE

References:
Botswana Embassy (without year number): Beliefs, Practices and Values. Online at: [http://www.botswanaembassy.or.jp/culture/index3.html]. Checked on 2015/03/29.

Burton, Missy Macheng (2015): im failing to understand. Online at: [https://www.facebook.com/TheVoiceBW/posts/10152913137299086]. Checked on 2015/03/29.

Matota (2015): Whip the porn stars. From: The Voice Botswana Newspaper. Online at: [http://www.thevoicebw.com/2015/03/20/whip-the-porn-stars/]. Checked on 2015/03/29.

Mo, Biquè (2015): Rape?. Online at: [https://www.facebook.com/TheVoiceBW/posts/10152913137299086]. Checked on 2015/03/29.

Morewagae, Tsaone Katlo (2015): I agree it was rape. Online at: [https://www.facebook.com/TheVoiceBW/posts/10152913137299086]. Checked on 2015/03/29.

The Voice Botswana Newspaper (2015): Modipane sex spree turns into rape. Online at: [https://www.facebook.com/TheVoiceBW/posts/10152913137299086]. Checked on 2015/03/29.