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.”
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?
It was a Monday and I was in Gabs at the University of Botswana to clear different things and met some people who could help me with my research plans. One of the places I wanted to go to was the Office of Research and Development. As there was no sign written on the building whether I could find out if I was right or wrong I asked two men who were standing in front of it, chatting with each other. I could see that one of them was very curious to find out what a white woman is doing here. Immediatley after I gret them in Setswana, he was walking towards me asking me how long I will be in Bots (a slang word for Botswana). I told them that I want to stay for six months. Then, he said, you should learn Setswana and right away he started teaching me. He was asking me what I am doing in Bots and I said that I am a researcher from Germany and that I would like to conduct resarch on sexuality, relationships and especially the Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships. I don’t even finished saying Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships, he and his colleague saying “Heysh, the Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships are very common in Botswana”. Both where laughing, not that they thought it was funny, but like I mentioned something which lays at the heart of the culture. Something which is deeply true. I was curious what those two men thought about the MCP, so I told them that I really want to find out what’s going on with the sex here in Botswana and that I just haven’t found out why people are so often get engaged in that kind of relationship. One of them asked me how that is in Germany and they didn’t want to believe me that in Germany or Europe it’s a different story. They believe it has to be the same.
That was how we started a discussion about why MCP are common in Botswana. The other men also started to involve himself in this discussion. They named some reason. For them, the most important reason is a lack of communication. Indeed a very interesting point because during my previous visits in Botswana some people were saying that Batswana rather break up with their girl- and boyfriends than sit down and solve problems which arise out of the relationship.
But back to those guys. From their point of view it is just logical to go and meet another girl, when the ones they’re together with don’t want to listen or don’t want to talk what’s bothering them.
“You know”, both of them said to me, “then it’s better to see the small house”
(small house refers to a relationship which is minor to the official relationship which is itself called “big house”).
Another reason, they said, has to do with the women. They said that women these days are well educated. They get support from everyone and everywhere. And the boys are left behind. They mentioned that there are girls days and that everyone is talking about girl empowerment, but nobody is talking about the boys. A consequence of that is that the boys get frustrated and that they try to get rid of their frustrations by getting engaged in relationships with several girls.
One of them was very serious about to tell me that it’s not just Batswana men “are like that”.
“We are body, mind, and soul”, he repeatedly said. He explained that this means for him that it’s normal to have physical and non-physical needs. For example the need of being loved and understood. “And if you don’t feel loved”, he said “you’re lacking something. Then you got frustrated and you behave in a certain way…”.
They complained that the girls in Botswana are like “bla, bla, bla, bla. They don’t listen.” They asked themselves why they should waste their time with them if they don’t want to listen to their problems. And beyond all, there’s a big pressure on men, since they are the ones who have to pay for the whole wedding. And the pressure goes on if they didn’t get married in their thirtys (at least). It seems like both of them told me that because their families were asking them why they’re not married, yet.
We talked for about maybe thirty minutes and I recognized that I got late and had to rush to my appointment.
On my way to the appointment I thought about this conversation and it seemed that those two men were happy that someone just listened and not judging them with sentences like “men are just like dogs”.
A question that has been asked many many times in anthropology is, if there is a state where a cultural anthropologist is either in or out of the field during the field research. I doubt that there’s a total dissolution, but I believe that the transition is not clearly defined.
Even if I am back in Botswana the third time I ask myself this same old question: when does the field research start? And while I am asking myself this question I am already in the middle of it.
One example: while I am sitting on my veranda enjoying a cup of tea, thinking about being in Mochudi again a neigbour is shouting from his yard over to mine: “Hey sister, can I visit you?” Of course, he could. That’s how it happened that I met Ontlametse. A guy, younger than me, but looking much more older. Don’t know how he spent his life. He told me that he’s a bus driver, loves drinking beer and wants to sell me his plot. As I told him that I can neither offer him beer, nor buy his plot he’s asking me what I am doing in Botswana. I told him that I am a cultural anthropologist conducting fieldwork about love, sexuality and that I am interested in the so called MCP, which means having more than one sexual partner at the same time.The typical “Ishhhh, Eem!” was his answer. People often use this phrase to say that they totally understand. In german we would say something like “Ach ja…klar”.
Ontlametse continued: “You know….my sister…..the girls…..the girls in Botsuana like money.”
“So what? Is that why they use to have several boyfriends at the same time?”, was what I asked him.
“Ishhh….yes and if you don’t have money they go…”
Of course, I was interested to find out why men use to have several girlfriends at the same time, too. At this point he didn’t want to answer clearly.
He just said: “Ishhhh…..” and laughed.
So this question has to remain a secret a little longer.
And this is exactly what happens in the field. At one moment you’re in and at some other moment you’re out. But the knowledge of this transitional state seems not to be recognizable in the very moment it happens. I would argue that being in or out of the field is a self-reflexive state. And that it’s only possible to decide afterwards. This is why I like the term “participant observation”. It describes on a very good way what happens “in” the field.