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Saying no: refusing to have sex, the Nigerian way

Recently, a story broke in Nigeria about a lady and man having sex and consent being withdrawn after penetration. The story caused massive outrage.

Consent mismatch

Social media went crazy with accusatory fingers pointed at the lady. She was called selfish because she only withdrew consent after she had reached orgasm.

The conversations highlighted an obvious mismatch on what consent is for men and women. So what does 'No' mean for Nigerians?

We heard from lots of different people. But let's first agree with what consent is: 'Consent is when an individual gives permission or says 'yes' to sexual activity with another person/people. Consent is offered freely, and all individuals involved must feel they can say 'yes' or 'no' or stop the sexual activity at any point'.

Women say 'period' instead of 'no'

The most popular response from both men and women was: 'I am on my period'. Women said this was the fastest way to put a man off. Some men said they felt menstrual blood was unclean (which isn't true, of course) and had some spiritual implications.

Other men said they went as far as asking for proof as they knew periods could be an excuse to turn down their sexual advances.

Other female responses were 'I am still a virgin', 'I am fasting', 'It's against my religion', 'I'm not feeling well', and 'I'm not in the mood'.

Non-verbal 'nos'

Men, on the other hand, agreed to have heard these responses. However, they also said that rejections often comes through non-verbal cues, like the woman turning her back, frowning, refusing, or crying if pushed too far.

When asked why women didn't just say 'no', some women said they couldn't exactly say no when they weren't explicitly asked for sex in the first place. One said 'If a boy invited you over for a movie, or for drinks and you stayed late, you just had to figure out that was code for sex.'

Pleasure isn't one-sided

Some Nigerian women weren't raised knowing they could be willing participants in sex. Sex is something that was done to women to satisfy men. When backed into uncomfortable situations, they bring out their excuse book and either try, give in, or endure having non-consensual sex. Their male counterparts most felt that sex was part of the package and they didn't necessarily feel they needed to respect the excuses.

Some said they were expecting a 'no' for the first time but that it just took persistence to get the woman to change her mind.

A few understood and respected the 'no' for what it was without pushing further.

Male entitlement

In my opinion, I feel that Nigerian men struggle between a sense of entitlement and a fear of rejection. A majority of Nigerian women are also struggling with duty and obligation.

One thing I have deduced from both sides is a challenge in communication. This poor communication stems from the idea of virtue around sex. Nigerian women should know that they are allowed to want sex and not feel like they are sluts. Nigerian men shouldn't be made to feel weak for respecting a woman's decision.

The concept of sex should be clearly communicated as something you ask for, not something that should just happen or that must just happen.

Both parties need to know that they have the right to ask, agree, refuse, or disagree – even after agreeing.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think Nigerian men and women should come to terms with the fact that sexual requests have two answers: a Yes and a No. And both answers are each individual's right. It is obvious that we need to keep this conversation open for women and men. We need to create safe spaces for dialogue so that everybody can have long-lasting, enjoyable, and satisfying sex lives.
 

Do you have questions about consent? You can ask our discussion board moderators anything.

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Comments
A very interesting read. Honest, precise and very educational. There is an urgent need for Nigeria men to learn and unlearn sex as a whole and i think this piece can add up to the movement around sex education in Nigeria.
Dr Ugo Tai Dante
Sun, 09/09/2018 - 20:55
Quite an interesting article, Doctor...Im just confused how one gives consent for sex and retrieves it after she has climaxed..how does that work?

Hello Dr Ugo, consent for sex can be withdrawn at any point, this includes before and even during sex for various reasons. When this happens the other partner has to respect this choice. Sex is better for both partners when there is communication including when the communication is a no. It can be frustrating when consent is withdrawn in the middle of sex but saying no is a personal choice and should be respected. If it however, happens too often in a relationship, it would be important to talk about it and find out what could be going on and agree together how to address the issues. 

You captured it well, Nigerian men need to change their idea of entitlement when it comes to sex. It's is not one sided and should be wanted by the woman too, if it's not then it doesn't make sense and has selfish intents
Aditi Bhati
Sun, 09/09/2018 - 23:21
Couldnt agree more ! No means No Rightly said about 'Male Entitlement' How are you less of a man if you Respect a womans choice ? If anything you become more of a man ! There is always a debate about sex in marraige....should it be called rape if wife is unwilling for it and yet she is forced to ? Does marraige gives your partner all sexual rights over you and the 'no means no' pheonomenon doesnt apply ?

Hey Aditi, we appreciate your contribution. Rape in any relationship is unacceptable including marriage. If a wife says no to sex, this should be respected. A wife can say not to the husband at anytime if she doesn't wish to have sex at any given time. Have a look at this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/love-relationships/sexual-harassment/marital-rape-blurred-lines

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