Two men had their penises chopped off in Nyeri county in under a week in a harrowing episode of domestic violence. In the first case, a married woman reportedly turned on her husband after he reappeared after a two-day disappearing act, empty handed save for a pocket stashed with condoms and drunk. The next incident involved a disagreement over money. Both men were attacked by their intimate partners and mutilated in a fashion that would be filed as a war crime in civilized society. I watched how casually the reports of these criminal acts of genital mutilation against men were treated. The commentators appeared to be suppressing the urge to burst into laughter. The stereotypical jokes about the wrath of a scorned Nyeri woman did their rounds. Witty Whatapps memes of contrived travel advisories to men traveling to Nyeri county offered all manner of armored protection for male genitalia. The Commanding Officer of the Police Division was captured on TV advising men to be wary around angry women and finished his statement off with a loud chuckle.
It appears male genital mutilation continues making for entertaining news and a breather from mundane political rivalries. According to this social narrative, losing a penis is an act of extreme negligence. We are a society socialized to believe that men bring harm to themselves by doing stupid things. A straight line is drawn from the act of savagery to the preceding deed of male idiocy to justify the woman’s behaviour. That is principally the explanation given for men who get the Bobbotised treatment.
The term came to prominence in 1993 after an American woman, Lorena Bobbit chopped off her husband’s penis with a knife and made international headlines. The poor victim, John Wayne Bobbit, was lucky to get restorative surgery. Lorena described recurring sexual frustration and abuse from her husband as grounds that precipitated the act of terror.
The assault was justified as a mixture of sexual defense compounded by insanity. The jury ruled that it was a crime of impulsion in the midst of an emotional crisis. The penis became a weapon of dominance that had to be destroyed to guarantee the woman’s safety. After an extensive deliberation, the jury found Lorena not guilty due to “insanity causing an irresistible urge to sexually assault John Bobbit”. Lorena would go on to remarry and enjoy some modicum of celebrity. John on the other hand had a failed stint as pornographic actor and his life trajectory spiraled from bad to worse.
The Bobbit case set the precedence for societies such as ours condoning and accepting violence against men. Where women are the tyrants, media tends to frame the occurrences as retaliatory and justified violence.
Many fail to acknowledge, that men and boys compromise a significant portion of domestic violence victims. The oppressors are usually intimate partners, caregivers and parents. Since ready statistics place women as disproportionately victims of domestic violence, it leaves little or no sympathy for a man on the receiving end of his intimate partners rage. We are taught that domestic violence is largely attributed to men. It is a black and white issue. Men are bad. Women are oppressed. Men are privileged by maleness. Women are undermined by patriarchal structures.
Ingrained is the dangerous idea that men are natural born oppressors who deserve to be taught a lesson they will never forget. Hence the growing cult of women in relationships developing a thirst for revenge and humiliation. The untold story is that of the emasculated and depressed man. To escape the harsh consequences of failing to become a ‘real man’, the accused male seeks the escape that cheap alcohol provides and gets firmly entrapped in an addiction cycle.
The demand for ‘real men’ has brought about a culture of male public shaming directed at men who flop as amorous lovers, financial providers and able daddies. Without these basic attributes, a man is genuinely considered a waste of space and disposal exceedingly when they emerge from lower economic stations. On the contrary, women are not held responsible for their failings in such cases. As the storyline goes, behind every female distress is an offending male. Where there is no man within reach, we can blame patriarchy.
Patriarchy as taught to men brought up largely by women. The first influence in a boys’ life tends to be a woman. Most the sexist attitudes men pick up will be from women. Such as the notion that men have to expend resources in exchange for sex. When the resources dwindle, sex is withheld and punishment meted out.
Men and boys who suffer physical and emotional violence from their intimate partners are socialized to take the blame. Their punishment is a necessary evil in their path towards becoming good boys and real men.
Men are taught to look down on their well-being because there is honour in suffering in silence. A man must take full responsibility for his inability to man up.The emotional pain of the suffering woman with a bloodied knife in one hand and a severed penis in other, is what demands attention. We live in a culture that enjoys shaming the male victim of domestic violence and that is sick!