THERE was once a time when every child was everyone’s child and every adult was every child’s parent; our children will not grow up to know that world.
Growing up in Siyoka village, respect was so deeply ingrained in every child that it was second nature – we greeted strangers on the path, stepped aside to let them walk by and ran errands for every neighbor within a five mile radius.
I grew up at a time when standing up for an elderly person on a bus was the norm, when you offered to help an adult carry their luggage and not expect a penny in return.
But that was then.
Now we live in a world where the high prevalence rate of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is attributed to a culture of inter-generational sexual relationships.
At a time when phrases like ‘inter-generational sex’ are taken to mean men sleeping with young girls and women.
Yet there is an even more sinister extension to this disturbing practice, rarely scrutinized and often overlooked in the discourse of unequal gender relations.
A while ago, a 32 year old woman hauled an 18 year old young man (is he even a man?) to the court on charges of assault.
I certainly do not condone violence directed at any individual male or female yet after reading the story I felt that woman had a case to answer herself.
Reports indicate that she and the 18 year old had been in a relationship and at the time of the incident she was his ex-girlfriend.
In any event, the dispute was centered on a cell phone that the young fellow had not returned or something to that effect.
I personally felt that woman had no business having an affair with that child, because that’s what he is when all is said and done, a mere child.
How audacious is that? No doubt had it been a man dating an 18 year old girl, he would have been instantly labeled a ‘sugar daddy’ and thus condemned for cradle snatching but this woman seems to have slipped past the radar of society’s censure.
And she is not alone, there are far too many adult women preying on young boys and young men, luring them with trinkets, gadgets and toys in order to sexually exploit them.
In a misdirected expression of independence and some twisted demonstration of being ‘empowered’ more and more women are openly engaging in intergenerational sex, initiating mere boys into sexual activity.
And they get away with it because most parents suffer from the idiocy of thinking that boy children can ‘fend for themselves’ and most people think it is healthy and ‘normal’ for boys to be sexually active as soon as possible because this will prove that they are “real man”.
In failing to challenge these stereotype of masculinity, perceptions of ‘real’ manhood and notions of ‘machoness’ – society had failed to equip the boy child with a healthy appreciation for their body and sexuality.
Most boys don’t even realize that they are being abused by these older women, who use them for experimental purposes enjoying the advantage of power that comes from being the adult in the relationship.
Like accessories, more and more women have no qualms about acquiring ‘toy boys’ to satisy their insatiable desire for sex – rewarding the witless chaps with designer tackies, bling jewellery, watches and other such paraphernalia.
A year ago, I listened to the heartrending narrative of a mother who was at her wit’s end because her son was carrying on with a much older woman, one who was her age mate.
She said she had on several occasions appealed to this woman to leave her son alone and tried to dissuade her impressionable young buck from the relationship to no avail.
What is even more distressing is that even those few young men who get lured into these affairs rarely recognize that they are being exploited, abused and molested – they are more likely to brag and boast about it.
This is not to cast aspersion on older women but it is to say, at a time when we are interrogating the role of intergenerational sex in spreading HIV; there is a pressing need to factor in all the forms in which these relationships manifest.
Current campaigns around the issue never address the phenomenon of women engaging in affairs with young man, barely out of their teens.
And very few parents consciously raise their boy child (as they would the girl) to value their body, recognize manipulation and safeguard against being exploited.
As a mother of a boy, I shudder to think that a woman as old as I am could one day aspire to be my son’s girlfriend. May heaven forbid!
I mean for crying in a pail, what nerve to go off and poach someone’s boy child and abuse them by making them guinea pigs for one’s sexual perversions?
We live in a world where, kids are no longer ‘everyone’s child’ instead some morally bankrupt adults want to turn them into miniature husbands or wives.