BY MPHO KUHLMANN
Almost every Motswana of consenting age has a story to tell about the battle of the sexes. Often times the bedroom is the most vicious battle field and men are the usual casualties.
The most common scenario for male survivors involves jumping into bed and making come-hither sexual overtures only to be met by an unresponsive partner rolling her eyes and still seething in anger from an earlier argument. And these would be for the lucky ones. The less fortunate would be exiled from the bedroom to spend the night on an uncomfortable couch. In Botswana’s battle of the sexes, sex has become a weapon of mass destruction.
Think of the time when you and your spouse hopped into bed, whispered or made sexual gestures that signaled ‘let’s have sex’. Angry and rolling your eyes in annoyance from an argument you had, you rolled over and replied not in the mood right now or not tonight.Defeated, your partner gives up. What just happened? You just used sex as a weapon.
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at University Of Botswana says “when you use sex as a bargaining commodity in your relationship, you are devaluing its worth as a sacred and intimate connection that just the two of you share. Sex in a monogamous relationship means more than just between-the-sheets action, so using it as manipulative tool for petty gains only cheapens it. There is no excuse for cheating, but look at it this way, if you continue to withhold sex for long periods of time or at frequent intervals because you are angry or want something, it won’t be long before he starts looking at sex as a commodity too and starts looking for it elsewhere. And even if he doesn’t cheat, he will eventually distance himself from you emotionally and sexually. One doesn’t withhold sex as a weapon because he or she feels powerful, confident and secure. It’s done because he or she feels powerless and insecure. Paradoxically, the person who is sexually rejecting or closed is usually perceived by their mate as being very powerful and controlling.
In Botswana, where sex is framed as something a woman will give a man once he has worn down her defenses it is inevitable that women would use it to play power games. In Botswana bedrooms, sex has become a treat that women are in charge of hoarding and rationing out when a man has earned it. A carrot and stick approach to induce a desired behavior.
Kgomotso Jongman of Jongman Psychotherapy Clinic in Gaborone says the problem is hardly ever with sex but with communication between partners. “Generally as Batswana we tend to shy away from discussing sex, we tend to believe things will seemingly sort themselves out, because sex is rarely discussed it leads to such issues as sex being used for reward or punishment. Withholding conjugal rights from a partner is not the problem, it is a symptom of an underlying problem within the relationship and the problem is usually communication. Communication or lack thereof in most relationships leads to sex being used as a weapon or as a communication tool, the man knows that, she is not acting right or is in a sulky mood chances of me getting it tonight are slim to none. This in most cases easily leads to cheating, in as much as women use sex as a bargaining tool, men can easily do it as well. He begs and begs till he eventually loses interest and finds satisfaction elsewhere.”
Withholding sex is as a defining element of Botswana’s bedroom power politics.
It is also something that happens in every relationship from time to time for various reasons and at its very core is done to manipulate and control a spouse. Both men and women can equally abuse sexual intimacy and use it as a weapon against each other. Women are likely to withhold sex when they get angry, frustrated or disappointed with their partner. The man on the other hand is likely to do it as a way to resolve conflicts and relationship issues within the union. Oftentimes when there’s a lover’s tiff , a woman who withholds sex does so until she gets her issues addressed because some women hold the view that the best place to address their issues is in the bedroom because that’s the only place she can get her husband’s full attention.
Tebogo Ditshupo who works at CTM in Gaborone says, “It is a slippery slope. I feel like if you were constantly using sex as a reward you would eventually stop thinking about it as an intimate act and instead think about it like a form of payment. Eventually one person would do things solely to get “paid” with sex, and the other person would become resentful because they would always be “paying” for things with it. I think sex should be an act of passion and love. Your fianc├® doing all the dishes because you are tired from a long day at work might lead to sex, not because you want to trade dish cleaning for sex but because the act of service itself made you feel love and therefore want sex.”
Kagiso Bosele a cashier at FOURS cash n carry in Gaborone says “sex isn’t something to manipulate/bribe/coerce someone with. I don’t feel the need to reward my man for doing things he is supposed to be doing. I do believe in positive reinforcement via words, not sex or any other physical object ÔÇô he’s an adult, not a dog or a child. You should have sex because you want to, not because you told him you would if he did something for you.”