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Are all African men promiscuous?

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Way before Tiger Woods and the golf club incident; he was referred to by some female sections as the whitest black man on earth. Fast-forward a few years and the slight came – what could you expect, the black African genes in him had to come to the fore. He simply could not stop his eye wandering and keep his pants zipped, it’s in the genes!

The promiscuous African male has been an urban legend for years. Nothing stirs gender wars more fervently than the question of who is more promiscuous male or female. One then adds fuel to the fire by throwing race into the equation – and dares suggest that most African males are promiscuous. The assumption being that they are more promiscuous than their Caucasian, Arabic or Oriental counterparts.

This assumption is a toxic as suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists just because some terrorists happen to be Muslim!

The fact is no one knows if African males are more promiscuous than males in other parts of the world. The evidence put forward can at best be said to be circumstantial mainly on the basis of the research from HIV / AIDS infection rates in Africa. Take for instance the UN report entitled ‘Women and HIV / Aids – Confronting the Crisis’ which noted that almost universally in Africa, cultural expectations have encouraged men to have multiple partners while women are expected to abstain or be faithful. How valid this is in a continent with over 2000 tribal traditions, and many varieties of Christian and Islamic communities, is open to debate.

To test the validity of this assumption, I did a little research and asked African males whether they are more promiscuous than other people. The biggest reaction was that it’s not a question of promiscuity of African males just that they are serial polygamists while white males are serial monogamists. The argument being that both have a natural tendency to mate with as many females as possible just that African men want to have them all at once. The question is why?

There’s a huge difference between explaining behaviour and excusing it. Explaining it assumes a logical reason for going down a certain path while the latter seeking to atone for the behaviour pattern. My own observation is that in the ‘explaining’ class are cultural, biological and economic factors. In the ‘excuse’ corner are what I’ve classed as the ‘because I can’, ‘lack of sexual satisfaction from one partner’, and ‘peer pressure’ factors. Whilst African males cannot be said to have a monopoly of these factors – I’ve only looked at them from the African male perspective for the purpose of this column.

The unmarried African males I spoke to argued that their promiscuity is to be expected since single people tend to have more sexual partners than married ones (at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be). They point out there is no cultural obligation to have one partner, in fact quite the opposite. For this group it would appear then that promiscuity is some sort of entitlement and a rite of passage. It’s part of our rich African culture – whatever that means.

Controversy emerged when I moved on to the married African male. Surely if it’s a question of having sex on tap then the married African male should not be promiscuous. But then the cultural shield is held up again. It’s always been accepted that the African male can take on more than one wife or have a mistress as all this is for the good of the family. How this is so, I have no idea. Surprisingly, none of my interviewees quoted the bible or the Koran to go forth and multiply.

It’s the biological explanation that seems to be the bastion of the promiscuous male though. One chap put it to me that it’s simply a fact that males tend to think about sex more often than females. And there’s no shortage of statistics to back this up. I was pointed to one research paper that suggested males think of sex six times in an hour while women do so four times in an hour. Admittedly the research said nothing about whether this was with one partner or multiple partners

We all know Africa is a super patriarchal society and the effects of this patriarchy are manifested in the economic power imbalance between males and females. An unintended consequence of this is that African women are vulnerable to wily African males who exploit this for their own benefit. In fact some see this as passport to go out and sow their wild oats with total abandon. I recall a discussion with a colleague who kept a harem of women in Soweto South Africa. On quizzing him about how he got his way with so many women – his response was that Soweto girls are easy – quarter chicken and chips from KFC does the trick. The pattern repeats itself regardless of economic status – for the chap on low income it may be the KFC meal, for the middle income it’s that dress and hairdo and for the super-rich it’s the car and the house.

What of the second category – the ‘excuse’ class? It was clear from my research that there’re some African males who generally believe they can be promiscuous – whether married or not – just because they can. For this group, if they can mate with as many partners as they can they will and they don’t need to explain it. A second factor with this group is the argument that at some point the fun and action fades with the one partner, to them variety is the spice of life. This herd tends to hunt for the opposite sex of similar minds. There is a residue of the promiscuous African male who find themselves in this group simply because their friends are doing it. Whether this is a manifestation of some dormant promiscuity driver is for the concerned to explain.

To ask whether there’s anything that African females can do to change this behaviour is tantamount to asking them to solve a problem they did not create – unfair and pointless. The onus is on the males themselves. It’s up to the guilty males to realise that being monogamous, whether serial or otherwise – is not being a mug. It’s about valuing your self-worth, upholding morals and values that are not only good for the individual but also show respect for your partner. It’s about setting an example to your children and shaping how your daughters will be treated tomorrow.

Many will say, it is easier said than done. Granted! But the truth of the matter is the great majority of African males are faithful and it’s the minority few who give the rest of us a bad name. This is exactly what the bell shaped curve reveals – that we all live in mediokristan – not in the extremist world of the promiscuous African male.

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