I returned from an evening out with my mates to find a raging Sumo wrestler look-alike standing in my doorway, arms akimbo and a stern gaze fixed on my lean frame as I hesitantly approached; “Where have you been, you scoundrel of a man?” the Sumo wrestler look-alike asked sternly. I bowed my head in shame and fear, tried to fix my hazy sight on the swaying ground and shiftily told her that my friend Kanjora had misled me and assured her that I would not repeat the mistake. The ‘mistake’ was that I had stayed out late chatting with the ‘boys’ on a Friday evening and ‘forgotten’ to return home early. That did not amuse the Sumo look-alike in front of me. The mention of Kanjora, my friend who she detested because he had ‘taught’ me to talk back at her, seemed to fire her rage. If I thought my meekness and the fear written all over my rattling body and face would rescue me from what followed, I was seriously mistaken because the Sumo look-alike heaved her full weight forward and landed on me with Van Damme kicks, Tyson punches and police slaps until I lost the alcohol in my head, before my consciousness melted away. I was done for, as a younger me would have said in years gone by.
When I came to, I was lying peacefully in bed. My eyes were not swollen from bare-knuckle punches nor were my ribs aching from falling down the stairs or stopping f lying Van Damme-like split-kicks. I was intact. No part of my body ached. But there was a distant throb in my head to remind me that I may have had a brush with some sort of hell.
I had not been the victim of a beating, and the woman I live with has no resemblance to a Sumo wrestler. In fact, she is a beauty that has not lost the charm and appeal she had when I met her two decades ago. All the foregoing happened in a bad dream. It was a nightmare for me but it is a reality for many men out there, men who suffer silently, men who undergo serious physical abuse at the hands of women they love and trust, men who are abused yet have no recourse for justice because they cannot dare to speak up and reveal their suffering.
At any time somewhere in the world, probably in the neighbourhood of where you are reading this, a man is being painfully humiliated and physically beaten by the woman he loves. Punched and dehumanised, he is still not expected to scream or wail weakly because society does not expect, or more precisely, want, men to cry, scream or shed tears. Society expects men to be masters of their feelings and beyond emotion. Even when being beaten by a bigger and stronger woman, which many women today are – some of them are Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu and Tai Tchi experts – a man is not expected to reveal his suffering or pain. Society has trained him that being beaten by a woman is an embarrassment ‘real’ men do not shout about from rooftops.
The battered man has pent-up feelings, is traumatised and not in control of his feelings; uncertain of the steps he should take in life. It is a man who has no capacity to show or speak love because he believes his emotions are ugly and should be concealed; it is a man who cannot react to inspiration from women, a man who cannot cope with the loss of loved ones when it occurs because he cannot let a tear roll down his cheek. It is a frustrated man who often resorts to acts of violence in order to reconcile himself, albeit primitively, with his feelings. He is a lost man.
Indeed, society’s refusal to accept that many men suffer violence from their spouses contributes to growth in more violence as some men keen to assert their perceived male superiority resort to extreme forms of violence. This may lead to a higher incidence in the use of lethal weapons such as guns, machetes, rungus, stones and other crude weapons – in domestic fights. And death by a loved one’s hand in the home may result.
A battered man may no longer care for the people he loves because they are the ones who inf lict physical pain on his body and mind; he does not have love because no one gives it; he has no sex life to talk about because what he does is done under the duress of a pestlewielding- Sumo-wrestler-like-woman who has taught him to hate and despise himself through her actions of physical abuse. He has lost his manhood.
Because I have lost my manhood in the nightmare, I must try and reclaim it; to pick it up from the gutter, wash or dust it, and resume my male role in the world. That will only happen if I gather the courage to speak up against the Sumo wrestler-like wife’s beatings, release my welled-up tears, declare my fondness for hopscotch and love for the water lilies and chocolate. For only when I can cry, scream and truly love, shall I have reclaimed enough of my manhood to stop the battery.