Forced ripe


Forced ripe

We must help our youngsters

BY Romane Elliston

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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When the norms of a society dictate strict behaviours of gender that ignore individuality then the result is toxic; not toxic masculinity as we often believe, but toxic sexuality, as none is exempted.

When I was younger, it was popularly believed that a man in his thirties must have a child, and if he does not then questions are often raised about his sexuality and/or sexual prowess. In fact, these days, the expected age for having a child is much lower. Men in as early as their twenties are saying, ''I need to get my youth now.'' Forget about stability and that he has dreams and goals. At a certain age, a male is supposed to have a child.

According to a study done by Anderson and Chevannes (1991), some men were interviewed and asked their take on the meaning and importance of fatherhood to them. They described fatherhood in terms relative to the construction of their identity. Without children they would feel like “birds without wings”, or like “trees without leaves”. Children gave them a sense of being grown up and responsible.

This expected notion of maleness becomes even more toxic when it targets our male children, coercing them into engaging in sexual activities. A popular question which males are often asked is: Do you have a girlfriend? This question seems harmless at first, but soon becomes an expectation. Owing to this expectation, young males are putting themselves in situations to have sex, and some actually create children long before they are ready to even engage that part of their lives. In fact, as early as the seventh grade I hear students talking about having broken their virginity and how many girlfriends they have had. They have become forced ripe.

The depths of forced ripe are explained in the research 'Male Survivability' by Herbert Gayle (2002). It expresses that males often receive less help in comparison to their female counterparts because it is believed that, as men, we can handle it. Unfortunately, as a society, we do not teach our males about shared responsibility. They are not taught that they share the responsibility of taking care of the family with their partner. Instead, it is believed to be a one-man show. Resultantly, our males are pressured with the thought of taking care of a family. And, while at school, when they begin flunking, or they are uncertain of what they want or how to attain it, they quickly come to the realisation that they will not become the man that society wants them to be. Consequently, they conceal and express their distress by being disruptive and delinquent.

This undue pressure puts males in a position to make decisions which have indelible and negative effects such as committing crime, becoming sexually active, and assuming the status of man, though still a boy, which often results in their contending with adults, more so their educators. After all, if they are 'men' why should they follow our instructions? This is what is meant by toxic sexuality. Our boys are forced to become someone who they are not yet ready to become. They are robbed of the chance to grow through life, learn about themselves, and become an individual instead of a generic copy.

We often classify the aforementioned as, say, toxic masculinity and as such isolate females. But contrary to popular belief, females are also stricken with a form of toxic sexuality. There is a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to being endowed with the title of woman. For example, in times of old, females had the sole responsibility of taking care of the home: children, husband/spouse, cooking, cleaning, and washing. However, these days, the emphasis has changed. It is more physical. Women are being conditioned to the notion of slim thick. A woman should carry a heavy chest and posterior, while maintaining a flat stomach. A few trendsetters are the popular celebrities Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian. Therefore, women who do not fit these criteria are pressured into changing themselves medically, and for those who cannot achieve it by conventional and inexpensive means, they are left to feel insecure about themselves. In fact, it stems more deeply when women engage in body-shaming, talking down to other women who do not look the part.

Furthermore, there is a topic which many shy away from, but it is a reality, which has been expressed by many females. They have to shave lest their title of woman, soft and smooth-skinned, be relinquished, and they will be considered gross. Another facet of this toxic femininity dictates that a woman must have a partner to be complete. Although the 21 century is plagued with feminine movements and independency, there is still that eeriness that surrounds a single woman nearing her thirties. She is often asked: So you don't have a man? And usually this is asked not to satisfy one's curiosity, but with a brow raised and a 'what are you doing with your life?' implied. Consequently, women who do not fit the prescribed norm have to work twice as hard to develop and maintain a healthy self-esteem.

Moreover, there is a certain immunity and fragility of femininity which women must assume. They are 'allowed' to express themselves physically by hitting a man, particularly if he is found cheating. And then they hide behind the concept of 'men shouldn't hit women'. This further extends to their inability to get their hands dirty, to repair a broken item in the house, change a car tyre, and throw out a dead animal, a rat for example. The feminine thing to do is play damsel in distress and allow a male to do the rest.

However you slice it, these predefined criteria, which make one male or female, are toxic to the healthy development of our youth. Furthermore, these norms invade our school system and our families and are destroying the fabric of society. Undue pressure is put on our youth, wherein they must abide by a certain gender law, thus disintegrating any form of individuality. Males succumb to the pressure and make poor decisions, which may permanently change their lives. Resultantly, they become disruptive in school and later abandon their spouse and children. Females, on the other hand, convert to submissives and further add to the pressure faced by our men.

All in all, I suggest that we take away these chains of behaviour which bind our youth. Allow them to grow and explore their individuality. Do not continue enforcing norms which force them to become someone they are not ready to become, or even want to become.

“Young men are the most powerful group in a society. Sometimes I wonder if they know how powerful they are, or in fact if the authorities know this fact. The young men can destroy this city and nation, or they can make it into a place people crave to visit.” — Professor Barry Chevannes (1999)

Romane Elliston is an educator, writer, and motivational speaker. He is also an activist for young people, at-risk boys, change, and enlightenment. Send comments to the Observer or

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