However, from a young age, my very strict, very Christian, new-to-America Fante parents made it clear that education was to be our priority and that we should not waste time with boys (or girls) and all that nonsense. They would scoff during our dinner table discussions when they had heard from other parents that their kids had boyfriends and girlfriends. NONSENSE! When we got older and school had done the job of giving us sex education (because what Ghanaian or African parent do you know wants or even discusses these things with their kids?), they made it clear that sex was only for married people who were in love and that we must wait till marriage to do it. They also taught us to never let anyone touch us in our private parts and never touch anyone else’s – especially adults. If any of us ever came home with teenage pregnancy, we would immediately be homeless, be left to our own devices, and be left to depend on state welfare program if we could not find employment. Neither us nor our children would be welcome to live off them under their roof. (In reality, I don’t think they would have the heart to actually do this – but it was enough to strike fear in our hearts at the time!). In short, keep your vagina closed and your penis in your pants! Pretend you don’t have them kraaa till you are adults and finished university!
I also learned at a young age that we do not air our dirty “laundry” for the world to see. Americans, especially white Americans, love talking about personal matters with whomever will listen, no matter how intimate or embarrassing. My parents always taught to keep our matters in our family and not have loose lips around strangers or people outside of our family circle. Keeping up appearances to the outside was paramount, especially within the Ghanaian community. I would learn later in life that even inside the family, certain information must be kept close to the chest and not shared, no matter how pressing or how urgent that information could be – especially if it was not your news to share.
By the time I was in junior high school, the dating had become more serious and involved sexually, while the crushes on boys were more intense. I remember in Grade 7, I had every class with 2 boys, Joey and Chris*. We were the Three Musketeers. In addition to having every class period together, we even were in the special Jazz band and symphonic band. Joey played trumpet and was a chubby-cheeked blond white boy with pink pimples. He was shy but around Chris and i, he really came alive and was so so funny. Chris, on the other hand, was a dark chocolate Adonis, played saxophone, was already 6″ tall and was an all-around, all seasons athlete. He played soccer, ran track & field (athletics), and played basketball. He was charming, courteous, and the BMOC (Big Man On Campus). I felt so lucky that I, Akosua, got to spend so much time with him and got to really know him personally. He was a lovely boy: his sense of filal piety, loyalty to his friends and teammates, and his intelligence just made him all the more attractive. He was all mine from 1st period to 7th period all day, everyday. The only time I had to share him with others was during lunch time in the cafeteria. I soon became the conduit through which every other girl in our school who liked him would pass notes to him once they realized how close I was to him. Chris was always so sweet to me when we were alone (with Joey) and he and I had a real connection – we would talk for hours in person and on the phone when we did our homework together or worked on a project together. But we never came out to say we liked one another. Why would he though? He was a 12 year old man-child. So when girls were throwing themselves at him and willing to make out with him, they let him touch ‘them’ and gave him blow jobs, he naturally chose to date them (obviously). I first felt what I thought was love and desire for him when we had a long break for Thanksgiving. My heart actually ached and my body actually reeled from not having physical contact with him for that full week. It was a strange feeling and was the first time I experienced longing between my legs. My vagina was pulsating as I imagined what it would be like to kiss him, to be in his embrace, to have his hands on my body. My whole body was consumed and obsessed with the thought of him. Even though I was not able to go out with him on a date or even cross into that territory with him, the fantasy of it was enough to sustain me.
This is why when I was 13 and someone I loved & respected very much and with whom I was very close sexually molested me, I was torn apart by several levels of fear: the fear of reporting him & the consequences (black men in America already had enough problems with the law), the fear of losing him as a close friend, the fear of the inevitable anger from my parents and the embarrassment of his, the fear that I would ruin decades of friendship between our families by reporting him, and the fear of admitting to myself that I was actually enjoyed it while it was happening. While there was no sexual penetration in this instance of sexual molestation, there was fondling, kissing, caressing, moaning, and sexual arousal – enough to have serious effects on my mental, emotional and physical welfare for years to come.
On this particular visit, I hadn’t even expected to see him or that he would even be at his parents’ house. He had recently finished university, lived far away, was working full time, and was engaged to be married. His fiancée wasn’t able to make this trip back with him. It was a great surprise to see him, and I was instantly more excited about this visit because it would have been quite boring otherwise. But the nocturnal adventure during this visit was very different from our previous ones. As he woke me from couch foldout bed where I was sleeping with my younger brother and sister, there was a look in his eyes I had never seen before. He looked hungry, but not for food – a bit possessed really. I thought that maybe I was seeing things. As soon as I stood up from the mattress, he immediately pulled me close to him in strong embrace, smelled my hair, and nuzzled my neck with his lips and his nose. He pulled away slowly, then looked down at me and told me I was so pretty and I have grown up nicely. He pulled me into a side room off the main family room and pulled me to him once more. He whispered in my ear that one day, when I’m older, boys are going to want to do things to me and with me like he wanted to right now. Then he slowly lifted my pink jersey nightshirt and started caressing my body. I was caught completely off guard and just froze in my stance. I was in a daze – intoxicated by his touches but also afraid that if I resisted, he would hurt me. He was so manic in his movements. Our previous encounters only involved jocular arm punches and fake wrestling hugs, as siblings and cousins tend to do. He started with groping my butt, squeezing it through my panties then touching it under my panties, then made his way up to my hips, my waist, then finally to my breast. Once he reached my breasts, he toyed with them and played with them, first squeezing them full out (which both hurt and felt good), then gently rubbing the nipples with the palms of his hands. I felt my nipples get cold and hard and my vagina was pulsating as it had when I missed Chris at Thanksgiving in Grade 7 but way more intensely. But this time, I could feel wetness between my legs. My heart was beating so fast, and I was lost in a head swirl of emotions and physical pleasure and guilt. As he was caressing my body and kissing my neck, I also found myself embracing him and when he got hard, I was not sure what to do – I had never seen a penis so big and so erect. I had only ever seen my Daddy’s once when I walked in on him making pee pee one day when I was younger and my brother’s tiny one from when we bathed together when we were kids. He saw the shock on my face and told me everything was okay, rubbed my shoulders and told me it was okay if I wanted to touch it and hold it. But it was when he reached down and touched my clit and told me he wanted to take off my nightshirt and kiss my breasts and have me straddle him on the couch when I finally said no. He said sorry in a whisper and hurried back to his room and I went back to the mattress to sleep with my siblings – not exactly sure what to feel about what I had just experienced and what it meant. I knew it was wrong but I did not know who I could tell.
The next morning when both families got up for breakfast, he avoided eye contact with me. Besides greeting me with an indifferent “Good Morning,” he went about his day without a word to me. He did not even pull me aside to discuss what had happened or to make an apology. Later that evening, my family headed back to our home state, and he left for his home and fiancée. I cried quietly to myself the entire car ride home as well as that night when I was back in my own bed (and the next several days after as well). What had happened? What did I do differently this trip to make him think I was okay with what he did? Did he just use me? Did I do something wrong? What was all that about? Was that illegal? Do I need to tell someone? What do I say? Would they even believe me or would it be his word against mine? Would he tell his fiancée? For days, I just felt like a shell of myself. I felt used and empty inside. I did not feel like talking to anyone or being around anyone. I could not even look at myself in the mirror. I felt dirty and no amount of washing made me feel clean. I scrubbed my down there to make sure all feeling and wetness I felt would be gone. Is this all that sex and sexual relations is about? If so, count me out. There was one problem that was at odds with those feelings of rejections and worthlessness though – I liked the feeling of being desired by a boy (man) and craved to have that feeling again. Was that wrong? Was this victim’s guilt? Where was hyper sexual feeling coming from?