Growing up as men, the world has continued to hammer on things we should or shouldn’t do as we try to “protect” our masculinity. As the world continues to change around us, we are beginning to understand what’s toxic and what isn’t. Despite these changes, some men still struggle to shake off societal standards and beliefs on masculinity. These six Nigerian men spoke to Zikoko about the times they didn’t feel like men.
I hit a rough patch financially when my daughter was just starting primary school. Before this happened, we’d had a deal where my wife took care of little things in the house, while I paid the main bills like rent and school fees. But things got so bad my daughter was refused entry into school. So, my wife had to gather the money herself and pay. My wife has probably forgotten about it now, but the fact that I’d failed at my responsibility to my family broke me. There are a lot of things I’ve connected and disconnected from manhood over the years. However, the one thing that still makes me feel less of a man is not being able to provide.
I was super religious in university and remained a virgin up until my third year, even though I drank alcohol. After our final paper, my friends and I went out for drinks. We all picked up girls from the club and took them home. I lost my virginity that night. I regret having to pay for the sex I felt (and still feel like) shit every time I think about it. I haven’t paid for sex since then and I’ll never do it again. I don’t believe in having to pay for sex, as it makes me feel like I’ve failed as a man.
The day I felt less like a man was the day I realised that my ex had been cheating on me with some other guy in our social circle. The cheating part hurt because I loved her, but the part where everybody knew and I was just the mumu playing love? That part messed with my head. I couldn’t go out for months and I cut everyone off. People still think it was the pain from the break-up, but for me, it was the embarrassment that stuck. I had become a joke in Lagos. Anyway, that’s why I keep serving breakfast left, right and centre. It will reach all of us.
Do you know how after break-ups we all assume women gather with their friends, hold hands and recite words of affirmation? Well, this was me when I went through a bad break-up in 2016. I was crying every day like somebody died and I couldn’t call my friends to join me because they would’ve slapped some sense into me. I didn’t even think it was a big deal until I came online and saw that this babe had gone to Dubai with another man while I was in Surulere weeping. It was serious first-hand embarrassment for me. People say she might’ve been sad too, but it’s my own I know. Men can cry, but crying over someone that doesn’t want you is just pathetic please. Never again.
So I was hooking up with this girl one time and she tried to peg me. We were having missionary sex as the Lord intended, and this babe just started sliding her finger towards my butt. The next thing I knew, it was in and I liked the feeling. She continued for a bit and then asked if she could use her strap. Now, hollup! The West African in me took back control and I was like “Hell, no!” I said it in a jocular manner sha, even though I was firm, so I wouldn’t ruin the vibe. The crazy thing is that I liked it, but the toxic part of me was like, “We don’t do that ere! ” God abeg!
If you can believe it, I’m a 30-year-old closeted bisexual who still believes sleeping with other men makes him less of a man. While I had always liked women, I hooked up with this guy once after our office’s Christmas party. He was someone’s plus one that night, but went home with me. It was great and everything, but I woke up the next morning feeling like shit — it’s not like I’m religious or anything. I think it goes back to my uncle always telling me not to behave like a girl when I was a child, which is something I struggled with growing up. I rarely hook up with guys because that feeling keeps coming up. I’m seeing a queer-friendly therapist now and hopefully, I get over it and enjoy my life.