Are all African men promiscuous?

25 Apr


By Bekithemba Mhlanga


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 greater 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 extrimistan world of the promiscuous African male.

6 Responses to “Are all African men promiscuous?”

  1. kunta kinte April 25, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Hi sani A lot of facts in your piece. However I think a bit more research and background on other cultures would have given you an idea of promiscuity in that it is there the world over. When a friend of mine moved to the UK . he was shocked by the number of times people in the same office slept together. One guy could have 4/5 different women from the same office over one month. he sent a long email about it to us his friends wondering how africans were dying of HIV yet the promiscuity that he was witnessing was far much worse than at home.

    Then ask yourself about the mistress that started in the Victorian times, Arabs with their harems, The Japanese with their geishas. Friends who live in the diaspora all wonder at what they see and ask themselves why is it African men are portrayed as the only promiscous men. You didnt say that in your discussion but it is implied. All men are promiscuous all over the world. It is just the level of promiscuity . This is determined by the individual. With my friends we joke saying all men love women:

    Some are scared to try, Others are rejected, the few brave ones are loved by a lot of women, others hold back whilst the balance are gay !

  2. negress007 April 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Great read. The myth of the promiscuous male is something that continues to get resurrected in pop culture over and over again. I myself have been wanting to write a piece about the fetishization of black male and female bodies as many people don’t understand the historical contexts. I followed!

    • Ana DelMar Belacqua Studios October 8, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      its no myth…black men do f*ck around more than an other group – except for gay caucasions, and we are beyond fetish when these men are fetishizing pussy in all its cultural heritages. they even switch hit it at the gym. there is no getting around it or attributing it to historical references. even bell hooks would call it like it is. if a man has 8 plus girlfriends at the same time, all different ethnic origins….no matter what his ethnic origins – that is a man whore. he is common to many women and obviously is willing to lie to guard his whoring around. If anything it would be attributed to insecurity and deepseated low self esteem that seems to be allayed by sexual conquest. At this point the way black women dress in lingerie for their song and dance acts, they are fetishizing themselves for self promotion and to get attention.

  3. rememberyoumustlive April 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    Hi, you raise several good points in this post. It is unfair to ascribe a trait to an entire group but I think what we are faced with is the glorification promiscuity within the black male community. This (negative) stereotype is already wide spread through African American history with certain black men being treated like stud horses during slavery and don’t forget the legendary proportions of their genitalia lol. What started as a ruse to keep black men from settling down and forming strong family units (and therefore a strong black community) has since been glamorised by the media, the worst enemy of progress. Just because Black promiscuity is propagated more it doesn’t necessarily occur more, however for black makes the role models they choose, rappers sportsmen actors, it appears that they’re all at it and furthermore it’s cool to be at it.
    How can we help? Who are these guys f******? we can surely educate our brothers but we also need help. there are clearly too many girls who are either happy to be the other woman, and/or easily misled by scheming men. Men, black men, they are being taught not to respect women enough to remain faithful, they can only unlearn this is if we teach them that we are to be respected because we respect ourselves. Our worth doesn’t come from the way we shake our booties and their worth doesn’t begin and end with their dicks.

  4. Jeena Effoe August 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    Great subject matter, However I would say that you have to be more objective on this matter, as I reside in the U.S, and I see promiscuity much more with African American Women… i am An AA married to an Cameroonian, and his circle seem staunchly against it. From my experience it is the women that now have high drives, and due to many of their high powered careers and independence, take many lovers. As with anything else.. so will some wont… just the bottom line.

  5. Avi Marranazo February 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    One other bit of circumstantial evidence for their promiscuity: African men are more apt to invest in their sisters’ children than in their wives’ children, by virtue of the fact that they know their nieces and nephews are at least biological kin.

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