The idea of entitlement is sometimes confused with some sense of ownership. This is partly true. Ownership is a very simple concept; a state of being an owner. Also, ownership of material objects or entities is very simple to understand. But, entitlement in our society takes a different form when it comes to men and women. There is a perception that male entitlement means that a man feels that he owns a woman. This also is only partly true. The definition of ownership that you are looking for here is, ‘the right of possession’.
To possess something is different to owning it when you are speaking about human relations. Men who suffer from a deep sense entitlement do not merely want to own a woman, they want to possess her. Yes, possess like the stuff you see in horror films. When a man feels that he possesses a woman, he wants his spirit to inhabit every inch of her skull, every chamber of her heart, every ray of her light, her very being and, she must be unable to exorcise herself of him even in his physical absence.
So, at which point in our upbringing were we as men taught entitlement? Like many other things in life, certain concepts stem from very simple roots. Boys are taught to protect those that they care about and to protect what belongs to them. See how simple that is? Entitlement works in tandem with the idea of belonging. Belonging to something (family) and something belonging to you (objects). Now, a disconnect happens with relations between men and women where culture fosters a sense that a man can ‘acquire’ a woman, which actually objectifies her presence in his life. This is not, however, a direct result of customs such as lobola. The idea of women being the goal of men’s conquests has a very complex and deeply ingrained history which manifests in very simple activities of everyday living.
As boys, we are taught to believe that women want attention. We are taught that hitting on a woman or catcalling is actually a noble endeavour because you are showering her with compliments and you are making her feel valued. As such, a woman’s aversion to being hit on is seen a fault on the man’s part, homie just has weak game. The solution; he must practice more, hit on more women, get more tips from the OG’s. As boys, we are taught that a woman’s thoughts, emotions and desires are malleable, mutable and can be moulded to the will of any man who can wield mythical levels of ‘charm’. We grow up being taught that women lack an agency unto themselves and thus it is the duty of a strong man to guide her through herself. At first, you do this by pointing out to her that she is, indeed, beautiful (because somehow, she didn’t know) and thus worthy of your attention. During courtship, you gesture to virtues as a ‘decent’ woman (according to whatever standard to ascribe) and thus, she is worthy of your presence in her life. After that, a man must endeavour to show a woman her place in the broader scheme of life (because she doesn’t know).
All this, of course, happens within the fenced-in confines of entitlement, guarded closely by patriarchal system that is armed with one weapon, misogyny. Any woman who is not willing to conform will be deemed a deviant. Young boys are often protected from deviant women because very early in life little girls are forewarned about the repercussions of being a deviant, the sum total of which being, you will not be loved. Most of the time boys don’t know that being rebuffed by a woman is frowned upon. If a woman does not conform to the will of a man, the first few times it is his fault. After that she is the problem. She will be labeled and shamed. If that does not work, her behaviour shall be corrected, accordingly. How? Possession. In correcting her behaviour, she is to be possessed, by her partner, her father, uncles, by total strangers in dark corners and construction workers in broad daylight, at times, complicit to this will be her mother, sisters, aunts, friends and random mothers in a taxi.
So What Do We Teach Young Boys About Entitlement?
Ironically, a sense of entitlement seems to relate a lot to insecurity. The need to control everything so that nothing can bring one harm. If I, as a man, can possess my female partner, then she’s less likely to hurt me, emotionally. So possession is seen a preventative.
To exorcise entitlement, we as men, must teach our sons, brothers, nephews and cousins that the only measure of a man is his character. They must know that character is not tied to anything but your own principles which function in the absence of anything external to you. We must teach young boys that women are whole beings, complete and lacking in nothing but what lacks in the very nature of being human. They must grow up knowing that no human being belongs to them, much less women and that they are not entitled to anything from her that is not of her own accord.
However, we must be careful not to demonise what is essentially human behaviour, we must teach them context. Lust, in and of itself, is not forbidden. Declaring to a woman your interest in her is not a taboo. Believing that a woman in a relationship with a man does need his care and protection is not frowned up. These things must be put into a context that highlights the fact men and women were created as complementary beings.
How do we do this? We show them.