Penises, Penises Everywhere

I was in a taxi driving by Osu cemetery in Accra when I saw three men fumble with the front of their trousers. They ambled to the cemetery wall and soon, various shades of yellow springs arched from their organs. They did this while chatting and laughing, the dearly departed be damned. That was ten years ago.

Today, while Ghanaians have internet in their homes and houses worthy of HGTV are springing up at the speed of binary fission, men still pull out their penises to urinate anywhere they please. They let go freely by the roadside, whether said road leads to the airport or runs by the president’s residence. They do this comfortably, head turned to the side, observing the goings-on around them. They might pee with glazed eyes or check out their wet maps on the wall. Then they shake, tuck in and go on their merry way, no toilet paper required. They love walls in particular. There is something primal, dog-like the way they stand and aim, leaving a darkened image of a mountain. When you first arrive in Ghana, it’s shocking. It is off-putting. Why demystify the sexual organ?

A man once chose to urinate while leaning on my friend’s car. As I approached to get in, I had to tell him to move before he did. He didn’t pause the flow; he just shifted three feet from me and continued to pee, his head cocked to one side, pure bliss of release on his face. When I asked a male friend why men did this, he said, “It is painful to control. When you have to go, you have to go.” He was very surprised when I pointed out that women suffered the same pain but had to hold it until we could find a bathroom.

I have witnessed men yell at a desperate woman for peeing on the side of the road and exposing her bottom. Whereas the buttocks cover a large surface area and are not as easily hidden by the hand the way a man holds his penis, which of the two scenarios represent greater nakedness? The bottom or the penis? What will men say if everywhere you passed, a woman squatted, letting down a steam of urine?

Of course, women have the peculiar challenge of having to spread their legs open. On long-distance trips far from public restrooms they have no choice but to wander deeper into the woods to wee-wee so as not to expose their derriere. They have to spread wide apart to prevent sputtering their legs. Then, in the absence of toilet paper, they have to resort to bouncing up and down. For these reasons and the sheer awkwardness of the situation, women have nothing to prove by partaking in this behavior, unless they are about to burst a bladder.

This freedom to hoist out one’s penis and handle it isn’t limited to urination. I attended a play and watched two men, playing the roles of camera crew, fiddling with the frontal part of their trousers. Named Scratch One and Two, one obsessively scratched the designated penis area or where the testicles would be. Each time, the audience giggled. Scratch Two tucked his hand into his pants and let it remain there while the other hand fumbled for equipment. All this was perfectly fine, even amusing, even to be celebrated, though I did hear a couple of “this is too much” muttering. Even so, no one would reproach a man for a little public fondling.

The Ghanaian man is totally comfortable with his penis. If he sees a beautiful girl who arouses him, he finds no problem “weighing” his penis, which consists of quick “cuppings.” He can be talking to you and suddenly feel an urge to scratch or weigh. This freedom originates in childhood. A male child may touch himself anytime he pleases. When he starts to experience erections, there’s pride that everything is functioning well. A female child, on the other hand, is considered the repository of virtue and may not be curious. Let a girl’s hand stray near her genitals out of curiosity and her hand is swatted away by parents, or someone puts pepper in her vagina. In villages and even in towns, the practice of smearing pepper or ginger in a girl’s vagina continues. Girls raised this way get the message that sexual pleasure or rights are reserved for men. This leads to future frigidity in marriage, which might promote infidelity. Shouldn’t girls be afforded the same right to get to know their bodies? This attitude translates into unreasonable expectations in adulthood.

When a man’s woman is away on a trip, or the man goes on an extended business trip, he may sleep with another woman. “It’s a physiological need” is a phrase oft repeated. Does the woman not have a physiological need for sex? In fact, a woman peaks sexually around age forty, which is when her husband is likely to be waning. She could cheat too, but isn’t supposed to, though as I write this, I am aware that some women now cheat rampantly. If she is caught, she has to endure public shaming and condemnation, unlike a man. One thing does occur to me though: in a society where a man’s sexual organ and sexuality is glorified, rape is more likely to occur and excused. A girl is likely to allow things done to her that she shouldn’t, because she has learned she doesn’t matter.

If a man becomes aroused, I’m told, it’s very difficult for him to control himself; in fact, it hurts. Well, let it be known that sexual women experience the same “pain.” So why are women in general burdened with moral responsibility and, at the same time, expected to satisfy their men at every turn? I know, I know; someone has to hold society together. So, why shouldn’t both sexes bear the moral responsibility of holding society together? I welcome your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “Penises, Penises Everywhere”

  1. The same sort of behaviour is prevalent in Jamaica, with the result that some public places reek because of this practice. There are also women who learn to pee standing up, but those are usually market vendors who learn to adapt to their environment. Personally, I think the habit of fondling one’s genitals in public is disgusting. If I see this being done whether consciously or unconsciously, I’m likely to think the person has some kind of STD.

    As in your society, men certainly have more freedom than women do. BTW – Your discourse above has given me another plot point for Kofi and Gina’s second book (and yes, they are getting another story). 😀


  2. Hmmmm, I wish I could introspect this urinating manners of which men are 90% guilty according to your observations. There are about 3 points I would want to establish. Firstly of all, urbanisation and rural life transition is not innocent neither free from the lack of civic duty in making our environment messy or a peculiar problem of Ghanaian and Jamaican men, as commented earlier. Homelessness is more devastating in developed countries. I was shocked when I visited Europe for the first time and seeing 100% sane people living on street, I could not fathom. In Ghana only the mentally challenged sleeps the street.
    Secondly our orientation to this issue should not be limited to modernisation of the current western world stands as a shortfall to the other. Because I’m could be wrong in stating that about 500 decades ago the situation would not be different in any part of the world. I could also be right to say likewise. For example if you watch early 20th century movies you could infer from my point of view that it is indifferent. Keeping or holding excreta in the body is more dangerous and deadly when compared to the medical implications of being very civic. 😂

    Lastly, I would want to say that it’s obvious that you have well researched this topic but try and focus on coastal areas and you will be mesmerized to know that women in those areas are more guilty than men.
    I was teaching in a coastal neighborhood I wouldn’t want mentioned names. I always had to change my walking route to another or abandoned my trip. Why, because women in those areas would call out to you ‘please don’t worry, just pass’. A women half way naked stretching two legs in 40 degrees angle urinating or squatting publicly toileting both young and old. What should I say? Vagina’s everywhere? 😂 lol.


    1. Hahahaha! Point taken. Certainly, in the past, men and women did what they had to do for lack of facilities. I don’t have enough experience with coastal people, apart from Ada where I saw mostly men. For me, the issue is first an urban one. In cities, l feel men could be more discreet. But the deeper issue of female sexuality is troubling. Thanks so very much for helping me see other perspectives.


  3. We have to examine our situation. In these parts of the world, our standards usually akin to what we bring from our various villages (lack of toilet facilities) to the big towns, only to realize that the big towns offer, if anything, marginally small facilities, if any. We are not even able to develop certain parts of our economy, like the tourism sector, due to something as meager as toilet facilities. A tourist from Finland would never ride our buses or go through our “stopover” points again if he/she has to ride that bus for 6hours or stop at one of those “stopovers”. It would be better for he/she to go to the “bush” which they are not accustomed to.
    Educate, but also give us facilities and an enabling environment.


  4. You’re right. I dont even think it is a rural issue or even lack of toilet facilities. They simply love to whip it out for the reasons you’ve given.
    A man gets home into his compound and rather than go insode the house to use the clean toilet facilities there, goes by the side of the house and urinates before entering the house…🙄


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