Many years ago, when the economy underwent a downturn and severely reduced available resources in our household, my parents (my father for the most part) decided that one of us children had to be taken out of school for the others to be able to continue. We were five, four males and one female, and I was the third. Although I was by far the most brilliant of the lot, my being born with a vagina meant I was the one chosen to be sacrificed.

“What does a girl need all that schooling for anyway?” That was my father asked the air the night my fate was sealed. “Is her place not in the kitchen and her back not destined for some man’s bed? The boys need schooling to get big jobs and become important people in life to continue my lineage, but a girl is her husband’s property.”

Of course, my mother agreed with him. I don’t think I ever saw her disagree with him on any issue, no matter how trivial, and his listening to her acquiescence was mere courtesy because frankly, her opinion counted for nothing.
I was just eight years old when I became aware that being born a girl in my part of the world was a sin one dared not commit.

At fourteen, the local bully took a fancy to my budding figure. I still had hopes of going back to school and was not in any way interested in his proposals of friendship or marriage, but that didn’t matter to him or deter his lecherous advances. Seeing that I wasn’t about to budge, he took the most cowardly option available. On my way back from the farm one evening, he ambushed me and forcefully plundered my virtue.

After the ordeal, bleeding and in pains, I managed to crawl home and report to my parents, with the hope of getting justice for my travails. Mama asked whether I had in any way encouraged him to jump me, while father angrily pointed out that I shouldn’t have been alone along that particular path at that time of day. I was advised by both of them to keep my mouth shut and save myself the shame, lest the rest of the village became aware I was no longer a virgin and therefore unworthy of marriage. Only virgins were good enough to be wedded.

I cried myself to sleep that night and for many more nights afterward.

Three months before my seventeenth birthday, an entourage from the richest man in our village arrived at our house to ask for my hand in marriage. It was the greatest piece of fortune in my father’s eyes, or what else could he call it that his daughter, damaged goods in his opinion, was about to become the village vault’s fifth wife.

It didn’t matter to anyone that I still harbored dreams of going back to school and making something useful of my life, and neither did it matter that my potential husband had a daughter older than myself and schooling abroad. I was beautiful, and my succulence was desired by a big man. That, in itself, was enough cause for celebration. The size of the dowry helped too because it was fat enough to buy a new motorcycle as well as endless rounds of drinks for his friends who converged like flies on excrement to celebrate his good fortune.

My husband thought he had bought himself a virgin to replenish his flagging virility. You should see his shock on our wedding night when he discovered I wasn’t. He totally lost his head. Tearful explanations about how I had been taken against my will at fourteen did nothing to calm his disappointment and fury. He didn’t send me back to my parents and demand for a refund of his money, not because he was considerate, but to avoid becoming the butt of village jokes. As punishment for a sin I didn’t commit however, I became a prisoner in the midst of opulence.

Misery kept me company through many of my days, especially when the other wives ganged up to further punish me for being an interloper who had come to ‘steal’ their husband. In their eyes, my youth and beauty was a threat to their own desirability, an amusing irony, because, at a point in their lives, three of them had been like me. We should have been sisters and allies, but somehow I was the outsider to be ripped apart.

After a while, I decided that if I was to survive in that place I had to live by my wits, so I surreptitiously watched them all and learned. I learned their strengths and their weaknesses, their pleasures, and their triggers. I learned the power game and how to play it well to my advantage. I learned what each person craved and how to manipulate them with their desires to advance my own cause.

The biggest lesson I learned in that enclave was that most men were enslaved to the spineless snake between their legs. My husband crawled back into my bed some weeks later when the shock of my not being a virgin finally wore off. It was his right anyway since he had paid the fees my father demanded.

Every time he came to me in the dead of night, I watched his face progressively change from reluctance and distaste to lust and finally to rapture as he groaned and grunted away on top of me. At first, I just lay there and took it, allowing him to do as he pleased and as many times as he wanted, although he rarely managed more than once a night. Many times, he had to swig from a small brown bottle he brought with him to finish the one climb.

He seemed to like my submission and soon he was coming back even more frequently. That was when I gathered some courage and started to explore his sagging body. The very first day I attempted to do so he was initially taken aback, a clue that none of his other wives had ever dared, but he eventually let me. In a matter of weeks, I discovered his pleasure points and how to properly stimulate them. I practiced and practiced until I became very skilled in the art of tuning him as I wished. Soon, I knew where to touch and what to do to make him harder than a rock, or how to make him whimper like an infant starved of his mother’s milk.

Slowly, inch by inch, I slipped my pleasure-coated leash around his neck until he was my slave without even being aware of the shackles.

I was all of nineteen when I discovered that I had a weapon to liberate me from the whims of men.

I spent two more years in that place, oppressing my erstwhile oppressors, fine-tuning my education and preparing for the next phase of my life. At the ripe age of twenty-one and wise beyond my years, I ran away to the big city, armed with the acquired knowledge and ready to take over the world of men.

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

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