Rape as an Instrument of Power: A Narcissistic Reactant Interpretation of Onosose’s “The Rape Priest”

sex education

A wave of questions has been raised by social analysts on the motivation to rape and its growth across nations in the world. According to Interventional Business Times, rape of women is highly popular in states like the United States of America, Sweden, New Zealand, Lesotho, Saint Vicente and the Grenadines as well as the state of Indian.

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The act of rape involves violent, forceful sexual intercourse by a person with another person against the latter’s will. Most often than not, the female sex falls victim of this unholy act.

Social scientists have, in recent times, come up with empirical explanations on what influences rape, its psychological motivations and reasons for its popularity among developed states in the world as well as how to curtail this shameful act. Consequently, several theories have been put forward especially by sociologists to find answers to the above questions including the feminist theory, evolutionary theory, self-control theory, among others. However, the devilish effects of rape has not only caught the attention of social scientists but also the intrusiveness of poetic judgement. There are poets who adopt poetic exposure to draw attention to rape and its menace. One of such is Adetayo Onosose with his masterpiece, The Rapist Priest.

To be more appreciative of this poem, one needs to have a premonition of the Narcissistic Reactance theory. This is a popular theory among sociologists that offers explanations to rape and its nature. According to its proponents, a narcissist has “proneness to shame and guilt” with “unrealistically positive self-evaluations,” and having shallow relationships, with contempt for and devaluation of others”. (Baumeister et all., 2002). Narcissists have an “exaggerated sense of entitlement” which could trigger men to “form higher expectation of receiving sexual favours than other men would have” ( Baumeister et all., 2002 p.6). The Narcissistic Reactance theory, therefore, posits that when a woman refuses to gratificate the sexual desires of a man, “[h]e is thus presented with a choice between acquiescing to her refusal or using force to obtain sex (Baumeister et all., 2002 p.4). The theory holds that a narcissist lacks self-control and tend to be willing to do whatever is takes to achieve the goal they want from a relationship including rape (Baumeister et all., 2002).

Adetayo introduces to us the type of poem we are about to read: “this is not a poem of a man worshiping at the alter of a woman” (line 1-3) rather we are presented with a poem that shows “how a man turns a woman into an eccentric dance of madness” (line 4-5). The above lines give the reader an insight of a man’s obsceneness to his woman-victim. It again gives us a hint that the woman is not engaged in “moans and pleasure soaked in a lavender of fire” (line 10-11) that is usually associated to a willful sexual intercourse rather it is “about blood and tears flowing from the river of a woman” (line 13-14). This is a perfect imagery of an undesired sex–rape. In the succeeding lines, the poet-speaker apprises that the woman in question is “baptized in semen of shame and hate from testicles of uncouth libido” (line 15-16).

The above lines are apposite to the Narcissistic Reactance principle. Apparently, the “uncouth” man does not feel guilty about his actions and appears blind to the shameful state of her woman-victim. Obviously, he is a narcissist whose low self-control has made to adopt rape as a last resort to satisfy his insuppressible sexual urge. Unarguably, rape usually occurs when the victim denies the man of his lustful thirst, he thus feels his freedom to express his manness is under threat, therefore, he turns to rape to protect this sexual liberty. The poet-speaker describes this man as be in the category of those “who dine with fallen angels” (line 18), that is those men who have the habit of “revelling in recipes of lust” (line 19). These are the narcissists the theory speaks of. They see sexual assault as one of the proper ways of satiating their threatened right to pleasure. They preach the attainment of sexual right “and their sermon is sanity of rape” (line 21).

As earlier discussed, it not uncommon for rapist to achieve their ‘nightmare’ through forceful means, this is why Tayo emphasises that they revel “in force entry” (line 24). However, it is important to note that the speaker reveals how “a rape priest takes a lass/ from her Canaan to the Egypt of slavery” (lines 25 and 26). This is an allusion to the Israelites’–led by Moses–biblical journey to Canaan. Moses, in the history, led these people out of Egyptian slavery, however, it is rather an irony that the “rape priest” leads a “lass” into slavery. This is often the argument put forward by Feminist movement which sees rape as a mechanical power used by men to dominate and degrade their female mates.

In other words, ‘the rape priest’ “raises his hostile rod and parts the red sea of her dignity” (line 27-28). This is another allusion to the miraculous parting of sea by Moses with his staff but here it is a picturisation of the sexual process by the rapist. The high point of these lines is that a lass’ dignity has been humiliated, as would say by a Feminist. Ironically, the dignity of a woman is not only defiled by rapists but by the shameful act of lesbianism. Additionally, in a lesbian sex act a party is expected to play the male role, by assuming this status she has upheld the male dominance in a relationship because she adopt Feminists should give an urgent attention to this in their next argument on patriarchy.

In the succeeding stanza, the speaker narrates the undeserving experience of a raped woman, her body becomes “a trampled flesh” (line 29), she begins “cries of helpless pleas” (line 30) but the deed has been done and she is only left with “bruised legs, (and her) broken doors…” (line 31).

Finally, the concluding stanza talks about the end faith of the woman-victim, this stanza is a picturesque description of how this woman out of shame takes her own life. The gradient “dangling noose” (line 33) is a symbol of the rope used when hanging a criminal while the downward written of “an abseil/into the valley of death” (line 34 and 35) announces the death of this woman. She is “gone” (line 36). A raped woman feels rejected in the society. Wherever sure goes, she does with the shame of a woman whose prestige has been taken and not fit in the society any longer. Thus, she feels the only way to stop this shame is to stop her own living.

Insusceptibly, the narcissist does not feel responsible for this. According to the Narcissistic Reactance theory, a narcissist does not own a dime of guilt for the end-death of her victim. This is most often the case in Africa countries and some developed states like America where reports of sexual assaults (among the military especially) do not come out in the media. The narcissist argues that a rape victim who commits suicide is only being traditional as women are too weak to confront challenges, therefore they see suicide as the cheapest means of problem solving.

Remarkably, this poetic masterpiece has done a lot in enlightening us about rape and all its ramiflorous effects. The poet took a critical reflection of a rapist thinking as proven by the theory. It has painted forced sex as evil and those who involve in it. Nonetheless, it is worth-mentioning that rape is not limited to sexual assault alone as there are other more devastating ways through which women are raped. These include rape of intellectual reasoning as well as the defilement of morality among women themselves one of which is the issue of lesbianism discussed above. Religion is also one of the ways through which women are raped of their freedom. Some religious teachings and principles create divergent form of constraints that limit the extent to which women can involve in socio-economic and political engagement. All these are various types of rape that sociologists, analysts and the world at large have not been talking about.


Written by Adesina Idris (BSc. Political Science) is a Poet, Literary Critic and Political Scientist


Top 5 Countries with the Highest Rates of Rape by Ludovica Laccino. Retrieved from http://freesociologybookscom/Introduction_To_Sociology/20_Rape_and_Sexual_Assault.php
on 26 November 2017.

Baumeister, R., Catanese, K. & Wallace, H. (2002). Conquest by force: a nacissitic reactance theory of rape and sexual coercion. Review of general psychology, 6(1), 92-135

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