The new MBA - married, but available

2009-06-22 00:00

THE first half of this year has been full of a of lot apprehension (credit crunch galore), excitement and lots of learning — some of which I could have done without. At a gathering with friends, I was introduced to a disturbing world of acronyms — including the MBA. I have known MBA to mean master in business administration. How wrong I was and flabbergasted by its new meaning.

A man approached me for conversation as I was digging into my second helping. Not one to be distracted from my food, my focus was on the display of exotic dishes on offer. As I took a seat at my table, the man insisted on sitting next to me and starting a conversation, the usual initial stranger chat — the weather and politics.

He proceeded to tell me how lovely my outfit and hair (natural, funky and dyed a burnt orange courtesy of my hairdresser, Brooke) was, so vibrant. Nice compliment I thought. However, he soon followed this with an announcement of his MBA. Wow, that is great to have in these times, with the credit crunch everywhere; one can always make use of a financial advisor.

MBA? Right! So there I was all ears and ready to ask what sort of economics he deals with, personal banker or otherwise. Does he work for the bank, is he an investor, etc? Prospects of a tender, maybe? I almost choked on my broccoli when he told me what he meant by MBA — Married But Available. Yes, that’s an MBA, ladies and gentlemen!

Once I caught my breath, I informed him that I was not interested. I asked him if he was familiar with other acronyms such as HIV/Aids and STIs. This closed the conversation and he did not bother to reinitiate conversation for the rest of the night.

Am I naïve to think the “small house” era is gone? Small house is the term used to describe a married man with his girlfriend, versus the big house where he lives with wife. I guess it has been reinvented in the form of MBA — what next?

It is shocking that such relations are so common that there is an acronym for it, and more so that he expected me to be aware of it. Also, that someone is unashamed to tell you of his or her MBA status, removing the practice from the hushed corners of discretion usually reserved for those who stray from their marriage vows.

Clearly, the high prevalence of HIV/Aids in our communities has no effect on some of our citizens and this has not deterred people from having sexual relations outside of their marriages or partnered unions. Whether those in MBA relationships use condoms is a question for those who have graduated in this area to answer. I challenge all those who are carrying MBA placards to think carefully and act responsibly where sexual irresponsibility is concerned.

Multiple partners brings with it risks of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV and Aids, as well as unwanted pregnancies. Who takes care of that unborn child out of an MBA relationship? Generally, it will be the woman. Given the hardship faced by women as the most disadvantaged, in some instances women may end up having an abortion and if the price is too high, then the last resort can be unsafe abortion or committing suicide.

On the other hand, what sort of a reaction would a woman get if she announced that she was an MBA to a man? Would this be considered by the man? Would he find her loose or perhaps even call her a prostitute? The fact is that is seems socially acceptable that men can ask as many women to have sex with them as they please and this is considered “cool”.

Men feel they have the right to sexually charge at women and offer sexual advances. In worst cases when rejected, they can either rape or cause harm to women. Yet, it is considered taboo for a woman to make sexual initiations. It is unfashionable, uncultured.

A woman does not ask for or offer sex. It is granted, forced or received when a man is ready in this society. There is greater need to change attitudes so that women should not only be receivers but takers and givers too.

Is it that men feel they are bigger than the society they live in and can act in whichever way satisfies their sexual ego and along the way put the many women they sleep with at risk of infections and so forth? We should all be comfortable with our sexuality and be able to respect the person we enjoy this with intimately.

Equally, women and men should be safe and proud of their sexuality, and be responsible in their actions. Sex should not be used as aweapon of power. Lest we forget, we are losing brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers to the HIV/Aids epidemic. Sex, should not be used in this mass distraction of humanity, instead it must be enjoyed. Do not become a statistic — be wise, safe and not sorry.

Glenda Muzenda is the care work co-ordinator working with gender and media, Southern Africa. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

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