How are African men

■ Renate examines the relationship dynamics between African men and German women. Claire, the other interlocutor, has succumbed to the African temptation

taz:Renate Baum, how did you come up with the topic of German-African love affairs?

Renate: Through my own story. I lived with an African for a long time.

Is there a certain type of woman who is willing to enter into intercultural relationships?

Renate: Most of the women I interviewed are intellectual women who have had a certain degree of political emancipation and years of women’s movement. This is true of the big cities, and it is possible that only these women will be available for such examinations. In the provinces it is more of a different type of woman.

What is it that fascinates self-confident women about black men?

Claire: This body color, this brown has a warm charisma. And then there is this happiness. When you look into their faces, you rarely look into a careworn face. As with us. I have the feeling that with black men there is more of a connection that you feel.

There is a cliché: once a black man, always a black man. Is that true?

Renate: This is also called the Africa virus. There are women who say very clearly: I can no longer have a relationship with German, white men. These are mostly women who have once had a very passionate or deep relationship. Then there are sayings like: I am lost for the German men.

Are Black Men Better in Bed?

Claire: I wouldn't say that. Sexuality is not just a purely physical thing. This vibration is what defines the quality for me. I haven't figured out if I'm just not getting involved with a white man, but the emotion is just there with an African man. The whole relationship, when I am with African men, when I dance with them, my emotions are addressed in a completely different way than when I sit with a white man in a café and do small talk.

So more sensual ...

Claire: Much more sensual ...

Is that so, Renate?

Renate: Many women call this the “other aesthetic of the physical”, beyond whether it is better or worse in bed. The black men deal with their bodies differently: rhythm, music, dance, flexibility, the whole movement. You learned it differently. You have a different feeling for yourself. That exerts a fascination on the surface. This is particularly attractive for heady women.

Claire: This is very important...

Renate: The more heady women all said, that's attractiveness, I don't get that with a German partner. Many women who were previously floundering in their lives got another kick to change their lives with the new relationship.

Claire: I think there are many women who have the feeling that they have not yet lived out their sexuality properly and would like to. And maybe some hidden racism also plays a role. I can say goodbye to the African faster. With Africans it's more emotional, more direct. At the age of 45 or 50, some women are now living out what others lived out in their youth, but since they cannot find German men for it, they take the African men. Because the older German men no longer take part and the meeting places for it are simply missing.

Is the older German woman and the younger African man the rule?

Renate: Three quarters of the women surveyed were older than their partners. Younger men are in the majority. No 50 year old Africans come here.

Claire: The meeting point is not to be underestimated. I usually meet African men at dance and music events. I love to dance and when I go there I run into Africans who are younger. And what's more: Africans also accept older women.

So Africans are also a little warm from afar for older women. A variety of prostitution?

Renate: This is a thesis that the African men come here and have an unreflective, polygamous way of life and also derive financial benefit from it. Regardless of whether they have a girlfriend or not. There is also a minority of women who go out and specifically get African men for a one-night stand or for a three-week affair. Then comes the next one. There are women who make a sport out of it.

Claire: It may be that the Africans fill a gap for some women because the whites are not so easy going.

Renate: They close a gap. On the sidelines of this study, Africans said: "We are providing erotic development aid to German women."

And in the relationship it turns out whether that fits together. Will the development aid, the projection, arrive?

Renate: Yes, and the relationship traps then sit on this projection surface. In the case of German-African couples, it is mostly women who make a living. You are, if you will, the head of the family, manage the money. Of course, because their partners often cannot find work. But this is how it looks real.

Do the images of German women of partnership go into these relationships?

Claire: I believe this is where the problems arise. In the connection with the African partner - I know that from other women as well - sexuality plays a very strong role. But it is precisely sexuality that can plunge women into severe turbulence. There are also cultural differences. The men bring with them a strong focus on male groups from their culture. I think that is typical of all African cultures. If I get involved in a relationship with a black man, then I have to look for a new form of relationship. If I try to force this man into our usual individual relationship, the small family, it will go wrong.

Renate: It is not clear to many women that in a German-African love relationship they have to leave behind the previously lived ideas of love or partnership. First of all, the relationship with the African partner is usually incredibly romanticized. I call it the Hope Project. There is no thought about the different concepts of love in our culture or in Africa. Woman does not ask whether there is a concept of love at all in Africa or whether relationships are not more arranged.

Is there another concept of love?

Renate: It's totally different. Certainly there are romantic relationships in African society too. But there is not such a close, fixed partnership. Women continue to live in the world of women, men in the world of men. In cities, this is partially dissipating. But not in the country yet. The Africans who are here often come from these traditional backgrounds.

Claire: The polygamy of black men is also often painfully experienced by European women.

Renate: European women are not used to polygamous behavior, which many Africans take for granted. We're fixated on one partner. These relationships, which are then entered into so naively, are under enormous psychological pressure of expectation. And alas, something goes wrong. This partner doesn't turn out to be the romantic one, rather he seeps into his male clique every evening and says: I'm not someone who stays at home and sits in front of the television with you. The African partner is usually excused for a long time by the woman: He cannot do otherwise, he is from a different culture. When things get really bad, mutual accusations of racism fall to the point of total devaluation. In such relationships, Africans are often put outside the door at night even after years of living together.

Do African men grant German women the same sexual freedoms?

Renate: Worlds collide. I don't know how that affects the encounter with European women, the knowledge of how women in their own culture are put in their place through circumcision and other rituals.

Who does the relationship work?

Renate: The German women have to whirl around insanely. Half of the women surveyed had difficulties with their families because of their choice of partner. There are also frequent warnings in the circle of friends that support will be lost.

Claire: It's like gays and lesbians. It's just not normal - you don't behave according to the norm. And I also come into contact with racism.

Renate: Especially among younger couples who are in the process of starting a family, there are often African men who are ready to change superficially. They say: We want a family, so I'll stay at home, you keep your teaching job, I'll take care of the child. They also take part in birth preparation courses, which is unimaginable in their country of origin.

So, relationships themed: Basically, are all people the same?

Renate: The ideal “we are all the same” can quickly lead to a relationship trap. It leads to the fact that the dividing line has to be overcome. This puts a heavy strain on the relationship. You don't want to perceive cultural differences.

What if so much claim goes wrong?

Renate: Then the man is dropped and the women suffer. When a German-African love affair goes wrong, where one has invested strength, protested against racism and dealt with the partner and his country of origin, strong feelings of guilt often arise.

Claire: I think these breakups make you feel very guilty. This is also because some women feel responsible for the fact that black men are in Germany at all.

But surely there are also positive examples?

Renate: Among the couples interviewed, the longest relationship was over 24 years. Such couples agree that the best way to succeed is to try to find a compromise between the African model of relationship and what we have here. If you can find a middle ground, it can be an interesting form of relationship where two worlds are really lived in parallel and there are always connecting pieces or bridges.

Claire: However, this also requires the man to have economic autonomy ...

... and the acceptance of the woman's independence.

Renate: But that's also what makes African men so attractive. They have that advantage over European men: women are accepted much more quickly by African partners, and women’s freedom, within certain limits, is a matter of course. Africans are used to the autonomy of women to manage everything themselves. And that's why women who are self-confident and also want to live their lives usually have no problems in this area of ​​the relationship.

Renate, her investigation into German-African love relationships was hostile. Why?

Renate: In some circles it is politically incorrect to criticize foreign partners. That, it is argued, would give a boost to xenophobia. Some people claim that in binational relationships there are only individual man-woman problems. My experience is different: there are lasting cultural differences. Interview: Edith Kresta