From Sex to Sexual Intimacy: Arresting the Culture of Violence against Jamaica’s Women

In local music, in the streets, at parties, almost everywhere you could go, Jamaican men assert they are good lovers and brag about their sexual prowess. Yet, if the majority of Jamaican women I interviewed in a survey almost 30 years ago are to be believed, this is just not so, and Jamaican men really are not good in bed.

At the time, I conducted a survey on a limited number of Jamaican women on sexuality. The majority of the women – 70 per cent – had never experienced an orgasm, and 90 per cent admitted to not being satisfied by their partner. All of the women said they would never tell their partner that they were not satisfied because, as one put it, “Mi dear, de man dem don’t want to hear dem not good. Dem think dem doing something, but is themselves alone them doing most of the time”.IMG_7252

Over the last 20 years or so, some Jamaican female singers have made it known that their Jamaican lovers are not giving them the satisfaction they crave and that some men ‘last’ less than a minute, which is sorely inadequate. These proclamations have led to a lessening of the boastful tendencies of many Jamaican men. Still, the image of the virile, long-lasting Jamaican man dominates, and it is this disconnect that has led to the culture of sexual violence prevalent in Jamaica. The hyper-stereotype contributes to disregard for women, their rights, their bodies, and to rape. The widespread sexual harassment on the streets, in clubs, at the workplace, and in the supermarket from all ages and classes of men speaks to this disregard.

Women have the power to dismantle this prevailing culture of disregard, and one way that they can do this is by withholding sex, an act of subterfuge and empowerment which has been used in a variety of ways to bring greater awareness to issues. African-American male filmmaker Spike Lee advocated this stance in his movie, Chi-Raq, to end violence in Chicago. I myself endorse ‘Lock It Up’ and appeal to all my fellow Jamaicans to join me from February 1 to March 8, in withholding sex from their partners in protest against the constant stream of sexual and domestic violence against our women.

The reaction of some men to ‘Lock It Up’ has been both surprising and alarming.  A fair number have freely expressed their objection to the call for women to refrain from sexual intercourse in protest of the escalating rape and murder of our women.  What is most distressing, and speaks to the lack of empathy or concern for the plight of women, is the response by some men, who said that if women ‘lock shop’ and refuse men sex, that it would cause men to get angry and lead to more rape.  As one man put it: “If dem lock it down, dat will force a man fi tek what him want.”

Is that all men want?

Another man lamented: “Why me must get punish for de bad man dem.”

These are but two of the comments from men which demand analysis. That a man who considers himself a “good” man believes any man has the right to ‘take it’, that is have forced sex – rape – a woman for withholding sex, then he is both advocating and condoning rape. He is himself a potential rapist, and, even more egregiously, is effectively saying that a woman has no right to her body and has no right to refuse sex, for she is nothing more than a vessel for a man’s release.

That some men feel that sex withheld is punishment, indicates that such men believe sex is a reward. These two responses point to the entire range of men’s objections. None of them sympathised.  None of them decried rape. None of them said that what is happening to women is awful. All of them were focused on their own needs. It is as if they refused to hear the real story here – that our women are being raped and murdered. I believe their response is not an anomaly but is common and widespread and speaks to the sustained increase in rape and murders of Jamaican women.

More so, it indicates how much more education and awareness needs to happen in our society, even among so-called “good men”. If what Steven Stewart-Williams says in his 2019 article Nurture Alone Can’t Explain Male Aggression “…sex differences in aggression come entirely from the environment: from culture rather than biology, nurture rather than nature. Let’s call this the Nurture Only position”, then we have to work harder to educate men; we have to make men realise that sex is neither a reward nor a right.

I am inviting my conscious men and women to join me in refraining from sexual intercourse from February 1 to March 8 to bring awareness to domestic violence and rape.    Together, we can, and must, make a difference.  During this time, talk to your colleagues, men in the street, in bars, on the tennis courts, football fields, and on the beaches and seek solutions to how we can solve this crime. Write to the Minister of Justice, the Police Commissioner, and other agencies to let them know that this must end, and that you are doing your part. Take this opportunity to understand your needs, your own deep-seated attitudes about sex, and the role sex plays in your life. During this one month of voluntary abstinence, be nonsexual, intimate, find out what your partner likes, express your own desires, understand that sexual intimacy is the great connection between two people when it engages, the mind, body and spirit. Now is the time and opportunity to have these conversations.

Rape is a crippling disease that has infected our society and is wreaking havoc in many lives. It thwarts our development and our potential to be a great nation. It has stymied one half of our population, many of whom live in fear for their lives and their bodies. As a people and as a nation let us say no to rape and domestic violence.  Join me in refraining from sexual activity from February 1 to March 8. Show your support and empathy for your mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, cousins, wives and lovers.  Let us expose the ugly and damaging impact of rape and general disregard many men have for women.  I thank you for your support.

Five reasons to support ‘Lock It Up’IMG_7251

  1. You believe in human rights.
  2. You abhor violence.
  3. You love and respect women.
  4. You know and believe that rape and domestic violence are wrong.
  5. You believe in a woman’s right to say who and when another person interacts with her body.

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