Jean and Dinah and Winston
Steve Gilliard posted this review of a new film about the rent-a-dread phenomenon in the Caribbean, and the fact that older white women from North America and Europe go there looking for romance which they are quite content to pay for. Some of his posters are scandalized to learn of this, and Gilliard finds exploitation in it. Here's what I posted in response.
If this is news to you, you have never spent time on a Caribbean beach outside of those all-inclusive resorts. If you have you are aware that there are all sorts of peddlers -- of handmade jewelry, T-shirts, sarongs, little pipes, weed, massages, hair braiding, and yes, romance.
I have known men who get into these affairs, and some women. Sometimes it ends well, sometimes it ends badly. You could say the same about the romances that are not for pay. These have the advantage of both parties going into it with their eyes wide open. It has gone on for a long time, I can remember tourists being squired around by "tour guides" when I was small (my grandparents owned a hotel for a while). I prefer to think of it as mutually assured exploitation and as long as nobody gets hurt, I don't see what the problem is.
Certainly one of the things that could be done is for these guys (AND the women) to put their heads together to get some of the protections that sex trade workers get in the most civilized countries.
You might not be aware that there is a whole sort of subgenre of calypso, going back probably to the 1940s, in which a white woman comes down to the islands, drinks some rum, marches in a carnival band and goes wild.
And that real calypso that the Andrews Sisters made so popular, "Rum and Coca-Cola?" What do you suppose the line "working for the Yankee dollar" means? In every single calypso referring to the Americans, who had a base in Trinidad during WWII and for some years after, the word "Yankee" was shorthand for sex for money.
The Mighty Sparrow's greatest songs, the ones that made him the acknowledged greatest calypsonian of all time, were almost all about sex for money. In "Jack Palance" the old grannies (with their face like Jack Palance) are getting into the Yankee action, in "Don't Go Joe," a woman steals her Yankee boyfriend's wallet while crying because he's leaving. And in "Jean and Dinah," a local man gloats because now that the Yankees are gone the prices are within his reach again.
These are very funny songs; all the characters in them are spirited and perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Calypso fans of the 1950s and 1960s, when Sparrow and Lord Kitchener were putting out songs like this, speak of both these guys with reverence. Because they recognized and made art out of what is common knowledge in the Caribbean: that outside of marriage, most sexual relationships have some kind of financial component. (As do many marriages, here in the U.S.) But there are all sorts of shades and degrees to these relations. For a lot of people, money ("He looks after me") is wrapped into their idea of a viable relationship. That it is potentially exploitative and often really so, everyone acknowledges, and has acknowledged for hundreds of years. Some people think it the exploitation is worse now than it was under colonialism.
Something else to point out is that in the colonies there was a shortage of white women. Far more men went out than women in the early days, because working there was something you would do if you couldn't find anything in England, or if you had disgraced yourself and got a fresh start.
Black women who entered into liaisons with such men got some distinct advantages, and so did their mixed children: by the time Anthony Trollope toured the Caribbean in 1858, Jamaica's legislature was made up mostly of mixed brown people, the children and grandchildren of slaves.
And, I'll just add, they owned land.