Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Daniel Thwaites | Ishawna's messy mouthful

Published:Sunday | May 7, 2017 | 5:00 AM

But what is dis? Fada God, if You're thinking about coming fi Yuh werl, now is a good time. The hottest topic of tongue-wagging, and on every lip, if those are appropriate expressions, is Ishawna's plea for equal rights and justice. Yes, my friends, again we hear the cry: Justice!

First thing, I'm realising there's serious moral hazard in this business of writing columns, because it forces one to talk about things that are better left unsaid. My granny used to say, "Is not everting good fi eat good fi talk," but perhaps I never understood the depths of the expression till this week. Plus, today's philosophy is more like "everyting good fi eat and everyting good fi talk". And this is the nub of the problem.

Here it is: Dancehall artiste Ishawna is demanding similar treatment of her own genitalia as male deejays have been demanding for their own. You might have noticed that male deejays, the high priests of Jamaican popular culture, haven't been at all reticent about the kinds of favours they expect from women, and now females are resolved to level the playing field, and, according to some responses, the whole society.

Sings Ishawna:

"If yuh nuh have it inna waist,

Yuh better have it inna face ...

Yuh back nuh have nuh use

And yuh face look cute

Deal with me like a bag juice."

Let's face it - or maybe not - if the newspapers reported that 10 men had been decapitated, an eventuality not exactly unthinkable in these perilous times, it would generate less heartfelt introspection and worry about the deteriorating moral fabric of society.

And that's where the dynamics of our society's hilarious sense of propriety kicks in. One of my usual correspondents summarised the situation thus: "De song soh dutty even de dutty bwoy dem don't want to play it."

Mind you, that's not terminology I prefer, but I got the point, and I'm enjoying the revelatory peek at the Jamaican soul.

You see, although one's Marxist credentials are severely strained, having once been trained to spot historical momentum, one can discern historical and social dialectics at hard work.

Suddenly, those who ordinarily make virtue of trampling social boundaries are wincing at the trampling of a boundary they, oddly, care about quite deeply. And our everyday loveable common pornographers are bleating in opposition to this new and excellent piece of pornography.

 

SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT

 

Clearly we're on the edge of something significant, though what it is I can't quite tell.

Another observation: It is the stunning conceit of each generation to believe that they've invented sex, however much common sense and science might suggest otherwise. Perhaps that sense of discovery is a necessary component part of propagating the species. But if the Darwinians are right, and mate selection has been an important engine in hominid evolution, then presumably females will have selected males willing and capable of satisfying all their needs.

But note that Darwinianism has a difficulty explaining female orgasm, because it serves no ostensible evolutionary purpose. I wouldn't go so far as to hail it as the disproof of Darwinianism, but it certainly appears to complicate an otherwise elegant theory of everything.

Of course, refuting Darwinianism is important for those who feel he disproved the existence of God. Here again female orgasm come in handy, because observant scientists will attest that even the most fervent unbeliever and heathen cries out to Our Father Who Art in Heaven in the time of crisis: "Oh, God!"

This is dangerous territory, rife with opportunity for theological slips, so let me hurry back to Ishawna's lips. For her words are just one of the many instances where, it seems, all borders and barriers establishing propriety are up for review, and likely to be considered guilty until proven innocent.

Again, there is moral hazard in even discussing these matters, because it is so easy to become unwillingly conscripted in Ishawna's missionary work. In even discussing evil, one may unwittingly propagate it.

That is why, for instance, way back in the ninth century, Pope Nicholas I cautioned against allowing laymen to see Penitential books that had been developed to guide confessors on how to deal with the outrageous iniquities confessed by regretful sinners. Papa Nicky's concern was that exposure of relative innocents to the inventiveness and freakiness contained in the Penitential literature might just give ideas and increase disinhibition.

In fact, some argue that it was about this time that the monastic ideal of sexual abstinence started to gain ground in Western Christendom, and the canon lawyers begin to reflect it by recognising more, and more detailed, sexual offences.

 

RANKING OF OFFENCES

 

Generally, these scholars ranked offences and dealt penitence based on the seriousness of the infraction. Typical crimes, going from least to most aggravated, were masturbation, fornication between unmarried persons, adultery, bestiality, anal intercourse, and oral sex.

You read correctly! While The Fathers, pretty clearly, are in need of minor revision when oral sex ranks more highly than bestiality, their estimation of the gravity of the offence may give pause. For there is a proper order to conduct of all such matters.

This is why, for instance, Albert the Great, named only five acceptable sexual positions, again in order from best to worst: 1. Missionary, 2. side-by-side, 3. sitting, 4. standing, and 5. a tergo.

Missionary, said St Albert, is the only completely natural position, while the others, though not mortally sinful, were morally questionable. The much-maligned missionary, where each must be face to face with the other, is undoubtedly meant to minimise treating the other instrumentally, instead of as fully human. Albert was, as you have deduced, hopelessly romantic.

Mind you, being a practical man, he was forced to make allowances for special circumstances, such as for the obese. As in our day, there were big-belly men and big-bumper women. And if you're too big, it may be that you have to find alternatives to missionary work.

The grand object of all this, which seems to so quaint and ridiculous to us now, was to draw a strict boundary through what, essentially, was pre-modern behaviour modification, around men as distinct from the beasts. But as we all know, the grand object of so much of the artistic energy in our time seems to be towards retiring that distinction and rendering it obsolete.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.