Mark Wignall | Church, keep out of my sex life!
My older friends purchased a prostitute for me when I was a teenager. It turned out to be one of the worst experiences of my life.
Now, I do not buy sex, in that I have never found the need to venture out on a search for, say, intimate contact with women plying their wares at places like 'Back Road' (Port Henderson Road) in a crude dollars-for-sex trade.
I have spoken to a few of them, and their stories are not complex by any means. The vast majority are poorly educated, have two young children, and cannot subsist on minimum-wage jobs. They have a need to survive beyond that, and it is made easier for them to see sex as a commodity and a lifeline to feeding and raising their children.
Each one I speak to has a primal, nagging fear. They do not want their daughters growing up to become them. They do not want their boys to become gangsters.
The fact is, there will always be prostitution. If the economy improves significantly and more young women have 'normal' jobs, there would still be prostitution, although the price would increase, as dictated by economics 101.
Tough life along Zinc Fence Lane, or an ease of access on High-brow Place, all women learn early that sex wrapped in the red bow of money can be skilfully interwoven into the fabric of relationships, even if some women are happily married and do not keep their purses and ATM cards close to the bedside lamp.
I say all of that to chide the 'Church', representing the largest grouping of Jamaica's religious community, who have made the suggestion to Parliament that a law should be put in place to punish those who purchase sex, that is we poor, sexually broken men.
One representative from the group stated that prostitution demeans women and girls and facilitates their abuse. That I can agree with, but sadly, even with the constant exposure to potential abuse, most women who engage in prostitution would much prefer to have normal jobs that would free them up to be in touch with retaining more of the ownership of their bodies. Those jobs do not exist.
Sexual and social reality
As I stated before, I do not buy sex because I have no need to. But it is also a fact that after I buy coffee and cake, there must be another item of note occupying the 'expense' column, even if it is never ticked off as keeping a smile on the lady's face while keeping a whistle on my happy lips.
At the same time, most poor men I know who would be considered financially unviable in a stable union purchase sex. From as little as $500.
Some men in 'happy' marriages who gave grown fused to the predictable groove of the sexual offering at home, or others who are pandering to their evolutionary need for variety, will at times hit places like Back Road. The Church cannot change those primal and long-established sexual, social, and economic factors, even if overnight, it could manage to clean up the tattered image it has been clothed in lately.
Strangely, I do think I understand the position of the church groups. They have many things to sell (they with more than their fair share of tomcats of hypocrisy), not the least of which is a moral cause that seems to be well out of their own reach at the very time they profess first claim to this great show of rectitude.
At the core of the Church, it sells fantasy, so, in that tale, a woman has no right to attach economic value to a part of her body; a man ought to have no right to purchase sex; and the State should punish the whole arrangement.
Jamaica is quite a distance away from that perfect country to live in, to have economic empowerment, to raise good families, and to feel secure. When some women find themselves deep in the travails of life, it is an incontrovertible fact that selling their bodies will be high among the factors that will be considered in assisting them to survive. This is not Ideal Paradise 202.
And men, whether they be happily ensconced in the familiar arms of dear wifey at home with no cash register in sight, or they are impelled to be on the outer prowl for sex, most know that sex at its total worth, even with an overdose of moral hot air thrown in, can also be valued in raw dollar terms.
That has been there for aeons and it will be there forever.
When artists miss the exact point
It is less an appeal to snobbery than the facing of reality that people more educated, accomplished, and financially strong spend more time exploring the finer things in life, especially because they do not have to be chasing down money for tomorrow's dinner.
On the assumption that I am correct in my assessment that 10 per cent at the top can afford to purchase a work of art for $250,000 and still eat lobster. But social deconstructs are always in view.
I can remember a few decades ago, the progressive rector of an Anglican church in semi-rural Jamaica commissioned a local artist to do a piece representing a modern Jesus. The original in the church, with a 95 per cent black-skinned congregation, was the typical white-skinned Jesus.
When the new piece was unveiled, the black congregation went ballistic and was not prepared to accept the intrusion of a black Jamaican Jesus into their religious psyche. A set of people were not prepared to stare down their own mental slavery and slavishness to outmoded colonial culture-dumps. So the black piece was rejected, white Jesus prevailed, and a set of poor Jamaican black people were made happy again.
When top Jamaican artist Christopher Gonzalez did the original piece for the Bob Marley statue at the National Stadium, Gonzalez made the mistake of many artists who are, at most times, highly arrogant and temperamental.
Now, I do not know Mr Gonzalez to speak definitively about his personality, but the fact that he allowed himself so much artistic licence (Marley rising from the roots of a tree) on the representation of a national icon told me that he had reached the pinnacle in his artistic expressions from the social rhythms of the people, but he didn't really know those very people.
In simple terms, people wanted a Bob Marley lookalike in similar fashion to the final piece done by Alvin Marriott.
Raymond Watson seemed to have fallen into a similar misunderstanding, where the artist remains convinced by the force of his singular inner convictions in his final execution over the Marcus Garvey bust placed at the UWI, Mona, campus.
Again, the artist may have delved deep into the soul of our great national hero and captured a part of him unknown to us mere mortals. Why then are we seeing a young MLK Jr lookalike and not Daddy Marcus?
As much as Basil Watson is highly trained and accomplished, he must not repeat the same error with the planned sculpture of our home-grown global icon, Usain Bolt. Our people need to see in the finished product an exact replica of the power and the glory of our son from Trelawny and not the artist on his personal, inner flourish as he navigates the turmoils of his creativity.
The greats in the world of art are quite complex individuals. Their personalities can never be pierced, and at all times, they are slaves to their creative experiences. That we understand.
At the level of reality, artistic licence has its place in private collections. In displays of our icons, we want exact replicas. We have little time to stand in front of a statue of Garvey, Bolt, or Marley and search long for likenesses.