Saturday, 16 December 2017

Sex Toys and Human Sexuality

The history surrounding the genesis of sex toys is rather vague and quite intriguing.  Sex toys and sex are still very much tabooed subjects in most parts of the world and this oftentimes clouds a honest and open discourse regarding such issues.  In fact there was an era not so long ago when the use of sex toys was seen as repulsive and abnormal requiring medical intervention for those who seek the pleasure of these gadgets.  However, human sexuality over the years has evolved and continues to do so at a rapid pace. The definition of human sexuality differs according to the context in which the term is used, however, in simple terms human sexuality is the way by which we express our maleness and femaleness; in other words how we experience the erotic and express ourselves as sexual beings. It is estimated that the sex toy industry is a multi-billion one in which many of the pleasure toys are designed after popular female porn stars and by extension cater to the whims and fancy of men more so than women.  Undoubtedly, sex and sex toys are still unmentionable subjects in some circles. Susan Colvin, founder and CEO OF CalExotics in a Forbes magazine interview said that the sex toy market is a  $15 billion industry with projections to surpass $50 billion by 2020 in which customers seeks sex paraphernalia to arouse, stimulate and enhance sexual pleasure of both sexes. The phenomenal success of the recently released movie, 50 Shades of Grey, as well as, other movies of the same erotic and sensual genre have fuelled the adult toy and entertainment industries to the point where the guilt and shame once associated with sex toys and their usage hardly exits. It is widely reported that the Kegel Balls ran out of stock once the book 50 Shades of Grey was published. One can assume that Amazon is and remains the largest purveyor of adult toys, offering a wide range of items. Online ordering and discreet shipping saves the prospective purchaser the embarrassment of exposing one’s secret sexual desires to strangers. Claudy, 54, certainly understands and appreciates the change in the ordering of adult toys. He mentioned”in dem days Mail Pac was the means to bring in stuff to Jamaica without much issue”. He added that these packages were always opened and explored with parts and things missing before they were delivered.  His sex toy of choice was the Fleshlight. He confided that he was first introduced to this sex toy by a friend and that the curiosity got a hold of him to experience this. He ended our brief chat with the simple but popular statement, “to each his own”.
It is amazing how our views on sexuality have changed overtime. A few years ago women wore ankle-length dresses, sexual intercourse was for procreation not pleasure and masturbation was shunned, however, today, these practices as well as many others are sexually acceptable and practiced.  
Sex Toys of Choice
In doing this blog, a number of colleagues shared their experiences about using sex toys. Orvin, 40, revealed that his sex toy of choice was the nipple clamp. “There is only one part of my body that get sexually aroused my nipple”. He added that he learned about the nipple clamp via magazines and asked a friend who was travelling at the time to buy him one.  In describing the clamp he said, the ends connecting to the nipples were made of plastic with grits, he added that there was also a chain which connected both clamps. He stated that the nipple clamp operated similarly to a clothes pin.  Orvin declared that he used the nipple clamps for about 2 years until the plastic section of the toy became crystallized. When asked if he knew of any local adult sex toy store, he stated that he knows of at least one sex toy store in a plaza along Old Harbour Road in St. Catherine. Trevin age 61 revealed that he first started using sex toys or gadgets as he prefers to call them in his 30’s. According to him, he first became aware of these devices from seeing them in shops and in porn movies. “I have used a few cock rings”. He added that ‘rings’ give a very rigid ‘hard on’. He disclosed that before buying the cock rings he used rubber bands.  Trevin added that “The fleshlight gives you awesome stimulation. You can combine both and be in ecstasy heaven”. He also shared that he has also used the prostate stimulator. “Oh yes, to the stimulator. The biology makes sense”. Trevin, who is married, when on to give a quick lesson in Biology “when the peri anal and the perineal muscles contract around the gadget that’s pressed against the prostate, Wow!” He commented further, “These are the muscles as well as the penile contraction that are responsible for the expulsion of semen”.  He ended by saying he would recommend these pleasure toys.
The use of sex toys is by no means the domain of men. Women are no longer shy to admit to the use of sex toys. Over the years the dildo has been a popular sex toys for a significant number of women, both married and single as they seek additional sexual pleasure or just pleasure in general. A female colleague while stating she understands why some women use sex toys said she prefers intimacy and human contact because sex toys are impersonal. She admits however that there is some form of communication using sex toys. She opines that women who turn to sex toys do so for many reasons, such as, being hurt by men in the past. Secondly, women seeking optimum pleasure which some men are unable to provide, she reiterates that women know their bodies and as a result they can use the sex toys to receive optimum please.  
It is interesting to note that the male ego is usually hurt if he is aware that his female partner is using sex toys to get pleasure. Most males will feel a sense of being inadequate to know this, as a result a significant number of women do not readily disclose this information to their male partner. One respondent David, age 55 revealed that he has been using sex toys for over 10 years. According to him, he uses these gadgets every two weeks. Interestingly, says his wife is aware that he uses the pleasure toys. David, who has a graduate degree, works in the Health Care sector. His sex toys of choice are the flesh light and the prostate stimulator. In response to the question, what do you think about sex toys he said, “They are better than having sex another individual”. 
Another respondent who I will refer to as Samuel, age 56, stated he has been using sex toys for over 5 years since a friend introduced it to him.  Intriguingly, Samuel is also married; however, his wife is unaware that he seeks pleasure from these mechanical devices.  When asked what his opinion about sex toys is, he said, “beneficial to keeping me away from sexual exploits”.  It is clear that for many men turning to sex toys for pleasure keeps them from entering extra-marital relationships. 
It is obvious that more and more Jamaicans are being exposed to and using sex toys. However, it bares thought whether the importation of these devices are legal? In a Jamaica Observer article dated August 29, 2012, the Customs Department at the time said, it would not interfere with the importation of sex toys into Jamaica until the Attorney General makes a ruling on their legality.  It is interesting to note that section 40 (XIII) of the Customs Act speaks to importation of indecent and obscene articles. It is interesting that a Google search of adult sex toys produced a number of business establishment where Jamaicans can go to purchase these items. Conversely, there is ongoing debate surrounding the legality surrounding the importation of sex toys. On the other hand, there are those who advocate that sex toys are health aids and as such should not be viewed as pornographic and or repugnant in an age of modernity.      
It is evident that the pleasure industry will continue to see extraordinary growth in years to come. Gone are the days when people were shy in ordering sex toys. There is now boldness and a desire to embrace one’s sexuality regardless of the consequences especially in an era of social media.  We can certainly expect to see the conversation of human sexuality widen and expand to include related forms such as the sexual health of both sexes.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#sexuality #sextoys #gender #adult #society #pleasure #eroticism #health #cockrings #kegelballs #prostatestimulator  #fleshlight #dildo
Sex toys word cloud concept

Friday, 1 December 2017

Jaye's Journey

"AIDS today is not a death sentence. It can be treated as a chronic illness, or a chronic disease"- Yusuf Hamied
I first met Jaye in 2002. She was always elegantly attired and went about her tasks in a professional manner. Jaye is approximately 5 feet 5 inches and was born in the parish of Clarendon, the last of five children. She mentioned that her childhood was difficult despite growing up in a nuclear family. “We were poor, but surprisingly, we did not realize it then”. “My mother made sure we had something to eat”.
Jaye, has been living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) since she was diagnosed in 1998 at age 29. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of 2016 there were 36.7 million people living with HIV, of which 20.9 million are on antiretroviral therapy. Regrettably, since the onset of the global HIV epidemic women have been disproportionately affected and infected by HIV. According to UNAIDS, HIV disproportionately affects women and girls because of vulnerabilities created by unequal cultural, social and economic status.
The Early Years
Jaye, revealed that at about age 9 or 10 she went to live with her grandmother in St. Mary because her mother returned to school. It was during this time that she went to live with her grandmother for approximately 2 years until her mother completed her studies. Life in the early days was a bit of challenge for Jaye and her family. She lived in a 3 bedroom house which was a combination of board and concrete. There was no inside bathroom, in fact their bathroom was a pit latrine surrounded by sheets of zinc. The family also had to cook outside. “It was very challenging because while we were preparing meals, water from the zinc would be leaking over the fire and we had to be blowing with our mouths and fanning’ (by using a pot cover) to keep the flames alive” Jaye continued, “ The house was mainly surrounded by Hibiscus plants which was cut and shaped by a machete. The Hibiscus plants was what was used for a ‘door’ or covering for the bathroom. Life for Jaye and her siblings was rather routine and simple and consisted of school, church and home. “We could not miss church or school unless it was really necessary”. “Sometimes, however, we had to be absent from school and travel many miles on foot through hills and valleys to my father’s farm to help reap the crops for sale”.
Just like childhood, adulthood proved to be quite distressing for Jaye. She got married at 21, having met her husband during college. “I was still residing with my parents; however, I became a pregnant unmarried woman and was thrown out of my parent’s house. I was told to leave because of the shame and disgrace on the family and community. This was because of my family social standing”.  Jaye, revealed that she was infected with HIV through her husband.  “He got ill at one point, started to lose weight and decided to visit the doctor. Tests were done for cancer and other conditions, but all results came back negative. It was then the doctor decided to do a HIV test. This came back positive. He was diagnosed then with full blown AIDS. I later did my test and it came back as HIV Positive. I was very angry and afraid. When he became aware of my status, he was very sympathetic. However until this year 2017, he still insists that he does not know how he contracted it .I was accused by his mother that I was the one who came from Jamaica and infected him because he was quite fine before he met me. Being a womanizer, promiscuous and dishonest, there is no question as to how he contracted it”.
Family Support            
It makes a huge difference to have the support of family and friends while facing any disease, more so HIV. “My family members are now aware of my status. I kept it from them for about a year. I suffered in silence. I did not disclose immediately because of the series of events that led to that point. I was guilt ridden (and still is) because I blamed myself for the pregnancy, so I was thinking that everything that led to that was my mistake. My older sister was the first person I told. Following that, the rest of my immediate family was made aware. They were extremely angry but very sympathetic .There was some relief knowing that they finally knew and that I could receive their support. I am still receiving their support.  Yes my mom knew about my status. She supported me through the years. I was grateful for that, as many persons are not that lucky or fortunate”.  
Living with HIV
“My life has changed dramatically since being diagnosed. I am no longer the person who I used to be, mentally, physically, socially, emotionally. I no longer have trust in anyone. Living with HIV is not easy. It can be, or seems to be for some people, as each one is affected in some similar or different way. I do experience lots of fatigue particularly because of my mental state. I became chronically depressed and was in a very dark place. I was diagnosed with Chronic Depression and PTSD. Even with medication that did not help. As a result my doctor decided to add another medication to boost the anti –depressant. I became more of a recluse and most often times still is. There is sadness, fear, anxiety anger and guilt. People often say that they understand, but what is it that they understand? How can they really understand? The moods come and go, there are days when I just feel like not going anywhere or seeing anyone or doing anything. For months I can remember I was just in my room not doing anything, not wanting anyone to bother me. There is the constant worry about, what if……? What if…..? Health care is great and I am on the best medications, but I still ponder these questions, what is happening in my body? What if the medications suddenly decide to fail? What then? I have become more aware of my body and its reactions. If I see something not looking right or there is an unusual feeling, then I begin to think. There is the feeling of rejection. I have not been in a relationship for many years, and that is because I was rejected twice for being honest. That is something I do not want to experience again. It is one of the worst feelings. You are made to feel dirty, scarred, unworthy, unwanted, unclean, a death sentence and a constant reminder of what you have. That is no way to live. There is the fear of never finding that person who will accept you and love you for who you are. There is constant fear and worry of HIV disclosure, when to disclose, how to disclose, should you disclose, and the partner’s reaction after disclosure, as well as the implications of disclosure. As a result, there is the constant feeling of loneliness and unworthiness. Seeing people falling in love, walking holding hands, marrying , having fun, spending time with each other makes me sad, make me feel unworthy discarded and unloved because I know what I have and the misconceptions and stigma surrounding HIV. And what makes it worse is that the negative experience you have with some of those who are against stigma and discrimination or those who are supposed to be ‘educated’ it doesn’t get any easier. Sometimes there is difficulty in concentration as the mind often wanders. I am here, but in fact I am not here. The lack of sleep, anxiety, irregular and sometimes unhealthy eating habits, loss of appetite are all some of what I experience. I constantly worry about the stigma and discrimination and that bothers me. Taking my medications daily is a constant reminder of what I have, and that contributes to my depression as well. I know there are many who are trying to help and many who will say, “you are not alone”, but you are indeed alone. When in your private ‘space’ and you look at yourself from the outside, that is when it really hits you, that you indeed are alone. I have not reached the point of acceptance after all these years”. “On a daily basis I take three tablets which include 2 for depression and PTSD. When I was first diagnosed I was taking four tablets per day, two in the mornings and the evenings”. However, with advancements in medicine, those persons infected by HIV/AIDS are able to live longer and more fulfilled lives.  Many HIV/AIDS persons no longer have to be taking three or four tablets per days. As with all medications, there are side effects. But the way in which they affect me, might not necessarily affect another person at all or in the same way. In addition not all HIV/AIDS meds have the same side effects. I am thankful that I have not been experiencing any severe side effects of my medication. I have only been nauseous a few times along with a lack of appetite. Other common side effects are diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, body fat redistribution and lactic acidosis which includes difficulty breathing, fast or irregular heartbeat, weakness, unusual muscle pain and dizziness.
Jaye provided some heartfelt and sound advice for those who are infected as well as for those who are sexually active but are unaware of their HIV status. “To those infected by HIV/AIDS I say, live in the now and not be too be caught up in fears about what the future holds. Try to find a balance to live with your medical status by not allowing HIV/AIDS to control your life. Try to be hopeful, take care of your health and most important, adhere to your medication regime. Always try to do the things that make you feel good. Try to avoid negative energies and do not let the opinions of others control who you are. Surround yourself with beautiful things, embrace today and live today for tomorrow. Try not to become a recluse but try to connect with others so as to establish a chain of support. HIV/AIDS does not define you. There is life after HIV”.
Living by Faith
Jaye shared a little about her faith and how her anchor in God was tested. “It has been a struggle for me regarding my faith, as I used to question why God allowed this in my life and all the ‘domino effects’ after. Is it my punishment from Him because I was an unmarried pregnant woman? Or is it something having a greater meaning or purpose? I do not know the answer. However what I can say is that if it weren’t for God, I would not be alive and healthy at this moment. I could have been like countless others, being homeless, abandoned, banished, sick and suffering and without support. I am grateful everyday for His blessings and mercies. I can see His blessings in my life. There are still many doubts at times and my faith wavers, but I do try my best, as I am thankful and grateful everyday for what I have  and how far I have come, and I know I have much more to contribute”.
The Cost of Medication
The cost of medication is expensive regardless of where one lives. According to Jaye who currently lives in Canada it cost $5,000 Canadian dollars for three months supply of antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s). However, she quickly adds that the State provides assistance with the cost of the medication.  The federal, provincial, and territorial governments of Canada are responsible for the administration of their own publicly-funded out-patient prescription drug benefit program. Each offers varying levels of coverage, with different eligibility criteria, enrolment processes, deductibles etc.
Some are income-based universal programmes. Most have specific programmes for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. Some examples are Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) programme provide coverage for drugs listed on the ‘Drug Benefit List’. Interim Federal Health (IFH) programme provides limited temporary health insurance to protected persons, including resettles refugees, and refugee claimants in Canada through three basic types of coverage. There is also the Canada Forces Health Services (CFHS) which is the designated health care provider for Canada’s military personnel.    
Regardless of the jurisdiction which governs us, we all belong to one race, the human race and should therefore show compassion and empathy towards those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The global World AIDS Day campaign with the theme: Right to Health fits perfectly with the WHO slogan of Everyone Counts. The WHO continues to advocate for access for safe, effective, quality, and affordable medicines in reaching the goal of universal health coverage.  It bares thought that meaningful and sustainable development cannot be achieved if the AIDS epidemic continues unabated and is allowed to drain our human resources. A concerted global campaign is required as we work towards better medicines and a world without AIDS. On this World AIDS Day, December 1, I wish to wholeheartedly thank my friend Jaye for sharing her story, a story of hardship, resilience and survival. In all the years I have known Jaye I have never seen her frown. She is always so very engaging and generous.  I truly hope Jaye’s story will provide some inspiration for someone who is going through a similar journey. As the interview came to a close Jaye made an appeal in a powerful statement “Get tested, at least once per year. There are many who have the virus but are not aware of this. It can be present in the body, but at the time of testing, does not have a positive indication. It is also necessary to remember that the virus is not only transmitted through sexual intercourse. Hence the importance of annual testing”.
Jaye, strongly believes in giving back and as such she is a volunteer with several support groups. These support groups assist with accommodation, medical referrals, child support, internet access and educational upgrading to name a few. The groups have been my tower of strength and support. I would not have made it this far without them, Jaye added.    
As a society we need to create and engage in more public education campaigns, especially those of a gender transformative nature which will appeal to men while at the same time reduce violence and serve as a tool of empowerment for women. Jamaica continues to lag behind in terms of passing legislation which will make it a criminal offense for a HIV positive person not to disclose their status before engaging in sexual behaviours and this needs urgent attention. In the closing words of Jaye, “Discrimination, stigma and banishment only adds salt to the wounds of the affected”.
The pseudonym Jaye was used so as to conceal the identity of the interviewee.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#EveryoneCounts #MyRighttoHealth #WorldAIDSDay #sustainabledevelopmentgoals #culture #gender #violence #stigma #discrimination #depression #UNAIDS #womenshealth #healthcare

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Male Sex Drive

The male sex drive is undoubtedly one of the most powerful urges which oftentimes seems unbridled to our female counterparts. However, if one subscribes to Darwinism, one might argue that this cannot be helped and that men are merely acting out their animal instincts.
Much of a man's masculinity is bottled up in his sexual capability. It can be argued that should man’s sexual capability be taken away then man and manhood would be viewed as a lion without teeth. This untamed sexual urge has held man captive from the beginning of time; however, this should not detract from having a good healthy sex drive.
Masculinity and Pornography
It bares thought that pornography has becomes more than just an attraction. If masculinity is caught up in sexuality and viewed solely via this lens; then pornography is undoubtedly an affirmation of masculinity for many. Pornography appeals to; the visual, stimulates the physical and temporarily satisfies the emotional, without a commitment.
It is often said that a man needs respect. Every man wants to feel like a king and been seen as being the man in charge. Pornography provides a vicariously experience.  The female in most cases serves the man who compliments and boosts his ego until he fulfils his desires to the tune of more compliments and affirmation.  Affirmation of young men via paternal unit would be an effective start to curbing this issue. Equally importantly is, having a positive male figure to mentor young men about manhood go beyond sex.
Sexual Desires
I once heard of a man who got aroused by being slapped in the face with pies. Whatever floats your boat is fine, as long as it's not illegal. Without an understanding partner a man finds comfort in those he watch openly carrying out acts he so passionately desires. However, it's been found that through proper communication, these desires can be expressed and often fulfilled by an understanding spouse.  So as personalities are different likewise are our desires.  However, limits must be drawn with sexual desires. These desires must be satisfied and freely served by both parties. For example, a man's desire for a threesome is generally him along with two others; however, the female partner idea about this is usually not taken into much consideration. For most the idea just became distasteful. A man must reach the point where he openly discloses his feelings and sexual desires to his spouse. In so doing he can express greater control over this part of his masculinity. It is always best to master one’s sexual urges than to be mastered by it. Sometimes our sexual desires deviate far beyond the boundaries of what is considered normal. This is a sensitive and sometimes a secret part of our lives. In many instances this secret becomes our second life. The porn industry has recognized this and as any smart business would the industry has capitalized on it. This industry has filled some of our darkest desires and in doing so has comforted many who has long to fulfill those desires. However, this desire at some point cannot be fulfilled only with the visual and once again the porn industry answers the call becoming match makers.  I for one will not say that a spouse should give in to the every desire of their mate, but a relationship should have open communication without the fear of being ridicule. Let's face it; some of these desires can be out right dangerous.
Reality versus Fantasy
We also run into the issue of unreal expectations. What is done on camera in many cases is finalized by editing.  The one hour sex session is subject to editing as well as the directors take on things. However, many watch thinking this is a true depiction of reality and develop unreal expectations. The reality is; many women in porn do not like what they do and some wish they could erase all footage of themselves from circulation. I was once told by a former porn star that in many of her filming she was under some kind of influence to make it easier. So porn not only obscures our view of manhood but predetermine our sexual interaction and expectations based on mere dramatization. Paying for a private strip show, lap dance or voyeur session is not the same as maintaining a relationship and surely cannot be compared with cohabitation. It is void of commitment; the pillow talk, hugs and cautious but selective language. Money answers all those things. It can be argued that such a person has detached himself from such responsibility and seems the better for it. However, the same person reaps its effects, for example, when he is ill or wanting to vent and how sorry that life must be when such an individual is penniless or without internet access.
Pornography truly brings pleasure and we must not deny this. However, we must see it for what it is. In most times pornography is the director’s view on reality to heighten sexual arousal and fulfill unrealized fantasies. The question we should then ask is; how does one separate oneself from the porn ideals and keep focus on what is reality in order to have a healthier sexual and overall relational life.

Andrew Nugent,
#pornography #sexdrive #masculinity #manhood #sexualfantasy #culture #society #Darwinism #communication #internet #relationship #voyeurism #intimacy #mentoring #rolemodel

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Celebrating Men and Boys

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.
It is rather disturbing and disingenuous that in the discourse surrounding gender relations, the issues which are of concern to men are often kicked to the curb.  Our general stereotype of men and masculinity often runs counter to having an enlightened engagement of men’s issues, and sadly those who advocate for men’s issues are frequently looked upon as strange. However, not to be daunted there is an urgent need for a concerted and sustained campaign to realign and re-balance the narrative to one of gender inclusiveness. Perhaps there is no better time to sit down and discuss men’s issues than International Men’s Day (IMD) which provides such a platform on which positive manhood can be celebrated.  Needless to say we will never have gender equality if we continue to ignore the plight of any one sex.  The ongoing gender debate in the society regarding the lack of male presence in our families and the general state of masculinity is often poisonous to the male gender, and this is certainly not beneficial in having a society which respects everyone regardless of one’s sex. We must never forget that there are good fathers, husbands and men in general.  It bares thought that in order to bring awareness to the work and sacrifices of good men; we should celebrate Men and Boys, which interestingly is the theme for International Men’s Day (IMD) on November 19, 2017.  Among the objectives of International Men’s Day (IMD) are; the improvement of gender relations, a focus on men’s and boy’s health, the promoting of gender equality and to highlight positive male role models.  International Men’s Day is that one day that is set aside to commemorate the achievements and contribution of men in all spheres of the society; in their communities, families, marriage, and child care while recognizing the discrimination men experience.  
Men’s Rights: Celebrating Men and Boys
According to a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) research, male life expectancy at birth was 69 years compared to 75 years for women, therefore women on average live 5 years longer than men.  Among the twenty causes of death listed by the 2015 WHO survey, prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS, violence, coronary heart attack are of particular concern to men. It is paradoxically to speak of a celebration of men and boys which addresses needs which are of concern to them.  Our men and boys must be in good health for example in order to have this celebration. We need to revisit the culture in which men are socialized to bare pain and not to seek medical attention leading to a state of unwellness and oftentimes death.  Another related area of concern for men is that of suicide rate.  Males are particularly at risk at taking their lives, up to three times more likely than women, due to how they are socialized to be macho. Suicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic”, epidemic because of its high incidence and substantial contribution to men’s mortality. This macho-induced model of socialization often runs counter to the perception of maleness and masculinity and prevents men from seeking the necessary help and or support in working out personal and relational issues which oftentimes are at the root of suicide.
There are some who will undoubtedly question what discrimination men face in the patriarchal society and indeed world; however, in most countries men still face prejudice in terms of family law, specifically as it relates to child custody. The tendency is for the family court system to award mothers’ custody of children. Defining masculinity and manhood is rather subjective and fluid. However, Linden Lewis defines masculinity as a socially construct of gendered behaviours and practices of men, which are not frozen in time or culture and which are mediated by notions of race, class, ethnicity, religion, age and sexual orientation. The fact is in order to have good men; the society must take on the role of mentoring our boys to become the good men.  It is important that as men we seek to raise the awareness of issues which are of concern not only to men but to having a more harmonious gender relation.  The discourse surrounding issues of gender and development is often imbalanced resulting in a void regarding the concerns of men and boys.  It is imperative that as men we are given the space and time necessary to share our concerns, stories and achievements. Men and Boys ought to be celebrated!  We should not forget the government’s role in relations to setting polices, one of which the National Gender Policy. The absence of the Male Desk is quite appalling as well as disturbing as the rights and concerns of men presently does not have an official voice through which to advocate on their behalf. The government can show its commitment to the celebration of men and boys by re-establishing the Male Desk at the Bureau of Gender Affairs which falls within the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports. There is undoubtedly a need for more research at the university level on men’s issues in order to assist the government to develop data driven gender policies which will address those specific concerns . The society also needs to create more spaces for male gender specialists given that females cannot adequately advocate on men issues.  As we pause on International Men’s Day which was revived by Jerome Teelucksingh in 1999 to celebrate our collective masculinities in our men and boys, we also need to recognize our differences as well. We all have a role to play in commemorating this very special day, whether by organizing public seminars, engaging students and youngsters, having discussion with men on the corner, organizing a sporting event in your community, having a church service, having displays or volunteering to become a mentor.  The time is now for men to recommit and plead their support in the campaign to improve gender relations in the Jamaican society. It is only by the constructive engagement of the male specie that we will be able to achieve Vision 2030 by making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. Jamaica joins the global community in wishing every male Happy International Men’s Day!  In the powerful words of Henri-Frederic Amiel, it is not what he has, or even what he does which expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.   
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#InternationalMensDay #manhood #masculinity #mensrights

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Married But Less Sex: A Male Perspective

“My wife and I are deeply committed to each other but to have a happier marriage we need more sex”. Those are the words of my colleague, Alphanso, age 43; one might add the sentiments expressed by him are quite common in today’s society, especially among men. In almost every research done on relationship and the extent to which couples are happy, sex is usually the number one area of concern for both partners. The frequency of sex between married couples is often a private matter and as such lends itself to much debate with regards to what makes for a healthy marriage. “Sexual intercourse is dynamic and should be in a marriage” so says Andrew, Whether we admit to it or not we live in a sexualized and an instant gratification world. Sex, is one of ways in which intimacy can be expressed between couples. Denton, age 44, who is also married, adds a different dimension.  He opines that some women withhold sex in a marriage as a way of punishing the husband.  According to Denton, who is also a Christian “lady withholding sex because the man didn’t meet up to her expectation, didn’t clean the car, didn’t come home early enough”. As a result of missing the deadlines a “shop lock” effect comes into play; of course this is not a game any husband is fond of.  However, the “shop lock” scenario, is not gender specific, and there are some males who too use this mechanism either to punish or get back at their spouse.  Undoubtedly, sex is important in having and maintaining a healthy marriage. Conversely, there are occasions where factors can and does interfere with the frequency of this most precious of God’s gift.  Some of the factors which impact the frequency of sex include the work schedule of both partners. There are many instances in which couple‘s work time is so different that they are forced to schedule time for intimacy. One also has to consider whether or not the couple has children. According to Chris, the frequency of sex in a marriage is dependent on whether or not the couple has children. He is of the opinion that two to three times weekly is adequate if the couple has children. He goes to say, “If they have kids, maybe 4 times a month”. Denton adds that in order to meet the financial responsibilities of the family, both the wife and husband go to work. This he argues inevitably sees both individuals competing against themselves on different team, which puts a strain on the relationship and marriage. We must be reminded that in a marriage there should be only one team. If there are any diversions from this one team narrative, there will be trouble in any marriage.  This is never a good sign and couples which find themselves at this point must see this as a red flag and seek immediate counselling to address this.  According to Dr. Harriet Lerner, author of “Marriage Rules”, “a big problem in marriage is that one of both people start thinking something is wrong with them because they’re not having sex as much as they think they should. There is no guideline to which frequency of sex in a marriage is written. Each couple has to define their frequency of sex and intimacy based on their unique circumstances, such as the sex drive, health of the partners and or age. Denton makes an important point when he says, “intimacy is the energy, tonic, glue of a marriage” It bears thought, how healthy can a marriage be without sex? Lee, age 48 who has been married for 16 years says sex is important in a marriage because “it cements the relationship providing a bond between both people”.  When asked, how often sex happen in a marriage, Lee added, “as often as each other is able to invest in the process to get it done”.  It can be argued that if couples are not careful sex then becomes a duty and not a necessary component for having a healthy marriage. For Denton, if the atmosphere is right, nightly sex is welcome.  One has to differentiate as well between Christian marriages versus non-Christian marriages. As Christians the marriage vows are usually taken more seriously. It is quite common practice for couples in a Christian marriage to think twice before calling it a day. For Christians marriages go beyond the earthly covenant. In Christendom a marriage takes on the added significance of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. It is the spiritual representation of our relationship with God. Andrew, a colleague, said “but one thing some Christian women are criticized for is not satisfying their man, either by refusing to have sex or just not wanting to do certain things. However, this may be a mindset of security where they feel safe because they have a church man. So the thought of him straying doesn’t seem to dawn on them. It also might be that they see themselves like trophies and somewhat irreplaceable”.  Andrew, who has been married for 16 years, goes on to add that married women in general dress too conservatively when their spouses are at home. “Sexual fantasies are not given enough consideration” According to him, women and men allow themselves to become unattractive with excessive weight gains. An unattractive spouse will make intimacy and sexual intercourse that more challenging and infrequent regardless of whether or not the marriage is a Christian or non-Christian one. Unfortunately, many churches still view sex as a tabooed subject, and as a result, a lot of misinformation regarding sex, sexuality and the responsibility of spouses continue to flourish.   Each marriage is unique; and as such the individuals involved in a marriage must take ownership for the successes and or failures of this covenant agreement. It takes years to fully know your partner. It can be argued that a marriage is a work in progress. In the powerful words of Martin Luther, “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage”.  

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development
policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#sex #marriage #taboo #relationship #family #church #gender #sexuality

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Interrogating Jamaican Masculinity

“Black men struggle with masculinity so much. The idea that we must always be strong really presses us all down- it keeps us from growing”. –Donald Glover  
Historically, the male gender has been privileged, not only in Jamaica but also on a global scale. According to Mark Figueroa, in the book, Interrogating Caribbean Masculinities: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses, “The male gender has had access to a broader social space; it has had greater control over a wider range of resources and has been more able to enjoy that it has controlled”. The privileging afforded to the male gender has significantly contributed to what some may view as the unhealthy and undesirable state of masculinity in the Jamaican society.  Additionally, the notions of masculinity and manhood are deeply entrenched and associated with the sexual objectification of women. It can be argued that all men at some point in their lives struggle with society’s standards regarding the unrealistic benchmark surrounding masculinity and manhood. As men, we are faced with a plethora of don’ts; from the silly, such as real men don’t cry, to real men don’t wear pink to the culturally popular and accepted saying that a real man should be involved in multiple relationships “gallist”. Defining masculinity and manhood is rather subjective and fluid. However, Linden Lewis, defines masculinity as a socially constructed set of gendered behaviours and practices of men, which are not frozen in time or culture and which are mediated by notions of race, class, ethnicity, religion, age and sexual orientation. Men rarely speak about their insecurities, it is not a manly thing to do, however, if truth be told, a significant number of men are made to feel less than by the ideals of manhood society portrays. A less than or feeling inadequate can emerge from not being able to provide for one’s family, measuring one’s phallic member to what one perceive it should be, comparing and contrasting body image. There is unending list of factors which men measure themselves against in defining and re-defining their manhood. In most societies there is a clear and distinct division as it relates to the meaning of gender and sex.  Doing gender is a classic sociological concept developed by Candace West and Don Zimmerman. According to West and Zimmerman gender is not something we are not born with, and not something we have, but something we do. Sex, on the other hand relates to the biology of an individual, based primarily on the reproductive prospective of the human being. The period of adolescence if often described as a most turbulent period, one characterized by experimentation, pain, failures and success and paves the way for adulthood. Traditionally, the male was seen as the protector, warrior, and hunter within the family whose primary responsibility was to ensure the safety of the family. However, the dynamics as it to relate to gender roles and responsibilities have changed over time and continue to do so.  This change has undoubtedly emasculate many men and they try to define what masculinity means in their social space. The intersection of misogyny, gender-based violence, patriarchy and cultures has impacted on the development of masculinity and manhood in all societies.        
The Development of Masculinity   
As human beings we imitated others. Outside of the fancy theories which are put forward to explain masculinity boys are socialized to mimic the role and traits of their fathers or men in their village, tribe and or communities in order to become a real man. The pathway was clear then and there was no need to interrogate and explain away differences in the society.  However, over the years there have been many theories which have tried to explain the evolution in the development process of childhood. One of the more popular among the theories is that of Object Relations Theory. This theory posits that every infant has an initial primary attachment to its mother. It is argued that after an extended period of being merged with the mother, the infant begins to separate and takes on its own identity.
Greenson and Stoller propose that a boy, as he gradually realizes that his biological sex is different from his mother’s feels compelled to give up his attachment to her and to disindentify with her as he establishes a male identity that corresponds with his biological sex.  Another theory which speaks to identity is the Gender Differentiation Theory. Irene Fast, author of Gender Identity: A Differentiation Model,  argues, that boys and girls differentiates themselves from one another as masculine and feminine in areas that correspond to societal models that may have little to do with actual biological difference. “It is the social meaning of the anatomical differences that is determinative, not the differences themselves”. It bears thought that gender is chiefly based on the performance associated with the biological sex one feels most connected to.  
Indicators of Manhood
The construction of Jamaican masculinity is deeply rooted in the cultural trappings of the society which differentiate between masculine and unmasculine domains. It can be argued that the indicators of manhood are personal as much as they are diverse. Unfortunately, since there is no official Rite of Passage from boy to manhood, it is rather difficult to gauge at one point a boy becomes a man. It can be argued that this transitionary phase is rather private and gradual. The standards by which maleness and masculinity are measured have their genesis in the aggression and tough exterior by which men are socialized. An older colleague revealed that for him manhood began at age 13. This was the age he discovered masturbation and at that point realized he had become a man. Yet, another colleague informed me that being put out of the family home at 18 by his strep-dad, was that point in his life when manhood was trusted upon him. A third colleague in his 30’s laughed when asked the question and replied that he did not know. A college batch mate said he became a man at age 19 when he stopped seeking approval from his parents about some issues in his life and started sleeping out. A friend for over 12 years said, manhood hit him at age 18. He added the laws of the land designate 18 as the age when one is responsible for themselves. 
A church brother, who is married and the father of 3 boys said manhood was trusted upon him at age 12. At that age he had passed the Common Entrance to high school and given the distance to school, he had to leave his parents home to live with a cousin. However, the cousin was hardly ever in Jamaica and the he assumed the daily responsibility of getting himself prepared for school. The construction of manhood and masculinity must also be viewed in terms of pluralizing the term masculinity.  Professor of Sociology, R. William Connell’s theory of multiple masculinities speaks of a hegemonic masculinity to which most men adhere, however, Connell also make reference to subordinate masculinities, which some men subscribe to. The realization that there are multiple masculinities and that this will have a profound impact on how a male come to the acceptance and realization that he is a man cannot be overstated. Among the popular indicators of Jamaican manhood especially rooted in the “street culture” are the smoking of marijuana, commonly called ganja, the consumption of alcoholic drinks and early sexual initiation. The reference point of manhood differs for every man. The involvement in sports is often another indicator of manhood which serves as a bridge from boyhood to manhood for a significant number of males. Another indicator of manhood in the society is grounded in graduating from high school. For a significant number of boys, school has been and continues to be viewed as a site of effeminacy and runs counter to the toxic brand of masculinity which is prevalent in the society.  The situation of boys’ education is even worst at the primary level where it is not uncommon to have a male teacher.  Odette Parry opines that education is decried as effeminate, a view which culminates in, an anti-academic ethos celebrated by the version of masculinity which informs classroom responses. Parry adds that education is not seen as “macho”, and a real man is therefore defined out of education and as such pursues other interests. There are many elements one has to consider in analyzing and interrogating the construction of Jamaican masculinity. Research done in Australia by Wayne Martino found that boys are uninterested in English because of what it might say about their masculinity. This issue of gender endangerment adds yet another layer of burden to our boys whereby they are forced to give up on speaking Standard English, since “good” speech is often associated with queer masculinity, outside of the dominant version of masculinity.   Academic underperformance can be viewed as one component of maleness in the Jamaican society. Mark Figueroa posits the view that there is an association between male academic underperformance and gender socialization practices which are rooted in male privileging. Boys are treated in a different manner than from girls from the beginning. In the homes, boys are expected to misbehave and given privileges to socialize with their friends outside of the home. Girls on the other hand are anticipated to stay at home and assist with chores as well as conform to the rules of the home. “The different requirements of female versus male grooming has been given as one example of how differential socialization impacts on skills learnt that are later useful in school (Sobo 1993, 156). This gendered approach to parenting and child rearing often serves as a stumbling block for many boys during the period of schooling and formal education.  Disturbingly, boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. It is almost as if manhood and masculinity have been hijacked by a thug culture far removed from education.  It is very clear that there is no one size fits all surrounding manhood.
Pornography and Masculinity
Pornography is everywhere. It is estimated that there are over 420 million adult web pages online. Excessive watching of pornography can and does contribute to a flawed sense of masculinity and manhood. A real man sees a woman for who she is. He respects her as well as her individuality. Pornography on the other hand, objectifies women, turning women into “things” which are there to satisfy a man’s sexual desires. The overindulgence of pornography, especially among young men who are still navigating their sexuality has added a distorted view of masculinity and manhood which sadly, a growing number of men fall into.  According to research done by Dr. Heather Rupp, pornography solves a primal problem for men: It offers easy access to commitment-free sex with multiple partners. Research indicates that the average boy watches approximately two hours of porn weekly becoming common by age 15. In a 2014 study, Dr. Foresta found that sixteen (16%) percent of high school seniors who used online porn more than once per week reported abnormally low sex desire, while none of those who did not use it reported abnormally low sexual desire. In recent studies there has been an association between erectile dysfunction and online porn use. In general terms we are what we consume. In explaining the impact of pornography on the brain, psychologist, William M. Strutters, said, “Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and have a long-lasting effect of their thoughts and lives”. He adds that pornography acts as a polydrug.  According to Struthers the male and female brain are wired differently. “A man’s brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience”.  
Without a general purpose for our lives we will be swept away by the strong current of social media and alternative cultural norms and mores. As men we need to be grounded in who we are and in terms of the purpose God has for our lives and our families. Without that spiritual and intimate connection to God we too will fall short of our purpose.
Masculinity and Men’s Health
It can be argued that gender socialization regarding how men are supposed to behave and conform to masculine norms is probably one of the biggest hurdles for men not accessing health care services.  Men on average die younger than women. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) 2015 survey, the life expectancy for females in Jamaica is 78.6 years compared to 73.9 years. Among the twenty causes for death listed by the same survey are prostate cancer, lung disease, breast cancer, stroke, violence, obesity, lung cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and coronary heart attack.  Men are socialized and cultured to bare pain and not to seek medical attention at the beginning of a state of unwellness, to do otherwise is an attack on one’s manhood. In many instances by the time a man is no longer to manage the pain or is forced to the doctor his medical condition might be far advanced. Additionally, the cultural fear many men have about having a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) is a contributing factor to the increase incidents of prostate cancer among the male population.  According to the WHO data published in May 2014, prostate cancer deaths in Jamaica reached 649 or 3.63% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 52.12 per 100, 000 of population ranks Jamaica at number 5 in the world. It is also said that a larger percentage of men have no insurance or in fact do not use their health insurance. More men than women smoke and drink excessively and die from motor vehicle accidents. Men are less likely to go to the dentist or visit the ophthalmologist. As the male gets older his propensity to visit access medical care increases. Interestingly, as the male grows older the notions of masculine norms, gender role expectations and masculinity seems to take a back seat to wanting to survive.  The health behaviours of men clearly put men more at risk for many non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) and a way must be found to chance this narrative. A renewed effort must be made to encourage men on a broader scale to access the available health care services which are available.
Conversation about the State of Masculinity in Jamaica
In spite of all that has been said it is becoming increasingly necessary to switch between competing masculinities depending on the social circumstances and cultural space one occupies. The defining indicators of manhood two decades ago are not the same in 2017. Growing into manhood in the 1980’s was clearly linked to a heighten sense of personal responsibility, juxtaposed to manhood in the 21st century, where young men wear their pants below their waist exposing their under garments. This 21st century re-construction of masculinity is accepting of young men bleaching their skin. The under-performance of boys in scholarly pursuits has been common and problematic. Another questionable indicator of manhood is the power and influence of popular culture, especially dancehall music on the construction of masculinity and manhood. It is time for us to reclaim our manhood? It was therefore refreshing to see the Back2Life Foundation rising to the occasion to stage a conversation about the state of masculinity in Jamaica, which was held on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Back2Life is a male youth transformation organization in which professional and otherwise accomplished young men complete the only accredited mentorship course in Jamaica enabling them to mentor male “youth at risk” towards productive, positive, personal and social conduct. Back2Life offers positive guidance and leadership not ordinarily available to this cadre of unattached youth. The project was launched in July of 2012 and the major project of the Rotary Club of Kingston.  The project has over 50 trained mentors who have mentored over 120 boys. The Foundation’s flagship project operates at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre which houses around 50 juvenile boys. As a society the time has come for us to embrace and foster a culture of mentoring and mentorship.  As the construction of family and family types turn more to one of single parent female headed households there is an urgent need for our boys to have positive male role model and influence. Interestingly, for some boys the acceptance of their manhood and masculinity is closely linked to their mother’s influence given the high absence of fathers in the house. As men we need to do better!
While the turnout of men to the Back2Life public forum was encouraging, the lack of sponsorship from corporate Jamaica for such a critical area of human development speaks volume regarding the significance of lack thereof that issues related to men are afforded. It bears thought, how can you help to mentor a young man? There is the Back2LifeFoundation account at the JN Bank Limited. The account number is 2094132099. The branch routing number is 00051. Perhaps now is a right time to enquire what has become of the Male Desk at the Bureau of Gender Affairs. We all have a stake in ensuring Jamaica becomes a better place.  It is only through mentoring and mentorship by providing positive male influence that Jamaica will realize Vision 20/30 by becoming the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. It is call to action. In the powerful words of Malcolm X, a man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.     
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#masculinity #manhood #sexuality #gender #education #mentoring #family #humandevelopment #erectiledysfunction #rolemodel #language #culture #menshealth #prostatecancer #Back2LifeFoundation #macho #gendersocialization #career #misogyny #genderbasedviolence #patriarchy #masturbation #pornography

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Trailblazing Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grizzle, CD

Three days after Ellen Campbell-Grizzle (PhD), received the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) for service in the field of pharmacology locally and regionally, I sat down with her at her New Kingston based office to get an insight into the life and work of this remarkable and industrious daughter of Jamaica. The fifth of seven children, Dr. Grizzle was born in St. James; however, her parents migrated shortly after her birth to Grange Hill, Westmoreland where she completed primary education. A past student of the Grange Hill Primary School, she displayed early scholarly smarts and was rewarded with a government scholarship to St. Andrew High School for Girls. Dr. Grizzle described her late father, James Constantine Augustus Campbell as amazing and gentle who encouraged her to read from an early age. “He made me feel like a ‘princess”, she said of her dad. Interestingly, her dad was also a pharmacist who discouraged his daughter from pursuing a similar career path due to the long working hours and poor remuneration. Her mother Ethline Eulalee Cottrell was Ellen’s role model. Dr. Grizzle described her mother as very outgoing who taught cooking and other skill areas at the local school. Sadly, her mother died in February of 2017 at age 106 but she lived long enough to see her daughter received her PhD from the University of the West Indies in 2011.  Her mother was also a member of the Women’s Federation a precursor to the modern day women’s rights organizations which are continuing the lobbying for the rights of women and girls.
Formative Years
After the completion of her secondary education at the prestigious all girls’ school, St. Andrew High School, Ellen worked for two years at Pan American Airlines. Dr. Grizzle confessed during our pre-lunch conversation that her first love was journalism and not pharmacology.  However, her burning desire to study journalism was not to be extinguished and would be realized in a rather strange way. Dr. Grizzle recalled that in the earlier days there was no programme in Jamaica which offered Journalism. As a result individuals who were so inclined had very few options, one of which was to study journalism through the Gleaner Company which at the time offered scholarships to aspiring journalists. It was while at a crossroads that Dr. Grizzle left her passenger service agent position at the airline and went to the College of Arts and Technology (CAST) to pursue a diploma in Pharmacology.  After graduating as a pharmacist Dr. Grizzle worked for 15 years, three of which were spent in the public sector. Dr. Grizzle also was a pharmacy owner and therefore has a unique understanding of all aspects of the profession and the business of pharmacy. She singled out working for Consolidated Laboratories as among her most meaningful experiences. It was while at CAST, which later became the University of Technology (Utech) than Dr. Grizzle” passion for public service grew and flourished. She became vice president of the CAST association of pharmacy students.  
Dr. Grizzle was very instrumental in successfully advocating for the University of Technology to offer the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree and this feat was realized in 1993 during her tenure as president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica. After working for over a decade as a pharmacist, her first love passion for journalism reignited and Ellen applied and was accepted to the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC).
Unknown to most people Dr. Grizzle was enrolled at both the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology pursuing bachelor’s degrees in pharmacology and Media and Communication at the same time. Dr. Grizzle quickly added that the pharmacology degree was an upgrade done in a modular summer programme since she already had a diploma in the discipline. This time of study was extremely challenging for her. This was especially so since she had practicum at the University Hospital of the West Indies and these sessions often clashed with class time at UWI. She was however able to successful complete both degrees and graduated with First Class Honours at UWI. She said, “God’s hand was at work which made her succeed”. Dr. Grizzle was encouraged to pursue the MPhil degree and would successfully upgrade to the PhD in 2011.
Work and Volunteerism
In addition to serving as president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Jamaica, (1992-1995),  Dr. Grizzle also was president for the Caribbean Association of Pharmacist from 2000-2008. Dr. Grizzle is currently the head of the Caribbean Institute of Pharmacy Policy Practice & Research (CIPPAR). She also worked at the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) where she was Director of Information and Research while spearheading a number of important national research projects on substance abuse.
Dr. Grizzle was also editor for Caribbean Pharmacy News for eight years. The very hardworking and affable Montegonian also had a column in the Gleaner called “Pharmacy Today”. Dr. Grizzle is certainly not all work and no fun person. She was married and has a son and a daughter and grandchildren.  It was the voice of her daughter and grandson which left Dr. Grizzle almost speechless at an event hosted by her colleagues and friends on the afternoon of Heroes Day which made the after National Heroes Day celebration more special. Nominated by her professional body, the Pharmaceutical Association of Jamaica Dr. Grizzle is the first pharmacist to have been awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).  Dr. Grizzle continues to be a trailblazer.
In the almost hour long conversation with Dr. Grizzle one could clearly hear the  enthusiasm not only for her chosen career paths but also for her voluntary work through the Kingston Soroptimist  Club which she served as president. Dr. Grizzle quickly added that the Soroptimist Club is the oldest all female club in Jamaica. She is very active in her work with the University of Technology Students Union and Alumni regarding the welfare of needy students.  
Transitioning to Academia
In 2011 Dr. Grizzle graduated from the UWI with a Doctor of Philosophy in Communication degree. Dr. Grizzle went to the University of Technology where she served as Dean for the College of Health Sciences from 2011-2016. She is currently the University of Technology Focal Point on Herbal-Cannabis enterprise, where Jamaican herbs are tested and made into medicine. She is also lead researcher for two ongoing projects, Project Livity- A National Health Fund (NHF) funded initiative which is aimed at producing Jamaica’s first National Food Consumption Survey and a Substance Abuse Tertiary Study. Patterns & Prevalence of Drug Use/Abuse in Tertiary Institutions.   As Dr. Grizzle entered a new phase of her life she revealed that she plans to write a book on the history of pharmacy in Jamaica.  Our conservation ended with a quinessential powerful statement of purpose: Writing and explaining is what is in my future”. This trailblazer continues on her mission. Congratulations Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grizzle, CD.  May God continue to bless and sustain her. 
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Pain, Poverty & Childhood

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul”- Dave Pelzer
Jamaica is often referred to as a Christian society. The society’s strong Judeo-Christian upbringing and socialization contribute to many of us being familiar with the Bible verse, Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly”. By now everyone would have watched or have heard of the video involving a mother dressed only in her underwear beating her pre-teen daughter with a machete. By now you would have come to arrive at some conclusion. For some in the society the mother should serve time in prison, while for others the mother should be given some counseling as well as parenting sessions. Historically, there is a sub-culture of a totalitarian approach to discipline as it relates to our children. Our perception of discipline is often skewed and most times no one comes to the defense of the victim. “A bad di pickney bad” is alarmingly the sentiments many of us have towards instances with clearly are cases of child abuse.  
Apart from the obvious beating seen on the video thanks to social media there are other underlying factors at play. Poverty has become a feature of many Jamaican families as more and more families struggle to provide even the basic needs of the household.  According to the World Bank, Jamaica is an upper middle income country but is affected by low growth and high public debt. The World Bank added that over the last 30 years real per capita GDP increased at an average of just one per cent per year. Sadly, the gist of all the statistics is that for many Jamaicans poverty is real and is a present and present danger. The condemnation and outrage of the mother was swift and perhaps rightly so, however, we need to also spend some time interrogating the social factors which clearly have contributed to the level of frustration in which a mother would resort to beating her own child with a machete. Such factors include, a society of absent fathers, high levels of poverty, teenage pregnancy and unemployment and inadequate state support for the most vulnerable in the society. 
Regrettably, as a society there is hardly any line of demarcation as it relates to disciplining a child and child abuse. The abuses many parents inflict on their children in the name of discipline has become culturally acceptable in many quarters and this has allowed many instances of child abuse to go unnoticed and unreported. Culturally, there is a widely held belief that parents cannot grow a child up without applying some form of corporal punishment.  Indeed it is from Proverbs again, this time chapter 23:13 that I draw reference,  “withhold not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” that undoubtedly, many Jamaicans take their cue as they try to curb maladaptive behaviours in their children.  In many our homes there is an absence of fathers and this ‘single- parentness’ adds to the levels of frustration a significant numbers of mothers experience on a daily basis. Regardless, of whether one is a parent or not one can surmise how difficult it is for both parents to raise a child; it is even more challenging for a single parent to do so with the support of a spouse of extended family. It is common place for many parents to beat a child with the first object that is closest to them, this is especially so for rural areas. Another cultural factor which contributes greatly to our children being abused is the culture of silence which has become almost a badge of honour in many communities.   Most disturbingly is the allegation that the person who made the video is a family member.
Legislation for the Protection of Children
It bares thought that for too many Jamaicans there is a disconnect between the Child Care & Protection Act and their reality in child rearing and the process of socialization. Under the Child Care and Protection Act (2004) Section 6 ii, an individual can be fined up to $500,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both for failure to report child abuse.  However, regardless of this many adults are complicit in acts of child abuse which allows the perpetrators to go unpunished while scaring the child permanently. Globally, children are protected by the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This Convention guarantees minimum standards for the protection of children against discrimination, protection and abuse.  These rights can be broadly classified into three sections. These are; Provision Rights which include the right to receive or have access to a name, nationality, education, healthcare, rest, care and play for the disabled and orphan. Protection Rights; which outlines the right to be shielded from harmful acts and practices, for example, the right to be protection from commercial and sexual exploitation. Last but by no means least, the Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasizes Participation Rights, these include the child’s right to be heard, for example, freedom of speech and opinion.   In spite of popular belief, to the contrary children do have rights and these rights must be enforced and protected.     
The Way Forward
There is clearly a need for the society to revisit our parenting practices and skills in a society which is arguably a violent place to raise children. This mother clearly needs help not only in her questionable parenting skills set, but in practical terms of providing adequately for her children. The parish of St. Thomas is one of the poorest with little or no major economic activity. This adds a sense of hopelessness and invariably frustration which disturbingly, many parents act out on their children. The State agencies need to mobilize themselves, agencies such as the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) urgently needs to so community development in and around the community to address among other issues the removal of zinc fence from where the individuals reside.  The church also needs to do some more social outreach programme in communities such as Bath, in St. Thomas.
The National Parenting Support Commission also has a huge role to play, not only in this instance but in the wider society where bad parenting skills have not been exposed on social media but have become embedded and acceptable in many quarters.
Evidently we will be having this conversation for quite a while, let us not lose focus on the victim, she will clearly require long time counseling and psycho social support.  A conscious and concerted effort must be made to break the culture and cycle of child abuse.  The fact that the incident of the child’s abuse was captured on social media it is very likely that she will become a target for bullying in the future from her peers. As a result, guidance counsellors should be dispatch to her school immediately to sensitize the students about the negative effects of bullying, such as suicidal thoughts.   Furthermore, the Education Act must be quickly revised to include a total ban on corporate punishment which is still being administered in some schools. Perhaps the way forward in this situation is not to imprison the mother. Maybe, this incident will be the one to awaken the society’s collective responsibility regarding child rearing which from all indications have gone dormant.  We all need to examine ourselves.     
“One knee does not bring up a child”- Tanzania Proverb
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#socialmedia #parenting #childabuse #poverty #education #family #culture #teenagepregnancy #bullying