I was listening to a Jamaican radio program the other day and they were talking about how rape was formerly part of the Jamaican culture. It was two male hosts and although I had no doubt they were serious there was playfulness about the way they approached the subject, being a Jamaican it made me sit up and listen but I did feel awkward. They laughed as they talked about when girls said no in Jamaica it meant nothing because men took it to mean yes and would basically force themselves onto the woman. Mostly men called in and one mentioned that when he came to America his mother made sure to tell him “no” meant no in America, and not the yes it implied in Jamaica. I gathered from listening that the point of the topic was to say that was then and this is now, back then men forced themselves and now they respect when the woman says no. However, there was something that just didn’t feel right about the conversation.
Just then a particular party came to mind, was in Jamaica and I attended a local party on Negril beach where they played a song by a local DJ whose lyrics referred to having “raper blood”, you got it “rape-r blood”. Raper blood was aggression towards women in a sexual way, about forcing oneself on a woman, in essence raping her. When that song came on the crowd went wild screaming and cheering, male and female.
They had party dancers who simulated intercourse in the most violent way, sometimes the male dancer jumped from on top of a table or shelf on to a female dancer being held by two male dancers. This routine was common and the highlight of the night, people came to the party and waited around to see the “rape” stunts. People of all ages, younger and older men and women and the majority of them cheered as the song played and the dancers danced. Simulated sex broke out all around the room; I was very disturbed by it. Mostly because I felt I could be raped at any minute. I was so disturbed I left the party. I couldn’t help but wonder how many girls would be raped that night because of this culture that painted rape as “manly” and macho or just a dance. Needless to say the next day I brought it up to some fellow Jamaicans and asked them if they knew about this “raper blood” song and the rape stunts. “Yea mon’” they all answered “a so dem dance” one added. To them Raper Blood was something innocent and a just a dance thing, they tried to convince me but I couldn’t process it. It was the sure way to get the girl, one said; the logic being “after you sex her then she will say yes,” another male fan explained to me. Even though the song said “raper blood” the men insisted it wasn’t really rape (in America it would be called date-rape). Many of the men stated they liked the girls, adding-look how they danced or how they were dressed, to the men---this was proof that they (the girls) wanted it and as men were just giving women what they wanted.
Later as I sat on the beach I saw one of my female teenage Jamaican friends (16 years), I couldn’t wait to ask her if she knew the raper song. “Yes”, she told me as she laughed at the face I was making. I asked how she felt about it, she shook her head and said “ah it a lick ya now” (meaning it was the current hit song at local parties). They were very cavalier but I was still traumatized and I wanted someone else to be outraged the way I was but no one else was, just me.
It was great to hear these men on the radio talk about the “rape culture” as if they were disgusted by it and I was glad they saw it as the past, but they talked as if it was only past for those living in America and I don’t think for a minute the hosts having the discussion understood that was the impression they were giving to listener, or maybe just me.
“They will call da police pon you now-a-days,” said the one with the deepest voice, the emphasis being on the woman will call the police and not that the act of forcing oneself onto a woman was wrong. The awkwardness I felt as I listened was that the hosts seemed to say it was off limits in America but still okay in Jamaica and if the song “Raper Blood” was any indication the culture is far from being in the past.