There’s a local saying (heard most often at bars) that in St. Lucia the only cheap commodities are ice—and women. While this may only be half true, after all ice is just water that can be frozen in your refrigerator, the line is disturbing. How does an innocent little baby girl made of sugar and spice and all things nice develop into a cheap woman? You might also ask: What exactly is a cheap woman? Isn’t human trafficking a crime?
What is it that changes a girl full of ambition, overflowing with dreams for her future, into a creature shunned even by former schoolmates? According to a 2008 study on Casual Sex published on Fox News.com, men lower their standards in the interests of one-night-stands. As for women, curiously researcher Anne Campbell, a psychologist at Durham University in England says: “Women are not well adapted to promiscuity.” The morning after a one-night stand, she states in her June 2016 report, women predominantly felt regret, cheap, horrified and degraded. Contrary to popular belief, most women do not consider casual sex a prelude to a long-term relationship.
“It’s not that they want a man to whisk them off and marry them,” Campbell told LiveScience. “Often they wanted to convince him they weren’t normally loose; they were doing it for him on this night as a particular event.”
So, is that why so many men consider women cheap? Does it appear to them that women are so starved of love that they willingly engage in one-night stands and other relationships, having convinced themselves they are being neighborly? Why do we feel the need to associate with men whose only interest is to find out what’s in our jeans?
Could the answer lie in the way young girls are brought up? Might poor parenting and poor housing be contributory factors? How about peer pressure? Is there something in particular that sets young girls off on the wrong track? I am reminded of a truism: As the twig is bent so the tree inclines.
Of course, the price men pay for their indiscretions hardly compares with what women must endure. Society ensures that. More often than not young girls in dire circumstances end up pregnant, often with no idea who might be their impregnator. Too many times misguided parents throw them out to the dogs, without a roof over their heads, without support, psychological and otherwise. How do they survive? Who provides shelter, food and other necessities? At what cost?
As the more fortunate among us go about our daily business, consumed by our own lives, we barely notice the desperate faces that appear far older than their true age. I spoke over the last week to four such young women in distress. They agreed to talk with me on condition of anonymity.
We’ll call the first Lisa; she is 24 and a mother of three young kids. She is also a prostitute. She told me, in the same tone she might’ve used if talking about the weather: “My first child was taken from me by his father. When I met the father of my other two children he convinced me I should sell myself for money. He would be my pimp. We live at his family’s home. They don’t treat me too nicely, even though they don’t know what I do so we can have something to eat!”
Lisa is barely literate. And of course she is otherwise unemployed. Her boyfriend-pimp drops her off at wherever her client expects to be served, then picks her up after she has delivered.
Sometimes he introduces Lisa to foreign visitors. “I pretend I have my own place and invite them to come with me.” Too late, her client will learn he has been set up. From out of nowhere, a man will emerge from the dark with a knife or a gun and relieve him of all his money, jewellery and whatever else of value he may be carrying. A number of times my boyfriend has beaten me because I had not earned enough. Several times he would beat me all the way from Rodney Bay to where we live.”
Then there is Sandy. One night she joined two Spanish guys she had met at a bar not far from Gros Islet. Together they went to the Friday Night Street Party, no strings attached. Her companions shared their drugs with her, served her lots of alcohol. Everyone was having a good time. But the night ended badly. Very badly. When Sandy refused to accommodate their sexual advances, the two men, both full of booze, turned like savages on her.
One of the men forced her mouth open, so aggressively, he split the corners. They punched and kicked her all over, tore off her clothes, abandoned her. Said Sandy, again ever so casually, “I went home in only my panties and bra.”
Wendy, 18, grew up almost on her own. Her mother was too busy minding her several other siblings. “When I was twelve,” she told me, “I went to a birthday party at a girlfriend’s house.” She still cannot say for certain details of everything that happened. But one thing she’ll never forget. “I was gang-raped. I suspect someone put something in my drink. I woke up covered in semen!”
It gets worse: two weeks later Wendy discovered she was pregnant; father unknown. Following her baby’s birth the young mother set out to find a man who cared enough to take care of her and her child. Her self-esteem, as she put it, had died on the floor where she had been ravaged. Almost every male she encountered afterward was handed the keys to her garden.
Finally her mother put her foot down. If she was going to do what she did every night with so many men, she advised her daughter, “then you might as well get paid for your services.” Sandy has been a prostitute on and off for at least four years.
This week I bumped into 21-year-old Anna at the Baywalk shopping mall, her young baby cradled in her arms. “My lady,” she half-whispered, “could you help me with some money? I need to buy a pack of pampers.”
I invited her to join me at a nearby coffee shop. Soon she was telling me the story of her short life. She had been unable to write her CXC exams; her mother could not afford the fees, around $500. Shortly after she dropped out of secondary school, Anna became involved with an unemployed young man from Dennery. The result was innocently asleep on her shoulder.
Anna said she had reported her baby’s errant father several times to social welfare but nothing had come of it. Meanwhile baby had to be fed . . . baby needed pampers, medicine. Recently Anna had hooked up with a Rastaman, more for mutual comfort than anything else. He, too, was unemployed. She had little choice, this young, attractive and pleasant young woman, but to beg from total strangers, even at night. Especially for young women, a most precarious activity nowadays.
As earlier noted, the names have been changed to spare the featured unfortunates further embarrassment. Hopefully, my story will give the authorities cause for pause. After all, theirs are the stories of thousands of other young women and men the length and breadth of our country!
Each week a fresh set of faces appear in the Rodney Bay area. Begging random passers-by for money to purchase one thing or another. Whether it be to supply their basic necessities, to feed their young or to cater to ole vices, they all pick Rodney Bay as the prime location to approach those who seem to be keeping afloat during these trying financial times.
How profitable is begging? Why has it become so common among the youth?
Well, if a person gets as little as a dollar from a hundred people willing to part with small change, a committed beggar can actually make a pretty decent income in a day. Better than many people working a nine-to-five. So having done the maths, is it possible that prostitution and begging are the best means for our youth to earn an income? Considering the lack of jobs available, especially to those who have not any CXC’s or a degree, perhaps this is the only way they can actually survive. What does that say about us?