Saturday, May 27, 2017

More Trini women watch porn

Compared to other societies...

nw516

Mark Fraser


More Trinidadian women watch porn as compared to women in other societies. And more Trinidadian men lie about watching porn than men in other societies. And many Trini men and women are hypocritical about the effects of porn on their sex lives.


Surveys in developed Western nations find that less than half of women watch porn. But, according to the 2011 Norms and Values Survey, conducted by the ANSA McAL Psychological Research Centre, 52 per cent of Trinidadian women admitted to watching porn (and 60 per cent of Tobagonian women did so). For the Trini men, 79 per cent said they watched porn but, in other societies, 85 to 90 per cent of men have done so at some point. 


Given that Trinidad has one of the highest per capita rates for porn searches on Google, these figures are likely to be underestimated. Moreover, although at least 64 per cent of the respondents admitted to watching porn, most of them also agreed that pornography was bad. Thus, 65 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that porn was harmful, while a whopping 82 per cent thought that porn degraded women and 76 per cent agreed that porn led to sexual addiction.


In other words, many of the same persons who watched porn agreed that they were being harmed by it. Assuming no overlap,  37 per cent of men who watched porn believe it is harmful, as do 17 per cent of the women. Similarly, 37 per cent of the women who watched porn also think it demeans women, and at least half the men who watch porn consider themselves addicted to it.


It should be noted, however, that the respondents in this survey had several wrong beliefs about sexual behaviour in Trinidad and Tobago. For example, 74 per cent of them believed that most couples in T&T are in common-law relationships, whereas the actual figure is just ten per cent. Moreover, psychologist David Ley argues in his book The Myth of Sex Addiction that: “The field of sex addiction is a belief system, not a scientific or medical school of thought...intimately connected to the conflicted sexual morality embedded in our culture.”


So do these figures show that Trinidadian women are more sexual than other women? Historically, women here have often been portrayed as promiscuous. An 1806 news report about the island asserted that “the puberty of females is much accelerated, and they become mothers frequently when they are only 12 years old.” And, in 1889, an ordinance was proposed to lower the age of consent from 16 to 13 years, with representatives for the planters arguing that “girls developed more rapidly in the tropical climate”.


In developed nations where data on such matters are collected, the age of puberty has dropped since the early 20th century to now. Whereas the average age for menarche used to be 13 to 14 years, more girls are now entering puberty at nine. In the United States, for example, one out of every seven white girls has her first period at this age, while one in every two black girls does. Scientists have offered various explanations ranging from nutrition to parenting style to genes.


The first cause is the most straightforward—overweight girls have puberty earlier. There is some evidence that, in prehistoric times, human females became sexually mature at around 17 to 19 years old. When sugar and fat became more readily available, this may have accelerated the fat ratio which signalled the brain to start releasing sex hormones, hence bringing the age of puberty up to 13 years.


Then there is the “hot father” theory, which says that men who have many sex partners are more likely to be absent fathers and pass on a gene to their daughters which triggers early puberty. This may also be related to the issue of parenting style, however. 


Girls who have an insecure attachment to their mothers (caused by a parenting style in which the child is either not given affection or given inconsistent affection) develop an emotional state in which they unconsciously believe they may have a limited lifespan in which to reproduce. A team led by American psychologist Jay Belsky found that girls who had been categorised in infancy as having insecure attachments saw their menstrual cycles earlier (around age ten) as compared to girls with secure attachment to their care-givers.


So, given T&T’s history of slavery and the resultant insecure family structure, the historical claim that Trinidadian girls matured early may have some basis in fact. There is, however, no data on this issue.


What has remained constant is the assertion of female promiscuity. In his book Calypso & Society in Pre-Independence Trinidad, Gordon Rohlehr writes: “It was assumed in Calypso that women were naturally fickle and unfaithful...many women were as mistrustful – and wisely so – of entering into any binding relationship with unreliable men who would try and control their income and limit their independence...”


While there is also no data on how promiscuous women were or were not, the statistics on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) from that era, before medical advances provided cures for most of them, can serve as a proxy. These figures relate only to persons who came in voluntarily for blood tests, so the actual infection rates must have been much higher. Thus, between 1944 and 1946, according to records from the Central Statistical Office, more than 20 per cent of persons taking blood tests were found to have STDs. In the 1950s, the ratio dropped for women but stayed about the same for men. 


The group with the highest percentage of positive test results were Afro-Trinidadians, followed by mixed persons, Indians, Chinese, and whites. Men in all racial groups had higher rates of infection than the women, except for the Chinese and white women. For these two groups, especially white women, infection rates surpassed the men’s in 1948 and 1951. 


This may have had something to with the presence of American soldiers in Trinidad during the Second World War. The figures may mean that, for the other three groups, a minority of women were infecting the men—ie, the majority of black, mixed, and Indo women had fewer sexual partners than white or Chinese women. Or it could simply mean that white and Chinese women were more likely to go for STD tests.


American biologist Robert Trivers in his book The Folly of Fools notes that places which have high numbers of different parasites, such as the tropics, also have high levels of sexual promiscuity in certain species, including humans. This, he writes, is “presumed to represent an adaptive response to parasite load by increasing genetic quality of offspring.” 


However, parasite loads in societies are also correlated with diversity of religion. Thus, although Canada and Brazil are about the same size, Canada has just 15 religions while Brazil has 159. “High parasite load societies appear to be more xenophobic, more in-group oriented and homogenous, more suppressive of women, less permissive of casual sex,” Trivers writes.


Google Trends also finds that such societies also have the highest search rates for porn, with Pakistan being the leader in this respect. In T&T, rhetoric about sexual morals do not match the reality of sexual behaviour, as most clearly demonstrated by what Trinidadians say about pornography publicly and what they do privately. But an even clearer indicator of this gap is perhaps found in the response to the question “Are you faithful to your partner?” 


To this 95 per cent of respondents in the Norms and Values Survey responded with a resounding “Yes”.