Caribbean Literature and Sexuality

Authored by: Faith Smith

The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  June  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415485777
eBook ISBN: 9780203830352
Adobe ISBN: 9781136821745

10.4324/9780203830352.ch42_a

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Abstract

One way to interpret Mary Prince’s discomfort about telling readers that she had to bathe her master, is that it was her coded way of saying that she was sexually violated. Nineteenth-century enslaved narrators like Prince understood that this sort of testimony risked confirming to their white middle-class abolitionist readers that they were indeed the promiscuous wenches that slave societies accused them of being, rather than the victims of sexual violence (Prince 1993; Pouchet Pacquet 2002; Sharpe 2003). The convergence of ‘Caribbean’, ‘Literature’ and ‘Sexuality’ offers a fruitful of way of thinking about the region’s longstanding association with notions of perverse sexuality: ‘Caribs’’ unnatural consumption of beleaguered ‘Arawaks’, the violence and taboos of slavery and indenture, supposedly pathological family structures, the ultimate provider of sun, sand, and all sorts of sexual desires, and ‘the most homophobic [place] on earth’ (McMillan 1996; Padgett 2006). The convergence of the terms also indexes the range of responses to these discourses: whether vindicating stereotypes about non-whites and Caribbean people generally by stressing their (sexless) virtue, or alternately claiming the right of Caribbean subjects to have and affirm sexual desire, showing women to be agents rather than victims, refuting the choice between sex as violent and sex as pleasurable, claiming the right to be loved rather than violated by European men, or rejecting heterosexual desire (coercive or otherwise) as the only game in town.

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