Podcasts have become increasingly popular over the last few years, sparking much discourse and uproar over the controversial statements made by hosts and guests; mainly about money, sex, love but also just about everything else. An example? A few months ago Lil Durk, a popular US rapper, was a guest on a well known celebrity podcast. He was asked what inspired him to propose to India, his girlfriend of three years. His response left a lot to be desired: “I’m petty as hell, like, if you fucked a lot of n***as and all that, I ain’t gonna wife you. But that’s me." He continued: "But it’s, like, everything about [India]. Being real, not cheating, she ain’t been passed around. It was, like, her body count. That’s what really did it,”. Needless to say a lot of angry women took to their keyboards after hearing those words.
Durk’s words contradict the very foundations of modern feminism and demonstrates the plight for autonomy for women. It is concerning to see that a woman’s value and worth are still linked to this concept of purity, by men who do not hold themselves to the same standard. Religion and cultural practices have and continue to perpetuate this narrative of archaic gender stereotypes. And reduce the nuance and complexity of a woman into one of two ends of a spectrum: a saint or a slut.
Though no longer the mainstream practice, in Western culture, the concept of a pure, virtuous woman is often still deemed the ideal long term partner. My lovely island home in the Caribbean is no exception. As a small, primarily Christian nation, we are generally conservative people by nature. Despite younger generations being more liberal, I’ve often heard negative undertones in reference to sexually liberal women being “run through” or other less pleasant terms. Oddly enough (or perhaps not) I’ve seen men engage in torrid flings with these “ran through” women while being in committed relationships. I’ve seen these flings last as long as the relationship, and even carry on over the span of multiple relationships. It’s a peculiar state of limbo, one man balancing his relationship, a woman he claims to love and doesn’t want to leave, and a mistress he won’t publicly acknowledge, but can’t seem to part with.
This scenario is an example of what psychologists refer to as the Madonna-Whore Complex. This term coined in the early 1900’s by Sigmund Freud, identifies the polarized ideology possessed by some men viewing women as either loveable or erotic. Loving the first but desiring the second. As Freud famously quoted “Where such men love, they have no desire and where they desire, they cannot love.” it means that in the eyes of these men, women must either be pure or sexual, never both. Though most men we encounter today might not have such an extreme view, the theory can still be observed in a modern setting fairly often.
This situation with Lil Durk and India is a perfect example of how some men of today still believe that a saintly woman is the ideal wife. Body count, the number of sexual partners one has had, is one of the most common parameters used by men to asses a woman’s perceived value. I carried out a short, small scale survey to acquire a better understanding of the Caribbean man’s perspective on body count and the role it plays in finding potential partners. When asked if they have ever asked a woman they were interested in how many sexual partners she’s had 70% of the men answered yes, while 80% of them stated that they do not feel it necessary to disclose their own body count prior to becoming intimate. 90% of men answered that body count is not an important factor when pursuing casual sexual relations, however when asked if body count is important when pursuing a serious relationship, 50% answered that it does. One man went on to further state that to him, body count is important to know about a potential long term partner and that he'd be off-put if the woman’s count is too high. Another subtle example of the complex.
Though targeted towards women, this ideology affects the intimate life of both parties. Men must play a key role in educating themselves and their friends in understanding that in terms of desires, love and sex both genders are on equal terms. If the debate is saint or slut, the correct answer should be both. For everyone.
Written by Doniyel Polius