Sexuality

Ethnographic research indicates that West Indian Americans view sexuality as a "natural" part of life (LaBennett, 2002, p. 185). The relative freedom and independence afforded to young men in the Caribbean and in the United States allows the male gender greater sexual liberties. In the Caribbean, men of all classes can engage in extramarital or premarital sex with little or no social prohibition. Women, on the other hand, are expected to respect the marriage vows and to abstain from adulterous behavior. As previously stated, legal marriage is a cultural ideal more predominant among the upper classes in the Caribbean. Men are given more sexual freedom and license to have multiple female sexual partners whether they are involved in a common-law, visiting, or legal union with a woman. In addition, men in the Caribbean often father children with more than one woman and form visiting relationships with multiple families. West Indian immigrant women, under the influence of American norms regarding infidelity, lament their husbands' extramarital relationships.

Men and women in the West Indies think of sex in general as healthy, but caution that too much sex is detrimental (Chevannes, 1993, p. 7). Sex is conceived on the one hand as a healthy stress release, and on the other as draining of one's strength and vitality (Chevannes, 1993, p. 7). While men view sex as primarily a good thing in and of itself, women link sex with childbearing, which they value (Chevannes, 1993, p. 7).

From the age of about 5 onwards girls are taught to be sexually modest. Boys who exhibit sexual precocity are not reprimanded; rather, they are often encouraged (Chevannes, 1993, p. 8). Early and premarital sex for males is socially acceptable and to some extent encouraged because men achieve adulthood through sexual intercourse with women and fatherhood. Additionally, there is strong disapproval of homosexuality, and young men feel pressured into heterosexual relationships by their peer groups (Chevannes, 1993, p. 12). Male sexual prowess is highly valued by both males and females (Chevannes, 1993, p. 9). In fact, some scholars note that, while female gender identity emerges through discussions about sexual relationships with males, gender identity for males emerges by juxtaposing heterosexual and homosexual sex (Parry, 1996, p. 84). While research stresses the social conception of male homosexuality as deviant, there is a paucity of analyses which focus on how female homosexuality is regarded (Chevannes, 1993, p. 30).

The Caribbean-based conceptions of male and female sexuality described above are rearticulated by West Indians in America.

West Indian parents typically do not discuss sexuality with their children and children learn about sex from their peers, from the formal educational system, and from popular culture (Chevannes, 1993, p. 8). The same can be said for West Indian American youth.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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