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Chris Gayle, romance, and the batty men

Sunday, January 10, 2016

OK, let’s start with the interview. Chris Gayle faces a burly Aussie male interviewer, somewhat bigger than he is, and gay. Live and on-air, Gayle gets told: “That’s the reason why I’m here. To see your eyes for the first time is nice…Don’t blush baby.”

Didn’t happen, of course. But if it did, I don’t think we’d have moved smoothly into a relaxed and informative interview. In the real world last Monday, Australian interviewer Mel McLaughlin did her best to do just that.

Gayle has form for this sort of thing. In July, 2014, a female reporter in Antigua asked him: “How is the pitch feeling.” He came back: “I haven’t touched yours yet, so I don’t know how it feel.”

This rounds, Gayle issued a classic non-apology: “If she felt that way, I’m sorry for that.” 

So it’s all McLaughlin’s fault, because of how she felt? Either way, she accepted Gayle’s comment as if it were an apology, and says she wants to “move on.” 

Gayle, meanwhile, stalked off when told in Melbourne’s airport that McLaughlin had been “angry and uncomfortable,” and popped up later on Instagram, grinning in a “Sex sells” T-shirt.

Incident overblown? Up to a point. Nobody bled. But there’s a real issue. Gayle clearly doesn’t get it.

To an extent, the Caribbean weather has changed. The Gleaner’s and Jamaica Observer’s commentary makes that clear; they do see an issue. Women should be able to go about their business unharassed.

There’s a wide spectrum of male sexual entitlement. At the far end, it can be lethal. 

Just a week ago, a 24-year-old American tourist in the Bahamas took an afternoon jet-ski ride from a Paradise Island beach, close to the giant Atlantis resort. She was taken to nearby Athol Island, and raped. She was the fifth US tourist to suffer a sexual assault from a jet-ski operator since July, 2014. The US Embassy swiftly put out yet another travel advisory.

The Bahamian transport and aviation minister Glenys Hanna, who seems to be responsible for jet-skis as well as jets, said defensively that the alleged culprit arrested for the rape was not a licenced jet-ski operator.

Glanys, that just makes it worse. You have a licensing system—and anyone can ignore it, running a jet-ski illegally from the main tourist beach in daylight hours during the peak season.

More than that, there’s a rule that jet-ski operators can’t take a ride with their clients. If that one was enforced, the rape could not have happened.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation, meanwhile, last week announced its Big Idea for 2016. They’re promoting a Caribbean “Year of Romance.” With “an abundance of land and water activities…and personalized attention that meets the needs of the most discerning traveller.”

Let’s hope they get the fine-tuning right on those water activities.

They’re promoting: “First-time or second-time marriages and the renewal of vows, and the most romantic locations to “pop the question” or to say “I do.” They’re suggesting “invitations to celebrity couples to get married in the Caribbean.”

But no Elton Johns, please. With luck, gay couples from the tourist markets won’t take all that stuff too literally. Because if they come to the Caribbean, they won’t be able to get married. 

Indeed, they’ll be breaking the law if they have sex. In T&T and Belize, they won’t even be allowed past immigration, if the rules are taken literally.

And in Chris Gayle’s Jamaica, they’ll be risking physical attack if they get too romantic in public. 

The CTO’s “Year of Romance” is not for everyone. Though yes, gay marriage has been allowed since 2013 in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and since 2012 in the Mexican resorts of Cozumel and Cancún. Which have, astonishingly, remained unscathed since then by earthquakes, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions.

The Caribbean—like many other places—is vexed by a mish-mash of last-century sexual hang-ups. But the clouds are clearing, slightly.

Guyanese President David Granger talked last week of the “rights of any adult to indulge in any practice which is not harmful to others.” A slight ease-up on his country’s draconian ganja laws is now before Parliament. Plus, Guyana has from January 1 banned Styrofoam cups. Now, that’s progress.


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