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1 Chapter 1 Introduction This book is about sex, sexuality, and teenage girls living on Nevis,a small English-speaking island in the Eastern Caribbean.It could be said that this work began when my interests in the field of public health gave way to a theoretical curiosity about specific cultural practices, such as the way public policy regulates intimate pleasures and how consumer culture might compete with the state’s efforts to regulate sexuality. Fascinated by questions that explore the conjunction of the public and private spheres of sexuality, I began graduate study in anthropology. I was certain then that it was the only discipline that could help me thoroughly investigate the production of sexuality. As for the Caribbean, I was first drawn there by my father. I had always known that he traveled to the Caribbean as a boat captain or as a tourist. But in the late eighties, I discovered that he had also been an amateur ethnographer as well when I came upon an audiotape he had made recording his observations of cultural life on one of the smaller Leeward islands. His interest in Caribbean societies sparked my own. Later, after having begun my graduate work in anthropology, I had two memorable conversations that eventually pointed me in the direction of Nevis.The first was with a pediatrician who spoke to me at length one snowy winter night over dinner about his experiences on Nevis. He painted a picture much like my father’s description of a neighboring island, namely, one of a vibrant society caught up in rapid changes as the result of globalization.The second conversation took place with an eminent Caribbeanist anthropologist about whether the study of sexuality in the West Indies was worthwhile; he tried to persuade me that while the contemporary fascination with the study of sexualities was fashionable, general interest in the subject would wane. Likening it to fashion, he explained that studies of sex would simply go out of style. I somehow felt as if a challenge had been issued.And so, in the winter of 2003, I traveled to Nevis and began my fieldwork. I arrived in January. Soon after my arrival, I was scheduled to meet with a group of older girls in the public school in Charlestown. My daughters’ preschool was closed for the day, so I decided to bring them with me into the secondary schools. Leaving our small village and turning onto the newly paved road that led to town, I was forced to drive slowly behind a herd of goats crossing a narrow road.After the last few stragglers managed to join the herd in the pasture, I sped up only to be delayed again by another driver, who had stopped in the middle of the road to speak with a schoolgirl. After what seemed like several minutes, the schoolgirl opened the passenger door and slid into the car. We arrived at the school just after morning assembly had started. Most of the student body was gathered inside the large open-air auditorium; my daughters and I stood outside on the lawn watching the assembly with some of the female teachers and a guidance counselor.There were five male teachers standing apart from the students on the grass; their heads were bowed and their hands were clasped behind their backs as they assumed a relaxed “military ” position.Two young girls stood directly in front of me, holding hands. They looked to be about thirteen years old. Dressed neatly in their blue jumpers and white shirts and wearing pretty blue ribbons in their hair, the girls focused their attention on the Methodist minister leading the student body in a regular Friday morning devotional.The girls’ hands, loosely laced together,fell apart as one of the girls reached into her backpack and pulled out a pocket-size Bible.The minister instructed the students to open their Bibles. As if rehearsed, the student body, almost in perfect unison, recited a passage from the book of Luke. After the morning assembly, the guidance counselor led me to a classroom with my daughters in tow.When we entered the classroom, she informed six girls that they would be taking a survey. The boys in the class gathered in a circle near the open windows. Some of the desks were turned upside down.With the exception of one poster promoting safe sex practices, the walls were bare and sounds of the students’ voices reverberated off the concrete interior. I...


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Subject Headings

  • Sex -- Social aspects -- Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Nevis.
  • Sex in popular culture -- Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Nevis.
  • Girls -- Sexual behavior -- Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Nevis.
  • Girls -- Saint Kitts and Nevis -- Nevis -- Attitudes.
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