Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

"Horning" and the Emergence of Female Empowerment: Translation of Gendered Sex Practices

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

"Horning" and the Emergence of Female Empowerment: Translation of Gendered Sex Practices

Article excerpt

Introduction

Promiscuity, serosorting and cultural practices, such as horning, increase the likelihood of heterosexual transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases between couples (1, 2). Additionally, these infectious diseases have "begun to reverse the developmental gains for many of the world's most vulnerable groups, nations and regions as well as [created] an additional source of instability" (3, 4). Horning in Grenada, defined as extra sexual relations with someone other than a primary partner, is traditionally considered a product of masculinity in which men customarily, and frequently stray outside of a designated relationship. As Grenada finds itself continuously progressing towards complete gender equality (5), the once welldefined societal role of men is now "marked by uncertainties over social roles and identity, sexuality, work and personal relationships" (6). These uncertainties allow the female social role to gain flexibility, power and momentum. However, as the gender roles are restructured, more females are potentially practicing horning, possibly as a way of retaliation for decades of subjectivity to "damaging dominant models that emphasize aggression" (7). The practice of horning coupled with unsafe sex practices could contribute to the elevated rates of infectious disease and HIV transmission in the Caribbean, making rates "... second to only Sub-Saharan Africa" (8). The prevalence of female horning has not been extensively studied although much has been done on the role gender equality plays in Caribbean society (5, 9) and in disease transmission throughout the world (2). The purpose of this study is to examine the cultural components behind female horning. Specifically, this study will examine whether horning exists in Grenada and will attempt to understand the rationale for the practice.

It is customary that in most conversations with Grenadian men, they will assert their practice of horning. Additionally, the notion that horning is becoming increasingly popular with women was a construct developed during the same discussion, with most men indicating that female horning was a form of retaliation due to the female genders societal advances. In conjunction with the current knowledge on masculinity, Caribbean men often define and compare themselves in regards to relationship status with other men and more increasingly, women (10). For example, a Caribbean man that is capable of having more horning relations than another is deemed more powerful and masculine than one that does not. Take for example, a cultural aspect of "the calypso"- popular genre of local music, Caribbean men were once socially taught to follow the folklore-based tale of "the Mighty Shadow" (10). As a young man, the Shadow encourages "looking for horn" to ensure ones masculine place in society and dominance over women (10). However, as the paternal role in Caribbean society becomes less defined (11), the Mighty Shadow has been squandered with it, allowing for the uprising of females (12); it is this uprising and the blurring of gender divisions that place the female gender at the forefront of horning retaliation.

If in fact female horning is utilized as retaliation, horning in both the male and female populations may contribute to the increase in disease transmission Grenada is encountering (13). As with any infectious disease, the likelihood of transmission increases with the number of times one comes into contact with an infected person. Couples are becoming infected with HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) at far higher rates due to the unknown status of their partners, with the most common method of transmission in Grenada being heterosexual intercourse (14). Additionally, around the world "there is a consistent trend of more women living with HIV than men due to the fact that women are physically more susceptible to HIV infection than men, and gender-based violence makes them even more vulnerable" (15). …

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