Monday, May 21, 2012 at 6:37 AM
The Cannes Film Festival has become famous for launching relatively modest films into worldwide acclaim – even turning some of them into veritable blockbusters. Such was the case with Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Apocalypse Now (1979).
Paradise: Love is the film at this year’s festival – which opened last week – that seems destined for similar acclaim, even if not the success. And, given the phenomenon that Fifty Shades of Grey has become, it’s easy to see why. For this film dramatizes in graphic, sadomasochistic fashion the way a surprising number of rich, middle-aged White women (picture more Judi Dench than Juliet Binoche) are trekking to Africa in search of sexual healing/satisfaction. The European women in this case make “Kenyan beach boys” their willing prey.
(Spike Lee’s iconic film Jungle Fever, which took a rather tame look at an interracial affair playing out in New York City, seems a more appropriate name for this film.)
But there is nothing new about the sex tourism Paradise: Love depicts. After all, middle-aged (invariably White) men have been traveling throughout the Far East for years for this kind of pleasure.
As shocking as it might seem, there is nothing new even about White women emulating White men by traveling to exotic locations in pursuit of sexual assignations they dare not (or are unable to) pursue back home. In fact, this cross-cultural phenomenon was dramatized in more provocative and titillating fashion in Heading South (2005). That film was about middle-aged White women who travel to Haiti every year to get their groove on with beach boys quite willing and able to service them.
Moreover, just as male sex tourists pay for sex, female ones do too: “beach boys” is just a colloquial term for the Black gigolos who prey on these women for cash as much as these women prey on them for sex.
(Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) may have inspired middle-aged Black women to make similar pilgrimages, but their White counterparts were getting their groove on with beach boys down in the Caribbean for years before Stella set foot on Jamaica’s white sand.)
Even I previewed Paradise: Love by commenting five years ago on White women pursuing exotic, if not quixotic, sex in Neo-colonialism: British Women Traveling to Former Colonies … For Sex (November 27, 2007).
Here is an excerpt:
[I]t behooves us to wonder about the implications and consequences of this seemingly unnatural trend (of these White cougars hunting Black stallions) on our society… Yet there’s no denying that it’s a win-win proposition for the parties directly involved…
And, yes, I believe prostitution is a victimless vice that should be decriminalized – even when the prostitutes are black men…
Besides, even if hotel managers (or police officers) have probable cause to suspect that our native beach boys are chatting up matronly looking tourists as a prelude to an illicit assignation, prohibiting (or, God forbid, prosecuting) such hospitality would be unsustainable and utterly counterproductive.
On the other hand, there would be a welcome drop in regional crime and a concomitant boost in tourism if we could get more of our delinquent young men to stop fighting each other and start making female visitors “feel like real women.”
So to all of our female visitors, I say don’t worry, be happy and come back soon….
All the same, it must be said that what distinguishes women (aka Sugar Mamas) from men as sex tourists is that the women are in search of consensual, exotic sex with Black men; whereas, the men are (almost always) in search of pedophile, exploitative sex with boys and girls. Except that there might be much less even to this distinction than generally assumed given the incidence of female school teachers preying on school boys in recent years….
Still, there is no denying that the women in Paradise: Love are betraying what many believe is the “natural” sense and sensibility women exhibit when it comes to the pursuit of sexual gratification. Never mind that stereotypical female emotions are on full display when the lead cougar becomes hysterical after finding out that her Kenyan beach boy was lying to her about his personal life.
(I can’t be any more specific without completely spoiling this admittedly all-too-predictable plot twist. Though, apropos of nothing new, the way she goes about dealing with her antic feelings of betrayal is straight out of Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).)
Truth be told, I was disabused long ago of the illusion that women are more principled, or that they would act more honorably in any given circumstance, than men. No doubt the men who served under Margaret Thatcher’s iron fist or the Greeks who must think Angela Merkel is the most heartless German Chancellor since, well, Adolf Hitler would attest to this. Not to mention Cleopatra whose lust for power and sex rivaled that of any man in history.
In other words, absent social taboos and given the opportunities, women would have their way with men just as men have traditionally had with them. Paradise: Love is little more than a banal portrayal of what women’s liberation has wrought in this sense.
Neo-colonialism … for sex