, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 375-390
Date: 14 Aug 2011

Skin Bleaching and the Prestige Complexion of Sexual Attraction

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Abstract

This article focuses on the sexual attraction motive for skin bleaching in Jamaica. Some captive Africans on plantations in Jamaica altered their complexion. These Africans modeled the British in the colony who bleached their skin to protect the “superior,” “sexy,” and ideal white skin from the “impurities” of interracial sex and the tropical climate. The beauty and sexual attraction accorded to light skin was also evident in skin bleaching newspaper ads in the 1950s. The ads told women that acquiring light complexion through skin bleaching would make them sexually attractive to men. The persistence of colorism and its most blatant expression—skin bleaching—is also evident in contemporary Jamaica as expressed in some dancehall songs which praise skin bleachers, and the explanatory narratives of skin bleachers that bleaching makes them pretty and sexually attractive to potential spouses. Similar themes are reflected in the criticism that the browning Dancehall Queen Carlene was deemed sexually attractive and choreographically talented only because of her brown physicality. Some spouses request that their partner acquire the bleached physicality because they find it sexually attractive similar to many male clients in “massage parlors” who only request female sex workers who bleach their skin.