I wrote in my Year in Search article that queries related to sex in Martinique is one of the most common search terms I get for people who find my blog. The post they land on isn’t about intercourse at all, it’s a narrative story about the moment when I realized how much I had grown up since the first time I drank a Sex on the Beach.
I don’t always know what the intention is behind these searches (and I’m not sure I want to…) but people are clearly curious. I shouldn’t deny them my intimate knowledge of an important part of living abroad: managing your sex life.
1. Getting with Martinican women isn’t easy.
Unless she’s spent a lot of time abroad and finds your bumbling French endearing, or is interested in anglophone culture, you’ll find dating quite difficult (sorry to be heteronormative) as a man. For the most part, the teaching assistants in Martinique hooked up with each other and French ‘expats’ stuck together so to speak.
I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a Martinican woman with foreign guy and I can only think of two examples, both of which fall under the exception to the rule above. That isn’t to say that it can’t be done but know that a challenge lies ahead!
2. Martinican men on the other hand…
I write this at the risk of perpetuating the hypersexualization of Caribbean men but from my experience, straight, female assistants didn’t have trouble in the love department. I was never short on male suitors — even after I started dating Tom — and a lot of former teaching assistants are still in relationships with the guys they met there.
There were a couple guys I spent some time with but I never actually went out with any Martinican men because I started seeing Tom in the second month on the island. That said, I was rarely tempted. I often felt like men saw me as a prize more than a person and that’s a huge turn-off to anyone with a even modicum of self-esteem.
This does not mean there aren’t good, kind men in Martinique. Of course there are. It’s just that the ones you notice the most, unfortunately, are not so nice. A lot of the foreign assistants did date guys from Martinique and they either stayed on the island with them or they moved to mainland France or Spain together.
3. You will be embarrassed when buying condoms, but buy them anyway.
Unlike mainland France, laïcité (or secularism) is more of a concept than a reality. You can be certain that the majority of your community goes to church regularly or is at least a Christian, so when you go to the pharmacy or buy condoms at the grocery store you will feel a little shady.
I found it difficult to find sexually transmitted infection and HIV/AIDS statistics (probably because they are lumped in with all of France), but the risk of contracting HIV is higher than in mainland France: in 2010 there were 160 cases of AIDS per million inhabitants and 268 cases of HIV. Be aware that Martinique’s population is less than half a million, so there are actually something more like 75 cases and 130 cases, respectively. The island saw a re-emergence of syphillis in 2005 as well. So if you’re sexually active, don’t forget to get tested regularly for STIs because you just never know.
They don’t always teach this in school, so here is a little sexual health vocabulary:
STD/STI – MST/IST (maladie/infection sexuellement transmissible)
Condom – préservatif
HIV/AIDS – VIH/SIDA
Abstinence – abstinence sexuelle
Sexual assault – agression sexuelle
Rape – viol
4. You might want to bring protection from home.
If you’ve been to France before you’ll know the problem that a lot of people have with French condoms — they’re not exactly made for…girth. So to avoid the awkward fumbling just bring your preferred brand. That goes for ladies too! Don’t expect a man to bring protection, we’re all independent women here so take charge of your sexuality.
5. There are ‘alternative’ lifestyle and queer communities in Martinique.
If you’ve read my Martinique posts, you’ll know that part of my 23rd birthday I went to a swingers club in Le Marin called Fruit de la Passion. Our group got a little tour of the place (by a man wearing nothing but a towel) and we all stood around trying to look comfortable but actually afraid to sit on or touch anything. But it is there and appeared to be frequented by locals!
The laws governing the rights of LGBTQ community come from mainland France, which means that couples are eligible for marriage and PACS (civil union). While anti-gay discrimination is illegal there is a general disapproval of the queer community and many LGBTQ Martinicans hide the truth or move abroad. I know and have met LGB couples in Martinique but there isn’t an open gathering place or community with locals as such — you’ll just meet through friends of friends!
Often if you are invited out to a friend of a friend’s who is gay, your friend will check to make sure you’re okay with it — at least that’s what happened to me. I don’t think they will judge you if you do have a problem (or will at least be understanding) but they probably just want to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
There is one LGBT activist group in the DOMs called An Nou Allé but I never really noticed their presence on the island.
6. Sex on the beach is really impractical.
I’m not saying it can’t be done but it’s just not as sexy as the movies make it seem. You will discover sand in places you never thought sand would go and you don’t want to be that person in the TAPIF Facebook group asking what the French for ‘yeast infection’ is.
There are crabs — not the pubic hair kind, the ones you eat. And in Martinique they have one giant claw.
“You look really hot” will take on a completely new meaning because the temperature is so high you’re sweating your ass off. Movies would like to make you think that warm weather means ‘hot and bothered’ in a sexual way, but it’s ‘hot and bothered’ in a ‘It’s so hot I’m sticking to you and that bothers me’ way.
You’ll also get mosquito bites on places that you will be too embarrassed to scratch at work. And that’s not just on the beach, mind you. Word to the wise: have sex in front a fan so the mosquitoes can’t get too close.
7. Stay away from other women’s men.
I lost a friend and gained a (completely unjustified) reputation at my school because of this. A teacher at my school asked her daughter to take me out and we hung out a couple times. The last time we went to a pool party and I needed to get home; her friend offered to drive me home but wasn’t leaving for a while whereas her boyfriend was leaving immediately and lived nearby so I went with him. Apparently she felt I was trying to make a move on her boyfriend (I wasn’t) and I was disinvited to a New Year’s Eve party because this person didn’t feel comfortable with me around her man. I subsequently never saw any of them again.
Put simply, local women can be quite skeptical of other women — especially foreign ones. I found it really difficult to make friends with local women my age (regardless of whether they had a boyfriend) and received some serious shade any time I talked to a local guy. Again, that’s not to say you can’t make friends just that I found it… complicated.
8. Finally, please don’t pay for sex.
Yes, I’ve heard that ‘We all pay for sex some way or another’ ha ha you’re so funny… In all seriousness you don’t know what kind of exploitation these women (or men) have experienced and participating in it makes you a bad person. Moral and health ramifications notwithstanding, there are legal ones as well. Technically, exchanging money for sex is not illegal in France but pretty much every activity related to it is illegal including procuring and soliciting.