The Rent-A-Dread Phenomenon

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Those who studied RastafarI as a real religion will be astounded by the number of men with a head full of locks who sell themselves to tourists, basically white tourists.

The casual eye, those who wish to dismiss this as an aberration,  or decide that the prostitutes are not ‘real’ Rasta, need to take a deeper look.  Need to comprehend that this fellow, speaking that jargon, advocating that position, accepted by those around him as Rasta will, come ‘Sunsplash Season’, be offering himself for sale to any tourist who desires him.

Those who live around Tourist Meccas practice their trade all year long, the majority only ‘work’ during the musical festivals.

Sunsplash no longer exists, but has been replaced by five day extravaganzas using different names, but for the Renta, it remains Sunsplash.

Originally, those who grew locks or who described themselves or were described as Rasta, held to a very strict Old Testiment kind of morality.  Those who fadded with locks were often run by the Elders, because Rasta was no play thing, no cult, no fad, but patterened on Orthodox Judaism.

Over time, Christian ideas seeped in, and Halie Sellassie I of Ethiopia was considered the Messiah.  As the doctrine was so strict, many deviated, until there was a wide band of persons who might wear the hairstyle and perhaps flirt with the ‘livity’ but did not maintain the doctrine.

In the late 1960s, Rasta was not yet accepted by Jamaican society. Those who were really willing to commit to the livity were Rasta. By the early 70s, as Rasta became more accepted, many musicians grew their hair, just as those who would emulate the Beatles success, grew theirs.  For many it was a stunt, an attention grabber, for others it was real.

When Sunsplash began in 1978 there were a large number of persons who wore locks and found that female tourists were entranced.  Tourists had come for the Music, yes, but also for sun, sea, and smoking ganja. Sex was an extra helping.

Throughout the Caribbean the Beach Boy Industry exists.  These are men, some young, some not so young, some handsome, some not so handsome, who sell themselves to tourists for the length of the stay.  Some look for the VISA, some will even marry the tourist to get to a Western country.   Most simply live out of the pocket of their ‘goose’ of the day expecting no more nor less than what she pays for.

As Rasta was ‘super black’, for a white woman to get one to do her bidding was a double dose of forbidden fruit. This wasn’t the black guy at work, this wasn’t, to their mind, a guy who ran down white women, this was a super black guy who was attracted to her in specific.

As time passed, more men decided to grow locks and try their luck, and the Rent-A-Dread Pimp came to the fore.
In ten years Sunsplash became the starting point for male prostitutes.

Recruited by the pimp, the proto-whore would be taken to Sunsplash, given a bracelet, allowing free entry, and posted at a little kiosk selling ‘craft.’   The ‘craft’ was the beard, the real product were the ‘Rastas’.

These ‘Rasta’ often lived with ‘baby mothers’ and their children and comported themselves, for most of the year, as Rasta. They would attend religious celebrations called ‘Binghis’, speak the jargon, and seem to portray the ‘livity’.  Come August, they’d travel to Sunsplash, claiming to be helping a ‘breddrin’ sell ‘craft’, but in truth, selling themselves.

When the Rent-A-Dread Industry was picked up by the media, many ‘baby mothers’ became suspicious, and soon enough it was betrayed that their ‘Kingman’ was a part time prostitute.

RastafarI livity is complex and requires a lot more self control and morality that the average Jamaican can muster. Although many might enter with the belief they can ‘live up’, most can’t.  Most Jamaican men do not have the upbringing, the knowledge or commitment which demands more than fleshing out a simpleton rally.

They like their hair style, they like being called ‘Rasta’, but they can’t manage the day to day livity.  Although a casual eye would judge them as Rasta, as they give the ‘right’ responses, they are no more Rasta than the white girl with her head full clip on dreadlocks.

The Rent-A-Dread had been ‘exported’ to other islands so that one will see dreadlocked Beach Boys who know nothing beyond a Bob Marley song about Rasta. Considering their employ, it doesn’t much matter.


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