One of the biggest things that's put a damper on my time here in Argentina is absolute lack of respect men have for women (generally, there are exceptions). I understood before I came here that guys would act differently than at home. They would be more aggressive and forward. I thought I was okay with that, I mean how bad can it be? They just think I'm really hot right? Well turns out it's significantly more bothersome than I thought it would be. I previously wrote a post about street harassment in Argentina, here. But for the moment I would like to talk about the lack of understanding that no means no.
First, I'll give you my little anecdote that brought on my need to discuss this. While I was having a lovely weekend in Iguazu we met some local guys that seemed really cool. We agreed to go out to a club with them. Luckily they didn't speak a lick of English so we could tell each other if we felt uncomfortable really easily because they couldn't understand.
The night was great for a while we danced in a pretty non-sexual way, compared to dancing in the states. I mean the majority of the time you're a good foot or two away from your partner. At some point during the night the guy I was dancing with tried to kiss me. I pulled away and he apologized, perdon, perdon lo siento! I told him it was okay and continued to dance.
The second time he tried, because if at first you don't succeed try, try again, I told him that I didn't feel comfortable kissing someone in a public place. In retrospect that was a bad choice of words but cut me some slack because I had to explain it another language.
When it came time to walk home is when things got rough. (Note: I in no way whatsoever felt threatened or unsafe, if I had I promise that I would have gotten away!) We had a good 15 minute walk back to the hostel, normally the same distance I walk to school everyday, expect this felt like hours.
As soon as we exited the club the guy attempted to kiss me again which I deflected. He then argued with me the entire walk home about why I wouldn't kiss him. I told me that I didn't feel comfortable making out in the street with a perfect stranger and that in the states that's not how we do it (which could possibly be a lie, but oh well!). I just kept repeating that I was classy and didn't want to kiss a guy I didn't know.
He countered that in Argentine culture that was how you did it and we're in Argentina. He also repeatedly called it a "gift." I'm try to give you a "gift." I hope I don't need to explain to much how disgusting this rhetoric is to a female.
Just because it's a part of your culture in no way justifies forcing yourself on girls. What if I kicked him between the legs and then explained that, that was "just American culture" so he should deal with it? Sexual habits are a personal choice that may be influenced by your culture, but are not dictated by it.
Then we come to the a kiss is a gift comment. So now I'm suppose to rejoice that I have been given the gift of your mouth on my face! As a woman I should feel "lucky" that you are willing to kiss me because it's such a great honor. Thanks, but no thanks.
After we made it back to the hostel, I slammed the door in his face when he said that the reason I didn't want to kiss him was because he was indigenous. (Because yes, I'm racist and that's why I didn't want to accept his wonderful gift to women.) I was disgusted for his behavior ruining a perfectly wonderful evening and found out my friend had been battling a similar situation about not wanting to spend the night at the other guys house.
The most ironic part of all of this is that if he had simply accepted it when I said I didn't want to kiss him time, I probably would have at the end of the night when we were back at the hostel. But the way he completely disrespected my choice to say no just made me disgusted with him. What he didn't seem to realize was that there is an inverse relationship between how many times you ask to kiss me and how likely I am to actually kiss you.
So why is this such a big problem? He just wanted to kiss me right? I shouldn't be overreacting. WRONG!!! This is a perfect example of what rape culture is. The idea that when a girl says no she doesn't really mean it. While I'm not accusing him of being a rapist, the fact that he just couldn't accept no about a kiss can only lead you to believe that he probably wouldn't accept no about sex either.
Assuming that I must want him because I'm a female and we are all just dying for men to offer to make out with us, shows a sharp divide that many men have about perception and reality. They can't seem to perceive no for what it is, a no. Women aren't as complicated as they seem to think. If I wanted to kiss him I would have, simply as that. But when I said I didn't want to he should have dropped it and respected my choice.
If you have to beg anyone to do anything sexual with you then you are perpetrating rape culture and disrespecting our right to choose who we share our body with. So the next time a girl politely declines to kiss you or go back to your room stop asking or she may slap you and go off on a rant about rape culture, which I totally would have if I had the vocabulary to explain it in Spanish.
Moral of the story is that anything but enthusiastic consent means stop trying! Lucky for me, I didn't feel like the situation was threatening and had other people around me. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation and in anyway feel threatened don't be afraid to make a scene or get out. Believe me, I'm not against simply screaming at a dude to go away if he isn't taking a hint. Always worry about your personal safety first!
Have you had a similar experience? How did you choose to handle it? Let me know!