It’s Not Romance Without Consent

the kiss

Everyone recognizes Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph from Life Magazine, showing ‘The Kiss,’ a sailor kissing a woman in white on V-J Day, the end of World War II.

This picture here has been lauded as romance encapsulated for over 70 years. But it’s not a picture of romance. It’s a picture of a man, assuming entitlement and control of the body of a woman he’s never met before, grabbing her and kissing her without her consent. Look at her body language. She’s not embracing him. She’s probably stunned, maybe afraid. Of course, like many women, she was immediately forgiving after having her boundaries violated. I imagine she giggled a nervous, ‘Oh my,’ or ‘It’s okay,’ and everyone assumed she was flattered and great with it. I’m sure the sailor truly meant no harm. He was ecstatic, celebrating the end of a long, weary war. He thought he was complimenting her, I’m sure. That action instantly told her she was beautiful to look at and desirable. It said he deemed her worthy to share a moment of totally unbridled joy with him. I get the likely motivation and intention. And she didn’t view it as a sexual assault at the time, and didn’t, even all these years later. (Read this article for the woman in the photograph’s story. Her name was Greta Zimmer Friedman.)
She understood it was a chaotic time, and that the sailor likely wasn’t meaning anything untoward, and I’m sure that’s the majority of the explanation of why she was so forgiving.
BUT HE STILL DIDN’T HAVE HER CONSENT. It’s still a strange man grabbing a woman he’d literally never seen before, and putting his hands and lips on her without her permission.
Do women attracted to men dream about men finding them beautiful to look at, and desirable, and worthy to share moments of totally unbridled joy? Yes. We do. It’s what I write about. And I know that’s why this iconic picture has been glorified for most of a century as a pinnacle of romantic gesture. But most if not all women also want to have mutual trust and respect with a partner, and be valued for intangible qualities like kindness and intelligence and humor, none of which can be known by simply looking at them. I write about THAT too. Most women prefer to at least know a man’s name before he puts his hands on her. Ask any woman if she wants a random, strange man to grab and kiss her without warning, and I’m almost certain nearly all of them will say ‘NO.’
This isn’t romantic. This isn’t okay. Always get consent.

 

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