The Other Face of Power

By Amrit

Cuban teenagers. Photo: Elio Delgadp

HAVANA TIMES, July 14 – When I see a sensual young women wiggling her butt in a video (they’re all are practically the same!) I think back to the movie Quills, in which a loveless underage newlywed discovers her sexuality in the forbidden letters of the Marquis de Sade, and in adultery.

Could it be that the old pornographer —accused of abusing prostitutes and of rape, but extolled by many as a symbol of freedom— acted to guide the young woman with the promises of her feminine power as an alternative that was better than the disgust of her husband, and along a long road of submission?  I have no idea, but what worries me is this: why is it that when they speak of the power of sex, they don’t also mention its other face?

I observe teenage girls when I go to my son’s high school.  In seeing how they dress, how they walk, and even how they dance, they too seem like something out of a video.  I remember a campaign around sexuality in the 1980s that involved television programs, documentaries and the publication of books of essays (I remember two, by German authors), books that were eagerly welcomed by the youth.

Undoubtedly it was useful to propagate, for example, the myth of women’s degraded hymen, but many adolescents (me among them) ended up feeling that virginity was a shame and a hindrance. However, in the 1980s, a girl could still show her inexperience, her shyness, her candor.

At the beach. Photo: Caridad

These days young women only seem to have the alternative of being cheaters, because this is the image that is projected by models and B-rate movies.  These are the images that are staggeringly repeated in music videos where male singers can have not only non-athletic builds, but can even be fat; men are not forced to have good figures – but women are.

However, I want to clarify that it’s not men’s fault if those young woman feel “empowered” by exploiting their charms in such a rugged terrain as lust.  More than opportunist, I find the role of victims naive when they protests against machismo that is sustained by the consent and conduct of women themselves: young women who as sex-souvenirs experience the “privilege” of being devoured by the eyes of sexist male consumers (veritable epidemics of the market) who were raised by sexist mothers and who have girlfriends or wives who cooperate with that sexism.

A rip in Cuba’s moral fabric

The economic crisis of the 1990s caused a rip in the moral fabric of Cuban society that has expanded as much as the old advice of the Marquis de Sade.  It’s amazing how many youth consider the act of jinetear (going out with foreigners) “normal,” “a way to resolver (taking care of problems)”, or becoming “independent of their parents.”

It is amazing to see the surge of homosexuality, which I find the result of disorder, a lack of consciousness, and even desperation.

Cuban teenagers. photo: Caridad

A 21-year-old guy told me, “I have several friends who are pingueros (gigolos).”

“But are they gay?” I asked.

“Some of them, yeah,” he responded, “but the others are hetero; they go out with tourists for money.”

“And why do they go with men if they aren’t gay?” I questioned, innocently.

“Because they pay better, and because a large part of tourism that comes to Cuba are gays.”

Yes, I admit that when I look at my surroundings it scares me to witness this “open mindedness” to what is not only different but to what is also insincere and even inhuman.  Once again, and more marginalized, how can they draw the line between what is solid ground and the abyss?

I am frightened by adolescents who cannot experiment with their sexuality freely.  Added to the natural fear of their own inexperience, they now have the pressure of having to be aggressive, to be “wild.”  What’s saddest is that they are unaware of the brutal sexist content involved in that “freedom,” which limits women to the role of prostitute.

It is not because they have voluntarily chosen that role in the sexual game, it’s that it has been expanded to the street, to life; they believe their free pass will open many doors to them.  No one tells them that when they get tired of being “female” and want to be “human”, men won’t be so generous.

The other side of the coin

When one speaks of the power of sex, the other face should be mentioned.  With the campaign in Cuba against homophobia, I heard from several sources that surgical sex changes are now legal.  I recalled a talk show that I’d seen in which they interviewed several gays, some who had already had sex changes and others who hoped to get such operations.

Cuban teens. Photo: Elio Delgado

The first ones spoke of everything from the horrors of the operation to their post-operative traumas. They complained of the painful methods involved in maintaining their implanted vaginas, and —what was the worst— no longer feeling the same way sexually.  One of them even broke up with their partner.  I think that for the alternative of a sex change to be true freedom, the potential for adverse reactions should be publicized with equal diligence.

So that women are freer to be “wild,” they should have the alternative of discovering this in their own sexual exploration.  About fifteen years ago, I remember a group of us young women were in a dance group.  After the class, the conversation moved to the issue of sex.  In that atmosphere of sympathy and trust, many of them admitted that they only put up with their boyfriends or husbands so as “not to lose him”: they lived in conditions in which penetration was painful for them, in which they had to assume attitudes that weren’t honest, where they had to fake orgasms…

Perspectives from the past

When I investigated into the focus that former cultures conferred to sex, I was surprised for example that in the legendary and almost mythological Kamasutra, anal coitus is not recommended.

I was surprised even more when discovering the names that were used in sexual liturgy in the manuals of the Taoist bedchamber.  They called the penis the “jade shaft,” the entrance of the vagina the “jade portal,” the female orgasm was referred to as the “high tide,” oral sex was termed “drinking from the vast spring,” while the act of coitus was known as “clouds and rain.”  I was surprised to realize the trouble we went through in the West to legitimate bad words as the ultra confusion of freedom.

So why do we use the same words when we vent in fits of rage, words that we use to offend and degrade?  It’s the reaction against a long history of Puritanism.  We rebel against the vision of the church that condemned us to be “sinners” who were tormented by the awareness of pleasure.

But what about today?  When I observe adolescents, how they dress and how they move, I realize they only lack the music and the rude type of gesturing in front of the camera, or a type that’s less rude or even with romantic gestures.  The young women are identical to those in the videos – so much so that they appear made of tin (like the soldiers in Hans Christian Andersen’s story) cast from the same mold: little metal whores, with lead looks, or those of wolves, like the treacherous Carmen.