Coincidentally, just a few days ago I was in a Facebook debate and found myself being sternly lectured on the problem of male sexual violence against women — lectured by a lesbian who knows perfectly well that I’m gay (we used to be neighbors in Brooklyn back in the late ’90s, and would hang out at the same bar).
That SHE was lecturing ME on an essentially heterosexual problem was not, however,the most surprising part — oh, no. The head-spinner is that the debate was over this photo:
Many people have mistakenly assumed that the sailor and the nurse (technically, a dental assistant) were sweethearts. Others have wondered whether the “spontaneous moment” had actually been staged and rehearsed in advance.
I conceded that that it COULD theoretically be construed as “sexual assault” — in other words, “it was merely a kiss” does not exclude this interpretation and it’s hard to be sure without examining the details of the backstory — but there’s ample evidence that the woman herself, one Greta Z. Friedman, did not regard it as a sexual assault and had no grievances against the sailor. (She might have been mildly annoyed at the photographer, but decades later she accepted an autographed copy of the picture as sufficient apology!)
But nowadays, some people prefer to interpret it as photographic record of a woman being subjected to a humiliating sexual assault in broad daylight — part of a universal pattern of male aggression and the commodification of women as sex-toys.
And if you don’t see this, you’re a mansplainer, and part of the problem.