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Veronica Vega: For years I had a hard time deciding between writing, painting or dancing. It was writing that proved to make the most sense financially in the short term. I live in Alamar, an aborted project for a city that only breathes from what’s left of nature, from the alternative cultural scene, and above all, from the infinite will of the human soul. I’m not a journalist. Writing in HT has been an opportunity to say what I believe can be improved in Cuba.

Cuba/Sexual Offenses: Sharing the Blame

May 10, 2013 | Print Print |

Verónica Vega

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — Sexual offenses seem to be one of the world’s thorny issues today. I am constantly reading of gang-rapes involving a woman, a teenager or a little girl, about victims who commit suicide and even about rapists who publicly boast of their crime.

Graham Sowa’s recent post, “Prostitution in Cuba: Denied at Home, Enabled from Abroad”, rubs even more salt on a wound we can no longer continue to ignore.

I concur with the author when he suggests that both Cuba and the United States ought to work together to formulate and undertake radical measures in this connection, out of a basic sense of shame and humanity. I suspect, however, that those at the top are a rather inward-looking crowd, with a long tradition of sustaining negligence and impunity below.

On the other hand, the Cuban people, engaged in an age-old struggle for survival, apathetic or, worse, divided and dazzled by the “fleeting decadence” it catches sight of across the ocean, does not know – does not want to know – about the problem, and lets itself be seen as if it were a zoo.

When I see jineteras (hookers) walk the streets of Havana at night, tempting fate, I am taken aback by their revealing clothes, their very young age and their vulnerability.

I ask myself if they’re at all wary of the devil they’re tempting, not only in the form of the sought-after tourist, but also of anyone who could ambush them in a dark corner. The question of whether their parents know where they go and what they do has also crossed my mind. These thoughts flash quickly through my mind, leaving behind the raw image of these girls and the certainty that more than a few parents actually encourage their daughters to “work the streets”.

Someone once told me they had met a teenager who had hooked to pay for their sweet fifteen birthday party. Could it be her parents had no idea where the money came from?

Personally, I have not known of a single young person or teenager who has hooked for a plate of food (though I of course do not rule out the existence of exceptions I am unaware of). They do it, rather, to access a social milieu that would otherwise remain beyond their reach: a world of fancy clothes, expensive perfumes, classy restaurants, discotheques, hotels…places where one can enjoy the illusion of being in another country.

Places where, who knows, maybe someone will take the bait and go as far as signing a marriage certificate.

It’s true we ought not forget that, in developed countries, in spite of the myriad of work options available and the relative abundance of recreational places, young people also become involved in prostitution, as the age-old profession, though risky, spells quick money.

Personally, I have not known of a single young person or teenager who has hooked for a plate of food. They do it, rather, to access a social milieu that would otherwise remain beyond their reach: a world of fancy clothes, expensive perfumes, classy restaurants, discotheques, hotels…places where one can enjoy the illusion of being in another country.

I touch on the issue of prostitution only because it is a practice in which a woman, a teenager and even a child (including boys) are more likely to become the victims of rape, particularly in a country where prostitution is strictly forbidden and, as such, far less regulated.

When I try to decide who or what is to blame for this, I cannot but think about these women, teenagers or children who see themselves as an object and regard men as mere providers of material wellbeing. I cannot but ask myself what special treatment they expect. I want to clarify that I am not justifying any form of sexual abuse. I believe that any carnal act committed against someone’s will (even against an animal) is a violation of a basic right.

I am merely trying to draw your attention to the attitudes behind these phenomena which we often deliberately ignore.

I once overheard a conversation between women in which all complained of sexual attitudes they had assumed to please their partners: not only sexual positions which caused them pain and fake orgasms, but also rape scenarios that “seemed” part of a roleplaying game.

On the other hand, male friends of mine have told me they were unaware that violent penetration can cause harm to a woman. The media also perpetuate the myth of the sizzling female, unburdened by fragile insides.

A friend told me there are entire fashions for teenagers and girls whose designs seek to blur the barrier between the child and sexually mature woman, such that men can feel aroused by these pubescent females without feelings of guilt.

Could it be true? I’ve also seen in Cuba a fair share of girls dressed like little prostitutes. At birthday parties, it is not uncommon to play raeggeton, and to see adults divert themselves with how the children imitate the pelvic thrusts characteristic of these dances, knowing, or not, that they are practically mating rituals.

I look around me and think that the violence which horrifies us today has been long in the making. A few days ago, I was talking to a young woman who has just given birth, who was telling me how they had stitched up her belly, following the caesarean, and “forgotten” to remove a piece of gauze from her uterus, which resulted in a serious infection.

It made me remember my own labor, the inhumane treatment of the obstetrician, who would react to my moaning, and the fact I would recoil from the needle she used for the stitches, as though I were being inconsiderate. A physician who entered the ward instructed her to give me more anesthesia, which put an end to my squirming.

If a doctor can become accustomed to the (avoidable) pain of a patient, how could we possibly expect a rapist to take pity on their victim?

An acquaintance was recently telling me about one of her neighbors, a Jehovah’s Witness whose religious scruples do not prevent them from accepting 25 CUCs for every teenager they deliver to tourists looking for sex.

I touch on all of these apparently unrelated things because they share a common element, because I feel that we have compartmentalized reality to such a degree that we can no longer discern where the process of dehumanization started.

A friend told me there are entire fashions for teenagers and girls whose designs seek to blur the barrier between the child and sexually mature woman, such that men can feel aroused by these pubescent females without feelings of guilt.

I recall an American film (I forget the title) in which a minor is raped by a man who chatted with her over the Internet, posing as a teenager. After getting his way, the man vanishes. In the midst of the family’s shock and overwhelming feelings of impotence, the victim’s father, who works at an ad agency, looks at the photos of the teenage models, all of them in revealing clothes and suggestive poses, and, as though in a nightmare, starts seeing his daughter’s face in each of the pictures. Suddenly, he realizes he is a link in a long and twisted chain of violence.

I am certain that the first institution whose degradation is responsible for the atrocious crime described by Graham Sowa in his post is that of the family. In Cuba, the sanctity of this institution has long been profaned.

I remember a documentary from the 1980s which included an interview with a woman who had paraded in front of the Peruvian Embassy, as part of fierce popular reprisals taken against those who sought political asylum there. Inside the embassy, amongst the crowds of asylum-seekers, was her own son.

Placing political loyalties above one’s maternal instincts strikes me as profoundly naive. And Cuban history is chock-full of similar excesses, regardless of what you hear in school, where we are told the family is the fundamental building block of society.

When this primordial sphere, that of instincts, is tampered with, all other areas of human life suffer.

The economic crisis that Cuba experienced in the 1990s mutilated entire families. We saw women become involved in prostitution with the consent of their husbands, young men who saw their sexual appeal belittled by tourists, chosen by women even when they were older and less attractive, young men who vented their anger through insults, public masturbation and maybe even rape. We saw heterosexual men become male prostitutes, wives and children turned widows and orphans by the sea.

The heirs of this moral degradation, the generations that think a mobile phone, an IPod, expensive clothes or the latest computer indispensable, cringe when you speak to them of morals and dignity.

Among other things, this is also due to the fact that the means to make a living available to them, beyond “paid sex”, and particularly in the State sector, often encourage these types of ethical omissions.

How are we expected to speak to them of honest work, which does not even manage to meet their basic needs? How are we expected to talk to them of a calling, a vocation they have been taught to ignore?

When I see American television shows about criminal cases, I am horrified by the number of sexual predators loose in the United States and by the sadism they show, but, I think, at least the minors who fall prey to them are the victims of elaborate kidnappings.

The case of Cuban victims, who deliver themselves to the aggressor, and do so, what’s worse, with the approval of their parents, even when they are driven by sheer naivety, is far more shameful.

Still, I cannot but continue to wonder why, in Cuba, where people are instilled with a sense of humility from the time they are born, we should today see the rampant materialism that makes our children and teenagers so vulnerable, and, on the other hand, how, in a country like the United States, where people do enjoy material abundance, children and teenagers should not be spared these horrors.

It would be worth asking ourselves where these two systems got it wrong, and how we can refashion this world, so fragmented and “dazzled by fleeting decadence”, so as to defend, as best we can, the integrity of the innocent.


What's your opinion?

  • http://www.facebook.com/haszard Danny Haszard

    Quote:
    (“An acquaintance was recently telling me about one of her neighbors, a Jehovah’s Witness whose religious scruples do not prevent them from accepting 25 CUCs for every teenager they deliver to tourists looking for sex…”)
    We could we learn more about this?This sounds extreme and implausible and I am a Jehovah’s Witnesses critic.
    Sexual Abuse/Child abuse issues among Jehovah’s Witnesses are discussed.
    http://www.dannyhaszard.com/sexabuse/index.htm

  • Guest

    Quote:
    (“An acquaintance was recently telling me about one of her neighbors, a Jehovah’s Witness whose religious scruples do not prevent them from accepting 25 CUCs for every teenager they deliver to tourists looking for sex…”)

    We could we learn more about this?This sounds extreme and implausible and I am a Jehovah’s Witnesses critic.

  • CubanaLovrrr

    This article seems to want to put blame where it belongs on Cuba and its people, but then it doesn’t….No other nation has responsibility for the ills of Cuba, except for Cuba. No one disagrees that child prostitution is wrong, and any tourist who goes there with the intention to take advantage of the DESIRE, I won’t say need as the writer hits it on the head, many girls/guys aren’t hooking for need. They are doing so for desires such as the luxury items, etc. and because sex for money and favors is easy and produces the quickest cash and most cash of any of the “jobs” in cuba. It’s also something where they can take advantage of the tourist because they feel the tourist wants and they have it and therefore can extract the most “cuc’s” for it. Cuba owns this problem and has allowed it to fester. Certainly Cuba is aware many tourists come to Cuba to party, drink, enjoy the beach and sun, and well having fun includes meeting a guy or girl to spend some time with. Does anyone really believe Cuba wants the tourism numbers to go down because tourists can’t have as much adult fun as they used to because Cuba doesn’t want prostitution anymore. Get real. The country is practically broke. Cuba owns the issue because they knowingly allow it to exist, persist and secretly want it to remain as forbidden adult fun has always been Cuba’s claim to fame. What would the tourist do if that didn’t exist there. yes, that’s right they’d go someone else. Something Cuba will do whatever in it’s power to stop. I’m all for discussing child prostitution, how it’s wrong and illegal and should be stopped. But lay the blame on Cuba’s doorstep where it appropriately belongs. the US doesn’t have any skin in Cuba’s game of creating and maintaining a country that proliferates prostitution. That’s like saying Mexico shares the blame for the US’s drug problem. not a chance in hell.