The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”

The kissing sailor, Greta Zimmer Friedman, George Mendonsa

Most of us are familiar with this picture. Captured in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945, it has become one of the most iconic photographs of American history, symbolizing the jubilation and exuberance felt throughout the country at the end of World War II.

For a long time, the identity of the pair remained a mystery. It certainly looks passionate and romantic enough, with many speculating that they were a couple – a sailor and a nurse, celebrating and sharing their joy. This year, however, historians have finally confirmed that the woman is Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental nurse at the time, and George Mendonsa, a sailor.

Have a look at some articles about it. Do you get the feeling that something is not quite right?

Huffington Post

Daily Mail

CBS News

A few facts have come to light. Far from being a kiss between a loving couple, we learn that George and Greta were perfect strangers. We learn that George was drunk, and that Greta had no idea of his presence, until she was in his arms, with his lips on hers.

The articles even give us Greta’s own words:

“It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed!”

“I did not see him approaching, and before I knew it, I was in this vice grip. [sic]“

“You don’t forget this guy grabbing you.”

“That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”

It seems pretty clear, then, that what George had committed would be considered sexual assault by modern standards. Yet, in an amazing feat of willful blindness, none of the articles comment on this, even as they reproduce Greta’s words for us. Without a single acknowledgement of the problematic nature of the photo that her comments reveal, they continue to talk about the picture in a whimsical, reverent manner, “still mesmerized by his timeless kiss.” George’s actions are romanticized and glorified; it is almost as if Greta had never spoken.

In a way, I understand this. The end of war is a big deal, and the euphoria felt throughout the nation on that day is an important part of American history. For so long, this photograph has come to represent that unbridled elation, capturing the hearts of war veterans and their families alike. The fact that this much-loved photo is a depiction of sexual assault, rather than passion, is an uncomfortable truth, and to call it out as such might make one seem to be a priggish wet blanket. After all, this sailor has risked his life for his country. Surely his relief and excitement at the end of the war is justified? Surely these are unique circumstances? The answer to the first question is yes. He is perfectly entitled to be ecstatic. He is perfectly entitled to celebrate. However, this entitlement does not extend to his impinging on someone else’s bodily autonomy.

The unwillingness to recognize a problem here is not surprising, considering the rape culture in which we live. It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. It is far easier to turn a blind eye to the feelings of women, to claim that they should empathise with the man, that they should be good sports and just go along with it. And the stronger the power structures behind the man, the more difficult it becomes to act otherwise. But if we are serious about bringing down rape culture and reducing the widespread violence against women, then we need to make it clear that engaging with someone sexually without consent is not ok, even when it is an uncomfortable position to take. Especially when it is an uncomfortable position to take.

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Update: Before you comment, it might be useful to read The Kissing Sailor Part 2: Debunking Misconceptions.

*Edited on 8/10 for clarity

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736 thoughts on “The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”

  1. Well, this was an ugly thing to to wake up to. Not your fault, obviously: everything you said is true. But what is also true is that, because of the iconic nature of this photograph, people talking about the non-consentuality of it is going to be slim to none. It would be like if Elvis or Bob Hope we said to have raped someone. No one would hear it (especially since they’re both dead). And that is the worst part about rape culture: we often can’t even begin to have the discourse. Even some men that are ostensibly feminist are uncomfortable about accepting blame: I know, I used to be one of them.

    • Very true. In the UK, people are happy to demonise Chris Brown’s actions (and rightly so) but are very reluctant to talk about John Lennon’s abusive behaviour. Which is such a shame, as it sends out a damaging message that powerful men can treat women any way they wish.

        • Lol, I’m just ruining everything for you today, aren’t I? Reminds me of the Friends episode where Chandler tells Owen that he was adopted and that Santa doesn’t exist. =P

        • As well as Rita Marley mentioning in her biography how she was raped by Bob. We pick and choose what to see/acknowledge and what to ignore.

        • The artist-icon is completely a creation of our (humanity’s) own doing. Such figures seldom exist. It’s a sobering, albeit realistic and humbling, look at ourselves. Oh well. I still like Bob Marley and John Lennon and I still think this photo is iconic. The facts behind it make it even richer.

        • Lennon was very abusive to his first wife. In fact, the Beatles song “Getting Better” is about him. Although, after that relationship ended and he met Yoko he reformed his ways and became and advocate for feminism. That’s not forgetting that he did beat his first wife, but at the very least he changed his ways.

        • To his first wife, yes. He was very abusive and did beat her. The Beatles song “Getting Better” is actually about that. However, after they divorced and he met Yoko he reformed himself and became a huge advocate for feminism. So, while not excusing what he did, he did change his ways.

        • @brad. his YOUNGER son. he mistreated Yoko as well. it’ll all come out in the wash eventually.

        • It does stand for something, that one of our sources on Lennon’s abusive behaviour, is Lennon – he owned to it, and spoke out against such behaviour rather than making excuses.

          Not to condone his earlier behaviour, but just to commend how he dealt with it later.

        • He was extremely controlling towards Yoko. Yoko was blamed by the public for monopolizing John, but the truth was he would not let her out of his sight and demanded that she should even accompany him to the bathroom.

        • To the Anonymous poster on the 4th- art doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The art and the artist cannot be separated.

        • The Beatles song “Getting Better” was almost entirely written by Paul McCartney, the only contribution by John Lennon was the spontaneous line “It can’t get no worse”.
          To take it as an admission by John that he beat his wife is absurd.

        • Excellent article — I hadn’t seen it. Thank you for posting. I didn’t know that ANY of those folks (aside from Brown) had those incidents in their pasts, so that really says something about media saturation (or lack thereof) on spouse abusers.

        • I don’t know, I don’t think I agree with a lot of those examples. There’s plenty of black artists who have gotten a pass on their behavior as well (James Brownm Miles Davis, Bob Marley), although that still fits in with the whole “we’ll give these people a pass because they’re a genius” thing. I think the reason why Chris Brown and Ike Turner shock us so much is that they beat people that we know. With most other abusive celebrities, you can overlook it a bit because you can’t often put a name or a face to the survivor, but you can to the abuser, so the survivor seems less important than the abuser. But when the survivor is Rihanna or Tina Turner, they are just as familiar to you as the man who beat them, so you can’t rationalize it away.

          Still f’ed though, even if it doesn’t have much to do with race.

        • You make such an excellent point! It seems so obvious, but that makes me want to look at cases like this in the future, imagining how I’d feel if I didn’t know who the victim is. I’m sure I’d notice that I wouldn’t have the same gut-level antipathy. I’d be disgusted with the perpetrator’s offense, but I imagine I wouldn’t take it as personally if I didn’t feel I knew the participants.

        • People knew the victims of Glenn Campbell and Sean Penn…Tonya Tucker was huge in country…and Madonna was far more famous than Sean, even back then.

        • What “means something” is actions. I man can say “sorry” after hitting his girlfriend. Doesn’t matter. BUT saying “I’m sorry and going to work on this because it’s wrong; I made an appointment with a counselor to get my act together” is a tad better. And then if he actually works on changing his behavior. Actions speak louder than words.

        • I’m sorry, but I agree. An apology doesn’t delete the action and in fact is part of the abusive cycle. When you look at any literature on domestic abuse, even what it told to the victim, sorry is like sweeping the mess under the rug until it flows out again. Also, regret doesn’t erase the pain experienced by the survivors. If I found out the man who raped me was experiencing some form of regret, I wouldn’t absolve him and pretend it didn’t happen. Hell I’d say about f**king time, you should feel bad.

        • Also, instead of an after the fact way of approaching these situations… why aren’t we teaching not only our daughters but SONS not to be abusive. How many times have I heard “well what did she expect dressed like that.” Instead of teaching “don’t be abused or get raped by these rules” how about DON’T RAPE AND ABUSE.

        • Okay, saying sorry doesn’t erase the past actions, but it’s honestly the best that can be done. Yes, apologies typically are a part of the abuse cycle, but you’re not looking at this particular case. Lennon publicly apologized, they divorced and he was out of her life.

          After that, he met Yoko Ono and became a huge advocate FOR feminism. He never denied his past as a wife beater, but he deeply regretted it (The song Getting Better is about that). As far as we know he really did change and never did it again. Is it a shame that it happened in the first place? Yes, it is, and I’m not saying we should ignore it. But what happened happened and that can’t be changed. An apology and a real determination to prove that he changed is the best that could be done.

          “I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically—any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace”

        • Maybe. But regret and apologies are two separate things. An apology is an attempt to justify one’s actions and regret is, well, regret.

        • “An apology is an attempt to justify one’s actions and regret is, well, regret.”
          Uh, no it isn’t? Apologies do not necessarily have anything to do with justification, just recognition that you did something wrong.

        • Yes, apologies and regrets are two separate things, but an apology is an actual action that stems from regret. Here are the definitions:

          Apology: A regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure; A formal, public statement of regret, such as one issued by a newspaper, government, or other organization.

          Regret: A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.

          Also, an apology doesn’t necessarily mean someone is trying to justify their actions–that would mostly likely be a false apology. It could mean, however, they feel regret, and are expressing it. I would hate to think that every time someone says “sorry” they are just trying to justify their actions.

        • I think the reply at October 4, 2012 at 20:53 pinpoints something, or starts to. Apologies can be part of the abusive cycle, but I think they are part of the abusive cycle when a) they are false apologies and the regret is not actually felt or b) the regret is felt, but people are so afraid of feeling ashamed that they cannot face up to their own feelings… they are so uncomfortable with their own guilt that, at least eventually, they start making excuses for themselves or selectively remembering how they acted. You need to have the strength to admit to yourself that you don’t like something about how you think or act in order to find the strength to change it. I respect people who are able to take ownership of themselves and exercise their agency to better themselves and their relationships with others. If John Lennon did reform, then I respect that.

      • Can you provide a link to a good article to get the skinny on Lennon’s behavior? This is the first I’ve heard of it.

        • Interview with playboy about the meaning behind getting better..there is also a documentary called john Lennon: imagine where he talks further about it.

          PLAYBOY: “Getting Better.”

          LENNON: It is a diary form of writing. All that “I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved” was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything’s the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am not violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

        • An interview with playboy.. also there is a documentary called john Lennon: imagine. He speaks more about it.

          PLAYBOY: “Getting Better.”

          LENNON: It is a diary form of writing. All that “I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved” was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything’s the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am not violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

      • Ever known a non married couple with say, her kid, whether birthed or adopted?
        What if the man started having sex with the “step-Daughter”? Disgusting, criminal, etc. oh, unless Woody Allen does it. Sure, they are married. That doesn’t mean she is well-balanced, or that his actions caused no harm.
        MINORS and those “Under the Influence” (to the point of wanting to hail them a cab…..)
        These people DO NOT HAVE CONSENT TO GIVE.

        I’m horrified that I never noticed the nurse’s body language in this photo. Sure the arm is down, but her chin is pushed down onto her neck, from his force.

        • She was not his stepdaughter, nor was she underage. You can rail all you want about him cheating on his girlfriend, but you can’t say it was not with a consenting adult. Okay, you can, but you would be wrong.

        • Her body is off-line from his (look at the feet), meaning she wasn’t facing him when the “kiss” started, and look at her right arm: stuck between them, back of the arm to his chest.

          I never much liked this photo.

      • John Lennon talked about his abusive behavior, and wrote about it. He admitted he acted like a jerk. He also reformed himself, with a conscious effort to grow up and out of his anger. Something Chris Brown has not done.

      • Uh, it really doesn’t send any sort of message like that. People can have more than one feeling about another person. John Lennon was a peace activist AND he mistreated his first wife. You could probably whip up a shitty paragraph about how this hypocrisy should take away his achievements, but it would come across as rather narrow-minded — which it is.

      • …I think the person who took that picture did not know about that…she/he just “took the moment” with the camera…I agree: George was wrong…but…

      • If “we” as a culture would STOP belittling any type of abuse by woman (emotional, physical, verbal, sexual) then thats a start in the right direction. By implying that no one cares or it doesn’t matter bc its in the past is what makes the situation smaller than what it is. Truth is truth no matter how much time goes by.

    • I have read quite a few of these from apparently very Intelligent Individuals!
      One could go round and round on cultural blame.In the end In my experience, In Life I say most Humbly, there has to be a desire for Forgiveness as a necessary foundation to evolve…..regardless of ANY situation, we choose.our lessons In this lifetime and our goal is to RETURN TO LOVE ALWAYS as all else is Illuion.

    • yes, Lennon was a violent selfish pig. But im sure he would have been the first to admit that. He had evolved so much up until the time of his death. “Women is the Nigger of the World” is proof of that. I’d say Yoko was probably the best PERSONAL thing to ever happen to him.

    • Sadly, because I do love the King, Elvis’s wife Priscilla wrote in her book that he had “raped” her on more than one occasion. I’m using “‘s because it happened at a time where men having aggressive to forcible sex with their wives was not really seen as rape, but it was and is.

      • And that is why we do not use quotation marks around it. Quotes are used when the person using them doesn’t really believe what they are writing.

        • It’s not ok to tell s stranger what they do or do not believe. I fully believe that this happened, that it was rape and that it was wrong. She on the other hand was not sure that what she was describing was rape, because like I said it was a time when spousal rape wasn’t considered real. It makes me very sad and sick at heart to know there was a time where the general population believed these things. It was her confusion not mine…as you can see from the last line of my comment “but it was and is”. Read the whole thing clearly, absorb and understand before you write a comment like you did in reply to what I wrote.

    • The man returned from war after saving his country. Overwhelmed with joy, pride, he kisses a beautiful woman, a symbol of what he fought so hard for. And we’re going to rewind the clock and call that rape? Shame on you for ruining one of the most romantic pictures in our culture. So what if she didn’t consent. If you haven’t been to war, you can’t understand what it does to the psyche, so how can we judge his actions. Today, woman are vilifying everything that has to do with being manly. Maybe these extreme feminists will get what they want — a culture of emasculated men who are too afraid to kiss women.

      • If you’re not a woman, how could you possibly know what it’s like to have control over your body taken away? Your argument is moot

        • Well, that’s a ludicrous assertion. Of course there are men who know exactly what it’s like to have control over their bodies taken away from them. Men are attacked, bullied, assaulted, verbally abused and, yes, even raped. Just because it happens much more rarely than does violence against women, doesn’t mean that argument is in any way moot.

        • I’m a woman… and I happen to agree. I think calling this photo rape is definitely pushing past the limits of the definition. Calling it sexual assault is more in line with our PC attitude of fear that we’ve cultivated. Granted, her fists are clenched and she’s most likely not kissing him back. But I still bet the whole situation was innocent. The man just returned form a horrible war, and happy to be alive, happy to be walking next to a pretty girl, and so exuberant that he just grabbed her and kissed her. Look at all the outraged faces in the background… oh wait, there were none. Smiles and laughter from the men-and the women. Did anyone else miss that. They got it. Times were different. That doesn’t mean they were always worse or more horrible, or that women were always less protected.

        • I’m not sure anyone here described what is depicted in this photo rape. The article and most of the posts constitute a discussion about all the subtle ways that women are treated with less respect than are men.

        • You’re joking, right? You’re saying that in relation to a post which is talking about young men returning from the war – young men who literally died by the thousands – many in the most horrific conditions over which they had no control. Young men who gave their lives, or their sanity, or their health or their limbs. Young men who fought beside friends and family, and watched them die, sometimes horrific deaths. Young men WHO WERE FORCED INTO THE WAR BECAUSE OF THE DRAFT. Yes, the sailor in the picture was aggressive and ‘took’ a kiss against the will of the young woman. And no, in our current situations -perhaps not even then – this isn’t right.

          But to smugly ask the question “how could you possibly know what it’s like to have control over your body taken away?” in this circumstance?

          Are you really trying to equate that with what those young soldiers and sailors had been through? Are you really trying to say that these two situations are comparable?

          I’ve been violently sexually assaulted, and I wouldn’t even compare what I’ve been through to what most war vets lived over their time overseas. If you think yours is a truly valid comparison, I think you should give your head a shake.

          And, btw, I’ve also been anonymously kissed, hugged, whirled around in the air by strangers in euphoric celebrations. If you’re there in the general mayhem, you pretty much know that sort of stuff is going on, and most people are either not particularly concerned or are joyfully participating. Your comparison of this kiss in those circumstances on VJ day to having “control over your body taken away” beggars the imagination, and diminishes what true sexual assault is.

          If this kiss is your definition of sexual assault I pray you never have to experience the real thing.

        • “If you’re not a woman, how could you possibly know what it’s like to have control over your body taken away?”

          As a man I know how it feels to have control over my body taken away from me.

          A false allegation of domestic abuse had the police take away MY control over MY body.

          When the charges were found to be false, I still lost 3 months of my life, my job and a bunch of cash for a lawyer.

          So yeah, I do know how it feels to have control over my body taken away from me.

        • I’m sorry, but “so what if she didn’t consent”? So. what. if. she. doesn’t. consent?!?!?!
          Are you KIDDING me?

        • So due to him being male he cannot know what it is like to be handled abusively and as you put it “have control over your body taken away”. That makes absolutely no sense. Men get raped, men get abused, men have this kind of shit happen to them also. I think you will in fact find that YOUR argument it moot. I am not saying I agree with his argument as it was frankly very wrong but yours isn’t much better. You use a tactic that he employed badly against him as badly as he used it originally.

      • There’s so much wrong with everything you’ve said that I don’t even know where to start.

        Unless you were being sarcastic/ironic (which, while completely uncalled for and unfunny), you have literally *just* proven the author’s point about rape culture, and the lack of accountability.

        Would *you* like it if some random dude just came up to you, grabbed you roughly in a psuedo-headlock, and kissed you hard on the lips? I guess, for you, it would make it all okay if he said, “Hey, man, I just came from war, and I’m being manly, and you should understand, and I’m free to do whatever I want because MANLINESS.”

        • I’m getting my back up, because I can’t even fathom the dissection of what is simply a sailor kissing a woman. Maybe it should have played out more like 50 shades of grey. He’d give her a contract to sign before he treated her like a submissive.

        • That’s not the right analogy. The right analogy would be what if a gay man kissed another gay man that he didn’t know, or in Roger’s case, what if a fit female grabbed Roger and kissed him on the mouth without his consent? Then it would be fine, assuming some truly wonderful event had just happened which everyone was celebrating like the sudden end of the Afghanistan war, or the death of Bin Laden.

          (edited for homophobic comment)

        • Andrew, it is a perfectly acceptable analogy because there was no way for that sailor to know that woman was straight just as a stranger going up to Roger would have no way of knowing he wasn’t gay. It is no more inherently disgusting than any other forced sexual contact. I hear what Roger is saying about being back from war and elated and wanting to express that elation, in the way that one might want to kiss the ground being back on the soil of his or her home country. The only way that I could make an exception for this act is if he was kissing this woman in the same way he would kiss another man just being thrilled to be home…but I feel like that would just be on the cheek…or not at all since this is the US. As to the whole “manliness” thing, I don’t think its very manly or very gentlemanly to subjugate a woman…maybe neanderthally

        • Uh, Andrew. . .you’re not allowed to make assumptions on someone’s sexuality based on a picture in which you can’t even see her face at all. What if said gay man in your example assumed that you were gay before he kissed you? That’s about as much sense as it makes to assume that any woman you might happen to want to assault is a) straight and b) wants to be assaulted. And let’s don’t lie to ourselves: being kissed is like any other form of sexual behavior. Nice if you want it, terrible if you don’t.

        • YES everything you just said Lucinda. I guarantee that guys trying to justify what George did was okay would freak the fuck out if it happened to them.

      • So it’s emasculating to not be allowed to assault someone? Having gone to war permits a man to violate a woman? No, a real man would not kiss a woman without her implicit or explicit permission. And no amount of trauma can be used as an excuse for assaulting a woman. And from this woman’s OWN WORDS, she didn’t give her permission nor was she even given a choice…and she didn’t kiss him back. Kissing someone without their permission, when they don’t want to be kissed, is NOT romantic. It’s a violation.

      • Sometimes I wish I could have people arrested just for saying things like this to prevent abuse. Roger you are a total CREEP. I hope some big man much stronger than you does do this to you someday just so that you will know exactly how it feels. You have NO CLUE.

        • Here, here. Maybe roger needs to taste what “non-consensual” touch actually means, and then he might be able to pull his own head out of his arse.

      • It was assault. It was not seen so at the time. All over Europe, women grabbed and kissed Allied soldiers when their towns were liberated. That was assault, too. It was not seen so at the time.
        The issue is consent.

        • That’s an interesting point. And it holds water. In our society, we still have miles to go to find a balance point so I understand all the extreme attitudes felt here. But the point is simple: in our time, gender equality and respect for one another is what we are working toward.

          Tomorrow, we will be having an Awareness Walk in honour of our Stolen Sisters (over 800 missing and murdered Native women in Canada, and counting). It’s an event being held in every city because for decades neither law enforcement or government has appeared to have taken it seriously.

          So gender equality: good. Race equality: also good.

          God bless the brown woman in this society, she has everything stacked against her.

          It isn’t been easy being a man in these changing times with so many conflicting images and attitudes thrown out there, just as it isn’t easy for a woman. I am trying to give my sons a proper attitude: respect at all times. If I am ever blessed to have a daughter, that is also what I will teach.

          Lets’ remember, social norms, or what you are calling rape culture, is not the fault of the young boys and girls (straight and gay) who grow up in it. Lets be a little more gentle with each other in our efforts to make a better world for them.

        • Yeah, and the old Romans and Greeks thought it was perfectly normal to have sex with everone and everything anywhere at anytime. They took kids to bed, if you know what I mean. They thought it was okay. It was assault, and maybe it was not seen so at the time. But they were not stupid. I mean, everyone at anytime in history knew that when you do something like that without consent, the other hurts. And everyone knows that hurting is not fun. The concept is purely egocentrism.
          You cannot justify an act just because it wasn’t considered as an offense back in time.
          And you can’t justify an act just because the person who commited it was a soldier returning from war.
          I mean, I have a trauma as well. When I returned home after the traumatic event, I didn’t harm anyone. I was in a mess. The traumatic event was rape.

        • “You cannot justify an act just because it wasn’t considered as an offense back in time.”

          This right here is problematic. Because it is a neon-bright example of that part of American culture that says: I can and will judge any culture of any time by MY STANDARDS, and condemn them when they don’t conform, because obviously MY CULTURE, my rules, my taboos, my morals, are the right ones, the apex of civilization, the only possible acceptable ones because I say so, and the entire world should take note and conform.

          This is a discourse that goes beyond the specific topic of this picture, but your statement was a general one and I am responding to it as such.

          How very colonialist. Please do bear in mind that other cultures might have different morals and taboos and customs and it is not your place to go impose your ‘superior ways’ onto them. It is also deeply unfair to judge the entire world by your standards without even stopping to think that elsewhere, products of different (and much older) histories might have produced different cultural structures.

      • Really? “So what if she didn’t consent”? Do you know what it’s like to have people use your body, to treat it like a thing as if there isn’t a person inside? I don’t know if you realize this, but kissing is only fun if both people want it. Also, women are symbols and ideas and not real people?

        This is basically the same argument that is used to excuse the high rates of rape in the military, or at least one of them. “He just came back from war, he’s messed up”. As if that excuses it. As if women in the military don’t experience the same pain and stress in a war zone. This has nothing to do with being manly and everything to do with using another person for one’s own pleasure. If you want to be ‘manly’ grow a beard or start farming or whatever.

        The woman being kissed served as well, remember.

      • No, shame on YOU for thinking that you have the right to women’s bodies. You can tell from her posture that she was uncomfortable and didn’t want to be there. I don’t give a shit if you saved the world with one hand tied behind your back, you have NO right grabbing the nearest woman and kissing her. NONE. If it is “manly” to act like a neanderthal and sexually assault women, then yes being manly should be shamed.

      • “So what if she didn’t consent?”

        Um, so SEXUAL ASSAULT.

        “Maybe these extreme feminists will get what they want — a culture of emasculated men who are too afraid to kiss women.”

        Men SHOULD be afraid to kiss women without bothering to find out if the woman actually wants to be kissed! If that is “emasculation” than bring it on.

      • “Maybe these extreme feminists will get what they want — a culture of emasculated men who are too afraid to kiss women.”

        Men shouldn’t have to be afraid of kissing someone without first bothering to figure out if they want to be kissed. It should be common sense. It should be common courtesy. But it isn’t, because of rape culture.

      • “so what if she doesn’t consent”??? Umm really? How could you ask that? I agree that this man probably didn’t have malicious intentions and he was probably very excited to be home and not exactly thinking straight but that in now way makes an excuse to do something to someone without there consent, especially the way he is holding her, this is very clearly more then an excited kiss on the cheek. He is holding her in an intense grip and she is very clearly not reciprocating. That is sexual assault. You can’t say “so what if she doesn’t consent” because consent is everything!

      • So what if she didn’t consent.

        And that is the root of rape culture.

        What if you had been that woman? How would you have felt then?

      • he fought hard for the right to grab a passing stranger and sexually assault her? you have a perverse notion of freedom.
        you should seek help if you think consent is emasculating.

      • I honestly pray you have no wife and no daughters. you would not like it, I’m sure, if some random (esp. during this time period- 60+ years ago!) soldier comes home from Afghanistan, finds you way too cute, is thrilled to be home, and has his way with you, because TESTOSTERONE! It sounds as if she had no idea at all who this fool even was. Can you imagine what was going through her head, even for a second? I’m sure she was terrified! You wouldn’t do that now- do that today- what, you see a gal you like, and you attack her in a mall, before those extreme feminists ruin everything?! It’s not cool, it’s not sexy, and hey- “50 Shades of Gray” is not every woman’s wet dream.

        Yes, be afraid to kiss women you don’t know, who give no consent.
        Absolutely. That is not extreme. That is respect. Equal respect. Respect for PEOPLE, of whatever gender, does not emasculate, feminize, or make anyone manly for that matter. It just makes the world a better place to live. That is what feminism is, and to think anything else is just stupid.

      • Survivors of sexual assault, rape, and abuse can experience PTSD from their experiences. If you haven’t experienced sexual violence, if you aren’t part of a marginalized group of people who is made to feel constantly at risk of having those experiences, “you can’t understand what that does to the psyche”. Am I arguing that one kiss, no matter how violent, would lead to that? No, that would be out of proportion to the incident and seems extremely unlikely. I am, however, trying to emphasize that sexual violence is a matter to be taken as seriously as physical violence (and, in fact, often does involve physical violence). They can both have just as lasting and devastating effects on the psyche. Also, if you want to idealize (instead of idolize) what soldiers fought for then I think you probably agree that they fought for freedom and happiness– two things he denies this woman by forcing his attentions on her; that makes this picture most emphatically NOT a symbol of what soldiers fought for.

        • Even without the threat of sexual assault, women are, on a daily basis, harassed for simply being women. The cat-calls and leers that the average woman encounters each day would boggle most men’s minds, if they bothered to observe.

          I once saw a woman wearing a baggy jogging suit, hair pulled back, no makeup — who didn’t look particularly sexy at the moment — walking down a sidewalk while several men in a car followed her driving slowly down the street. I thought to myself that it was ludicrous that they ignored me and focused all their slime on her. I was much younger and have often wondered if it would have been better had I somehow intervened. Thankfully, they eventually drove off.

          My housemate was walking across the street recently when a man in a car at the stoplight yelled out his window, “you sure got some big-ass titties.” Like, really? When was the last time a man was treated that way by random women?

          Just conduct your own poll. Ask women you know — particularly if they’re young and considered pretty by our standards of beauty — what they experience each and every day.

      • A real man would not force something upon a woman. He wouldn’t use something as an excuse to do what you likes. He would stand respectable and in turn would respect his equal, woman.
        Ruining this iconic piece, you say? Ok, Louis XIV was an asshole, but yet, I still enjoy the painting in which he is depicted. I respect the ashetic ART. This does not mean I always respect who the subjects may have been.

        • “You’re right, you’re right, I shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t have done that….” “Senno Ecto Gammat! (translation: “Never, without my permission”) Bruce Willis gets a moment of enlightenment, though it takes a gun to his head in “The Fifth Element.”

      • “Today, woman are vilifying everything that has to do with being manly.” Depends on what you call manly. I think of manly as meaning acting with inner strength, integrity, propriety, self-control (emotionally and physically), compassion, respect, moral responsibility, fairness. I could go on, but I hope you get my point.

      • The point is, she didn’t want to be kissed by him…he just took his pleasure with her without even asking. Do you even know the meaning of the word rape? Just because he went to war, does not excuse his behaviour, and just because you think it does, does not make it so.

        • Then you are totally ok with strangers kissing you forcefully whenever they please right? Nothing wrong with that!
          C’mon. And what happens next? Really, no one worries about what comes next? All people who take their pleasure wherever they please are cool with stopping too..
          A kiss is sexual (and I really pity anyone saying it’s not, because unless it’s your grandma, it sure as hell should be). If it is unwanted, and there is no consent, then it is assault. If that was your teenage daughter, would you not be furious?

      • So a man who is overwhelmed, who has done well, is entiteled to a womans body? Any woman he so chooses? And a woman is a “symbol”, so what if she doesn’t consent? She was beautiful, he wanted her, he took her. What about HER psyche? Do you know or care what she has been through, what she felt? I hope I never meet you, you sound dangerous.

        • weird, so the whole population was entitled to the mans life and body, because they sent him to war, but he isn’t entitled to kiss one woman? talk about equality…

          sure he didn’t have the right, but the discussion is totally one sided. (edited)

        • Hey, I totally agree with you. War culture is also something we should all work to dismantle. Funny how similar the two phenomena are.

        • I can just imagine some of the people who think it’s no big deal to restrain and make out with someone also feel that desecrating the flag is a punishable crime. I know that’s often the case here in the US.

          Having said that, I think some on this thread think those of us who decry rape culture are equating this example with sexual assault and violence against women. If one truly reads the article, one sees the whole point of it is that women’s autonomy over their own bodies is and has always been less than men’s, and that this photo is one subtle example of that fact. There are oh so many more not-so-subtle examples.

      • “…he kisses a beautiful woman, a symbol of what he fought so hard for.”. So, in the 21st century women are still war trophies? Your perception of romance is distorted and you have no right to shame anyone when your morals exclude respect towards women.

      • Roger, just take this or any other similar situation and swap her out with another man. If this dude grabbed another sailor, embraced him, and mashed his face against his, would you still think it’s okay? Would that other sailor?

        • A lot of people read “Rape” in the title and interpret it as saying that this is rape. A misreading, but an understandable one.

          “Rape culture” is a problematic term to communicate with people other than those who already agree with us. “A culture of sexual assault” isn’t as punchy, but it’s less combative and there’d be less misunderstandings.

      • Roger, I hope you live a germ it’s life, because you certainly don’t belong in public.
        If you haven’t been assaulted, you have no idea what it does to the psyche.
        A lot of pop culture myths are MYTHS. LIES. PR. when Thoreau was “getting away from it all” at Walden Pond, he walked into Concord every week, had his laundry done by his mother and sister, and had dinner with them.
        I don’t have the same definition of “manly” as you. People who have been assaulted, vilify behaviors which are also assault.

      • There is nothing romantic about assault. (And I’m sure he fought under the pretense of protecting those at home, not the right to exert his own controle over them.) The only really romantic men I’ve known – and I’m thinking in particular of friends who did fight in the second world war and came home to build loving families and live exeplary lives – are those of strong character, who live with respect for the people around them. There is nothing “manly” about exerting force over someone in position of relative weakness to yourself.

      • So, it’s romantic that after he fought in a war defending freedom, that he comes home to…. take away another person’s freedom temporarily. Right. This makes perfect sense.

      • “And we’re going to rewind the clock and call that rape?”
        Um, no, we’re not. And the author of this post didn’t. If you get your facts wrong so easily, there’s no need to take you seriously at all.

        “… a symbol of what he fought so hard for.”
        A person is not a symbol. If he wanted to kiss a symbol, he probably had plenty of pinup pictures he could kiss.

        “So what if she didn’t consent.”
        How far does this go? How much can he do without her consent?

        “Today, woman are vilifying everything that has to do with being manly.”
        So, it’s manly for men to treat women as things they can use as they wish? You realize that this also extends to other men in a pinch? Think of soldiers who’ve been raped by other soldiers of the same army. So what if they didn’t consent? They should gladly share their behinds with other men who’ve fought to defend the Fatherland; who can know what it means to them?

        “Maybe these extreme feminists will get what they want — a culture of emasculated men who are too afraid to kiss women.”
        Where do you get this? The way you phrase it, “to kiss women” means that any man kissing any woman just because he feels like it, whether he’s fought in a war or not. The only thing men should be “afraid” of is forcing themselves on women (or on men). Most women *want* men to kiss them, and want to kiss men, but they want their own wishes to be considered. I don’t see why that’s so hard for some people to get.

      • Fun fact #1: it’s not assault if you’re a soldier!
        Fun fact #2: All women who believe sexual assault is wrong are ‘extreme feminists’!
        Fun fact #3: All men who do no commit sexual assault are emasculated and afraid!

      • Extreme feminist? Most romantic picture ever? She said she didn’t was the kiss, he grabbed her and forced a kiss upon her. Emasculated men? Let me ask you two questions? Why is there not a word for women which is equal to emasculated? Why do you think there is not one? I don’t think
        you can figure this out on your own but you should really try. So what if she didn’t consent? I don’t understand what war does to the psych? Your right I don’t, but I do know what men who think they can do what ever they feel like to another women without consent does to the psyche. It’s called PTSD. Sound familiar?

      • I am a woman, and I think this article is over the top. If a woman would have been like this and grabbed some dude and kissed him, no one would be crying “sexual assault”. Ridiculous.

    • This article is completely misinformed. My mom met the man in this photo last year, he was a perfect gentleman. He was so happy the war was over he kissed the first woman he saw. It was not assault, it was a celebration. It was also a different time period. Rape and assault were not daily subjects back then. Also they met again and became good friends a few years ago. She did not claim assault. They were both happily married until she died a few years ago.

      • It could have easily been any other woman though. The problem is he thought it his right (whether swept up in the passion or not) to grab the first woman he saw and kiss her. Really, Greta saying it was okay (which I’ve heard various different accounts of what she said) does not change the fact that he felt entitled to kiss some woman. If it hadn’t been her, it could have been someone who would have not been okay with it.

      • I’m sure he was just excited, and drunk, and saw it as a celebration. He is hardly going to admit to assault, is he.

        I’m also sure the woman probably didn’t think of it as assault, but that doesn’t mean it was consensual either. She may have just not wanted to cause a fuss, like most ‘good women’ back then.

        Most guys are ‘perfect gentlemen’ until they get a few beers into them, and then…they turn into beasts.

        • I count myself as a feminist and I do thing that it is a problem that someone can think it is ok to just grab someone, hold them in a vice-like grip and kiss them. HOWEVER, if we are going to expect very high standards from men (i.e. not cut any slack from in a moment of joy and celebration – after fighting in a war – kissing someone) we need to respect those some high standards back. I.e. I’m not happy with comments like “Most guys are ‘perfect gentlemen’ until they get a few beers into them, and then…they turn into beasts.” and other similar on here.

      • How is this article misinformed? Because your mom happened to like to guy? because he’s old and nice? Lots of nice people do bad things. Volunteer in any prison for awhile. The whole point is, you cannot (or really should not) grab women (or men) and assault them as an expression of emotion you are currently having. Kind of like if your sports team loses a match, and you punch a fan of the opposite team, you can be charged with assault. What happens after said assault is moot.

      • Yes, thank you. I was disgusted when this happened. And, then I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t reading about it. I wasn’t plugged into social media at that point, and maybe just wasn’t reading the right publications, but it seemed like radio silence on that topic or worse, celebrating Adrien for his “exuberance.”

      • hmm, i assumed this was set up. being a native californian, and with friends working in hollywood, i hear about the inside contracts all the time for things like this. I do hope it was, because otherwise, ugh. no words.

    • Interesting point about icons being beyond reproach. Recent UK example is Jimmy Saville – iconic DJ for 40(?) years – and apparently a serial pedophile for much of that time. He is quoted, after being interviewed by police, s saying that he was ‘bulletproof’. Apparently, if media raised the question, he suggested that he might cut off some of his very generous charity donations – deathly silence!

    • I think I have standing here — I was violently raped by a stranger when I was 20 years old. He beat me unmercifully, cracked my jaw, and had planned to kill me. A nearby resident heard my screams and called the police, who arrived in time to prevent my murder.
      I have worked with various organizations to help other victims, and am well aware that some aspects of our culture encourage rape and other abuses of women and children.
      I know first hand and through other victims’ experiences, what rape is. My take on the D-Day photo? I think it is much ado about nothing. Sheesh!

      • Of course, comparing this D-Day photo with what you went through, is trivial. The photo was not about rape, the man probably wasn’t intending to murder her, and it pales far in comparison to your personal situation. But it does not negate that the act in the photo was not consensual and that it was culturally okay for him to do that to her. The fact that you compared both situations and dismissed this one makes me feel that you are not entirely grasping the force of the situation here.

        • I am not saying That I agree with the acts in the photo but can i make a point. Let us say that you brought somebody a present and they loved it so much they grabbed me and kissed me. They have forcefully grabbed me and kissed me, I did not give consent. Is this wrong? In my opinion it isn’t it is their way of showing appreciation. What i am trying to point out is that something doesn’t have to be bad just because it isn’t consensual, the situation coupled with whether it was consensual or not are the things that matters the most. I would say the acts in this photo are completely wrong actually.

      • As a sexual assault victim myself, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. Our experiences are only that- ours. We have no right to try and dictate the rules of what sexual assault is in another’s circumstance. I’d really rather not see someone pull out the “rape vs. forcible rape” discourse because it’s really crappy. Sexual assault is sexual assault in all its incarnations.

      • That’s not fair of you in the slightest. The issue here is consent. As a sexual assault victim myself, I really disagree with your last statement. We have no right to judge others’ experiences just because we ourselves have experienced sexual assault. Our experiences are our own and only our own.

      • This picture is the first step in escalating into what you went through.
        I’ve been assaulted as well. Not as bad as you. I managed to “talk my way out of it”…. yeah right… he still had me do a hand-job on him with the implicit threat that if I didn’t relieve his “need” that way, he would just take what he grabbed me for in the first place.
        This picture, and it being written off as nothing, or not so bad, IS the first step on the ladder to what happened to me, and ultimately what happened to you.
        The mentality behind it… that it is OK to invade other people’s privacy, private space and bodies in even the most minor way, that they do not have ultimate say over what happens to them, is the foundation for rape culture.
        A kiss is just a kiss… if it happens between consenting lovers or close friends.
        But an unwanted kiss is ultimately assault on a persons integrity and person, and is, not talking severity here, as much assault as rape.

    • You’re right. No one even views it as selective blindness of rape culture. It is iconic but it is the beginning of what we call rape now. It’s still hard to prove in a lot of cases. You can have this one but that’s it!

    • Bob Hope did rape someone, many people. Brave victims like Brice Taylor (who Hope personally controlled), Cathy O’Brien and others have exposed the abuse and mind control.

      In her book “Thanks for the Memories,” Brice writes, “What most of you have not been allowed to know is that years ago, at the outset of the Cold War, permission was given to a hidden group of so-called ‘professionals and leaders’ to experiment on the unsuspecting American populace in an effort to further a variety of advanced technology.”

      “The technology gleaned by the American leaders, medical professionals and scientists was in the form of bio-electromagnetic frequency medicine, genetic engineering, mind control, brain research, near-death experimentation, paranormal/psychic experimentation, remote viewing, time and space travel and other advanced research that make our everyday human understanding look antiquated.”

      Fritz Springmeier elaborates on Bob Hope’s role: “There have been numerous connections in this author’s research about the Illuminati/CIA mind control which connects back to the U.S.O. (the American military entertainers that traveled in USO units on tours.) The story about how the USO was used to carry messages to mind-controlled agents and military men would include many names…The military apparently was already using programmed killers to carry out deadly assignments…Bob Hope & the USO was used to carry trigger words to these mind-controlled people.”

      “Likewise, what better person to pick than Bob Hope to run messages worldwide? Bob Hope was British, and MI6 knew they could trust him. Bob Hope has an excellent ability to learn and say lines. Bob was…great with words, knowing how to fit them together and to make puns and double and triple meaning sentences. His ability to construct sentences with double meanings was a great cover for the hidden messages he transmitted for allied intelligence during the war. If you want to keep a secret the best place is out in the open…”
      - See more at: http://www.henrymakow.com/bob_hope_-_uso_mind_control_se.html#sthash.hRdQgWYm.dpuf

  2. If we’re going to war to protect our freedom and our independence, then coming home and robbing our own citizens of that same freedom and independence we just sent men to die for is both disgusting and disrespectful. Yes, that man had just risked his life for his country. But that was *his* choice. (Unless he was drafted, which is a whole different ball of wax.) No one is responsible for making him feel better about that, nor are we somehow obligated to turn a blind eye if he decides to behave badly. If soldiers we send to war are coming home and doing the same things to us that our enemies would do, then what is the point of sending them in the first place?

    People are people. This really hasn’t changed much over the centuries. You can romanticize pictures and stories of them all you want, but what it comes down to is that they’re still people that are just as flawed as the rest of us. I, for one, am deeply suspicious of anything that is touted as “perfect” or widely romanticized, such as this picture. Whenever I look at it, I don’t see the symbol people are trying to put forward–I see the people in it, wondering what they’re thinking; where they come from; what they’ve seen; what they’ve done. And I know that no matter what the occasion and no matter who is being photographed/painted/filmed/whatever, they are still people, and no person is perfect.

    The point being that if you buy in to whatever the symbol is trying to sell you, then you risk overlooking the truth of the matter, as is the case with this photo. Everyone likes to think it’s a symbol of peacetime celebration, of youthful exuberance, of passionate love and hope and all those things. That makes them happy. They don’t want to stop being happy, so they overlook the truth of the matter, and in so doing set themselves up to continue that same pattern throughout their daily life. For a woman, that can mean thinking this sort of behavior is normal or acceptable. She’ll think she should just go along with it in order to be part of history, to not make waves or a scene. For a man, this sort of behavior can lead him to thinking that it’s acceptable to act in this way, that other people are there for his pleasure if the mood so grabs him. And of course, if no one objects or just goes along with it–that means they’re fine with it, right?

    (This is of course not going into the subject of what wars are usually about, and most generally how those things have nothing to do with freedom or independence; I felt like such a discussion isn’t really pertinent in this case and has the potential to create quite the comment war, so I’ll leave it untouched for now.)

    • “For a woman, that can mean thinking this sort of behavior is normal or acceptable. She’ll think she should just go along with it in order to be part of history, to not make waves or a scene. For a man, this sort of behavior can lead him to thinking that it’s acceptable to act in this way, that other people are there for his pleasure if the mood so grabs him. And of course, if no one objects or just goes along with it–that means they’re fine with it, right?”

      Yes, this sums up the problem perfectly, and is why we mustn’t allow instances of sexual assault or violence against women to be swept under the carpet just because it’s inconvenient to talk about it, or because it spoils a romantic image that the public has built up around a person.

      (I have a feeling we share a similar view on wars. =) That could be a whole blog post in itself!)

      • Agreed! The more we sweep it under the rug for the sake of patriotism, or unification, or romanticism, or just plain “I like this picture because it’s pretty”, the worse the problem becomes. It reinforces the idea that there are certain things which are “OK” and certain circumstances in which this sort of behavior is acceptable–even applauded!–which of course leads to all sorts of troubles. It can be fun to romanticize, but only if you understand that’s what you’re doing. Only if you understand that, once the surface is scratched, there is so much more beneath to be understood, acknowledged, and discussed.

        And yes, wars could definitely be a whole blog post…maybe even a whole blog. XD There have been quite a few of them. (Sadly.)

      • I once heard of a very assertive woman who was out with friends and was literally picked up by man. He was carrying her across the street. It took her that long to really protest what was taking place. I think that her scenario nicely illustrates how young girls are socially conditioned to be polite, even to their own detriment. I got the same impression when I saw this article. She may have felt a need to not make a scene or to be polite or “lady like”. It seems amazing that we as women should feel a need to preserve aggressive, inappropriate men’s egos through politeness when what they are doing is so wrong. Its so important to raise our daughters to defend themselves both verbally and physically if needed and not feel bad about it.

        • Absolutely. I was raised to always defend myself. Verbally, and if need be, physically. As an adult I have no tolerance for men who expect me to undermine myself just to preserve their egos or allow them to be masculine. This made my early twenties in bars very interesting. If I was a man, I would have been described as confident, intelligent, and assertive. But acting this way as a woman made me emasculating, a know-it-all, and a “bitch.” Men in bars who tried to hit on me went away very fast if they couldn’t handle me not playing coy and stupid. And I’m glad I did. I am with someone now who never expects me to act like anyone but confident, intelligent, assertive me. He loves me the way I am. You should NEVER disrespect yourself just to make a man feel good. It only gets you into trouble. Before this relationship, I was in a relationship full of verbal and mental abuse. All because this man had decided that he could control me, and that it was okay to manipulate me and use my emotions against me.

          Bottom line: Women in our culture are conditioned to just “go along” with whatever men want, and chalk up bad behavior to the “He’s just being a guy” idea. And men are conditioned that they CAN do whatever they want, and even though women will nag them, they will still get away with it. This makes me SICK. Our entire culture perpetuates this. I don’t think it will ever end, unfortunately. I know I will raise my children the way I was raised, not to tolerate this kind of ridiculousness. Boys to be respectful and not “macho.”

          Most of the world is a lost cause, though. I guess being able to build a human from just a sperm and an egg, and in less than a year, is just not enough. What I really need is broad shoulders and vulnerable external reproductive organs that only make half of the required ingredients for a human, and nothing else. Wait–why are the men in charge, again?

      • The people in the background are laughing. Which kind of invalidates this whole argument. Their laughter does not diminish the significance of the act. But it does give a clue that this behavior was common. And that many people on V-J Day were drunk. They had just ended a sad and brutal period in history, starting with the Depression and so on.

        • because they are laughing it ‘invalidates this whole argument’???? are you kidding?? (i’m not laughing by the way). there have been reports of women who were gang-raped and their rapists were laughing. there are reports of men beating women and then laughing about it. i’ve even seen interviews of serial killers describing what they have done and smirking which is definately close to laughing.

          forcing anyone to do anything againt their will is not ‘funny’. Drunkeness could be the reason but are you aware how many senseless acts of rape and murder occur while people are drunk? Just because you have been through something traumatic does not give you the right to abuse others. I would know from personal experience.

          personally- I think the laugher (and i’m quite sure you are right about it being from drunkeness) is horrific. it shows a culture that is clueless about how to properly treat each other. what if that woman were married? what if she had had children? can you imagine the damage that could have done?
          and just because she did not- we are not supposed to just run around forcing our tongues down other people’s mouths whether they like it or not.

          finally- please note her clenched fist. women don’t generally clinch their fists in a moment of passion. this is something we do when we feel violated but powerless. this is an expression of what she wishes she could do but knows she is powerless to do it…..

        • I agree with tmegee, though I don’t think the damage would have been greater if the woman had been married or had kids. The forced kiss was a violation of her bodily autonomy regardless of her marital status.

        • @Johnny Ramone,

          Several years ago, when I was only 18 and working as a waitress, one of my co-workers came up behind me and grabbed my breasts. Several other servers and the bartender (all grown men aged 20 – 40) were there and they were all laughing. I have no doubt that, for this man and for many like him, such behavior was common. It was “just a joke”.

          I didn’t think it was a joke. And I was very, very relieved when the police officer I reported it to didn’t think it was a joke either.

        • Just because something was common doesn’t make it right. I mean, my gosh, I can apply that statement to so many issues from the past.

      • Why is it just a woman who would go along and not make waves. Why is it “ok” to make jokes about a guy dropping the bar of soap while showering in prison? Men raping men is funny? Uh, no. The references are still plentiful in pop culture.

    • Excellent points. I had a similar thing happen to me at a festival, where a man literally picked me up out of nowhere and sat me on his lap. I was in shock, and said nothing. I couldn’t get any words out, and when I did manage to say “what makes you think I want to sit on your lap?” he said “well, you didn’t seem to mind when I did it, did you” and this was someone who considered himself to be a Sensitive.New.Age.Guy.

      When something like this happens, there is a few seconds where you go into a state of shock and cannot move or speak, and these few moments are enough to be interpretted by the man as meaning that you ‘want it’ because you aren’t protesting. The fact is, the woman is usually too in shock to be ABLE TO!

      • I know, it has happened to me, too. Especially one time when I was groped in the middle of the street at day time, I was so shocked I couldn’t get a word out. I just stood and stared, completely frozen. Then I began shaking. So that’s why I’m not thrilled when people suggest women should learn some self-defence so that they can take care of themselves. It doesn’t matter what tricks I have up my sleeve, I won’t be able to use them.

    • Thank you! I guess the sad thing is that most people will continue to remain unaware of it, because the media seems very unwilling to acknowledge that this is anything other than a wonderful, romantic symbol.

      • Well, and I think it’s more that they don’t want to disillusion an iconic image unnecessarily. In this case, who would it help to unmask this image publicly to more people? It doesn’t help in the fight against rape culture. Sure, for those who do talk about it, it shouldn’t be covered up or made to seem like nothing. That’s where we see rape culture at work. “Oh he was feeling so ecstatic” and other comments is just wrong. Sure, it’s all fine if you are ecstatic, but don’t try to excuse the fact that the action was wrong.

        But I don’t see a direct need to spread the knowledge of the picture directly, as unlike other events uncovered of historical things that turned out to be a farce, she wasn’t upset and wanting vengeance being denied to her because of rape culture. She just had no interest in him actually having kissed her either way instead of being freaked out.

        Anyway, in this case, I feel as long as no one knows the truth, they technically don’t contribute to rape culture. In fact, the real issue is in the present and more prevalent issues of rape culture that exists that would cause people to not care about doing something like that in the first place. The image is still ruined for me, but I suspect others never knowing the truth won’t hurt our society anywhere as much as things coming out now like the Bikini Basketball League.

        • I disagree that it “doesn’t help in the fight against rape culture:” I think that every time we are made aware of a visible instance of abuse, no matter how long ago and how ignored at the time and how seemingly subtle, it makes us think more about our actions and reactions, maybe someday before they happen.

        • I agree, Deborah. I would have never considered the point of view that this iconic photograph is assault. I was offended at the mere thought, until I read some of the comments and opened my mind.

          I noticed, while I am a supporter of ending violence, I was reluctant to let an old image go, to make room for a different idea.

          This article definitely helped me broaden my views and isn’t that what changing a culture is about?

        • I heartily agree. An open dialogue and healthy discourse are ways we can help each other understand and, hopefully, relate to and empathize with each other.

  3. I never much cared for this photo and now I wonder if I subconsciously noticed the woman’s arm hanging down, not holding him as if he were someone to her. Who knows? I’m a female veteran, so I’m not fond of anything that smacks of military male ribaldry. Even if it’s in the way back time machine.

    • That’s a good point; I just tried to reenact the scene in my head, and if I were kissing him back it would indeed be pretty awkward to hold my arm straight down, with a clenched fist, rather than place it somewhere on the man.

      • And if you look carefully, you can see that her other arm is stuck in between them – in a pushing-away position.

        Like I said to my mom when I saw this picture when I was 7 or 8 – “Why isn’t she hugging him if they’re kissing for real??”

        • We were told this was an image to celebrate just the same way we’ve been taught to celebrate the horror of war. If you simply look at the picture without the context that it is a joyous celebration of the US victory it becomes very clear the woman is incredibly uncomfortable: stiff left arm with a clenched fist, right arm wedged between herself and the soldier, head held in what looks like a headlock and chin practically pushed into her neck. We saw what we were told to see.

    • It’s not just her posture. Look at his. Look at his left forearm and the weird awkward way he is holding it. Wouldn’t it be more normal to put his hand on her shoulder to support her back?

      The way his arm is bent, he’s restraining her head. She can’t turn away. I wonder how often he’s done this to know automatically how to keep her from turning away.

      I’ve always loved this photo, and now….

  4. I’ve known about this photo for years, and I’m glad whenever I see the real story behind it get addressed.

  5. I had never noticed this picture in this light before. I hadn’t noticed his arm wrapped around the woman’s face and neck and the amount of violence contained within it. Thank you for sharing this and highlighting the strides we have to take to break this rape culture.

    • I’ve seen that pic hundreds of times and have NEVER noticed her left hand clutching her uniform and the grip ’round her head and her right trapped between her and him. Will never look at it the same again. :(

    • Yeah, people really need to stop getting so upset about the personal autonomy of others being forcibly ripped away. It’s not like people have feelings, emotions, or the right to their own body.

    • Sooo I guess you’d be ok with a random drunk stranger grabbing your significant other, daughter or wife and planting a big wet one right on their lips?

      • They would be an asshole, but whatever you get over it. If he continued to sexually harass her, then we have a different story.

        Sexual Assault is thrown around too loosely, so is harassment.

        If a random girl comes up and kisses me (which has happened in front of my girlfriend) you get over it. I didn’t care for it and thought it was uncalled for, but whatever. We both though the same.

        (edited)

        • You aren’t bothered by a “girl” kissing you… what if it were a man? One who is bigger and stronger than you?

        • What if the random man forcibly kisses YOU? You still feel it’s fine — no big deal, no need to protest the invasion of your mouth by his tongue? Can he run his hands along your body, too? Where should the line be, in your estimation?

        • Really? It’s okay because random girls have come up and kissed you – and you think that’s equivalent? What if the “random girl” in question was bigger than you, stronger than you, probably drunk, and quite possibly not at all attractive to you? What if it wasn’t just “a kiss”, but forcibly GRABBING you, taking you off your feet, and forcefully kissing you?

          How would THAT make you feel? Because THAT’S what this photo is. The woman in the photo isn’t just being subjected to being kissed – she’s being forcibly overpowered.

      • That happened. Onm November 1st, 2010, a random drunk stranger grabbed my wife and kissed her. I just high-fived him and hugged somebody else. See, the Giants had just won the World Series, and the bar we were in was filled with happy, hugging, kissing, cheerful fans expressing joy through physical contact! I even got hugged and kissed by a guy, and had no problem with it.

        (Edited)

        • Was the guy who kissed you a head taller than you and outweighed you by 50 pounds? Did he lock your head in his arm so you couldn’t move, then turn you upside down so that if you did get yourself out of his grip you’d be flat on your back on the ground with him standing above you? Were you wearing a skirt so that there was only underwear between him and your genitals? Were you wearing a pair of high heels required by your job so that it was even harder to keep your balance? Do you live in a culture where one in four men will be raped by another man, and do you have many male friends who have been raped by men? Have you been raped by a man before? Did you feel protected from rape by the fact that your wife was standing nearby?

          My point is that when a woman is randomly grabbed by a strange man it means something very different than when a man is. There’s a saying I think is relevant here–that in terms of gender relations, a man’s greatest fear is that a woman will laugh at him, and a woman’s greatest fear is that a man will kill her.

        • Okay, so I don’t think this particular situation is as black and white as we’re trying to make it out to be.

          There’s a point to be made about the ecstasy of the moment. It really was something none of us can really understand unless we were there.

          However, it is still technically sexual assault. But we also don’t get a sense of Greta’s tone of voice when discussing it. We know the words, but those can be interpreted in a number of different ways. If she was upset, that changes the the entire meaning where as if she was saying it nostalgically it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

          Regardless, the concept behind the kiss – Going out and just grabbing the first woman you see and kissing them IS, by definition, sexual assault. It’s not okay, ever.

          And yet, we have with this picture something that has become more powerful than that photographer probably ever imagined. More powerful than that sailor ever imagined. Nobody, until it was revealed, knew that it was a picture of a man forcefully grabbing a woman. As a few commenters posted, they had a hunch, but most people assumed it was a couple.

          It’s something that I don’t really feel comfortable drawing conclusions on. I think this photo, as a piece of history, is something far more powerful than any one of us is. And yet, it is in fact a documented case of sexual assault. I don’t know if there’s a right answer here.

        • I agree with both of you. Truth is it was a violation, but honestly…and I’m a woman…it wasn’t a rape. I do think we have to be careful to not take rape and assault lightly, because it is not ok, but we also really need to be careful how often we are throwing those words around. I guess if a person has been made to feel violated or uncomfortable then yes they were violated, but perhaps we are all just giving ourselves and the world just a bit too much leeway with what constitutes as being “violated”. Rip my clothes, throw me on the ground and force sex on me…that’s rape. Plant a big one on my lips because you’re drunk and excited, totally annoying and gross, but nothing to call the cops over. The end from my side

        • I would have to agree. There are times when physicallity is going to occur based on the location and atmosphere. If you are on burbon street at mardi gras someone is going to grab your arm and ask to see your tits. If you are in a mosh pit youre likely to get shoved. These are technically battery but does anyone do anything about it? No. Because you had an idea of what you were getting into. Thats not to say there isnt a line that is crossed within this consent via circumstance. And this is where the world isnt p
          Black and white. If i was this woman and some drunk sailor grabbed me and kissed me on vj day in the middle of times square, i wouldnt have cared or caused a stink. Even if i could equate that to it ocurring tomorrow, i wouldnt have cared. Other women might have been terrified or mad. I am personally happy that i am the type that wouldnt have been bothered and would have carried on celebrating. Its an easier person to be, and likely a happier one. I dislike that you felt the need to put rape in the title, even in “rape culture”. To me, at least, rape as a term should not be volleyed unless you are actually talking about rape.

  6. By describing this moment as a sexual assault, you are reducing both of these people to objects and the act itself to its most base nature.

    You strip away humanity, individuality, and context and view it as nothing more than “man” forcibly kissing “woman”, and that is deeply divisive and counter to the very core of feminism.

    Feminism teaches that all humans need to be seen as humans and not objects. And yet you completely throw the context of the situation and both of these people’s individuality entirely out the window and reduce it to “drunk warrior assaults helpless woman.”

    You are objectifying the people in this photo. You are taking your own ideas of what sexual assault is and placing it on other people in another situation, you’re not allowing those individuals the opportunity to be different, or to have different opinions from yourself.

    For example, in the interview where Greta makes the remarks which you claim make it an “obvious” sexual assault:

    “It wasn’t that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back. … The reason he grabbed somebody dressed like a nurse, that he felt so very grateful to the nurses who took care of the wounded. ”

    When told by the interviewer about the photographer’s quote that, “It was an enduring symbol of the joy and relief felt by a nation at the end of the war.” Greta responds,

    “Right. Everyone was very happy; people on the street were friendly and smiled at each other. It was a day that everyone celebrated, because everybody had somebody in the war, and they were coming home. The women were happy, their boyfriends and husbands would come home. It was a wonderful gift finally, to end this war. It was a long war, and it cost a lot.”

    She finishes the interview by saying:

    “it was a wonderful coincidence a man in a sailor’s uniform and a woman in a white dress… and a great photographer at the right time.”

    source: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.42863/transcript?ID=sr0001

    For George’s part, there is pretty much incontrovertible evidence he wasn’t sexualizing the moment of this kiss, but rather experiencing a moment of jubilation … he was on a date with another woman, who is now his wife!

    She can, in fact, be seen in the photograph over his shoulder, grinning like crazy; something that all three of the articles you provided links to take pains to point out. Her quote about the nature of the kiss pretty much puts to rest the notion that what is in fact a moment of honest, human joy being expressed physically, was a sexual assault, “A lot of people want to know what I was thinking,’ Petry told the Post. ‘It was a happy day; I was grinning like an idiot. The kiss really didn’t bother me at all.”

    It is a good thing to seek to bring down rape culture. It is pervasive and debilitating and it fully deserves to be cast into the rubbish heap of history. But in this particular case, the monster under the bed is only in your imagination.

    • Let’s have a look at the facts. Sexual assault is defined as:

      “sexual contact that you didn’t agree to. Some common types are:
      • touching your private parts or kissing you (“simple sexual assault”); or
      • forcing you to have sex, even oral sex (“serious sexual assault”).

      (taken from http://www.justice.gov.nt.ca/pdf/VictimsServices/Sexaul_AssaultENG.pdf)

      Using this definition, a non-consensual kiss is certainly sexual assault. Not only do we have Greta’s word that her consent had not been given for the kiss, her evidence is corroborated by George himself, who says, “‘The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks. So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her, and I kissed her.”

      Regarding Greta’s words in the interview, I see nothing to suggest that she had enthusiastically consented to the kiss. I think there are two possible scenarios here:

      Scenario A:
      Without warning, Greta was grabbed and kissed by George. She is shocked at the time (as can be seen by her arm and clenched fist, as some commentors have already mentioned). However, she doesn’t mind too much, is glad that the war has ended, and is happy to be part of a historical photo.

      Scenario B:
      Greta is displeased with the kiss, and felt violated during it. However, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. The picture of the stranger kissing you has become famous nation-wide. It is celebrated as a romantic symbol, full of the relief and exuberance of the end of the war. When the interviewer speaks to her, it is in the context of the excitement involved in having finally tracked down their identities. It is clear that the interviewer herself feels whimsical about the photo. When she describes the photo as “an enduring symbol of the joy and relief felt by a nation at the end of the war”, can you imagine how difficult it would be for Greta to throw cold water over everything and say, “You know what, I don’t think a picture of a non-consensual kiss should be celebrated as such”? A huge number of women today have experienced unwanted sexual contact, from groping to kissing. There are times, especially when the man is part of your group of friends, and everyone’s laughing and having a good time, when there’s a lot of pressure not to spoil the party, to just laugh it off and go along with the general consensus that it’s ‘just a bit of fun’, ‘what a lad he is, hahaha.’ I reckon the pressure on Greta in this situation would be much, much higher.

      Unless we are privy to Greta’s secret diary, we will never really know her true feelings about the kiss today. However, one thing we can be very clear on is that the kiss was not consensual. Because Greta has told us that. At the time of the kiss, George had no idea how Greta would feel about the kiss, because he didn’t ask, nor even give an intimation that he was about to kiss her. And that, sadly, is sexual assault today.

      • There are a couple of problems with your argument, Leopard. First, the definition of “sexual assault” is not objective or trans-historical. We can judge past behavior by our own standards, but we cannot understand their behavior (verstehen) by imposing our standards. So it is possible (even likely) that no one involved would have described this as sexual assault. There is an arrogance in your willingness to impose your own interpretation of events on those involved (an arrogance which the Nietzchian in me appreciates), which needs to be acknowledged. But imposing your own (emic) definitions onto other (etic) social situations is simply an error of understanding; it is not, in itself, ethically incorrect.

        So, sure, you are free to condemn the sailor on whatever subjective modern grounds you like (that haircut!). But you are not free to drag him into “the rape culture in which we live.”

        To take this one step further: if this situation were to occur today, in the streets of New York, it might not even be an example of “sexual assault.” See New York State Penal Code Article 130 – Sex Offenses.) There was no contact with the “sexual parts” of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire. He arguably committed the tort of battery, when one person intends to cause “offensive or harmful” contact to another and such contact actually does take place. The kiss may well have been “offensive” to Greta. It is less clear to me whether he committed the crime of assault, which in NY requires (among other things) an intent to cause injury.

        Of course, you might then argue that NY state law is patriarchal and sexist (just imagine the law at the time!). But that’s a different argument entirely from the one you made at the outset.

        • Bearing in mind that we are all products of our time, I agree that we can’t judge him as harshly as we would someone doing the same thing today.

          I also take your point about the legal definition of sexual assault differing among different states, let alone countries. However, seeing as the aim of the blog post is not to recommend that George be hauled off to prison, but to highlight a moral problem in society, I think it would be rather tangential to carry on comparing different definitions of sexual assault from different parts of America and the world, and indeed different times.

          Also, when I spoke about today’s rape culture, I was referring not to George’s act in itself (although I’m sure the situation was even worse back then) but to the strange unwillingness of today’s mainstream media to even acknowledge that the photo was problematic, in light of Greta’s comments. Such attitudes are certainly a symptom of rape culture.

        • Tim, you’ve made an excellent couple of points. Relying on textbook definitions for this particular scenario….is not sufficient to label the participants as the author has labeled them. The larger point is good, that the media hasn’t examined the aspect of consent it should make us all think about. But drawing it as only the observer sees it, and not as the participants see it….objectifies them. Being a humanist, I think, is just as important as being a feminist.

      • Two questions then: is it possible for a kiss to ever be anything other than sexual contact? Is it possible for a kiss to be more than merely sexual, or completely non-sexual?

        And the second question is: How much physical inviolability does a person have reason to assume in a situation such as a joyful street party?

        I would argue that the answer to the first question is yes, it is possible for a kiss to be non-sexual, and that a person has only a reasonable expectation to be free from physical harm in such a situation. Not to be free from any and all physical contact.
        In such a circumstance, a non-sexual act of physical contact cannot be construed as assault.

        • Forcing your tongue in someone’s mouth seems like a sexual assault to me. A non-sexual kiss would be a kiss on the cheek, or even a big loud smack on the lips. But when there’s tongue involved, it’s a sexual act. When there’s physical force involved – than man is restricting the woman so that she can’t dodge the kiss – it’s an assault.

          You don’t need consent for a hug at a joyful street party. But that’s a bit more than a hug.

    • “You strip away humanity, individuality, and context and view it as nothing more than ‘man’ forcibly kissing ‘woman’, and that is deeply divisive and counter to the very core of feminism.”

      I’m pretty sure the ‘very core of feminism’ doesn’t state that consent is only required in certain contexts.

      It’s not okay to grab hold of someone and forcibly kiss them without their consent. It doesn’t matter if you’re celebrating, it doesn’t matter if your girlfriend is laughing in the background while you do it, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not sexualizing it.

      What kind of message is it sending out to young men if we’re fine with this sort of thing happening? “Grabbing hold of a stranger, forcibly hold their head still and kissing them is fine as long as your girlfriend finds it funny?” “You don’t need consent if it’s a happy enough occasion?” Seriously Drew, complete the following sentence for me.

      George didn’t need consent because…

      • …the act was non-sexual. You don’t need consent to hug a stranger if Peyton Manning scores a bloody touchdown, why on earth would you need it to kiss someone on VJ-Day?

        • Maybe YOU don’t prefer to have consent before being hugged by a total stranger if Peyton Manning scores a touchdown, but I sure as fuck do. Hug me in response to a touchdown and I’ll probably break your nose. But I’m sure you’d be okay with that because breaking your nose is totally non-sexual.

        • Oh? Can you imagine the scenario with him doing this to a man? To a child? Would that have happened? Why not, Since this is so obviously non-sexual to you.

        • He grabbed her, held her head in a ‘vice-grip’ and kissed her for about 10 seconds with her physically unable to get away. The issue is that he violated her bodily autonomy, whether it was sexual or not.

          Are you honestly saying that if Peyton Manning scored a touchdown, you’d be happy with a guy much bigger and stronger than you are overpowering you, grabbing your head in what is basically a head lock and forcibly holding you there while he kissed you for 10 seconds?

    • totally agree with you here Drew. I, in fact, thinks it diminishes the horror of rape by painting this as some sort of psychologically damaging event.

      • The photo doesn’t bug you, I get it. But don’t claim nonsense to shore up your subjective reaction to it. I have to believe you’re smarter than your claim, and that if you took a step back you’d realize that your statement makes no sense. Of course the existence of a less severe crime does not diminishes a more severe crime. Unless you think I shouldn’t say “It’s upsetting to come home and find that your home was broken into” because some people WERE home and got injured, which is arguably more traumatic. You don’t see that both things can be upsetting? Honestly?

    • You are correct. THANK YOU for correcting the misunderstanding. The individual woman and man in this image have made clear that the non-consensual kiss was harmless. Some non-consensual kisses are not harmless, I don’t think you are saying that they aren’t. You hit the nail on the head, the fact is….context matters. Individual humans matter. Knowing this does nothing to demean women or to promote rape culture, patriarchy, or abuse. Abuse is abuse. Joyful, unanticipated sharing of affection can be about sharing, or used to abuse. Between the two, only the participants can draw the actual lines.

    • The remarks that are used for what Greta said are, yes, her own words, but they are also used out of context. She was not offended by it or anything such. She obviously came forth and claimed the picture to be her and met the man who did it. The did an interview TOGETHER. Her only thing was she didn’t want to reenact the photo as his wife was present.

      (Edited for abusive comments)

      • So because women in 3rd world countries have it worse we shouldn’t say anything here when a stranger grabs us, no matter what the context?

      • Lydia, I happen to be from a ‘third world country’. Its not okay to say that because things are worse in other places, American women should suck it up.
        “America being a rape culture” isn’t the point. ‘Rape culture’ is a way of *thinking*, and while I get that your point is that we should get some perspective on this picture, like I said, just because there are worse things, doesn’t make bad things better.
        The point isn’t really that ‘Greta wasn’t offended’– I think its dangerous for us to put words in other peoples heads, and thats a big part of the problem, don’t you think? The point is that whatever the context, you cannot touch someone without consent, and the fact that this particular instance of that is being celebrated is problematic. Context matters, it is for the individuals to draw their lines, not us, but it *is* okay for us to discuss certain lines that need to be drawn and why.

        Also , at the risk of generalizing, I feel that in my particular part of ‘the third world’, we have very different notions about personal space, and a man kissing a strange woman would be far less acceptable than it seems to be in Western culture(judging from some comments here), it would be immediately read as a more sexualized gesture.

        Issues are different in different parts of the world, and different doesn’t always mean less or more important.

    • “It is a good thing to seek to bring down rape culture. It is pervasive and debilitating and it fully deserves to be cast into the rubbish heap of history. But in this particular case, the monster under the bed is only in your imagination.” Thank you Drew for introducing a sense of proportion.

  7. I’ve always thought there was something off about the body language of this photo, with the woman’s arm at her side and not embracing the man as passionately as he is embracing (or gripping) her. Now that I know the story behind it, it perfect sense. Too bad there isn’t an “after” shot of her slapping him in the face!

  8. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” | Femina Invicta

  9. Wow, thanks for this article. I never noticed until now that the lady is making a fist with her hand, and her body language is extremely defensive.

  10. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor, Take 2 | Encyclopedia Virginia: The Blog

  11. Thank you. Thank you for psoting this. As someone who was recently the victim of a similar assault, I can see in this photo how I felt. But what is worse is that I am frustrated and angry, for both her and myself, how the news articles and people in eneral turn a blind eye. The same thing happened to me. “He was drunk” or “Why are you trying to cause trouble within our group” were just a few of the things I heard. My agressor wasn’t a stranger…he was the husband of a friend. A respected member of our tight knit community. And because of this…a blind eye was turned. He got away with it. I was told if I talked to anyone about what happened I could be kicked out of the group for gossip. Pathetic. Especially because this is a group that prides itself on women’s rights. But why do anything when it is so much easier to turn a blind eye. Yes, I occassionally might have to come into contact with the person who assulted me…but my pain is NOTHING comppared to what Greta must have endured. Her assault was caught on camera…and became an icon. No wonder she never came forward. I wish her nothing but peace and healing. From one victim to another.

  12. Pingback: VJ Day — from a feminist perspective | Bock Media

  13. I wonder if all those French or Italian women kissing American soldiers when they liberated their countries should have been charged with assault too. Methinks you are being a little too politically correct.

    • I think the difference is one of relative power in each situation. The American soldiers being kissed weren’t being grabbed and having their heads forcibly held, being physically unable to get away. In the picture the woman is smaller and physically weaker, so is in a much more vulnerable position. The soldiers, on the other hand, were the bigger, stronger and the ones in control in their situation.

      • Agreed, Marc.Thank you. For more on the power issue, read Michel Foucault. He hit the nail on the head. A person of lesser power “coming on” to one of greater power in the particular situation is usually accepted and acceptable. Think about it. But it is totally a different situation when the one with greater power is doing the acting. Whether it is a prisoner and guard situation or a poor woman in a war zone approaching a soldier, it is the same dynamic.

    • As a woman who has been grabbed by drunken men and forcibly kissed, it is a very scary feeling to be unwantingly held by someone a lot stronger than you and being unable to push yourself away. Most men can easily push a woman away. It is horrible to feel threatened and overpowered, and that is the big difference

    • Actually, to me, there is no difference. I’ve known men who’ve been randomly grabbed by women at parties (no as often as women I know, but it happens) and they weren’t all happy go lucky about it. Most men probably don’t care, but it’s perfectly possible to feel violated by any person, regardless of gender or size or supposed power differentials.

    • You make no sense. It is not all right to grab someone and kiss them when they don’t want it, and hold them so that they cannot get away. It is not all right for a man to do it to a woman, and it is not all right for a woman to do it to a man.
      Grow upl

  14. Perhaps it depicts not the end of the war, but the beginning of another… a paradox, clear only in retrospect.

  15. Since we’ve now established this is an example of sexual assault, let’s be clear: Gretchen is not an end-of-WWII kiss victim. She is an end-of-WWII kiss SURVIVOR.

  16. I’ve actually always wondered about that picture, because the posture of the woman never looked like she was in the throes of passion or ecstasy… more in the posture of “what the f*ck?” The way his left arm’s clamped around her neck makes it look like he was going to kiss her whether or not she consented….

    • Exactly, and that’s why I never liked that picture or thought it is romantic.
      Also, I hate the approving smiles of the people around.

      • They are not smiling at what THEY are doing! They are smiling because World War freaking Two just ended! (Edited)

        • That’s exactly what I was going to say. Those smiling faces have little to do with the kiss around them- in fact, I bet half of those people were too distracted to even notice the picture taking place. So, the people in this post using their smiles as a way to defend the assault are using an irrelevant argument.

      • Eh, even if the people in the background were focused on the kiss… they still most likely wouldn’t have been paying any attention to these two people before it happened.
        If I saw a sudden kiss I might smile, not realizing it was an assault because I have no reason to think it was anything but a passionate kiss. And if the victim didn’t react much, I might NEVER realize what I had witnessed. Even if she walks away from him and never goes back, I probably would have no reason to pay attention to the strangers enough to notice her absence.

        I think you’re judging the people in the background unfairly. They had no reason to believe anything was wrong. Depending on how she reacted, they might have figured it out in the moments following the picture being snapped–but we don’t know what they did then, if so.

      • No, but it SHOULD give you the right to determine for yourself if you’ve been a victim of an assault. And until the observer has been in a crowd of uniformed individuals who just found out they don’t have to fight the Nazis or the Japanese to the last soldier….well….perhaps you don’t know as much as you pretend to know.

        • So you are saying it would be better not to be a female vet accompanying her male cohort back from an Iraq or Afghanistan deployment? Oh, wait, it wasn’t even safe being deployed with them. I am not trying to tell you what to think, just that you can’t understand what it feels like to be the one without power.

        • It’s actually terrifying how many people within this post are using the aftermath of war to excuse assault. Do you realize how many soliders have their assaults swept under the rug? Their time in the military should never ever excuse such behavior.

      • Missing the point, entirely, which was that the man being called a “rapist” on this blog is likely no longer here to defend himself.

  17. Ashley and others, let’s not deny what she herself said and what is plain to see: this is a “vice grip” . The young woman spoke and very likely referred to a BICEP GRIP, meaning one of his arms biceps are locking her head in a grip. And the transcriber wrote “vice grip”. Well there is something deliberately distorted here, not only in social perception, but in the use of language to euphemise his action. The guy’s biceps are gripping her head in a locked position from which she cannot escape.

    Wikipedia on “vice grip”: Vise-Grips are pliers that can be locked into position, using an over-center action. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locking_pliers

    You don´t even have to google “bicep grip” WE ALL CAN SEE IT… This is no romantic lock on the head. It is a violent, pugilist maneuver, ultimately aggressive!

    • Vrindajamunashakti, a “vice grip” is also common slang for a grip (with any part of the body) that feels as tight and immovable as a vice. “Bicep grip” is not a term used at all in American English.

  18. I do understand your point in referring to the rape culture…and I even support it to an extent.. however when you watch the CBS story that was done and pay careful attention to the body language and attitude of the kissee now.. some 67 years later.. Greta does not seem to feel as strongly about the matter as you would have readers believe.. you can take her printed words our of context without listening to the intonation of what she is saying.. I don’t think she would allow her potential rapist to escort her across the street, which we clearly see him do. Was “the kiss” totally the right thing to do?? I’m not sure, but was it totally wrong either? This is a great instance of time and place having a lot to do with an occurrence that can be totally mis-read 67 years on.. in a different politically correct atmosphere. Just as a thought.. have you ever kissed someone on New Years eve just because you were happy.. or drunk?

    • I’ve never kissed anyone on NYE or any other time out of nothing more than simple happiness or drunkenness, no. I would be disgusted if anyone did that to me at any time. If you have, that doesn’t make it alright for or acceptable to others. Living your life doesn’t mean you get to tell others how to live theirs. Kissing someone without consent is doing just that — only minus the telling. It means the recipient has no say.
      At any rate, you’re expecting this woman to feel just as strongly 67 years or more after the fact of ANYthing as she did at some point in the past? Just because she’s healed and moved on doesn’t make assault alright.
      And seriously you’ve never noticed alcohol is used as a rape drug? Hello?

    • CRD, I agree. It’s a valid point to make, but it is seriously overdrawn. We should aware of the context, and the media bias toward simplification and acceptance of patriarchal power, both humans in the photo should be respected…and this dramatic projection is good for page views. Not for ending rape culture.

  19. I don’t really know where to start on this. I think you’re drawing some pretty intense conclusions about the present based on this photo from 67 years ago.
    I’m not saying that this particular photo, because of it’s iconic nature, doesn’t get downplayed in terms of the violence of the events in that particular photo. That could very well be true.
    I’m also not saying that rape isn’t a serious problem in the present day. It absolutely is.
    However, I will say that we live in a very different world today than in 1945 and trying to draw a conclusion about “rape culture” existing today is a pretty far leap. Just because some drunk guy got too handsy with a nurse a long time ago and people today have a pre-conceived notion about the photo that captured that situation doesn’t mean that people today are okay with rape or sexual assault. It could just mean they want to hold onto an innocent image, whether that’s the truth of the situation or not. You’ve kind of discounted the possibility that we always want to believe the best in people.
    It seems like your effort could be better spent on cases of present day injustice where these problems are being ignored. Even then, convincing everyone that there is a “rape culture” is a hard sell. How do you define an entire culture as being corrupt, anyway?

    • Hey Mike,

      I think its not only about what happened that day, years ago. Its also about how that picture is perceived today.
      If thousands of people today idolize a picture in which sexual assault is taking place, then I do think we have a problem.
      (I have never seen this picture before and thought it to depict a rather brutal scene right away.)
      What kind of pictures do we iconize today to stand for the happy ending of WW2? Should it really be this picture which we, the people of today, hang on our walls to celebrate and remember? Or should we maybe choose another one, because this one also depicts a sexual assault (apart from everything else)? And that is a discussion in which we should indeed be apply modern day standards, because this discussion is about us and our perception.

      Greets,
      Rebecca

  20. I’m surprised it’s taken over 60 years for anyone to notice what most people with even a basic understanding of body language picked up in a few seconds. Clearly the female in the photo isn’t all that enthusiastic.

    That said, one has to remember that Pepe Le Pew cartoons were also popular in this era, and nobody seemed to realised that he was basically a rapist.

    • Pepe Le Pew was a bad smelling foreigner. It is only expected that he was going to force himself on females who were not his own kind.

  21. To this day, the individuals in actual title of the photograph “V-J Day in Times Square” is still contested. Historians have only partially nailed down the sailor which is assumed to be George Mendonça. Despite that assumption, there are still a few men out there who have stepped forward and provided more than reasonable evidence that they happened to be the sailor on that day. On the other hand, the woman in the clutches of the sailor is as up in the air as a pop fly. At a glance, Edith Shain was the first woman to come forth in 1977 and claim that she was in fact the woman in a white dress. Prior to her deaths, Shain had established a correspondence with the photographer of the iconic image Alfred Eisenstaedt. Even Eisenstaedt himself grew to accept Shain as the woman in the white dress. However, along the lines of the sailor, more women in later years had also claimed to be the woman in the white dress. I can assure you that it is not Greta Friedman even in light of “independent” forensic analyses and George’s weak corroboration. Greta’s claim is weak at best. The best forensic method would have been to exhume Edith Shain’s body for skeletal analysis. So despite the resounding claim presented in this article, the identity of the sailor and the woman in the white dress remains unsolved. This goes to say that historians have not finally confirmed the identity of the individuals in Alfred Eisenstaedt or Victor Jorgensen’s photograph. Sure there have been public celebrations in various parts of the country in honor of Greta and George, but the actual truth behind the photograph still eludes us.

    (Edited)

    • All very interesting but if you think this is a picture of a consensual encounter then I think you are being wilfully obtuse. Being a Brit this picture has barely registered with me before but looking at it for more than a second you can see that she is limp, not holding him back. If it were consensual here arm would be around his neck. Her jaw is clearly clenched tight and he is holding her like a bear. Whoever the people in this photograph actually are I know what I see, so the main point of this post stands.

      • MASSIVE conformation bias. What you have basically said is “I didn’t think anything of the picture, until being told it is a sexual assault. And now I Know that it is a sexual assault because… (amateur psychology…)”.

  22. I never noticed his arm’s position before wrapped around her head and face. It’s not the romantic or loving cradling of her head the way that movies and fairy tales portray. This is very very insightful even if the attributions are or are not confirmed, the body language all by itself speaks volumes… if you’re open to listening.

  23. This article is quite a stretch, like a pair of yoga pants on Chris Christie. It was the 1940s, men did as they please and women were merely along for the ride. I am thankful that despite the glamor and panache those women had back then, we as women today don’t have to be held down by a domineering male society. However, this photograph is still to this day unsolved as to who those individuals are. To offer a scathing pathos in lieu of such weak and unsubstantiated evidence, I will assume this to be a unique artistic critique of the composition.

    In layman’s terms, your words hold no value on the larger discussion of women in American society.

  24. Thank you SO much for this perspective. What makes your interpretation so important is that it reveals the dominant narrative of western culture as nothing more than a story that we’ve told ourselves. It is the story of righteous victors; champions of freedom and human rights. The story of American exceptionalism. But it is telling to see that this image – which can be said to embody the country’s collective spirit – is really a statement of how the US celebrates a culture of rape.

    War is rape culture. And rape culture is war.

    This is the dirty ugly reality behind the exuberance which is said to have motivated this act of sexual assault – we were cheering for the loss of untold human lives and the devastation of communities. This image was used to humanize and soften the crude brutality of warfare and we as Americans hung our hats on it. It is incumbent upon us to really consider what we’ve been saying about ourselves all this time; to take responsibility for facilitating and glorifying mass murder under the guise of heroism. Literally romanticizing its horror through an image of rape. It is a scandal of existential proportions.

    • Wow, excellent insight, and beautifully stated. Of course these people are contextual individuals with their own lives, stories, and perspectives. But they are also products and symbols of our exceptionalist, imperialist, American myth…er…”history”. The power and cultural truth of that symbol is entirely independent of the subjects’ awareness or intentions, whatever, and however valid, they might be. The general and the specific are not mutually exclusive. Thank you, Jackrabbit.

  25. Victory was declared. It’s as if no one today can understand the sheer amount of elation these individuals were experiencing. It doesn’t matter if you were a man or a woman, V-J Day was a day that seared itself into your soul. No more rationing, no more distressing news of men dying, no more sons, brothers, or fathers traveling across the world to put an end to Japanese fascism. If I was sailor escaping the brink of setting off to hellish wartorn islands I would more than likely drunkenly embrace a complete stranger. Hell, I would kiss a stray dog. As what many had said above, this article is a bit much. In fact, it is saying too much with very little evidence to back it up. I don’t see a woman clawing to get away. Neither do I see the men or women in the background clamoring for that man to stop. Who knows what happened at that moment during and after. All I see is two people swept up in the moment. I hardly see this as sexual assault taking place and I’ve spent 4 years of my teenage years escaping that form of assault.

    (Edited for personal insults)

    • I only see one person “swept up in the moment”. Seeing TWO people “swept up in the moment” is wishful thinking.

  26. Tell me more about this… rape culture?

    I guess he must have also been given a fair trial before you labelled him a rapist? No? Please, speculate more.

    • It is small. It is just a kiss. Remember that when that burly gay man grabs you in his arms and plants one on you!

    • I pity any person who, walking vaguely near you on the street, trips on a loose paving stone and happens to stumble vaguely into your personal space – you would “shoot out of hand” ? May the snap absolutism of your convictions not be any defense in your prosecution for homicidal action !

    • Isn’t that statement just a tad sexist. Perhaps you should think of replacing man with person. I love people in general, regardless of their gender. This type of statement really bothers me though.

      As an aside, if you want to bring light to the subject of rape culture then you are best not to limit your audience by gender? Don’t all genders have a part to play in a rape culture?

      “It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent.”

      It is not easy to assert that a person’s body is always their own, not to be used at the whim of anyone without consent.

      It would be so easy to include both genders in this conversation. It is more difficult to solve a problem if you are excluding part of the equation. In this case, when you exclude men from identifying with the issue you are attempting to bring light to you are eliminating a portion of the population that is essential to communicate with to solve this issue.

  27. Pingback: Had to Repost: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” « Helese TALKS!

    • That doesn’t look sexual to you? Really? Do the men you know kiss their mothers like that? Do friends kiss like that under the mistletoe? I doubt it, unless they’re suppressing some serious sexual tension in their relationship!

  28. What I would really like to ask her is what she thinks of this picture being such an iconic photo in American history. I myself wondered about these two and did my own digging a few years ago and found out they were strangers. Even without reading any of Greta’s words I went back to the picture and I saw hints in her body language that show me she is uncomfortable. The clenching of her fist, the awkward position of her mouth, and her arm between their body that almost seems to be pushing him away, or trying. It is so sad to me that a picture I loved for so long is really something I am spending my life fighting against.

  29. I am a man. I love my mother, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, female cousins, female friends, and females in general. I am all for feminism, equality, and so on. But this take on this specific event is bullshit. We are, unfortunately, that PC in this country that kissing a stranger in a moment of elation is sexual assault rather than celebratory. By sexual assault I do mean criminal, illegal, but only because the law is written in that way. I do not consider this assault by any means. Haven’t you ever seen a movie, read a book, or perhaps witnessed in real life, a person so ecstatic s/he grabs whomever is closest by by the face (palms over cheeks), pulls that person in for a kiss, and runs off announcing whatever news brought that person the joy that inspired her or him to kiss that other person? Unless you’re a lawyer trained to seek the legal in every event, did you think of this as sexual assault?..or celebration? We can’t do anything in this country because we are so PC. Rather than being able to enjoy a moment and live carefree, we must fret over the potential consequence of every detail of our actions lest we be faced with a lawsuit. This is not liberating, this is imprisoning.

    • “PC” here meaning “I don’t feel like taking responsibility for the impact my actions my have on other person, because it harshes my buzz.”

      I mean, do you actually realize that you basically said that it’s a crying shame that we live in an era where you can’t just kiss a random stranger on the street because you feel good?

      WHY is that a bad thing?

      He didn’t trip, he didn’t forget. He grabbed a woman, held her head still, threw her off balance, and kissed her. Would you REALLY be okay with a complete stranger doing that to you? A man who was bigger and stronger than you? Do you really think it’s right to insist that everyone sle be okay with it.

      • If world war 3 just ended and we were all still alive and not melted nuclear rubble ….. I have a feeling i really wouldn’t care if it was a guy or a girl that kissed me …… I might not like it but the context of the situation is soooo important here. Also from their accounts the shots were taken over a 10 second period for the four shots at which point they went their separate ways.

        was it right maybe not …. was he thinking about the correctness of his action ( from our current stand point of what constitutes personal space) or if he was just reacting to the fact that he doesn’t have to go back to a trench to possible get killed. There is plenty of photos that catch this way more and speak to it on a much deeper level in pop culture… this photo is getting way out of context. (sometimes you do things out of instinct and because it feels like the right thing to do at the time when in retrospect you look back and go oh shit maybe i shouldn’t have done that – I’m making a general statement)

        Also from an art perspective the layers of meaning that are layered into this photo make it even more iconic. It catches more then just the social fabric of that specific moment in time but of the culture in many facets. If anything this photo should be celebrated more in various different contexts from the status of women in the 1940 to the sociological impact of war, to the exuberance of the human spirit and the spontaneity of human action.

        I’m a photographer so as one I’m speaking of the merit of the photo itself including context.

        The true measure of a photograph is the ability to invoke emotion of that moment in the viewer. After reading a lot of these posts I would say that all of you have felt something looking at this image and therefore I would put that this photo is in its rightful place in history and should be celebrated as such. The subject matter is what makes it worth while. The unexpected kiss, her body posture, the location, the smiling faces in the background.
        This photo is a contrast of itself ultimately showing the tension of the time as well as the jubilation of a new page in history being turned.

        I think a lot of you are superimposing your own personal history and preconceived notions on to a moment in time that as individuals of the post world war 2 generation I hope we never have to understand.

        I would just like to end on the fact that what I’m saying doesn’t devalue any of your experiences nor does it devalue the sanctity of the right to ones space… just the fact that life sometimes is full of surprise.

        There are far more important issues for us to be debating then if this photo depicts rape culture, not for the sake of keeping this image because its famous famous but because this isn’t the mountain we are making it out to be but a mole hill.

  30. It’s a relevant piece of history, and useful social commentary. That’s certainly sexual assault, and it adds depth to the picture knowing that.

    That said, I think it’s likely the consumers of the image were ignorant to the assault which is remarkably difficult to discern by the untrained eye. I’ve gotta give it to Debra, I’ve never noticed any of that. I think that’s all a good indicator of an unpleasant unwelcomed surprise (ie., sexual assault) though.

    > The unwillingness to recognize a problem here is not surprising, considering the rape culture in which we live.

    ^ That too me sounds blatantly ridiculous. The only problem here was that (a) a man assaulted a woman (major), and (b) the photographer and press assuming they were informed opportunistically pried the picture away from the context of the assault for a profit (major, and to be totally expected of a bourgeois profit-driven press). It’d be something entirely different if the viewers, knowing this was an assault, chose to iconize this photo as the moment the war ended.

    Now, that this information is out, I think it’s our job to rebuke this photo when it comes up and to dispel the moment it captured with the proper context.

    • When I refer to “the unwillingness to acknowledge a problem here”, I am not referring to the way the picture has been celebrated over the years. As I said, many people thought they were a real couple, or at least that the kiss had been consensual, and was thus an expression of passion and jubilance.

      What I am referring to is the way the media (check the links I provided in the post) published Greta’s comments, yet in the very same articles continued to idolize the moment, failing to acknowledge that the photo was problematic in light of her words.

  31. I think this is an interesting discovery, but the woman who was kissed never uses terms like “sexual assault” or “rape”.. do you not think there is a distinction? Isn’t that her place to say, given that she was actually there? what would you have done with this drunk, exuberant, and perhaps horny guy, charge him with rape? what cop is going to arrest someone for kissing someone? i have been kissed by random drunks and have been grabbed inappropriately while walking down the street with others in a foreign land. I may have cursed them or just been surprised, as she..but never did I think of what happened as an assault.

    • And at the time of the act captured in the photo no policeman would have arrested the sailor because at that time it was not considered so important for women to give consent. It is now. That doesn’t make it any less wrong when it happened, it just means that women felt less able to speak up and defend themselves.

  32. Hmmm… the site is labelled “In pursuit of gender equality” and yet there is no mention of women not being drafted to fight and die for their country. But men are, whether they like it or not. And here, we have one man expressing his relief by grabbing a passing nurse and kissing her. But oh noes… this is “rape culture” in action! No, it really isn’t. It’s a drafted man expressing his relief with someone who got a free pass during the war. Gender equality? Yeah, really and truly.

    • But then, why did women escape the draft?
      Women who wanted to fight were just as upset about this as you are.

    • Women don’t force men into warfare (by way of the draft or by starting wars), men force other men into warfare. Men also barred women from service in the military, women didn’t weasel out and foist it on men.

      So you’re blaming something that men do to other men on women and then justifying whatever those men forced into war by other men do the women?

      So what’s your point again? That patriarchy hurts men too? That the draft is just another way in which men in power have been sexist?

  33. Fact: Rape in the US has declined by over 80% in the past 35 years, by 60% since 1993 – (See stats @RAINN)

    If we look back further to historical times then the numbers make todays “Rape Culture” look like something that would have seemed impossible to achieve. Which is why I think Rape Culture is a mis-nomer.

    The biggest rape myth today is the one that says to women: “Don’t bother reporting rape because you will only be humiliated and abused by the legal system and then the perpetrator will not be prosecuted or face any penalties anyway.

    Approximately 63% OF RAPISTS are serial predators with an average of 6 victims each. The only way to stop them is to prosecute them. The only way to end rape is to put the rapists in jail.

    • You simply cannot use statistics and percentages to explain rape in the world. Do you realize how many acts of sexual assault go unreported?

      • If people ever want to be equal the moaning at some point has to end and people have to actually want to be equal rather than constantly at people’s throats. Attacking some old long ago taken photo is the height of of that behaviour is done only by people who are more interested in fighting than genuinely moving society forward.

        (Edited to remove abuse)

    • are you serious okay I’m going to make the assumption right here and now that you are a straight guy now lets say that in a moment of jubilation a man grabbed u held you still and forced his tongue down your throat without any form of consent on your part. would you not feel violated?
      Rape culture is in fact a theme and I don’t see why any person would feel the need to try and discredit it..?
      the fact that the man had a reason to be jubilant (NOBODY is trying to deny that) does not mean that it he had the right to force himself (which is what he did) onto this woman.
      What if after a long battle with breast cancer, I ended up in remission and out of excitement I drop kicked a puppy? I would have a reason to be excited but I feel like even you can agree excitement would not excuse the behavior.
      I don’t understand the reason you felt the need to post such an insensitive thing on this thread unless you were in fact simply looking for a reaction. I do however know that if you haven’t noticed that not everybody who seems to be upset about this has expressed feminist views. And yet they are still upset.
      in short:
      all your comment accomplishes is making you seem like an insensitive, backward thinking, uneducated jackass.
      have a good evening

  34. I’m truly fascinated by the way these comments echo exactly the sentiment that surrounds the crime of rape.

    I’m impressed with all the people chiming in to excuse the man’s behavior or minimize the importance of the action, while simultaneously calling into question the judgement of the people speaking up about how problematic the image and the action it represents is.

    Read in the context of our collective mindset towards the victims of rape in our culture it comes as no surprise that so many readers would work so hard to overlook how profound the truth behind this image is and what it says about our society and ourselves.

    • Firstly, I know from following articles about this picture that no one woman has been irrefutably identified as the woman in this picture. Several have stepped forward and the story of one sounds as plausible as another.
      Secondly, again from following articles and interviews of all of the women claiming to take part in this photo, common points seem to be that ,yes the kiss DID surprise but was taken as part of the celebration of the end of the war. No struggling , calling for help or even insisting that she be let go has EVER been mentioned in ANY of the interviews from possible nurse candidates.
      OR is your point supposed to be that ,not only am i, the other commenters and our society past and present so deeply entrenched in rape culture that we ignore her rape, but the nurse herself is so deeply indoctrinated that she could not even see the reality of her own rape ? I( extremely doubtful )
      There are better examples of the victimization of women, or even children or -well-ANYBODY . If you want to dedicate your time to exposing wrongs you do not need to blow things out of proportion or construct entire personalities and incidents in order to do so , sadly there are hundreds staring you in your face.

  35. It’s not sexual assault, at least not according to the Model Penal Code (§ 213.4): “A person who has sexual contact with another not his spouse, or causes such other
    to have sexual contact with him, is guilty of sexual assault, a misdemeanor, if…he knows that the contact is offensive to the other person…Sexual contact is any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of the person
    for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”

    http://law.fordham.edu/assets/Faculty/model_penal_code_selected_sections%281%29.pdf

    In fact, it’s not even criminal assault, since she’s not being harmed, he’s not attempting to harm her, and she’s not being put in fear fear of serious bodily injury. It’s definitely battery, though–unconsented to touching.

  36. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” « As Things Go & As I Go

  37. Greta Friedman:
    I was working in a dental office on Lexington Ave. for two brothers, JD and JL Burke. All morning long people would come in a say there seems to be rumors that the was ending. Since I wasn’t very far from Time’s Square, I could just walk over there and see for myself. After my bosses came back at 1 :00 from their lunch hour, I went I, straight to Time’s Square where I saw, on the lighted bill board that goes around the building. .. ‘V-J Day, V-J Day!’ That really confirmed what the people had said in the office. Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor.

    It wasn’t that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back. I found out later he was so happy that he didn’t have to go back to the Pacific where they had already been through the war.

    The reason he grabbed somebody dressed like a nurse, that he felt so very grateful to the nurses who took care of the wounded.

    I had to go back to the office, and I told my bosses what I had seen. They said to cancel all the appointments, we’re closing the office. They left, and so I cancelled all the appointments and went home.” She was just 21 at the time.

    But we shouldn’t actually take her first person account word for it. We should look for something to be upset about decades after the fact.

    • You edited her interview to omit some salient details:

      Patricia Redmond:
      When he grabbed you and gave you a kiss, what did you feel like?

      Greta Friedman:
      I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight. I’m not sure about the kiss… it was just somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank god the war is over’ . . . it was right in front of the sign.

      That doesn’t sound pleasant or romantic. She remembers her discomfort 60 years later in her first person account. That is significant.

  38. This picture is NOT sexual assault. Everyone knows rape is horrible. This picture is not rape.

    (Edited to remove abuse)

    • It isn’t rape, but it is sexual assault. Try grabbing and kissing a stranger in front of a police officer, and see what happens! You may be surprised at what you learn. :)

  39. While some of this is obvious, and no one ever wants to downplay rape- I mean who would- that sets this up as a straw man- an argument from an unassailable position that can’t be addressed logically, only emotionally, so facts become irrelevant.

    The problem when you try to impose the ideals of today on the culture of the past, and don’t forget this was 67 years ago- older than some bloggers grandparents, is that you do a disservice to every action where these ideas were not prevalent or even present. Yes, the Romans raped and pillaged but that doesn’t discount the entire Roman Empire. The woman in dispute did not feel sexually assaulted in any way and the sailor did not attempt to commit rape and probably would have been horrified by the suggestion- I say the woman and the sailor because apparently their identities are still in doubt. It was a simpler time as well, when the world didn’t seem full of rapists and serial killers and that’s not just looking back with rose-colored glasses. The war was over and it had been a hard time for the whole country- you’ve never had a ration card I bet, so you can’t begin to imagine the impact of the time on those who lived it. You have forced two innocent people into these modern roles of rapist and victim and committed a major historical injustice.

  40. I understand the point you’re trying to make here about the issue of sexual assault and willful blindness. Many other commenters here have proved your point about it with comments along the lines of “get over it” etc. They are trolls and don’t deserve a response.

    Many other commenters, however, have pointed out that you have taken Greta’s comments out of context, in order to impose your own views upon her. Drew did this first and your response to him was that you effectively believe that Greta was intimidated by the transformation of the photo into a historic icon, and felt social pressure not to complain about the kiss and thus remove its mythic status. I understand the wider point you’re trying to make with this counter-argument: that rape and sexual assault is often enabled by social pressure, and that many women feel compelled to remain silent.

    But in this case I think you’re wrong. You’re correct that we can’t know what Greta really feels unless we “read her secret diary.” However, you then go ahead and make an assumption about what Greta feels anyway, selecting the possibility which supports your own argument – but which runs counter to Greta’s own words. You then said this:

    “When I spoke about today’s rape culture, I was referring not to George’s act in itself (although I’m sure the situation was even worse back then) but to the strange unwillingness of today’s mainstream media to even acknowledge that the photo was problematic, in light of Greta’s comments. Such attitudes are certainly a symptom of rape culture.”

    Except that in light of Greta’s comments, the photo was not problematic, i.e, she didn’t have a problem with it. They’re only problematic when you cherry pick them. She did not initially grant consent (and yes, that makes what the sailor did wrong) but that did not mean she was angry or furious or felt wronged. You still haven’t acknowledged that you’ve taken her comments out of context. It’s intellectually dishonest.

    I understand the broader point you’re trying to make, and it was interesting to look at this historic photo in a different light. Your argument about willful blindness holds up in general, but it doesn’t hold up in this specific scenario – and that’s a problem, when this specific scenario is the whole point of your article.

    • Have a look at the three news articles I cited in my post; they were the articles I was talking about. The comments were not cherrypicked by me, they were the only comments provided by CBS, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail. The transcript of one of her interviews only came into the discussion later, having been put up in the comments.

      I’ve said it a few times now but I think it’s worth repeating, since I don’t think everyone has the time to read through all the comments. The point I was making was the following:

      The three news articles in question reported on the confirmation of the identities of Greta and George. During the course of their reporting, they gave us some of Greta’s words. These words are the ones that have been reproduced in my post. However, none of the articles chose to reflect on or even acknowledge the problematic nature of the photograph that her comments implied, and carried on talking about the picture in a whimsical way. This reflects the way women’s voices and concerns are often silenced when issues of consent and bodily autonomy crop up.

      • And a whopping number of the people commenting here are vehemently denying that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy was violated in this picture. Yes, it’s only a kiss and yes, it’s not necessarily deeply traumatising to be forcibly kissed and yes, Greta doesn’t say she was traumatised.

        However, she talks about how suddenly it happened, how she was in a vice grip. She doesn’t mention being pleasantly surprised or enjoying the ride. She was physically overpowered, and while being kissed like that is not as bad as being raped – no one’s saying it is, by the way – the fact remains she was kissed against her will, and the clenched fist is proof of her discomfort in the situation.

        No one is shouting “Rape!” No one is demanding punishment. Leopard was simply pointing out how the violation of the woman’s bodily autonomy is being ignored in favour of the more romantic narrative.

        • It’s a violation if she says it was a violation and she did not and has not. End of story… and a kiss, while it may be unwarranted, definitely crude, and perhaps actionable, it is not a sexual assault (do you also think kissing your mother is sexual?)..

        • To reply to ShowSomeCommonSense: I don’t kiss my mother on the mouth, with tongue. If this had been a kiss anyone could plant on their mother, there would be no problem.

          I heard of a rumour that when the sailor released the nurse, she slapped him. I don’t know if that’s true but judging from her body language, it looks like she’s about to slap him rather than put her arms around him and kiss him back.

          A violation is a violation even if the victim doesn’t call it that. And look, no one is saying “OMG RAPE!!” and demanding punishments for the sailor. We’re just talking about how the kiss looks non-consensual, and the woman in the picture has confirmed it as such.

  41. Others have mentioned his arm but before I read the article I already knew that the kiss was not consensual because of her arm. She’s doing all she can to pull away from that kiss short of being ‘rude’ and pushing him away. The way she describes the incident all these years later tell us everything we need to know.

    • And how safe would she have felt pushing him away considering the crowd around them and the fact that he was a “returning hero”? Women in her time were not safe stating that they felt uncomfortable. We may not realize how far we have come since that time, but it is truly a long way.

  42. Any sexual act that is forced upon another person is wrong. It does not matter what context, culture or time period is referenced. Any agruments in favor of forced sexual acts are wrong. I am passionately committed to punishing those who act or support acts of sexual violence. Laws need to written and upheld to combat this epidemic. I believe that anyone who believes it is ever ok to force themselves, or for someone else to force themselves on an unwilling or unknowing person should be shot. I believe one day far in the future we will see laws that will help protect most of us from assault. You will always have the deviants but they will hopefully only occur as aften as we see the high school shootings these days, and it will be news by then because people will understand how much harm is being done by assault, for now, sadly most of the population is ignorant. But, discussions such as this one help make progress towards a less oppressive mindset and that is positive.

    • I thought of that, too. She looks shocked, is clearly not kissing him back, and afterwards touches her lip as if it’s bruised. A kiss on the cheek is one thing–but Brody went for the tongue. WHILE she was still married. I never got why people love that moment so much, as I’ve had a hard time watching him in anything since. The kicker was that he DID give an amazing and Oscar-worthy performance; he DID say some great things about war, peace, and so on. Lennon got a lot of play way back upthread for the same thing–smart guy, gifted, charming, has lots of ideas you agree with and think are great…AND he thinks it’s okay to behave as he did towards her. It’s harder to process feelings for or about someone like that versus a straight-up all-around creep.

  43. “rape, rape, rape…” Good you are pointing out the facts, but… maybe she liked that…? The concept of sexual assault is not very clear – you do not know all the people, you cannot say how they react, feel… Something looking dangerous or weird (like this ‘kiss’) can be acceptable to someone. Maybe she was dreaming of something like this? But first, you need to be strong enough to this attitude.
    The slogan ‘culture of rape’ is universalistic in the same bad sense as ‘culture of fallus’. What is wrong with you, people? Be more sensitive, be more CONTEXT-SENSITIVE.

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  45. Not to be a kill joy but a few dozen people have claimed to be in this photograph, if there is some way to positively prove their identity I would be very interested to know what it is. Also I have read the comments given here by one of the women who claim this is her and as I recall she says everybody had JUST heard the war was over on the radio and people were running out into the streets and everybody was yelling and hugging and kissing.and while I remember her saying the kiss took her by surprise I don’t remember her characterizing the kiss as unwelcome , intrusive or a violation.This article tells us this woman ( who they seem to claim is the ONLY woman who lays claim to this image ) was violated and even though she conveyed this to interviewers every one is so used to the subjugation of woman that they ignored her.
    Again I have read several interviews of people claiming to be the sailor and the nurse including the one where the nurse says “You don’t forget this guy grabbing you” None of these interviews go on to describe the kiss as any kind of violation although most scenarios recall it as “by surprise”
    Again I have followed the mystery of the identity of the Sailor and the nurse and if some substantiative way to confirm the identity for anyone of the claimants has been found I would love to find out what it was.

  46. Greta’s words do not indicate conclusively that she felt violated — only surprised. Also, we should take into consideration the “sensus communis” of the time. This exuberant soldier could have legitimately believed most any woman would be happy to share his euphoria on that day – even flattered that she had been singled out. There’s no doubt some degree of sexuality came into play – he probably wouldn’t have grabbed a man to kiss – but considering the 1945 official rules and regulations of flirting, his unconventional and spontaneous kiss was still within acceptable bounds for the day. And, there’s no need to strip the above image of sexuality, either, unless the soldier’s intent to degrade his “victim” can be ascertained. It can’t, so it’s a stretch to qualify this as an assault. We can safely assume he only meant to spread cheer during an otherwise difficult time. There are many periods of time in history and many images in popular culture that are a testament to the subordination of women, but the WWII years, and this photo, are not convincing examples.

  47. Someone should be asking that poor woman what she feels. People are only interested in knowing what the man’s wife thought of the kiss. Agreed, it’s fascinating that his wife didn’t mind, but his behavior was disgusting, and none of those articles bring him to justice. It seems to me that his wife MUST have minded at the time; perhaps she just forgave him after all their years together. But I digress—in any case, I’m appalled that the man hasn’t apologized to the woman! He seems only to make excuses for his action. And this, even when they were brought face to face and he, an older man, presumably has learned some morals from living life and presumably now UNDERSTANDS that what he did was wrong. It is inexcusable, but the sad thing is that firstly, it apparently has been excused and secondly (more importantly), assault still happens. The first step to change, though, is awareness. People have to understand that this is happening, and they have to understand that this is wrong.

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  50. I argree with your assessment. This also is the last vestiges of a culture where men are expected to take care of women and children. That role has been passed to government. Men will now take their passion to other men more often. War or sexually. Probably both. This has been going on and coming about for many years of course, but with globalization it has become more open and an imperative.

  51. Ok, I have to comment on this blog. This is one of my favorite pictures! There are so many false statements in this blog it makes me sick to my stomach. First the picture on the article is photoshopped. I know this because I have an origional reprint framed in my bedroom. I bought this print over 15 years ago when I saw the couple from the picture on the Today show give an interview about that day. The article states that they just found out this year, false. It states that he was drunk and grabbed her forceably, also false. The picture falsifies a sailor to the left laughing. The kissing sailor with huge hands, the nurse with a cleched fist and legs twisted. All of those are false!! The truth is he did grab her. The truth is they did not know each other. They were all in times square celebrating a momentous occasion that only those who were there could even imagine. It’s why I love it. These people were my grandparents generation and it brings tears to my eyes to see them so happy after suffering the loss of so many family and friends overseas come to an end that they are sharing hugs and kisses with complete strangers. It’s not for 20yr or 30yr something bloogers with a driving political agenda to disect and pick apart to lure you onto their side. The nurse is quoted in several televised interviews that you can watch on you tube “It was a day for Kissing” and “He grabbed me with such a surprise and gave me quite a dip”. You could most definately argue the fact that he grabbed and kissed her without permission. However that couple is dead now and unfortunately can not participate in the discussion. I think they would be more upset that a complete stranger has defiled and cheapened a day of memories captured on film that very few people left in the world could ever understand. People who write articles on the internet especially to our youth have a responsibility to share their opinions with truth. This is virtual propaganda at its finest example. Doesn’t it make you sad? Ok, thanks for reading my truthful responsible opinion.

    • It’s not photoshopped. There are two pictures (if not more), taken within seconds of each other. Between the shots, people have kept walking, for example the laughing sailor has taken a couple of steps closer to the kissing pair and the camera, and the people who stand in the background watching the scene have fidgeted a little, especially the older lady with the black shoes.

      If the picture was photoshopped to show a woman being kissed against her will, the rest of the scene would remain the same. What would be the point of changing the way some woman is standing in the background?

  52. In Savannah at the annual St. Patricks Day parade there is a tradition of women running up to the male soldiers marching in the parade and planting big red lipstick kisses on them. The last year I watched, a big guy out of the crowd ran up and kissed a female soldier and it was uncomfortable. And you know most of the time the guys look equally uncomfortable getting pawed by women they don’t know. You can tell they try to maintain their professional bearing and be good sports, but I think it’s disrespectful and the women who think it’s funny or cute are wrong.
    I don’t think the point is to malign the veteran from the photo since what he did was keeping within the norms of the time. Just like what the women do in Savannah is within the norms of today. Hell, my dad told me when he was a kid (in the 50′s) it was the thing for the boys to “goose” the girls at school. But my boys are learning that it is not okay for them to touch someone without their permission, and it’s not okay for anyone to touch them without their permission. That’s basic personal safety. I work with sexually abused children so I kind of think that should be the standard across the board.

    • Thank you Childfirst. I too raised my boys ( now men) to understand the autonomy of others (male and female) and to respect it. I believe they do. Both are still married to their original spouses who are both outspoken women who know their own minds. I don’t know if that is proof but I still hope that what I taught all of my children about respect has held fast in their actions as adults.

  53. This seems like a whiny forget me of historical context about cultural norms of causal sexual harassment era that working women dealt with on a daily basis. That doesn’t elevate the uncomfortableness of the situation or the practice, but it was common knowledge to this reader that these were complete strangers and the body language of the female makes the reciprocal quality of the moment obvious. His embrace carries the same tension and grip of Pluto in statues of him seizing Persephone statue. But in these articles Greta doesn’t mention being traumatized, but does mention the one-sided aspect of the event. Talk about taking something and running with it. Not to mention all of the more contemporary similar events are taking place in a different cultural context.
    Seriously people, learn history and cope with facts. These are all reasons we now have a more progressive culture that works against situations like this. The past is for reflecting and changing our lives now. Being apologetic doesn’t do much without action to accompany it.

  54. This was an uncomfortable but necessary article for me. Thanks for posting this. I’m not a huge patriot, but this is one of those images that I would never have thought to unpack.

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  56. “Anonymous
    October 4, 2012 at 02:04
    Lets remember to separate the art from the artist.”
    Um, why? Endorsing the fame, fortune and idolism encourages the fame = above the law mindset.
    It’s okay that he beat women because look at how talented he was! What BS!
    Looking at the photo through different eyes: She’s stepping back to get away. Her body is ridged. Her hand is clinched into a tight fist. LOOK AT HER!
    I’m sorry that her moment of terror was romanticized for so many years.

    • Although we don’t like to look at it, many famous men have almost been endorsed in their mistreatment of women. As mentioned earlier, Elvis, Bob Marley and others were quite abusive to the women ( and often the children) in their lives. We dismiss it “because of their talent” but shouldn’t. Talented abusers make it easier for less talented people to get away with it. It happens everywhere that there are “stars”: music, film, sports, politics, finance… everywhere. We still have a lot of learning to do.

  57. There was an interview with Friedman and Mendonsa on the PBS WW2 documentary “The War” where she doesn’t imply anything of the sort. In fact, she’s quite giggly about the incident.

    (Edited)

      • What I found more disturbing on another WWII documentary was a woman talking about being part of the USO and a train car full of randy soldiers swarmed the cafe at which they worked. She laughingly described how her coworkers and she ran, locked themselves in another room, and hid while waiting for the commanding officers to reign in the troupes. Most women just tolerated a lot more then.

    • Ah, yes, because after 67 years of people idolizing your photo as the epitome of romance- you’ll feel comfortable on national television with the guy sitting right next to you to talk about how he had you in a vice grip? Sure.

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  60. A very good post. I’ve created a graphic to accompany it, at http://pinterest.com/pin/124412008427320106/. I think it bears pointing out that whatever the identities of those caught by the camera on this day in 1945, this photo still provides an object lesson for raising awareness of how rape culture works to subdue any reading of a situation which would assign culpability to the person of privileged status.

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  62. I was born in 1958 and recall being shown this as a young child. I always knew that it was non consensual – just look at her arms and crushed face. It was explained to me about the sheer elation and relief over the end of the war and I accepted that. I still accept it though I have fought hard for the rape culture to be rolled back. I think we need to place this image in context and not re examine it with 2012 eyes.

    • You realize we can do both right? That we can understand why it was important in its context and how it may also have been an example of nonconsensual kissing and/or sexual assault?

      In addition, the issue pointed out by the original post is how we talk about it today. How we know more about Rita’s feelings at seeing her date kiss another woman than we know about how Greta felt about being kissed without consent.

  63. I think you guys are over simplifying things are looking at it from a highly one sided and acutely feminist point of view… Using words like Man, Woman, Culture without proper context or distinction… not only that, from your point view it seems that all women all over the world are weak powerless and victimized, which is a notion I think is highly insulting to all women everywhere…

    I am an Indian and if some guy grabbed a girl in the middle of a road and kissed her irrespective of elation or anything of that nature, the guy would get severely beaten up and then he would get arrested by the police, who would then again beat him….

    But since I came to UK a few months ago what I have noticed is, something I could never have fathomed, no matter how many Hollywood movies I watched.

    On average girls seem to talk even more crudely than guys do, in behavior too this fact holds true under conditions I would have never imagined possible… it is not uncommon for girls to physically come on to guys… or for people to get very sexually explicit (I don’t mean kissing) and exhibitionist in clubs….

    I cannot even count how many times I have seen perfect strangers making out without almost any conversation.. not that you can converse in a location where the music is so loud that you can barely hear yourself… I have seen girls making out with two or three guys in this very manner in a span of a few hours…. many girls end up going home with guys who behave in explicit manner, grabbing and kissing, or bumping and grinding etc…

    And no these are not exception and nor do I think the guys and the girls referred to here are badly behaved, it is simply that among the youth such behavior seems to be established social convention….

    Now, I am not a prude and personally I do not believe that there is anything immoral about any of it… in fact social conventions has forced even me to adapt these behavioral norms , a few months ago whilst I was still in India, if anyone had told me I would be bumping and grinding with the best of them, I would have shown them the finger but today strangely it is a part of my reality.

    Now to deal with the question of the kiss, Just consider, a scenario where a girl pinched a guys ass whilst at a club or a bar, not an altogether uncommon occurrence, would the guy be justified in calling security or shouting at her… The moment you say that he justified in doing so…is the moment I accept the notion of “Rape culture”…

    • Of course the guy would be justified at shouting if his bottom was pinched. I would never pinch anyone’s bottom unless I was absolutely sure they wanted me to do so.

      • Well society does not look at it that way, the guy is supposed to happy about irrespective of whether he was interested or not, that too is a social convention…

        Now what I am saying is that, these things go both ways… while it is true that since by evolution men are the predatory/hunter of the two human genders, it only stands to reason that historically men have been and continue to be aggressors more often that not… but irrespective of gender the conventions remain the same, in fact women are at the very least allowed to complain, a man complaining would only lead to ridicule and emasculation…

        This can further be seen, in cases where women, teachers most of the time, sleep with 12 year olds and 14 year olds… Women who are caught in such circumstances get light sentences like 2 years imprisonment or even probation whilst a man would be put away 20 years…

        Many times gender stereotypes are also beneficial, a friend of mine recently said, in anycase we got off the boat first (she was referring to Titanic)

        The thing is Double standards exist everywhere, gender stereotypes effect men just as much as they do women… looking at issues in a simplistic and one sided manner will not solve the problem, in time as the human race evolves and the world changes these stereotypes will be cease to be an issue… but if you wish to address this issue in the here and the now, then you must address it in a holistic manner and realise that instances such as the one referenced in this post are not isolated and contained within themselves but rather the expression of a larger problem the one relating to gender stereotypes.

        The issues faced by homosexuals is also another expression of this very same social mores

        • See, that’s the thing, as a feminist I don’t support the gender stereotypes that say men should be pleased when random women grope them. Every time I’ve seen it happen, the man in question hasn’t been pleased, and he has also shown his displeasure, which is only right.

          If you’re right about female pedophiles getting smaller sentences than male pedophiles (and I think you are) that’s awful.

          The notion that women fare better in shipwrecks is actually a myth. Titanic was an exception in this respect. Look it up.

          I don’t see why you’re accusing me of looking at things in a simplistic and one sided manner. I’m actually really aware of the harmful gender stereotypes associated with men, and I also speak out in defense of men. I just got unfollowed on twitter for defending men’s right to take part in feminist discussions! Not that that’s something you can list as a merit. That’s just basic human decency.

          Still, the fact that men suffer from gender stereotypes doesn’t erase or diminish women’s suffering, and vice versa. We can talk about the injustices women face without negating the injustices men face due to gender stereotypes and inequality.

        • And that’s the ironic thing: men don’t really benefit, in the long run, by perpetuating a society that puts them at the top of the food chain. They just aren’t as obviously victimized by said society.

        • Again, I don’t think it’s right for anyone to grope or pinch or fondle or kiss anyone without their consent (and there are more ways to communicate that than just verbally), but (most) men in our society don’t live in daily fear of assault or harassment that women do. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges, only one fruit is much more powerful than the other.

  64. While I agree that unconsensual advances should not be tolerated by our culture, I also believe we need to recognize the difference between an act like this (which I assume lasted moments and only entailed the embrace and kiss we see here) and a prolonged sexual assault that causes deep emotional scars for the victim. It would be interesting to ask Ms. Zimmer Friedman how much of an impact this experience made on her. I worry that when we equate all forms of physical impropriety, it diminishes the impact of rape.

    • No one is confusing kisses and rapes here. Sexual assault is a term widely used for acts ranging from the most severe, like rape, to the relatively harmless, like the kiss depicted here. But it’s not like we have to be thankful we weren’t raped if we “only” get kissed against our will. It should be possible to talk about women’s right to not get forcibly kissed without people telling us to put things into perspective.

      Yes, being kissed like that is only a small violation of my bodily autonomy, but it would be important to my feeling of security to have the right to go out without being subjected to these “relatively harmless” assaults. As it happens, I don’t appear to have that right. I’ve been groped, pinched and fondled, physically restricted and kissed against my will, and I have to listen to catcalls and obscene comments and suggestions from men who are about twice my size, so I never feel quite safe when I’m out and about. I never know when someone is going to just grab me and do something mildly unpleasant to me. The last time I was threatened and my bodily autonomy was mildly violated was only two days ago.

      So I get a little annoyed when people tell me not to take these things so seriously. And I say this without undermining the impact of rape in any way.

      • @inmyinternest, I agree with you. If you read my other comments, I believe you and I see eye-to-eye. My point above is that equating all forms of inappropriate behavior makes most people, IMO, roll their eyes and lose their empathy.

        As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this discussion, women are made to feel unsafe every day, merely by having to endure ogling (daily), cat-calls (less often), and unwanted touches (even less often). That leaves one feeling insecure all the time and, given that we all know one in three women will be actually raped, it takes a huge emotional toll.

        As a gay man and one who just didn’t fit in with the other boys, I had to endure ridicule and an implied threat of violence during my childhood. Though I’m not what most people would describe as flaming, that made a huge impact on me, one that makes me feel judged every time I’m in a crowd.

        Unconsensual acts, whether physical, verbal, or just a threatening look, should not be tolerated. In a perfect world, others would step in to defend the person receiving unwanted attention and tell the aggressor to back off. But there is still a big difference between cat-calls and rape, and there are many gradations in between.

        One of my fantasies is that all women learn to defend themselves, get in the face of anyone who is disrespectful of them, and kicks their ass if they try to physically accost them. An even better fantasy is that the number of men who lack respect for women dwindles. The best fantasy I have is that the overwhelming majority of people treat each other kindly and that society will have little patients for acts of disrespect (shunning would be a good punishment).

        Alas, I don’t see any of those becoming reality in my lifetime.

        • The way I see it, if calling violation a violation makes people roll their eyes and lose their empathy, that’s their problem and they need to be educated about different forms of violations and their impact. It doesn’t improve matters if we can’t even talk about it, for fear of alianating the unthinking masses.

          As for placing the responsibility on the victim to defend herself… I don’t really see eye to eye with that. It’s not women’s responsibility to become ninjas. Learning effective self-defence is not even possible for everyone, and the most skilled karate kid might be unable to put her self-defence moves to use when it comes to it, because people react differently to shock. For example, I just freeze. So I think it’s the gropers’ responsibility to learn it’s not okay to touch other people against their will.

          I know it’s not an ideal world but many people with poorly thought out views have come around when they’ve heard what it’s like to be groped and fondled. Many men still believe, for example, that harassment boosts women’s egos but most of those men are capable of understanding what it actually does when it’s explained to them.
          It’s just that they’ve never heard women’s point of view on these matters because women’s voices are silenced or ignored. We’re told not to make a fuss, not to over-react and to remember the grand scale of things.

          That’s why I think this entry is great, and we need more talk like this.

        • And even on points we don’t see eye-to-eye, we’re both respectfully representing our views, and I thank you (and most of us) for that.

  65. If Greta considered this rape or sexual assault, I think she would have made it clearly so in her interview as it would be a very serious matter. If she thought she was so ‘violated’ by this young man in the way this article have characterized this iconic photo, you don’t thinks she would have made a bigger deal out of it?? But she didn’t. Perhaps this article is trying to bend the truth, or apply Greta’s words out of context in order to make some sort of political statement on a important social issue. And perhaps this issue deserves greater attention in society—but just not in the manner used in this article.

    We have to understand that this was a day of celebration after 4 years of war, where millions suffered, and millions of families lost loved on all sides. Perhaps the young man kissed the young lady as a celebratory gesture. Even if such kiss was done without the explicit consent of Greta, I think it is a FAR stretch to compare it to sexual assault or even rape.I think we would do victims of sexual assault or rape no justice if we started to stretch the definition of the terms to include acts, which to be frank, most of society would not in 2012 or 1945 consider ‘sexual assault’. Most of these victims have suffered something much worse, and incomparable to the ‘acts’ shown in this photograph. If you want to combat sexual assault or rape, it may be best not to water down these concepts, and apply it indiscriminatingly to everything one can find in order to make some sort of political statement.

    And for the record, last time I checked, when my male friend had his bottom grabbed by a old lady at a store, he complained to the store manager about the incident, and no one did anything about that. In fact they laughed at him. He was offended. Where is the justice in that?

    • Not that I’m condoning the little old lady who pinched your friend, but the power imbalance between men and women is a major factor. Most women live in fear every day, either that they’ll be assaulted or, more likely, ogled and verbally harassed. Few men face that kind of treatment.

      • You are living in fear every day? Why? Because man are 9 times more likely to get assaulted or die brutally than you are?

        (Edited)

        • Where did you get that figure? I, as a man, am nine times more likely? On what planet? No, thankfully for me, I have the privilege that goes with having a penis, and other men, for the most part, leave me alone when I’m out in public. Ask any women you know if they can say the same.

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  67. Leopard,

    This article’s content aside, your writing inspires me. You strike an incredible balance of smart and approachable, mindful and brave.

    May your perception of your own talent never originate in the reflection of others (fan or foe).

  68. Wow, that sucks! but when you look at the picture you can see the way his arm is around her it’s more like he is holding her there forcefully, if they were lovers he would have most likely put his hand on the back of her head neck area and it would be a gentler hold. Sad. I will say and maybe you feel this way too but women’s behavior is not helping the situation, doesn’t make rape or any other kind of unwanted touch okay, just sayin. Pornography is also at the root of “rape culture.”

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  71. It’s a kiss. It’s not a big deal. In times of great joy men kiss men, women kiss women, women kiss men, men kiss women. There are much greater obstacles to surmount in our attempt to destroy rape culture. It’s truly sad that an act as innocent as a kiss is now considered rape. A kiss does not always have to be sexual. A kiss can simply be what it is, a kiss.

  72. I never thought this photo was romantic one bit, the man looks like he’s trying to swallow her, her fist is clenched, you can’t really see her face to get anything from that… it does really look, like she says, like she’s being forcefully kissed and not kissing. I realise it’s 1945, but it had always given me a really awful feel this photo.

  73. Marvelous post – I’ve reblogged it at Diana Bee Dash Bee Tries Really hard, where I write about similar issues. I’m sure a lot of people will be eager to write this off as “not a big deal” but ANY kind of forced contact of a sexual nature IS a big deal and is NOT acceptable, and the sooner people get their heads around that, the better for us all.

  74. This article makes me very uneasy, but not for the reasons you outline.
    “considering the rape culture in which we live. It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. ”

    You talk constantly about “rape culture” but what about “war culture”? Of course it’s not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own. It’s not. But the same can be said for men, and to a much more extreme degree. War is far worse than rape will ever be. And men are drafted and murdered in wars far more than women are.

    Personally I would far rather get kissed without consent than bleed to death in a trench without consent.

    • “War is far worse than rape will ever be. ”

      Unless you’ve experienced both, are you really in a position to say that? Even so, countless psychological experts have said that the trauma felt by rape victims is comparable to that of soldiers who’ve survived war. So you’re very wrong. Your ignorant and offensive comment shows that you have so much to learn about the impact of rape.

    • The loss of bodily autonomy is a daily threat for most women. Most men aren’t at war. Also, someone once made this argument with me and said that only 15 women were killed in the Vietnamese war. Sorry2say, but I don’t believe that only 15 Vietnamese women were killed. I also don’t think that women in Poland got to be safe during WWII just because they were women.

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  76. I saw these two on a parade float together a couple years ago (which I assume they’ve been doing for awhile) – the float was themed after this photo. If she was so upset about it, then she’d have stayed home. The reality is that kiss made her famous, and if she’s not upset about it neither should anyone else.

    The more posts like this there are out there, the more likely nobody will even be touching eachother without consent in the next ten to twenty years.

    • I agree – it looks like whatever interview she did, they just sorta cut and paste convenient pieces from it – who knows, but that’s what journalists do sometimes. I think its worth noting that she didn’t even lift her arm to resist in the photograph. Considering how long it took for them to focus, F-stop, and shoot a photograph back then, she should have had time to at least lift her arm in shock or self defense.

      • If you google this picture, you’ll find there are at least four pictures of this moment. The position of the nurse’s hand and arm changes from one picture to another, and in some pictures her hand is clenched into a fist. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never clenched my hand into a fist when I’m kissing someone. But I’ve experienced many mild sexual assaults like groping, and in those situations I instinctively form a fist, even though I’m not actually capable of hitting anyone, even for self-defence. (And that’s mostly because the shock makes me freeze rather than lash out.)

        My point is, not everyone is able to defend themselves in these situations. People react differently.

      • You’re right- it’s always easy to fight back against sexual assault when the other person has your head in a vice grip. Do you say this about all victims of sexual assault?

    • “The more posts like this there are out there, the more likely nobody will even be touching eachother without consent in the next ten to twenty years.”

      yeah! let’s go back to a more awesome time and place, when people could just fondle strangers without a word of consent! that sounds much sexier than letting people choose who gets to touch them and who doesn’t.

  77. Sexual assault is among the most hideous of acts one human being can inflict on another. Confusing a harmless – albeit boorish – outburst such as the one depicted in this picture with sexual assault is irresponsible. The behavior depicted here is rude; it’s inappropriate. But it’s not sexual assault. It’s just not. Your heart is in the right place, but you’re not helping the cause of victims of sexual assault with this sort of writing. You’re making a mockery of that cause. You write well. Write about real problems.

    Also, sexual assault is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Men and boys can be victims of sexual assault. Turning it into something that is always and only perpetrated by a man against a woman is, again, irrepsonsible.

    • I’d made a similar point earlier: not all violations of personal boundaries are equal, and referring to minor and major transgressions equally does to a disservice to victims of rape or molestation. But that’s not what the article is about.

      Let’s replace the phrase “sexual assault” with “violation of personal autonomy,” shall we? That’s still something most women face every day, while few men do.

      Yes, men and boys are also victims of such heinous acts, sometimes even perpetrated by women. But most men and boys do not have to mentally prepare for an onslaught of sexual advances, subtle or blatant, while most women do.

  78. If Greta is the woman in the photograph, and what she says is true, there are some disturbing issues.

    However, historians have certainly not proven that she is – even one of the authors of the book acknowledges there are several people with strong claims to be the sailor or the nurse. There’s actually much better evidence that the nurse was Edith Shain, and she always said it was a positive experience where they were both showing joy. Also, the photographer said that, in the next second after the shot was taken, Shain’s arm went up to the soldier’s shoulder in an embrace.

    I find it sad that the authors of this book waited until after Edith Shain died to claim that she was lying about being the nurse in the picture. That’s the real exploitation in this story.

  79. I think you’re jumping in conclusions here. The damn thing doesn’t support rape culture in the least. The majority of people who see it go “awwwww” because they assume it’s a guy having fought for his life coming back to meet his girlfriend and that they were in a relationship (or at the very least it was consensual). Most people don’t know that they were two complete strangers. When they do learn, they’re usually DISAPPOINTED.
    People just want to believe two people can be in love without overanalysis about IT’S RAPE AND WE’RE ALLOWING IT IN THE STREETS AND OUR CULTURE ITSELF.

  80. OK. I did some googling and I’ve found a few photos depicting the kiss, from different angles. Someone commented above that Alfred Eisenstadt took some photos over a ten-second period.
    Number one is the classic one, the one I myself had up on my wall for years as a teenager.

    She grabs her dress, bent over awkwardly while he holds her head in a headlock.

    Number two, a little bit later (you can see the sailor on the left closer in this one)

    That left hand holding her dress surely is in a tight fist right now.

    And then this one?

    See that fist going at his face? While he still holds her in a tight grip around the head.
    Sure looks like she’s enjoying the celebrations (also, the “false nurse”, Edith Shain).

  81. “I was working in a dental office on Lexington Ave. for two brothers, JD and JL Burke. All morning long people would come in a say there seems to be rumors that the was ending. Since I wasn’t very far from Time’s Square, I could just walk over there and see for myself.

    “After my bosses came back at 1 :00 from their lunch hour, I went I, straight to Time’s Square where I saw, on the lighted bill board that goes around the building. .. ‘V-J Day, V-J Day!’ That really confirmed what the people had said in the office. Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn’t that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back.

    “I found out later he was so happy that he didn’t have to go back to the Pacific where they had already been through the war. The reason he grabbed somebody dressed like a nurse, that he felt so very grateful to the nurses who took care of the wounded. I had to go back to the office, and I told my bosses what I had seen. They said to cancel all the appointments, we’re closing the office. They left, and so I cancelled all the appointments and went home.” She was just 21 at the time.”

    • @Vermin F. Cockwolf

      Too bad it has never been confirmed that the person in the interview is the one on the picture. Which makes this interview completely useless as a source.

      • That doesn’t negate the whole point of this article and the discussion it spawned. I think that some people participating may actually have learned something, and isn’t that a blessing?

        • @ Vermin F Cockwolf: I totally agree! thats what I loved about this post– despite the occasional moron, it really does seem to have got an incredible number of people thinking. Cheers to Leopard, and people like you, who have the patience to respond intelligently to all these comments.

    • That would be kind of impossible, as many, many men are also feminists. Can’t all intolerant, narrow-minded doofuses just go away? Like to a place where there is no ignorance?

  82. If we start calling everyone that’s been kissed against their will ‘rape victims’ it’s going to be a boring, sterile world out there. It’s a kiss. What’s next? Hugged against your will? Who the hell cares? There so much more out there to soapbox about than a photo from a time when women were treated differently. I don’t think this would happen today, so why cry about what was?

      • “It seems pretty clear, then, that what George had committed was sexual assault. ”

        And so the semantic tap-dance begins. Now that IS the height of disingenuous commentary.

        • There is no tap-dancing involved. Most people have no difficulties understanding that there are various degrees of sexual assaults, just like there are various degrees of other physical assaults.

  83. I think the salient point here is not “LOOK AT ALL THE RAPE CULTURE FROM 1945!”, because no sane person thinks that 1945 was a particularly friendly era to women and it’s hardly surprising to me that something like this would have happened. it also wouldn’t be surprising to me if Greta’s fond-sounding quotes about the whole event were covering up her discomfort, but as has already been pointed out, we can’t know that one way or another and I doubt it does much good to speculate. and, anyway, it’s disrespectful to her to try and tell her what she really thinks. but, even taking her word for it…

    the important point, as far as I’m concerned, is that this photo is still widely romanticized. and even once people actually know what’s going on in it – that a man grabbed a strange woman and mashed his mouth into her mouth with some degree of force – they still write it off as fundamentally innocent. that’s what indicates the rape culture at play here, and that’s what worries me. because frankly, if a strange man grabbed me in a headlock and kissed me (and very similar things have happened to me in public when I wasn’t expecting them, and it’s terrifying every time), I’d be absolutely freaked out no matter the circumstances, and it’s a major concern to me that so many people seem to be wondering what the big problem is. the thing that a lot of men don’t seem to understand is that, when something like this happens, we’re probably not assuming that the guy involved has the best possible intentions; we’re assuming that this violation is about to lead to a far more invasive and painful violation, and that the best thing to do might be to just let it happen lest we make the man angry and more violent.

    the big problem is not that one man thought it was okay to do this to one woman 67 years ago. that’s ONE problem, but luckily it sounds like she was okay with it, and it sounds like no harm was done. the big problem is that lots of men think this is an okay way to behave towards women, even after so many progressive advances have been made. this is not an okay attitude to have, but the fact that it’s still so pervasive means that there’s a lot of work left to be done.

    • That was so well put. I’m impressed by the (mostly) intelligent and respectful posts here. Most of us even use proper grammar and punctuation!

  84. Thank you for this. That Greta is also an Austrian Jewish woman, a refugee and ORPHAN of the holocaust, adds another dimension to the racism and sexism implicit in the supposed themes of “liberation” and “victory” quite cynically manipulated by this man and in this photo.

    Every single Western country including the U.S. participated in the destruction of the European Jews either by being participants, enablers or bystanders. It is never asked why the Allies were okay to “liberate” Jews from camps after whole communities in Europe had been ruined, but not help while they sought refuge again and again throughout the genocide. Turning away boats like the St Louis so their country would not become “too Jewy.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vian_Conference
    or read more by Andrea Dworkin about how Jews are feminized in cultural depictions if you want to learn more.

    Not wanting to detract from the sexist side of it, just sayin’.

  85. I read through MOST of these comments (I scrolled past a few for sure)

    I was shocked at how many people talked about prosecuting abusers like it was the way to “end rape culture.” One comment went as far as to say that the ONLY way to end it was to prosecute more rapists and sexual abusers…

    Remember that most people who engage in acts of sexual assault and were often victims themselves, or somehow experienced such acts early in life.

    If we teach our young people (especially boys) to treat each other’s bodies with respect, we won’t have so many sexual abusers and rapists to prosecute.

    If you want to be rid of a problem, attack the root, not the branches.

    • The only problem is that you’re talking about cases of prolonged sexual abuse/molestation, which is mostly adults abusing children. That’s true – its a cycle. But cases of rape/sexual assault between adults is a different kind of beast, and its not a cycle in this case. If we look at studies examining male rapists of women, they found that these people share a number of traits in common: lack of empathy, lack of respect towards women, beliefs in traditional gender roles, etc. Rape culture is not just one thing.

    • because Lord knows the best things that could happen in a woman’s life are getting in a committed relationship with a man, getting married by a man, giving birth to children, and having a man take care of her. Lord knows we don’t want to do anything on our own, ever, for any reason.

  86. lots of comments on how Lennon abused women, his wife(s) in particular, and admitted it, and reformed (at least a bit) and how this has to do with rape culture, but not much mention on his admission in the same sentence that he fought men. Many people, usually men, are uniformly violent, and bullies, and pick on those physically weaker than themselves. That tends to be women. I don’t see rape culture in his case, I see violent culture, whereas many of the posters above focus on the female victims. That’s what interests you the most, I guess, but it’s sometimes useful to remind yourselves that you have a bias.

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  88. This is one photograph and one situation. I’m sure that day there were plenty of people of either sex grabbing strangers and kissing them.
    “Rape culture” is a loaded term that implies that there is a society of people who commit rape within our society. It may be true in some places, but the reasons for rape in North America are more about mental illness.

  89. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor and Other Forced Kisses | inmyinternest

  90. Yes, there’s a pronounced, yet scarily ignored rape culture in the United States.
    Yes, according to this post, the woman in the photograph did not consent, and
    yes, that is sexual assault.

    But here’s my problem:
    The brilliance of this photograph is that is distinctly divorced from realism. The identity of the man and women are irrelevant. Their stories are irrelevant. The image is beautiful because it captures the joy and excitement of the day the war ended. The two subjects are symbols of that joy. The photo is the projection of a moment experienced by millions worldwide.

    Looking at the picture as a piece of art, which it is, its context is a notable yet unimportant footnote. Much in the same way we still appreciate Roman Polansky’s films, Lewis Carroll’s stories, and Phil Spector’s music, the art itself and the circumstances of its creation are two different things.

    The fact that this woman was assaulted on the street is horrible and the fact that it occurred in one of the 10 most famous American photographs of all time is remarkable. This is a brilliant opportunity to discuss something society continually sweeps under the rug.

    But that doesn’t change the ecstasy, the exhilaration, or the sheer, unadulterated celebration of the picture.

  91. Trying to say that kissing someone at a party who may not be into it is a sexual assault diminishes all of those who have actually been sexually assaulted.

    • I was molested for years, including being gang-raped, and acknowledging that forcing someone into a kiss is sexual assault does not diminish me or my experience. On the contrary, when you acknowledge that any forced sexual contact is an assault, it highlights the significance of the more extreme violations I suffered.

    • You’ve expressed yourself so…eloquently. Thank you for completely changing my mind on this subject. It’s a well thought, razor-sharp rebuttal such as yours that will capture the hearts and minds of a nation. Kudos.

  92. As someone who HAS been a victim of sexual assault as well as child molestation, I don’t find this to be on the same level AT ALL. Unbelievable.

    • Nobody is saying that you didn’t go through something horrible and I am very sorry that you did have to go through that, but we are simply saying that this was nonconsensual. we didnt say that all sexual assaults or rape are the same level nor did we say that sexual assault/rape are only one type of event.
      What happened to you was rape and sexual assault and what happened here can also fall under those categories.
      You seem angry as if we are saying that this is the same as what happened to you not true
      what we are saying is simply these words can describe many things like what is happening here.
      For example bears are animals but not all animals are similar to bears.
      This is a nonconsensual sexual act, but not all nonconsensual sexual acts are like this .
      again I am not trying to say you didn’t suffer. Simply stating a few facts.

      • The acceptance of men disrespecting a woman’s bodily autonomy is rape culture. The article isn’t saying that the photo depicts a rape.

    • Comparing this with your own experiences, is something we’ve all been taught to do as well, as though there is a hierarchy when it comes to assault. Why is that? It makes it easier to write off someone elses experience as being ‘nothing’ when it might have caused that person a lot of distress.

      Just because this woman was not penetrated publicly, she still had her boundaries violated. It may not have been to the same degree as what you experienced, but it is still a boundary violation, that he took without her consent.

      I don’t find comapring personal abuses with other peoples all that helpful.

    • I’m really sorry for you experiences, but no one implied a forced kiss is somehow equal to rape. There’s a continuum of different levels of sexual assault. Rape and child molestation are the most severe forms of sexual assault, a forced kiss is on the other end of the spectrum.

      The point is, even mild forms of sexual assault shouldn’t be tolerated because if they are, it perpetuates a culture where women’s bodily autonomy is not important. Women who insist on their bodily autonomy are labelled hysterics, and men think it’s fine to grab women’s butts if they have the urge to so. A culture like that leads to high rape rates.

      • As someone who likes feminist discussion such as this and who has been (like many other girls and women) the victim of serious sexual assault, it annoys when someone attempts to counter the point by using their rape victim status as some kind of credential. Many more women have experienced SA than openly declare in discussions such as this. Having been a rape victim is neither here nor there in claiming validity of opinion or contribution to feminist contribution. Saying you’ve experienced SA doesn’t mean you speak for me (who also has) and if you haven’t, doesn’t mean you can’t.
        I’ve experienced serious SA as a child and in my marriage (DV) and when I was 18, my tutor kissed me without my consent. To me that unwanted kiss WAS serious. I drank myself stupid and dropped out of school. I believed I was put on this earth to be used by men. After everything I look back and hate that moment.
        I can see clearly the connection between an unwanted kiss and rape. I don’t think you can say one is more serious than the other. It depends on other factors like age, power, circumstances, etc.
        But my story aside, my point is that personal experience is not a credential. We all share experiences and singling yours out as more serious so your opinion matters more is presumptuous, offensive, naive and incorrect. Focusing on what makes us the same, not different, is the path to healing.

        • I’ll add that I didn’t mention fear before. The force and unpleasantness of the kiss made me fear he’d attack me later. I was terrified just walking out to my car after class. So I didn’t go back to campus. I worked in a store for a year and started college again elsewhere. That kiss put me 2 years behind in my education and career. So yes, just a kiss can be serious. And yes, I can compare. Not that I need to say that to prove my point.
          I love this blog article. Rape culture is real. This photo and its continuing iconic status is evidence of that. I wish we would all unite against this culture regardless of our victim statuses. It’s not a competition as to whose rape was worse. It all matters. It’s all connected.

    • You can brush off anything negative that happens in the first world like that. Doesn’t make for productive dialogue, nor does it make you sound very smart.

      • Another good point. But it’s also true that we do have the luxury to even be discussing this. I’m not suggesting that the issue is no big deal (see my other comments), but I do feel extremely grateful to even have this dialogue. The majority of beings on this planet are not so fortunate.

  93. Pingback: A New Understanding of an Old Picture « current sociology

  94. The story behind the photo would be great if it were able to say “after he kissed me without my consent, I backed up a little, then kicked him in the nuts just as hard as I could with my clunky nurses’ shoes. It’s too bad the photographer didn’t get a picture of that”.

  95. Well, excuse me, I never support rape or sexual abuse but a) he hadn’t even seen a woman in years and had been laying his life on the line, b) she was a total hottie, c) What did she expect? He made sacrifices. He deserved tongue and more! Rape is rape. This is just a kiss.

    (Edited for abuse)

    • Rape culture at its finest. Not only was she hot (so that means she was asking for it), but he DESERVED it. Yes, you heard it here first, folks. The man already had a preconceived entitlement to her body.

    • You really just might as well come out and admit that you support rape/sexual assault, because the rest of your comment pretty much suggests that.

      ” she was a total hottie, c) WF did she expect? He made sacrifices. ”

      ” He deserved tongue and more!”

      If that’s not proof you’re a misogynistic idiot, I don’t know what else is.

  96. Dear Friends, seeing things around the world as photographer, from abroad, I can say that the title could be changed from: “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” in “The Selective Blindness in the Rape of Culture”.
    It’s not only a problem of gender, it’s a problem with culture, and what propaganda (every kind of propaganda: commercial, political etc.) made of it.
    Everything in foreign politics is based on what we can call “rape of culture”: I destroy your culture to give you my democracy. Obviously rape is beastly, but accept this point of view and think about it.

    Sorry, the post before was incomplete and with some errors, please publish this one.

  97. Oh man. The thought of some complete stranger, breath stinking of booze, grabbing me on the street, forcibly restraining me and sticking his tongue down my throat for his own amusement makes me want to vomit.

    Would I have felt different on that historic day? Who knows. Maybe the end of WWII would put me in a kissy mood. It wouldn’t change the fact that my preferences factored in to his decision by exactly ZERO. Whether I thought it was horrifying or cute, a strange man would have used me as his own personal toy.

    I mean, it was a huge day for her too — she should be celebrating and enjoying herself. So she has her historic celebration ruined by some grabby drunk, and everybody’s OK with this because, well, the guy was having a good time and that’s all that matters.

  98. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” | Laura Berardi // Giornalista scientifica

    • If you think this is just about one guy kissing a girl, then you’ve obviously didn’t actually read the post.
      Go back, read it and then comment. Thank you.

    • The only thing that lacks intelligence here is you, good sir.

      It isn’t just “one kiss from one guy.” Nearly every woman has experience something similar to this, or worse, at some point in her life. And some deplorable people are either too evil or too ignorant to understand that THIS IS NOT OKAY.

      I’m guessing you’d say the same if a man, twice your weight, and coming from a war, put you in a headlock and kissed you? How about a bodybuilding woman? You do realize that the example you yourself supplied of drunken women kissing you IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AND NOT OKAY EITHER.

      Now, please attain the ever-elusive “powers of rational thought” before commenting again. Thank you.

  99. I always thought it was a creepy picture, considering the woman’s unenthusiastic body language and the man’s not very gentle left arm – not holding her head but locking it against his shoulder.

  100. ”, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. ”

    So a woman’s body is ”a thing”, an ”item” after all….

    there’s me thinking women were human too….

    • That’s exactly the point. Grabbing a woman and doing whatever you want to her without her consent IS dehumanizing her. It’s turning her into a plaything not a person. That’s why its wrong.

  101. I seem to remember a story a while back about that same picture: the original couple had come out and admitted they staged it for the photographer. I wonder if other claimnants will come out with different stories.

    • It’s not about revising history, it’s about looking critically at things that seem simple on their face but may represent an underlying issue that should be addressed. That’s the brilliance of this article and discussion. We’re all digging deeper and thinking about an issue that’s much greater than this one kiss.

  102. May be this soldier thought it was miniscule compared to the assault, mutilation, extremely traumatic and horrific events that he experienced in a journey that he and his male soldiers were forced to take part in by the his western government because he was an able bodied male. May be he thought it was miniscule compared to all the individuals that died on the battlefield.

    • I agree with you that the two are not comparable. But war culture is a whole ‘nuther issue. In fact, a society that so readily disregards the lives of their able-bodied men (and, increasingly, women) also turns its back on the plight of roughly 50% of its populace. Everything is connected. Violence begets violence.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is one subtle example that challenges us to pay more attention to more egregious acts, such as cat-calls and bottom pinches. We all decry rape, but women feel unsafe or uncomfortable (to the point of avoiding certain public place or walking out of their way to keep from being harassed).

      How would you have felt if you had been that nurse? How would you have felt if another man grabbed you, restrained you, and kissed you? Would you have just chalked it up to end-of-war exuberance? Maybe so but, as a man (I’m assuming), you haven’t spent your life fighting off such unwanted advances.

      • I would have defended myself, before, at the time, and after. THAT’s how someone should react, be it man or woman.

        • Ask a random sampling of women you know about defending themselves. Ask them how it feels to have it in the back of their minds every time they step out into public that they might have to defend themselves because they might be harassed simply because they’re a woman. Men just don’t receive that same level of unwanted attention day after day.

    • I’m not sure why this is so difficult to understand. The ordeals he went through in no way excuses his violation of another person’s body. Having gone through war- he should know better then to just use another person’s body for his own pleasure.

    • I’ll re-post: How would you have felt if another man grabbed you, restrained you, and kissed you? Would you have just chalked it up to end-of-war exuberance? Maybe so but, as a man (I’m assuming), you haven’t spent your life fighting off such unwanted advances.

        • I’m glad you’re so enlightened. A good number of men, perhaps a majority, would be disgusted that another man just made a sexual advance on them. Most, I expect, would get visibly angry, perhaps to the point of violence. Few women have that luxury.

      • But, as a woman (I’m assuming), you have spent your life fighting off such unwanted advances.

        I’m sure in some circles a woman might be offended by a drunken sailor’s fleeting kiss of joy, just not in Times Square on V-J Day.

        (Edited)

        • Not exactly sure what your point is. I am not a woman so, no, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have faced a daily onslaught of uninvited sexual advances all my life. But, and let me get this straight, if I were a woman, you’re telling me to get over myself? Wow, you’re kind of proving the point of this article right there.

  103. This was a really great article thanks for writing. I’ve always wondered about this kiss. Anyone who studies this woman’s body language can tell she is far from pleased. Her body is tense her hand clenched to a fist and her face forcefully pressed against his.
    Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing.

  104. Wow, so incredibly disingenuous. Especially when you pulled the quotes from this Daily Mail article about their numerous reunions: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2187071/Times-Square-Sailor-nurse-kissing-iconic-WWII-photograph-reunited.html

    Here’s the one quote you didn’t include from the woman photographed: “A lot of people want to know what I was thinking. It was a happy day; I was grinning like an idiot. The kiss really didn’t bother me at all. If I had been engaged, maybe.”

    • I’m afraid that’s not a quote from Greta. That was Petry, who was on a date with George at the time. You can see her in the background, apparently. She was asked if she minded that George had kissed another woman on their date.

      • My mistake, I referenced another person who then pointed that quote out to me. Still, the article shows they’ve reunited several times. It was not the surreptitious, vile event you wrote it as, and you read this article before you wrote this piece, because you sourced your quotes from it. Is that why you didn’t cite the article?

        • She did. Have a look at the links shared near the top of the article. The second link is to the exact article you are saying isn’t cited. It’s almost as if you haven’t read the post you’re commenting on.

        • I really hope I don’t make a grammatical error in this reply because then you’ll just attack that too instead of responding to my main point, Marc.

        • Okay, let’s discuss the point.

          Whether or not Greta feels that the original event was ‘surreptitious’ or ‘vile’ is irrelevant, because the original point of the article is not to display the kiss as such. The point is that upon learning that the photo is not showing a romantic moment between a couple, but rather a man grabbing a woman and holding her head in a ‘vice-grip’ (Greta’s words) for 10 seconds and kissing her while she is unable to escape, the articles posted don’t discuss that this is quite an uncomfortable truth, but rather continue discussing the photo in gushing, nostalgic terms.

          The issue is how the modern day media discusses the photo after realising this.

          To answer your other point, “am I to assume every first kiss is sexual assault until it’s been accepted by the other party?” – if when initiating said first kiss you grab someone who is unaware of your presence and intentions and hold their head in a vice-grip, rendering them physically unable to get away for 10 seconds while kissing them, then yes.

    • From the daily mail article you are talking about…

      ‘A lot of people want to know what I was thinking,’ Petry told the Post. ‘It was a happy day; I was grinning like an idiot. The kiss really didn’t bother me at all. If I had been engaged, maybe.’

      Petry told the Post. Not Greta. Petry.

      The name of the speaker is literally in the middle of the quote, I’m not sure how you missed that Karim.

      • Thanks for clarifying that for me. I’m still having my coffee. I still believe the article shows there weren’t hard feelings and the two have continued to meet. Or am I to assume every first kiss is sexual assault until it’s been accepted by the other party?

        Rape is a serious problem, and in many subcultures far too accepted. I don’t think, however, pulling these quotes from this article and using this iconic photo is anything more than baiting for views. And, hey, it’s successful, but not in terms of attacking the problem it claims to.

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  106. I read Greta Zimmer Friedman comments in context with the rest of the original article. She was hardly shocked maybe even a little amused. She knew what was happening, she went to Times Square just to get in on the V-J Day celebration. To really understand “The Kiss” photograph you would have had to live through four years of desperation, rationed food and gas, and the death of 418,000 young American soldiers in less than four years. Every person in this country lost a friend or relative. We won but the cost was far greater than those who lived through it were willing to admit. We were wounded to the core. Thousands wept because they missed out on their kiss but just as important millions lived to get their kiss and they all understood the meaning in that photograph.

    (Edited)

    • Jack, the article was not about whether Greta was shocked or amused. It is about the assumption that the photograph was a romantic view of a young couple reunited or two people celebrating the end of the war. The article asks us to look at it with a critical eye and really pay attention to the subtle ways women have less autonomy over their bodies than to men. The article set out to do just that and is therefor not a sham.

  107. There isn’t even conclusive proof that George and Greta are the people in the photo…

    (Edited for insults and abuse)

    • If you could, for one moment, forget the photo and concentrate on the point of the article, you might just challenge some of your preconceived notions and maybe even learn something about the world from a point of view other than your own.

      Or, you could not bother to take a look beneath the surface and continue applying your standards, based on your experiences, to the rest of the world, continuing to deny the experiences of half the population.

      And I love you. I think you’re actually kinda hot. How ’bout I grab you and give you a big ol’ wet kiss.

      • I completely agree with Vermin. Dan, did you completely miss the ENTIRE point of the article? And why are you talking like Yoda? YOU’RE the idiot.

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  109. Thank you for posting this! I was not aware of the circumstances of the photo and thought, like many did, that it was a couple sharing a moment together.

    Reading about George and Greta reminded me of a much more recent example–when Adrian Brody kissed Halle Berry after winning his Oscar for Best Actor. I was 20 or so at the time and thought it was WILDLY romantic–I’d always dreamed of being kissed like that, Scarlett O’Hara style–until my mother told me how uncomfortable the moment made her, because Halle wasn’t given a chance to consent. She was right, of course. HIS jubilation outweighed HER body autonomy in that moment. But he pretty much got a free pass.

  110. I am sick to death of physical disability being utilized to describe ignorance. Blindness has nothing to do with rape culture. Lose the ableism.

  111. I’m not one to comment on things, but some of these comments really have me fuming. It’s okay that he kissed her because he was happy and drunk? Are you people literally out of your minds? How would you like it if you were in this position? Or if your mother, sister, friend, etc, was in this position? Would you feel the same way? Absolutely not! If it’s not consensual, it’s not right. Period, end of story.

    • Would it be okay if it was two women? It’s an overwhelming moment of elation… so in our modern society if a woman grabbed another woman…. did the same thing… and even though it was a shock to the one grabbed she is okay with it and even glad to be apart of history, and understands the moment as Greta did….

        • And I understand that there are cases where women don’t agree… as a victim of rape I know this all too well, but my problem is… if I’m at the Superbowl and a guy or girl has had too much to drink, their team wins, and they turn to me and kiss me in an embrace… that’s it… they go on to their own lives, not pressure me into something I don’t want to do other than initial outburst of joy… and that’s what I know it was… am I gonna ruin that entire guys (girls) life because I knew they were just excited… taking this picture, which we know what she thought and did afterwards so their was no sexual assault… and putting a “RAPE” label on it actually dummies us down to be prepared for real assaults and make us “bubble boy victims”.

        • “…putting a “RAPE” label on it actually dummies us down to be prepared for real assaults and make us “bubble boy victims”.”

          That would be the case if anyone had described this as rape, which no one has. There is a whole range of sexual assault, some of which are minor transgressions. They’re inappropriate and should not be condoned nonetheless.

  112. So, what is the “rape culture”? Last I checked women, AND men, have been subject to rape for thousands of years. It is a shame she was “attacked”, but she has met with Mendosa, several times. Maybe she has forgiven him his misdoings. Maybe that should have been explored here too.

  113. I find it interesting that you make no comment about her saying that she was actually happy to be apart of this history… that even though it was out of the blue for her, that she herself knew that he wasn’t assaulting her, he was happy to be home and alive. I’m sorry I don’t see how different it is than being so elated that you kiss the ground after being at sea for so long… and I do believe that if we were going to enter a new World War that if there was such a parade and elation in the cities of New York that even a woman may kiss another woman out of elation… are they both lesbians? Is it consensual? Does it really matter? It may have been unexpected, but she actually stuck to the fact that it was her in the picture and was even happy to pose with the picture after it being confirmed that it was her. I’m sorry I don’t see sexual assault… if she had pushed him away and he still went after her that’s one thing… if after the death grip she slapped him, that’s one thing… but she smiled after the picture and even met the woman that man would marry…

  114. I can’t say that we should be passing this sort of judgement with our politically correct 2012 eye on an act of that occurred to a different generation who had a mind set that none of us could even begin to fathom. “We” are not at war today, the military is. Living in this country in the 40′s meant that war affected every aspect of life for every man, woman and child. It affected what you could eat, buy, wear, where you could travel, what materials you needed to donate to drives, extra-curricular activities to help the cause, etc. Every family was affected in some way and when the war was over, it didn’t mean that some far away combat had ended, it meant that American life could finally return to some semblance of normalcy, even though 3% of the US population had been wiped out. We cannot grasp the pure joy of having the shroud of war lifted and the shift that occurred led directly to the prosperity of the 50′s.
    This article incorrectly states that the sailor was “drunk”; he emerged from a movie with his GIRLFRIEND and was kissing her and then grabbed a nurse and kissed her too. As you can see people were celebrating in the streets here and all over the country. This was not intended as a malicious act and although it was rude, especially for those days, to somehow try to connect it to a general acceptance of “rape culture” or “abuse upon women” is highly inappropriate, inflammatory and offensive. Frankly those are the kinds of tactics that Fox News and their ilk use by taking a somewhat notable incident and exaggerating it into a blanket of statement about an entire political party. By holding this example up as an example of our country’s acceptance of abuse and rape upon women is a complete insult to real victims of those crimes, discredits the main point of the cause and does women all over the world a great disservice.

    • That was my original point of contention. But I’m glad this has spawned a discussion about the broader issue of women’s autonomy over their own bodies. Even an article that I don’t fully agree with can, with people respectfully engaging in discussion, can lead to mutual understanding and empathy. Kudos to all of us practicing respectful dialogue (and I’d say that’s the overwhelming majority of us on this blog).

      • Why are you so obsessed with whether or not that is Great in the photo, as you’ve mentioned in several posts? This article and discussion is about what the picture represents. What a great way to avoid having to challenge your preconceived notions of what women’s daily experiences are by focusing on the minutiae without delving into the actual subject.

  115. The picture itself was taken a second time, it was demonstrated that this was posed for the camera man. He came up, saw the kiss, and asked if they would do it again. Both agreed. Maybe check into it more fully.

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  117. I’m curious as to where the line is drawn when calling something sexual assault. (And please don’t just respond with “you missed the overall point of the article”–the article very clearly states that this photo is evidence of a sexual assault.) Let’s say it’s the same environment and situation, but instead…

    What if the kiss was on the cheek?
    What if it was a hug?
    What if he was blowing her a kiss?
    What if he was kissing his male friend?
    What if she was patting him on the back, thanking him for his service?
    What if she patting him on the rear end?

    • “What if the kiss was on the cheek?”

      If it was non-consensual? Maybe not sexual assault, but it would still be assault if he still had to grip her tightly and forcefully to attain the kiss like in the photo.

      “What if it was a hug?”

      Same answer as before.

      “What if he was blowing her a kiss?”

      He wouldn’t be making any physical contact, so definitely not assault on any level.

      “What if he was kissing his male friend?”

      In the exact same manner as shown in the photo? Highly unlikely that he would risk doing that back then for obvious reasons, but it would still be sexual assault. I don’t see how the gender of the victim changes this.

      “What if she was patting him on the back, thanking him for his service?”

      Are you serious with this question? How is this comparable to forcibly kissing someone?

      “What if she patting him on the rear end?”

      Without his consent? It’s assault, too.

  118. Thank you! I think we have gone WAY over the deep end on this! It goes both ways! I have been reading the comments on this page for about 30 minutes and think most everyone on here has lost all sense of reality concerning the actual subject. Yes he kissed her…yes she didn’t give permission. Over my 45 years of life I have been kissed many times by men without my permission…did I think it was sexual assult…NO! Society today has gone off the deep end and I am sick and tired of it. TRUE sexual assult is not a laughing matter and men and women alike should be trained how to defend them selves against it.

  119. I think I would only be selectively blind if , once having been given this information, I continue to look at it as an iconic photo rather than the picture of a sexual assault. I will view this picture differently in the future.

  120. My take on this:

    I see in this post an interesting exercise in critically reading an artifact. Art history in general is full of interpretations and re-interpretations of paintings, photographs, etc. It’s completely valid to respond to a photograph in a way that’s been informed by your biases or experience. I think a lot of the comments about how this post is a stretch/too speculative are coming from people who have not taken (or didn’t enjoy) any college-level literature or art history class that requires close readings and reactions to works of art.

    So, we don’t know the entire history of this photo, but we are fairly sure that the two people were strangers, and we can totally see aggressive (on his part) and uncomfortable (on her part) body language. That alone is interesting enough to consider: that maybe this moment wasn’t as romantic as it looks at first glance. And, it’s fair to go further and wonder why this photo has continued to be interpreted in the simplistic, “aww romantic!” way.

    I just watched the Arian Brody / Halle Barry kiss that someone mentioned, and I realized that if I had been in that position (or the one in the photograph) — I simply wouldn’t have handled it gracefully. Because I’m fairly reserved when it comes to physical contact, it would have been about 10 times more obvious that I felt totally weirded out and scared. I probably would have instinctively put my hands on the guy’s arms to try to push him away (unless, and this is super un-feminist of me to say, but maybe UNLESS I thought the boy was cute and had previously sized him up as harmless and “my type.” Really lame of me to admit that, but I’m imagining a New Year’s party and the kissing that happens at midnight..but, then again, a nice boy would still be like “hey let’s kiss!” and not rely on his strength to force it to happen. It’s the reliance on strength + lack of talking/asking that is scary, for me) Otherwise, some random strong dude is going to freak the shit out of me. So, for me, this became about the fact that these women were graceful in a moment that was probably, understandably uncomfortable for them. And how their grace let the documents of these moments go down on record as totally smooth and yes, romantic.

  121. I’m a woman, and as far as I’m concerned this article really really is insulting to women who have been raped. (which I also am one) Rape is an act of violence, in most countries not done on public city streets with strangers walking around. This is not rape, it doesn’t promote rape, and via this article, you have actually via political correctness, created a backlash, belittling real rape victims. If the woman was mad angry by this, she could have hit him thrashed etc, I’m sure others around would have paid attention. Can’t you find any thing else more relevant about rape to write about? How about targeting Anne Rands, book “The Fountain” where she glorifies, romanticizes forced intercourse?

    • There are different levels of assault there. There always have been. Being smacked on your ass, groped in a bar, suffering from rape from a boyfriend or a husband or a girlfriend, violent attacks that result in rape, molestation… the list goes on. This does not belittle rape survivors- this just proves how dangerous rape and sexual assault is.

  122. a) The war in the Pacific, the end of which the sailor is celebrating, killed 165,000 Americans, with probably five times that number badly wounded. The actual fighting involved horrific hand-to-hand combat in knee-deep mud in jungles on Pacific islands, and the war itself only ended after the use of nuclear weapons. Set against that backdrop, the outrage of kissing a woman during a celebration of the end of the slaughter without getting a signed consent form is a non-issue.

    b) If you want to understand what real, actual rape in the setting of a war really is — read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_during_the_occupation_of_Germany

    THAT is what was going on around the people in this image. The guy in this photo was doubtless ecstatic that he was simply still alive. Given that, and given the horrors that he had lived through, along with millions of other American men, the idea that grabbing and kissing a pretty nurse is some kind of assault is sickening.

    (Edited for abusive comments)

    • And that all helps us to understand what went on. It’s claimed in other comments above that the woman later said it was “okay” – and it’s her right to put it behind her and to forgive the man if that’s she wanted, but her other comments make it clear that it was assault.

      Is it minor compared to the rapes you mention? Yes, just as a slap in the face is minor compared to the Rape of Nanking. I wouldn’t expect someone to be sent to prison for a slap or a kiss, especially in that context, but it doesn’t stop us discussing it.

      Sometimes the right response is to object to someone’s behavior, and establish boundaries and respect, and not necessarily to take it further. Perhaps the sailor would have realized his behavior wasn’t okay. Or perhaps he wouldn’t have, given the culture of the time. And that culture is precisely what’s at issue here.

      • Thank you for that! There are so many people who think a forced kiss doesn’t matter because it’s not as bad as rape. I wonder if they also think it’s totally fine if someone shoves them, because they’ve only been shoved, not beaten into a pulp!

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  125. “Rape culture” makes me think of and article I read by Andrea Dworkin in “Transforming a Rape Culture” – her idea was to demand from men a 24 hour ceasefire where no man would rape a woman. I found that absurd and offensive – as if I can speak for men who rape women. Maybe I’m overreacting, but it colored my perception of the term “rape culture”.

    Perhaps there could be a more reasonable discussion here if we used different words than “rape culture” – yes, there’s a connection between an uninvited kiss and rape, but they carry very different connotations with some people. The terminology might be getting in the way, for some, of what this photo tells us about our culture, then and now.

    • Okay, that’s the first sensible reason to oppose the term. The idea of a ceasefire does, in a way, hold the assumption that all men are potential rapists. Even if we give Dworkin the benefit of the doubt and assume that wasn’t her intention, I’d probably be offended too if I was a man.

      I’m a feminist and to me that means treating everyone with the same respect. I don’t accept sexist attitudes towards either sex. But the way I understand rape culture, it doesn’t incriminate all men as a group. It only incriminates those men and women who support that culture. And there are a LOT of women who don’t see why men should have a woman’s consent before grabbing her for a kiss.

      I try to make it clear who I’m accusing of being a sexist pig, instead of lumping all men (or women) together, but even if I don’t always manage to spell it out, I hope my allies know I’m not blaming them.

      • Thanks.

        Just for the record, my feeling about Dworkin’s piece was 10% offended, and 90% “this is ridiculous.” I can appreciate that Dworkin (and every woman) has reason to be angry about sexual assault and the condoning of sexual assault, and even more so going back a few decades. But that doesn’t change that what she wrote was, IMO, absurd.

      • Thanks Vermin.

        One thing strikes me from the preface: “Only one man in the 500 threatened me physically.” I think it’s a really sad commentary on society when ‘only one man physically threatened me’ is seen as a good thing, even by a radical feminist. I hope that much has changed, at least.

      • Bull. Go take a gander around this website for awhile, and then come back and tell me if perhaps, just perhaps, Ms. Dworkin needs to get her head out of her ***.

        female-offenders . com/
        female-offenders . com/Safehouse/

        I’m speaking here as a woman raped by another woman. And I’m speaking FOR men I know who’ve been raped by women. If you think this is uncommon, you’d be mistaken. The only thing that’s uncommon is society’s willingness to speak about it. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if my comment actually gets (or remains) posted.

        “I can’t come here as a friend even though I might very much want to. What I would like to do is to scream: and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women’s silence, that silence into which we are born because we are women and in which most of us die.”

        Yeah. Seems people like Ms. Dworkin only ever seem to care about the screams emitted by victims they can relate to. The rest of us can just put a sock in it. You know, perhaps we should all start screaming. How about I start screaming MY pain at female rape victims of male assailants – who only ever seem to go on about their own pain, and appear to be narcissistically and wilfully blind to the pain of anyone else? And seem to be only too willing to overlook even the most extreme violence BY women, and yet all too willing to lament even the tiniest incidents of violence against women. Yeah, how about we have an honest talk about “the deafening sound of women’s silence” around the issue of sexual violence committed BY women.

        You wanna know what MY definition of ‘rape culture’ is? It’s one-sided, self-centred articles by the Andre Dworkin’s of the world who aid and abet MY rapist and my rape by taking up all the oxygen, and air-time, and outrage, and focus on their own victimization and denying ANY – not even the tiniest crumbs – for rape victims like me.

        (My apologies for the vitriol. I know you shouldn’t post when you’re angry, but sometimes there is no easy way not to be angry about certain subjects.)

  126. “yes, there’s a connection between an uninvited kiss and rape, but they carry very different connotations with some people. The terminology might be getting in the way, for some, of what this photo tells us about our culture, then and now.”

    What he said.
    Reply

    • Yet the question of whether women will ever have autonomy over their own bodies will likely be around longer than both, and those of you who just don’t get it will too, sadly.

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  128. Thanks so much for writing this article, and helping to expose an uncomfortable truth that so many people are clearly very hostile to. If only they would get this outraged and upset over rape culture…

  129. I hate when defenders try to say he is just being manly. On behalf of the men I love, I am incredibly offended by that statement. I have men in my life who are wonderful, strong, and loving people – my father, my boyfriend, and many dear friends. They would never consider it okay to touch somebody without consent. I know that if anybody ever touched me without my consent the men in my life would never stand for it. (Neither would I!)

    There is nothing inherently manly (or womanly or humanly) about being selfish and unkind.

  130. I think it’s noteworthy that most of the people in this comments section who are most protective of the historical sanctity of this photograph, or most unwilling to acknowledge this action as a violation (because whether or not the lady wound up being okay with it, the action itself WAS a violation), or most interested in using words other than “assault” and “violation” to describe this, are men.

    seriously, why is it so hard for men to just accept that this is not something most of them experience? it’s just…not their turf. yes, there are plenty of men who get violated, but it’s not a daily reality the average man faces that if he goes out in public, somebody twice his size might decide to assert their physical authority on him.

    • Yeah, but to be fair, there are also quite a few women earning Good Sport points by supporting men’s right to randomly kiss or fondle any woman, whenever it pleases them to do so.

  131. I guess it is true that we don’t know how Miss Zimmer felt about Mr. Mendonsa’s unexpected advance. Clearly, she felt it important afterward, to say she didn’t know him, that it was he who was kissing her, and it wasn’t her choice. From this, I think it’s fair to assume that she was not roaming the streets, looking for some fellow to grab and force herself upon, in an expression of unbridled elation. Having that term “rape culture” put upon our own is as jolting as a blindsided kiss. It’s a harsh term, born of a pre-Paglia feminism, that tried to envision an entirely new society, as opposed to the mere social equity for women that we’ve had a modicum of success in achieving. There’s also some continuing question as to exactly whom is in this photo, because in a moment of unbridled elation, there were many men roaming Times Square, planting one on dames. It’s safe to say that the women in Times Square weren’t of the same mind. Perhaps some were willing to give a soldier his moment, but not a one was on the hunt. This photo IS iconic of that moment in our culture. If we’re evolving into a culture where women have that same hunting license, are really any better off?

  132. Nobody gets upset over rape. Why? Because the government is getting raped in-and-out by the owning class every single day of the month, and governments like to rape their people every waking moment of their petty, uncomfortable lies, whoops, meant lives but actually, that works great there as well. And what comes around, goes around. So until a level of understanding is reached, among the darkest reaches of what is and exists mentally and physically, there is no hope for mankind, and that includes women. Hey, let’s all eat meat! Let’s use our own children to make our beds with complete disregard for their future and well-being! Let’s cut down every tree and plant in order for progress to happen, faster and more efficiently!

    Of course, war exists and always has, and therefore is inherently a quality of any living lifeform known to exist, keyword known. While Turkey, Syria, Russia and NATO sort their little mess out, we can be content thinking ’bout how our relationship as people with rape really is. And in the year 2202, we can all feel successful when reports of rapes or attempted ones haven’t been seen for decades while some freak weirdos in dark alleyways whisper of unwanted thoughts entering and exiting their consciousness.

    Digressing but main point: rape is an act to do with the motif to have power over somebody.

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  135. According to the UK Mail, the two have gotten together a few times since the 1945 event, which tells me that this was more a spontaneous act of surprise, rather than anything else. Rather than try to shoo this guy away, Greta Zimmer Friedman has maintained an acquaintance with George Mendoza for a good many years.

  136. I’d just like to point out a small detail – which everyone likes to overlook – that there rarely is any formal exchange of consent before kisses. That being said, grabbing the nearest person and kissing them during a moment of celebration is generally considered socially acceptable or even desirable. Even though one cannot deny that the woman was molested without her consent, the distinction between “sexual assault” and “so romantic” lies only in the reaction of the person in question and not in the lack of consent. That being said, there is no comment on the woman’s enjoyment of the experience, or if she were forewarned, she would not have consented. It is my opinion that this does not represent “rape culture” and I say this because I am afraid of a future where innocuous social minutiae are inflamed to the degree where any flirtatious romantic interaction becomes taboo. Furthermore, the very real problems of sexism are trivialised by the inclusion and focus on things as small and abstract as this.

  137. I got kissed by a girl at a party once. It was random and completely unsolicited. The girl wasn’t all that attractive, but I’m going to say I didn’t mind because it was just a kiss. A romantic gesture, albeit very forward, that I just shrugged off.

    So you’re here telling me that a random kiss can amount to sexual assault, let alone be connected to “rape culture”?

    There is a significant difference between intentions of sexual assault/rape and a kiss. People kiss random strangers on New Years, they don’t grope them all over and rip their clothes off in a heated rage. Kissing isn’t always a sexual act. This guy was happy about the victory and drunk on the emotions of pure elation — this amounts to a New Year’s kiss.

    (Edited)

  138. Pingback: Iconic VJ Day Photograph "Sailor Kiss" Decried As Depiction of Sexual Assault [Vj Day Kiss] | HollyPost.com

  139. I think calling this sexual assault is insulting to women who have experienced real sexual assault. This was a kiss. Let’s not make mountains out of molehills.

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  141. Very thought-provoking article. I’m with you all the way. Fascinating to read the comments as well — you could write a whole dissertation on the sociology of rape culture based on the rhetoric the deniers use here.

  142. Very thought-provoking article; with you all the way. Fascinating to read the comments as well — you could write a whole dissertation on the sociology of rape culture based on the rhetoric the deniers use here.

  143. On one hand…what if that had been your WIFE that someone just grabbed and started kissing? I’m sure you’d have a completely different view of the matter.
    On the other hand, there are circumstances here that none of us can even begin to understand. The end of a WORLD WAR. Everyone’s just happy to be alive. Wrong? Maybe. Sexual assault? no.

  144. Is there anything that cant be seized on by profession victims and turned into something it isn’t? This was not a sexual assault. It was humans interacting and being over-exuberant after 5 years of brutal war and deprivation. Anyone saying anything else is only furthering a modern agenda that has nothing to do with what occurred here.

    • Christopher, please read Randy’s, Marc’s, and my posts below. The point isn’t to demonize the man in the photo. It’s to point out that, if this happened today, it would legitimately be considered an assault. Many women today — regardless of the jubilant reaction to something equivalent to the end of a long war that impacted people’s daily lives — would not stand for it. And even if a woman who experienced something like that chalked it up to that, it’s still an assault, just one she decided not to make a big deal over.

      How is one to know that when a person grabs them, restrains them, and mashes their face into theirs that it’s going to end there? A moment like that can be terrifying, particularly to someone who had a history of abuse. No, I’m not suggesting that Ms. Friedman had such prior experiences; we’re discussing the act pictured here, not the people involved.

      I find it interesting that so many of the people attacking those of us calling attention to the fact that this picture is one example of our inability to recognize the larger issue of a woman’s right to her own personal space are essentially saying that times were different then.

      Times were different before the Civil Rights Act too. Does that mean images of black people being terrorized by members of the KKK are not images of people being abused? Prior to laws regulating the use of child labor, we see photos of nine-year-olds covered in coal dust, emerging from the mines. That’s no big deal because times were different? Homosexuals being arrested for merely patronizing an establishment that catered to them was not unjust, because that’s simply how it was?

      No, reality is a constant. Just because something was tolerated by previous generations does not negate the fact that people were mistreated.

      I imagine George was a really nice guy who never intentionally mistreated anyone and that Greta has lived a full, contented life without feeling victimized. That the man in this photo restrained and kissed a woman without her consent is pretty clear and Greta made it clear that that’s how it went down.

  145. I want to first say thank you for the thought-provoking piece. It has certainly made me reflect on the experiences of women who are the victims of unwanted physical sexual contact. I also am in complete agreement with what seems to me to be the central point of your blog post: the media outlets that quoted Ms. Friedman as making assertions that are unequivocally the statements of a person who received an unwanted kiss– yes, this is sexual assault– failed in their duty to point out the seriousness of this charge.

    My problem with your post is that I, respectfully, feel your article makes another journalistic error no less serious. Your raising of the issue of “rape culture” is an important topic but this is the wrong example to use. To identify publicly and accuse a person by name of this crime is a serious matter and the author of a journalistic editorial piece has the responsibility to avoid collateral damage to a potentially innocent person in the effort to make their point. To wit: “It seems pretty clear, then, that what George [Mendonsa] had committed was sexual assault.” The problem is that this far from clear. Mr. Mendonsa claims no memory due to intoxication. All you have are the nearly seventy year-old recollections of a woman who claims– despite whatever “forensic” analysis the authors of “The Kissing Sailor” make for positively identifying a faceless woman dressed in a standard white uniform– to have been assaulted. There are numerous other facts (I will avoid attempting to list them because my point is not to prove or disprove Ms. Friedman’s version and this endeavor only seems to raise charges of “rape apology” or “victim blaming”) that easily raise a cautionary doubt to her version of events not least of which are the fact that there have been at least three other women claiming to be the woman in the photo– at least one of whom describes the kiss as welcomed.

    I am in no way calling Ms. Friedman a liar. Her version could very well be exactly correct. I am not playing the role of apologist for manly spontaneous kissing of strangers as a celebration of a major military victory. “I was drunk” is a poor excuse for the dangerous and potentially criminal activity of randomly grabbing women you don’t know and planting one on them.

    Again, I think you were spot on in identifying what was a egregious flippancy on the part of the news organizations you identified in including Ms. Friedman’s quotes and failing to identify the serious and important issue these statements raise: sexual assault is never OK and no situation excuses it. I do think in making this point you have erred in publicly identifying Mr. Mendonsa as a sexual assailant without a significantly more weighty set of facts.

    Best of luck with your blog. It is well-reasoned and I look forward to more posts.

    • Dear everyone on the internet,

      Please read Randy’s post; this is the correct way to constructively criticise.

      Randy, I think you make a good point that statements like, “It seems pretty clear, then, that what George [Mendonsa] had committed was sexual assault.” are perhaps irresponsible if there is doubt that it is him in the photo. I am of the opinion, given the evidence that has been presented, that it probably is George is the photo. However, I can see why there is doubt and while we could debate this point at length, this, as Leopard points out and you clearly recognise, isn’t the purpose of the article.

      I think that far too much attention in the comments and elsewhere about this article has been given to defending/attacking George (and, indeed, to defending/attacking people who are defending/attacking George), rather than focusing on the point that the article makes. While Leopard has gone to great lengths to make clear that the purpose of the article is not to demonise George, even writing a follow up post to clarify this misconception, I think that wording sentences like “It seems pretty clear, then, that what George [Mendonsa] had committed was sexual assault” more conditionally, e.g. “It seems pretty clear then, that if this is indeed George in the photo, what he had committed would today be considered sexual assault” could have helped to keep the focus on the media outlets’ failure to comment on the seriousness of Greta’s claims and the awkward ramifications of them, rather than on George himself.

      So thank you, Randy, for your thoughtful, well articulated comment. It is far more constructive than the numerous “Stop calling George a rapist, it wasn’t even him!” comments I have seen elsewhere.

      • Marc, I would argue that your assessment makes an even better, more reasoned clarification. My initial response was that we can’t equate all incidents of inappropriate behavior; to do so minimizes the impact of more serious transgressions.

        I wasn’t able to pinpoint it exactly, but it was the phrase, “…what George [Mendonsa] had committed was sexual assault.” In fact, I was about to make the same clarification to Christopher above: what is depicted in this photo would, today, be considered an assault.

        I and others have continually pointed out that the thrust of this article is that the violation of women’s autonomy over their own bodies is a notion so ingrained in our society that popular culture unquestioningly romanticizes such images, even today.