The Kissing Sailor, Part 2 – Debunking Misconceptions

Since writing this post about The Kissing Sailor, its reach has completely exceeded all my expectations, and has generated more discussion on my blog than ever before. As I read the comments though, I come across a couple of misunderstandings, and though many excellent people have responded with clarification, I see the same misconceptions popping up again and again.

So I thought I’d clear up some confusion once and for all. Here are some of the most common misconceptions.

Misconception #1: That kiss happened in a different time! How can you judge him using modern values?

The purpose of my original post was not to demonize George or to recommend that he be packed off to prison. A user on Reddit called MBlume gave a succinct response to someone who had Misconception #1. I’ll post it here:

“You’re…completely missing the point. The point isn’t that it happened. The point is that there’s three modern articles discussing the picture, all of which basically quote the woman in the picture as stating that it was sexual assault, and in none of the articles does the editorial voice acknowledge that that’s fucked up.”

This is spot on. Thanks, MBlume.

Misconception #2: Greta herself doesn’t call it a violation and actually seems alright with it. So your argument is invalid.

Indeed, in an interview given to Patricia Redmond, Greta does not seem traumatised by the kiss, and describes the fame that resulted from the photo in a positive manner.

However, I do think it’s worth taking into account that, even in today’s society, there is a lot of pressure on women to smile and get along, to ‘let boys be boys,’ to accept unwanted sexual contact like groping or kissing, and not to make a big deal out of it. Many of the comments have confirmed this, with gems like, “It’s just a kiss, get over it,” and how women should “stop whining” about such matters. In Greta’s case, the pressure would undoubtedly be much higher.

But one thing Greta consistently asserts is that the kiss was sudden, that she was grabbed before she even became aware of his presence. Her remarks about his strength and “vice grip [sic]” don’t sound like the words of someone who had enjoyed the kiss. The fact is, consent was not given, and her feelings about it afterwards don’t change the nature of what George did. To give an extreme example, if you were to kidnap and torture someone, only to find out later that you’d just fulfilled their deepest fantasy, does that make you less culpable?

Misconception #3: The picture on your site is not the original photo. What’s going on? Is this a trick?

Well no, it’s not a trick. Alfred Eisenstaedt, the photographer, took a couple of shots over a 10 second period, in various stages of the kiss. In one of the comments isalu507 provided some links, showing the photos in chronological order:

As isalu507 points out, the third picture shows Greta further on in the kiss, with her left hand clenched in a fist up against George’s face, seemingly pushing him away. I had never seen that photo before, and found it really interesting.

(edit: commenter ‘timd’ has provided some links showing that this is in fact the first photo of the series, not the last)

Misconception #4: People celebrated this photo as an icon; for a long time no one knew the story behind it. So how can you say that our celebrating it was a result of rape culture?

I’m not saying that at all. Most people believed that it was a picture of a couple, expressing their joy after the war. I don’t blame them. What I was referring to when I spoke of rape culture was the silence on the part of the news articles on the subject of Greta’s non-consent, even while publishing quotes from her which make it clear that George had simply grabbed her. This ignoring of inconvenient truths in favour of maintaining the illusion of romance is symptomatic of rape culture.

Misconception #5: Rape culture? The sailor never raped her. We shouldn’t compare this to rape, since that diminishes the experience of actual rape victims.

I think there are two misconceptions embedded in this. Firstly, just because George hadn’t raped Greta doesn’t mean it’s no big deal, nor does calling it out as sexual assault diminish the experience of rape victims. Yes, there are different levels of every crime, and no one is trying to say that the experience is the same across the entire spectrum of sexual assault. But they do stem from the same culture, and just because there are greater evils does not mean we should just ignore the lesser ones.

Also, many seem to be confused as to what is meant by the term ‘rape culture’. Our living in a rape culture doesn’t mean that everyone thinks rape is fantastic. What it does mean is a culture where rape and other forms of sexual violence are normalised, to be expected. It’s a culture where attitudes towards women’s bodies and attitudes towards perpetrators combine to tolerate and condone sexual violence, even while we pay lip service to the monstrosity of rape. It’s a culture where victims are criticised for their choice of clothing, their behaviour, and their sexual freedom, as though they are partly to blame for their fate. It’s a culture where women’s bodies are public property; they undergo scrutiny in the media, and weight gain in female celebrities like Christina Aguilera or Lady Gaga seems like a justification to hurl abuse at them. And the fact that Greta’s comments were given no attention in the news articles is certainly a manifestation of rape culture, contributing to and reflecting it.


I’m sorry that the term ‘rape culture’ makes people uncomfortable. But perhaps it’s time we stopped being comfortable. After all, it is when we start to acknowledge that society isn’t as perfect as we thought it was, that progress can be made.

372 thoughts on “The Kissing Sailor, Part 2 – Debunking Misconceptions

  1. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” | Crates and Ribbons

    • I grew up hearing stories from both my parents about what that day was like, and as a result, I’ve never seen that photo as being representative of anything consensual, even though neither of my parents suggested anything different. All I heard from the two of them (who experienced the end of the war in two different major East Coast cities) is that everyone poured into the streets in a spontaneous celebration and that from that point on, it was anything goes. Not to excuse the photo and what it represents at all! It’s just that having heard their stories, I never saw the photo as a spontaneous expression of two people celebrating the end of the war but as nothing more than what it is, a drunk sailor grabbing a nurse and kissing her before she knew what was up. According to my mom, she was far from the only young woman who experienced the same–again, not excusing it!

  2. I guess I’m from a different era……being grabbed and kissed is a far cry from rape and I don’t think Greta really minded. As for rape, been there, done that and would prefer to have been kissed!

        • I’m not sure I understand how an unwanted kiss isn’t sexual assault. If you punch me in the face, you’ve assaulted me. How is it any different if you kiss me? Unwanted touching of my body, whether by hand, or mouth is assault.

        • Don’t be sorry. Do some research. “The term sexual assault is used, in public discourse, as a generic term that is defined as any involuntary sexual act in which a person is threatened, coerced, or forced to engage against their will, or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented. This includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration), inappropriate touching, forced kissing…” You’re basically saying “It’s just a kiss, get over it.” I’ve also been raped and I have also been forcibly kissed. In my experience it’s the same, just varied in how extreme the discomfort/ humiliation is.

        • Yes, because obviously anytime someone points out something that contributes to rape culture or the normalization of women receiving unwanted sexual advances, it is just “whining”.

          There is nothing idiotic about this post, or the one which preceded it. There is nothing idiotic about the points Leopard makes. And there is *certainly* nothing idiotic about discussing the message that this highly romanticized, highly published and highly recognizable photo really sends.

          Furthermore, misconceptions ARE someone being wrong about something. From “mis·con·cep·tion   [mis-kuhn-sep-shuhn]
          an erroneous conception; mistaken notion.”
          Which means that when someone says “you have ___ misconception”, they are in fact saying “No, you’re wrong.” That is the entire point. Remember your English, and don’t try and make it sound like it’s some sort of evil agenda, because it’s not.

          And finally–if a complete and total stranger comes up to me in the street, grabs me, overpowers me, and kisses me, that IS sexual assault. That is going to scare the shit out of me and seriously fuck up my day. I would feel violated, weak, and disgusted. I didn’t know this person. I didn’t want to be kissed. I didn’t ask or give ANY kind of consent for this sort of behavior. I was just walking down the street, and instead of being left alone, I was once again reminded that I am in possession of something someone else wants, and that the onus is on me to protect it at all times.

          No, a kiss is not rape. But no one here is saying this picture is rape. What we are saying is that it’s contributing to rape *culture*, which is a culture in which aggressive sexual conduct of this nature against women is brushed under the rug or viewed as acceptable. Rape culture is also the same culture that produces angry comments like yours, because when you see a woman discussing how disturbing it is to be grabbed on the street, instead of surprise or discomfort, your reaction is one of “Oh, well it’s just a kiss! That’s nothing to worry about!”

          I do agree with you that politicians like Akin and Ryan are noxious and their views threaten to take our country down a dark, twisted path. BUT–how did they get that way? Baby boys don’t just pop out of the womb thinking women are property, or that if they don’t fight back in *just* the right way, then they weren’t really raped. Those beliefs and behaviors are *learned*. Where do you think they learned them from? Who do you think taught them those lessons? What kind of culture do you think it is that imparted those views to them in the first place?

        • I can’t seem to reply to Anonymous who said “do some research” and then simply quoted a line from Wikipedia that in itself is marked with “citation needed,” so I’ll just throw my response here.

          I believe the issue many people are having is the difference between assault and sexual assault. Calling this a sexual assault is certainly the more provocative choice, but is it also the legal one?

          I’m not a lawyer, but a little bouncing around the internet has produced the term “simple assault” which seems more appropriate to describe this situation. Does it change the point of the article? Not really–it’s still not a romantic event. Does the difference even matter? Well, semantically, yes, I believe so.

        • It is 2012! Dear TheExpatriate700 a forced kiss is sexaul assault and it is people like you who try to make a forceful act that is disgusting and aggresive, common place in today’s world. What, may I ask, is sexual assault then? Where should we draw the line? According to the law (in many states) any forced penetration of any orifice is forced penetration which could be called sexual assault.

          Dear Expat, I really hope that is what you are and not a still try and true American. We do not need citizens like you here.

      • Leopard you have not commented on the fact the the order of the pictures is not correct in Misconception #3. As the commentator timd pointed out the order of the photos is not how it originally was in the contact sheets. I’m not arguing against the purpose of the article, but you are not being truly about the order of the photographs.

        • ScoobyDoobyDoo’s comment is interesting, well-meaning, but I think misses the point in the last paragraph of their comment. Since this isn’t a case being tried in a court of law, I don’t think we must or even should tie ourselves to the “legal” definition of what type of assault it would be labeled were charges being filed. Since we’re discussing this in terms of society and culture, I think it’s more appropriate to use socio-cultural terms for what took place, hence a “sexual assault” versus a “simple assault”.

          Also, the law does not always match up with how most people conceive of a given act. For example, in my state of Iowa, it is illegal to grab a woman’s breasts without her consent, but it cannot be charged under any of the “sex abuse” statutes. Instead, legally it would be considered a “simple assault”, the same as if someone had slapped her. I’ve had it done to me, and I can tell you it definitely different than a slap! All that to say, legal definitions are not necessarily the “truest” ones.

    • Being grabbed and kissed by someone your attracted to and being grabbed and kissed by a perfect stranger are two different things. It is a form of Rape because he grabbed and subdued her against her will. Had he done that to his Navy buddy behind him it would of been World news. Plus, the guy probably would have knocked him out. But, it would not have been acceptable, not because they were men but because he was in violation!

    • Are you saying it would be okay if some drunk lurched down the street, restrained you so you couldn’t move, then smashed his hooch scented mouth onto yours? Something being preferable to a worse situation doesn’t mean it’s good. That kind of thinking turns suffering into a competition because it allows only the most unfortunate situation to be authentic. “Oh, you were raped at a party? Stop complaining. I was gang raped twice and sexually abused by my parents. I would love to have your problems!” And yes, I see comments like that all the time. It’s unfortunate. No one should have to one-up the rest of the world’s troubles to have his own taken into consideration.

    • I’m truly sorry that you were a victum of rape – no one should subjected to that kind of terror and violation. I would hope that no one thinks it’s ok to say “I don’t think Greta really minded”. Trust me – been there done that AND I minded! The problem is, being grabbed groped and kissed by a drunk without your consent is still a violation! Being raped is what can happen after that violation if we send out a message that this is acceptable behaviour. If everyone turns a blind eye to what can be an uncomfortable situation we encourage a ‘Rape Culture’. Change is uncomfortable and sometimes even painful – but necessary. Once it was accepable to smoke anywhere you wanted to – now it’s not. Once it was a man’s right to beat his children and wife – now he can’t. Once you could own and enslave another human being – now you cant! Just because it is socially acceptable by the majority does not make it right.

    • The point is, no one asked her if she minded before it happened. The fact that women are just supposed to tolerate people doing whatever they want to their body without their consent is “rape culture.” Rape culture isn’t rape.

    • Anonymous, I grieve for you and every other person who has been a victim of rape. However, you, of all people should be a voice in concert, not dissenting against, this topic. The issue being established is that any and every time someone, friend/foe/stranger, comes into our personal space without our permission it is wrong. Once that point is established and concretized, it follows logically that any action the interloper takes while in your personal space without permission is a violation against you, for which and from which there should be legal remedy. I don’t believe in suspending a kindergartner from school for kissing a classmate, but would use it as an example for that level of developmental understanding about personal space, boundaries, what is and isn’t appropriate and consent. Clearly, the lack of these very things being taught in thoughtful, meaningful ways at the earliest ages and reinforced thereafter also contributes to the culture that hasn’t evolved to eliminate violence and violation but has actually glorified and promoted it.

    • Congratulations; by that insensitive comment, you just managed to demean and insult every real victim of familial sexual abuse/incest. I’m curious: what is it about consent that you don’t understand?

        • I’m afraid the law isn’t on your side there. A ‘playful punch on the shoulder’ CAN constitute common assault; assault can be the lightest of touches. This is a principle of English common law which is centuries old. I don’t know the US system as well but AFAIK this principle was carried across.

          So: an unwanted kiss can definitely be assault.

    • Hmm, it seems we should try to read and understand what this is saying rather than react to what we think it says. Ironic, considering the title of the post.

    • Although the call of ‘rape’ here seems ironically aimed at discrediting this idea, but Sam is raising a very serious point about the origins of ‘rape culture’.

      I think the lack of physical respect for boundaries of others – especially children – within a family is the start of ‘rape culture’. I think many of us were essentially forced to be kissed by smelly old relatives as children – and maybe much worse.

      There are reasons for putting up with such behaviour, respect for elders and appreciation of generational misunderstandings, but as a child you learn by mimicking what was done to you – one of many things learned by this accepted practice is that is okay to force your affection on an unwilling, but weaker human being.

      • THIS. I saw it pointed out like this on a feminist blog years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to the challenge it presents. You should see the funny looks I get from family and friends when they instruct youngsters to come up and give me a hug and/or a kiss and I get down to eye level with the kid and say “it’s ok. if you don’t want to give me a hug or a kiss, you don’t have to. Its up to you.” I’ve had to explain it to the parents more than a few times, and I get some varient on either “I never really thought about it” or “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal”. But it’s never caused more than a minute, maybe two, of discomfort for anyone. When I first started doing it, I felt a little sad each time because most of the kids did not give hugs after being given a choice. But it’s the sad of letting go privilege, so you stop noticing after a while. :)

        I highly encourage folks who come into contact with kids who are ordered to provide affectionate gestures to adopt a similar tactic. I also highly encourage parents to avoid forcing their kids to give false displays of affection for the benefit of those who have power over them. It’s a tiny thing, but it teaches our kids so much.

        • Wow, Mary, I just did this yesterday with my two nephews, and never even gave it a thought! I just hadn’t even considered the idea that I was forcing them to show affection to someone allegedly in power – I was merely asking them to not forget to express it to me in the ‘busy-ness’ of coming in the door, as well as showing them in a concrete way that I feel love for them. As a survivor of some horrifying abuses myself, the culture that supports a woman from ‘not making a fuss’ or having the right to say no, and LOUDLY if I want to…I should have known better! I shall rethink my actions going forward, and thank you for pointing out my unwitting hypocrisy.

        • It’s possibly different. You don’t let kids choose what they want to eat, or when they should go to bed, otherwise it would be lollies and past midnight, making for not a very healthy upbringing. And it doesn’t surprise me that you noticed they chose not to, it might be scary. But that’s no more to the point than them thinking vegetable taste gross or going to bed on time is boring. It concerns me the kids you interact with are not learning how to display affection and if left to that choice entirely will grow up dysfunctional, like having made their own dietary choices their whole childhood.

        • Clint, you appear to be wilfully missing the point. Allowing kids to refuse to eat stuff they don’t like doesn’t mean you have to let them eat junk food instead. It just means you’re showing them that they have choices over their own bodies and what goes into those bodies (believe me, if the other choice is bread and water then sometimes they’ll take that and no harm done, and sometimes they’ll decide to try what you’ve offered instead – this is not rocket science).

          Coercing kids into hugging and kissing strangers who they are told are their family, but they don’t know/remember those people? Or if they do remember them, they don’t like them? That’s not teaching them to show affection, that’s forcing them to lie about feeling affection.

          How does teaching children to lie about feeling affection help anybody? It certainly doesn’t help the children to feel in control of their own bodies, it doesn’t teach clueless but benificent relatives to help the child learn to establish their own boundaries, and it certainly doesn’t help repellent relatives (most of us have a few) to make an effort to be less alarming to small people/

        • Same here. Around little children — I have a (now grown) niece and now her two kids — I don’t grab them. I let them hug me first, and then I hug them back. I think I got a conscience about this when I read John Holt’s book Escape from Childhood, back in the 70s I think it was, and he pointed out that children are seen as love objects for adults, regardless of the children’s feelings. So far no one has expressed surprised at the way I relate to kids, though.

        • We can’t teach kids that they have to kiss any adult who wants them to and then expect them to understand they can say no when an adult wants to touch them in other ways. It’s far more frequent that children are abused sexually by adults they know than by strangers. It’s quite possible that the person who’s abusing them is someone who at some point a parent has told them they have to allow to touch them, whether they want to or not. Unless, of course, their parents have taught them that, while they must always be polite, they only need to express affection physically toward people for whom they feel it, and that they never have to allow anyone to touch them in ways that make them feel uncomfortable.

          I’ve never yet met a child who needs to be taught how to show affection. That’s a completely ridiculous idea. I’m pretty sure Mr. Hobson has little or no experience with raising or working with children.

        • parents often have force reluctant kids to kiss grandma or sit on santa’s lap. they tell their kids to do something “because I said so” or with threats such as, “wait ’til your father gets home.” these are all terrible behaviors. i once told the school principal that, “my daughter has been taught to trust her instinct over any instructions another person might give her, including her teachers and you.” this is what we should teach our children. thinking and feeling should always supercede obedience.

        • @Clint. Aside from what others have pointed out, another thing to be mindful of is pedophiles. I was raped for a good few months at a young age by a family friend, because I was at an age where I was completely used to adults doing whatever to me and being told it was completely ok.

      • Wow, Mary, I just did this yesterday with my two nephews, and never even gave it a thought! I just hadn’t even considered the idea that I was forcing them to show affection to someone allegedly in power – I was merely asking them to not forget to express it to me in the ‘busy-ness’ of coming in the door, as well as showing them in a concrete way that I feel love for them. As a survivor of some horrifying abuses myself, the culture that supports a woman from ‘not making a fuss’ or having the right to say no, and LOUDLY if I want to…I should have known better! I shall rethink my actions going forward, and thank you for pointing out my unwitting hypocrisy. .

    • Sam? If your family has behaved this way towards you, placing big slobbers on your mouth as they bend you over backwards & sideways while holding you in a headlock, you do have quite a serious family problem. Nobody should do this to anybody, and just cause it’s your family doesn’t excuse it!!!

    • Making people uncomfortable is fine – I’m just doubtful that “rape culture” communicates very well in describing a range of awful, abusive behaviors and attitudes, including many which are not rape.

      I see a lot of reactions in the comments on these two posts where people are seeing “rape” and a picture of a kiss and having trouble making the connection. Now, if people were logical and read the whole post carefully, they should understand the meaning, and why many people here feel that “rape culture” is the right term for a culture that says it’s okay to violate people’s (esp women’s) autonomy. There’s a logic in why people want to call it rape culture – but often your audience won’t analyze deeply enough to understand that, before they turn off.

      Some people respond to confrontation by opening their minds. I bought “Transforming a Rape Culture” 14 years ago – seeing it in the bookshop that day was the first time I’d heard the term “rape culture”. But I’m weird – the kind of person who orders the weirdest item on the menu. For most people, confrontation probably works better in smaller doses and with carefully chosen words.

      • Who in the world is saying “it’s okay to violate people’s (esp women’s) autonomy.”? I have never heard in my life any authority figure say it’s OK to violate a woman in anyway. Can you name the people in our society who are saying this. Maybe people said this decades ago that disrespect of women was fine, but I was born in 1974 and feminism was already in full swing. I have been taught to respect people my entire life by teachers and parents, especially towards women. All I am saying is I don’t see this “rape culture”. Now, I have a step-grandfather, who has passed, that sexually assaulted, raped, molested, what ever term you want to use, my mother and my aunt, for years. He later went on to sexually assault two female cousins of mine, at different times. My grandmother never left him. One of the cousins was the daughter of my aunt he had molested. I didn’t find about any of this until he was very elderly and close to death. Some I didn’t find until recently, years after his death. When he was still alive after I found out what he did to my mother and aunt, I wanted to kill him. Did Society teach him that it was OK to do what he did. NO. He was a sick f***er, plain and simple. The people around him allowed him to continue to have opportunities to do the things he did. My Grandmother didn’t want to leave him because, she didn’t think she could take care of herself without him. My aunt allowed him to be around her children knowing what he was. Who is to blame for these horrible things that happened. He is, my grandmother for allowing it to continue, my aunt for allowing her rapist to have the opportunity to molest her child and for not reporting it. This is not society’s fault. It’s the individuals involved. Hold them accountable.

  3. Your chronology isn’t right, see here for a contact of the 4 photos Eisenstaedt took:
    also on Getty:

    The photo you have as being the last is the first – the sailor in the background on the left moves closer in subsequent frames, also see frame numbers.
    She does put her left arm up again in the last frame, but its not clear what she’s doing with her hand.

    The photographer was at it as well:

    • I agree, but we should go beyond that. We should expect people to challenge authority with analysis of fact and logical argument. The Isralei culture promotes that, and the result is a higher standard of living than in the USA. Employees that never challenge their manager’s ideas on the merrits are seen as stupid and not contributing to the success of the enterprsie.

      Many beliefs we hold dear are actually myths or misunderstandings of the quote or the work that underlies them. Of course, the biggest myth of all is the existence of god, and that will likely never fall, because it serves us too well.

  4. It was through the ‘kissing sailor’ post that I found your blog, as one of my friends shared it on Facebook. I subscribed immediately and am excited to come back. I was going through some personal how-to-deal-with-the-world stuff and your writing reminded me that there are smart, energetic individuals out there doing their part in making things better. I admire the enthusiasm with which you engage in dialogue, as well as the time you took to clarify misconceptions related to this particular post. Thank you so much. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  5. I think that this is really through-provoking.

    I remember, even twenty years ago, reading a novel in English class that included a man meeting his new lover by raping her in the women’s locker room. I thought it was The Great Gatsby, but googling doesn’t hold up to that one. There was a short discussion about how the scene dates the book and such things aren’t socially acceptable these days, even to joke about.

    I wonder if Richard Dawson could still kiss all the women on Family Feud?

    I get your point. I do side with those who are in favor of shrugging off an unwanted kiss, but I get it.

  6. If this is sexual assault, then how can you possibly not want to “demonize George or to recommend that he be packed off to prison”? Isn’t that what we should do to perpetrators of sexual assault? It seems strange and, well, “rape culture-y” to say that sexual assault should never go unpunished, with some exceptions.

    • What he did was a blatant attack on her personal autonomy and it certainly needs to be said that this is sexual assault, is wrong, and it not an acceptable thing to do.

      However, I think the fact that it happened 67 years ago makes demonising and/or packing him off to prison for it unfair to him. At the time what he did wasn’t illegal or thought of as wrong (so I’ve heard, I wasn’t around at the time). This doesn’t make it right, but I think it makes punishing him for it unfair.

      For example, many members of PETA think that in the future owning animals as pets will be viewed in the same way we now view slavery. Let’s say that they’re right. If when I’m 90 someone points to a photo of me today taking my dog for a walk and suggests I should be punished for it, I think this would be rather unfair to me. I think this is similar.

      So I think we can condemn the action of 67 years ago, but not the person today. If George did something similar today, or today he stands by what he did and still thinks it’s a okay thing to do, then I think yes, we can demonise him for that.

  7. For a long time I thought this photo looked too much like a forced kiss… I wish I was wrong…

    You are so spot on about rape culture. I just want to congratulate you for writing this stuff.

    • Right about the photo. A stolen kiss, inappropriate, and perhaps asault.

      Rape culture? Nonsense. Go to Darfur, Somalia, or Congo. That’s rape culture. No, ours is not perfect, but let’s not define things broadly just to push a political or social agenda.

      • Rape culture? Nonsense. Go to Darfur, Somalia, or Congo. That’s rape culture.

        No, that’s the extremes of rape culture. The normalised rape culture is that which trivialises anything less than Darfur/Somalia/Congo as not rapey enough to matter.

      • Damn, blockquote fail. Try again:

        Rape culture? Nonsense. Go to Darfur, Somalia, or Congo. That’s rape culture.

        That’s the extremist of extremes of rape culture, yes. Rape culture is a spectrum of treating women’s consent as immaterial, and anything that classifies any assault less than Darfur, Somalia, or Congo as not rapey enough to count contributes to the broader culture of trivialising women reporting cases of having their consent disregarded simply because society turns a winking eye and consequences are widely known to not ensue. That’s rape culture.

        • I love this argument. “Rape culture” as a spectrum means that no matter what anyone says, we will always be somewhere on the spectrum. There is no amount of logic and no way to argue that we do not live in some type of “rape culture.” An absolutely brilliant way of always winning an argument. I’ll have to remember the “spectrum” idea when I am trying to win an argument with my spouse.

          Imagine if I combine this rhetorical construct with the “It’s invisible to everyone who isn’t looking for it” argument, and I will WIN THE INTERNETS!

  8. Good retorts.

    First, who cares whether you have the original picture? Original or not, they all portray the same thing.

    And sure, a kiss is different from rape, yet forcing a kiss still contributes to the notion that men have a right to women’s bodies.

    And it’s not about demonizing the guy. Rape culture is as invisible to him as to everyone else. The critique is about raising consciousness.

  9. I wish it wasn’t so hard to teach people the concept of consent. I mean, if you do something to me that I didn’t explicitly consent to then my boundaries and physical autonomy have been violated, and that’s not okay. Oh, but wait, women and other marginalized members of society aren’t allowed to have boundaries.

    • Hey Tannis, just because I wouldn’t want a random woman to kiss me doesn’t mean that I’m going to run around screaming assault, no matter what the legal definition of it is.

      (Edited to remove insults)

      • Hey dude, you’ve mentioned a variation of the word idiotic in both posts when referring to others. Ironic.

      • LOL – the legal definition is “idiotic”? So we shouldn’t pay attention to the law, only to your opinions? Someone thinks highly of themselves…

      • Well, that’s your choice to make. But if someone randomly kissed me I would “scream” assault. The same way I would if I was randomly punched as I was walking down the street. Just because it doesn’t fit your definition, doesn’t mean that that’s not what it is.

        • By ‘sane people’ you mean ‘misogynists’. Your use of language would embarrass Humpty Dumpty.

        • Not me. After the shock of it, I’d probably just laugh it off because I am in a crowded street and not at all afraid for my life or afraid of being raped. It was just a kiss. Maybe it’s not right but that doesn’t make it sexual assault either.

        • If you’ve never actually been grabbed and mauled by someone you don’t know, I’m pretty uninterested in your opinion about what you’d do, because you actually have no idea.

        • I’m going to assume that MissNorma Desmond’s comment wasn’t direct at me but, for the record, I’ll say that I have been grabbed by men I don’t know on more than one occasion, and in almost every instance spent hours dissecting what I had done to bring the behavior on. I honestly thought (this was in my younger days) that I was responsible for these assholes laying their hands on me. Such is the power of “rape culture” in the US. That these dudes were allowed to touch me, and I was supposed to figure out what I had done wrong.

        • No, I was responding to Tiffy, who’s so sure how she’d feel about something she’s never actually experienced. I have been grabbed as well, on a number of occasions, including having a drunk guy grab me, kiss me and stick his tongue in my mouth — which it looks as if this guy may well be doing. It was disgusting, and a huge violation, and I’m really astounded by how hard people are trying to pretend it’s not. It’s just bizarre to me, the amount of weird denial being expended on this photo.

      • Just because you, as an individual, wouldn’t find an unwanted kiss intrusive or aggressive, doesn’t give you the right to look down on other people for reacting more strongly than you, or otherwise trying to delegitimize the idea that sexual assault should be taken seriously.

        Moreover, your assertion that “people who find nonconsensual sexual contact offensive are just being too sensitive” is absolutely characteristic of a culture that acts like unwanted sexual advances are okay — rape culture.

        • Look, we are talking about three classifications here: inappropriate behavior, assault, and sexual assault. I think sane people would agree that a stolen kiss qualifies as inappropriate behavior at least. If the kiss was forced through physical power, it might qualify legally as assault, and my guess from the photos is that it does. But, there is no doubt that a kiss on the lips would never qualify as sexual assault in any court in the land. There is a distinction to be made, so let’s not paint with a broad brush. If behavior could be changed that easily, then Comedian Steve Martin’s suggestion that we impose the death penalty for parking violiations would be in place now.

          Also, “rape culture” is inflamatory language apparently used to promote a political or social agenda. Ours is not such a culture in any sense whatsoever. It more accurately describes Darfur, Somalia, or Congo. The first agreement in rational discussion is to call things as they are. What we have is a culture that values people with wealth and possessions over those without them, and beauty at the cost of injury to one’s health. We fail to protect our women by teaching men to respect them.

          And, we also fail to give men the sex their bodies crave. We make it wrong for women to engage in sex for pleasure and make it illegal for men to pay for sex. Comedian George Carlin said he didn’t understand why prostitution is illegal. He says, “It’s legal to sell. It’s legal to F***. But it’s illegal to sell F***ing.”

        • “me”: “…And, we also fail to give men the sex their bodies crave. We make it wrong for women to engage in sex for pleasure and make it illegal for men to pay for sex.”
          Who makes it wrong for women to engage in sex for pleasure? “We” is a broad, sweeping generalization that might be narrowed down so we know what you’re referring to. You’re identifying a rather repressive society which is not the predominant culture.

          And who fails to give men the sex they crave? The women who are the victims? Surely you’re not saying that we can excuse men who force themselves on women because the men are not getting enough sex?

    • It is easy to claim marginalization. In fact it is one of those claims that are self-enforcing since any debate about the claim can be in and by itself construed as marginalizing. It is also easy to lump all consent, from non-consensual touching to non-consensual intercourse into the same bracket and call one the gateway to the other. After all, if some guy dares to come over and looks at me, ask me a question or even ask me out that is creepy and reminiscent (and enabling) of him forcing himself on me physically.

      The concept of consent is simple, in my opinion. If you are consistent about it, don’t apply gender stereotypes and arbitrary limits to it depending on the age, looks, and your attraction to the person, and if you’re open about it, then no one has an excuse for violating your boundaries. If your boundaries are arbitrary and unspoken then you lay mine fields without warning signs and are, while not guilty of, at least complicit in their violation. This doesn’t apply to the nurse, she was clearly assaulted, but in general life out there it takes two: a woman who doesn’t speak her mind and a man who steps where he should not have stepped. And there is no excuse for not speaking up. No one ever said it should all be easy for you and hard for your counterparts. Do your part, even if it isn’t easy coasting and you have earned the right to demand the same of others.

      • And this is a brilliant example of the insidiousness of rape culture, which teaches us that it it not the obligation of those who wish to assault us not to do so, but our obligation to sufficiently protest and defend ourselves, or else we are “complicit” in their behavior. Because it’s perfectly reasonable on anyone’s part to assume that they have the right to grab me, and it’s on me to let them know they don’t.

        Bonus points for “slippery slope” argument, by the way, that’s of course the concern here — not that women would have to put up with being grabbed, but that men might be accused of wrongdoing by crazy women who can’t tell the difference between being looked at and being assaulted.

        • I don’t think anyone says it’s the obligation of the woman (well if they did, they’re an idiot)

          But when people say “Hey, speak out about it, slap him, call him out, make a fuss” they’re saying “it helps address the problem”, not “if you don’t do these things then you deserve to be assaulted.”

        • So ironically, YOU are using the slippery slope argument against Emilia, accusing her of putting ALL the onus on the woman, when she simply stated that it’s a good idea to speak up about it when it happens, no matter how difficult.

        • Clint, it’s hard to know how to respond to your comments if you’re simply going to deny what’s written in black and white in front of you. “Complicit” was Emilia’s word.

        • By suggesting that a woman has a responsibility to speak up when being asssaulted so as to make it clear to a man they are assaulting her, you are placing a lower value on women who don’t have the ability to speak up, those who are mentally ill, or in shock, for example. That is an unfair expectation, I think. The onus should be on the assaulter to not assault.

      • If a man (or anyone) wants to initiate sexual contact, the onus is on THEM to elicit clear and un-coerced consent beforehand – not on their partner to fend off the (perhaps unwanted) advances. Getting clear consent beforehand is mandatory, NOT optional… It signals that you’re actually invested in your partner’s experience and that their boundaries matter to you. It signals respect and caring.

        If you DON’T elicit clear consent beforehand, or if you take silence or hesitancy as consent, then you’re essentially being deliberately ignorant and selfish… and acting on your own desires WITHOUT KNOWING if what you’re doing is ok.

        In short Emilia, it most certainly doesn’t “take two” to commit sexual assault. It only takes one abuser to create abuse.

        • All sounds good and makes sense except what does “getting clear consent” mean? Does a guy have to ask “Is it ok if I kiss you now”? If the kiss goes well, does he have to expressly ask if it’s ok to take the next step, and the next, and the next…? I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that there are a lot of women that would not find that approach very “romantic”. I’ve actually gone down that road before and was told that, while she liked me and was attracted to me, she was looking for someone more assertive; a “real man” so to speak, and I have heard similar comments from many other women when referring to other guys that didn’t move fast enough. Add to that the very apparent success that “brutish” men seem to have with women, you can see it everywhere quite frankly, and I’m stumped. Facts are that whatever your views on the matter may be, we live in a society where a majority of women wait for a guy they are interested in to make “the first move”, although it would be a heck of a lot easier if women made the first move. Do you plan on labeling every guy that reads the signals wrong a rapist because he moved in for a kiss and was rejected, or after the kiss was reciprocated he dared to put his hand somewhere it wasn’t wanted and had to be rebuffed? And let’s not play that game where you say “just cause I let a guy kiss me isn’t consent for him to screw me” because that is not what I am saying, I am referring to guys with a reasonable set of social skills that react to “signals” they believe they are being given and back off immediately upon realizing they may have misread the signals.

        • Just a Guy, really important question.

          As far as i can tell, most women including feminists are fine with someone making a move at the right time – but for a lot of guys, it’s just really hard to know when that is. So the nice guys hang back, and the “brutish” guys make the move.

          But I don’t see a lot of fuss about guys who misread body language, make a move, get rebuffed and back off. The way sexual assault is often defined, it would include this, which might be a problem, but you’re unlikely to be considered a villain for it, I think.

          In contrast, grabbing the back of a woman’s head so she can’t pull away when you kiss her – that’s disregarding her autonomy and right to not participate. Or, more extreme, holding her head in your elbow, to make it hard to move her head – that’s why the photo looks like sexual assault to me.

        • Just a Guy, it’s not binary. It’s not just passive or aggressive. You can be assertive, which is something in between. What people are reacting to here is that this man gave this woman *no chance* to consent, he grabbed her from behind and physically overpowered her, by her clear description and by what can be seen in the photo. That’s not okay. Had he walked toward her with his arms outstretched, inviting her to kiss and hug, it would have been a totally different matter — and they might well still have ended up kissing. So think of it like that. You can issue an invitation, without its being a demand.

        • Last summer I was walking down a crowded street with my husband and another couple. A young man with male & female friends bumped into me, completely by accident. He stopped and gave me a huge smile and apologized profusely, and then gave me a gentle hug on the shoulders. I suppose it was all too quick for me to think twice, but I suspect he interpreted my smile as consent. I’ll have to admit that it was totally fine with me, in fact it was rather pleasant and something to tell my friends, who’d carried on walking ahead about.
          i guess sometimes consent is in the body language and it’s a visual cue that tells another person it’s ok to touch.
          I’m rethinking it all, of course in light of this discussion, and if it happened today (although it’s pretty cold out there and our whole city could use a group hug to warm us up) I wonder if I’d respond the same way. Considering the weather, he probably wouldn’t even have had the time to stop other than for a quick apology.
          A lovely summer memory.
          Comments? Questions? Discuss!

        • In exactly the same way. How is that hard to understand? It’s not okay to grab people if they don’t like it. In fact, I was taught to be careful about this by a man, a former roommate. While I never outright grabbed him, I am a big hugger, where he is not. Finally he said to me, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I really don’t like hugging.” I thanked him for being honest, apologized for having made him uncomfortable, and learned a big lesson about not intruding on people who express affection differently than I do.

  10. 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.

      • Mendonsa and his date, who would become his future wife, rushed to a nearby bar where the sailor admits he ‘popped quite a few drinks.’

        Mendonsa spotted a woman in a nurse’s uniform – he left Petry and rushed to grab her.
        ‘The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks,’ he told CBS. ‘So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her, and I kissed her.’
        ‘I did not see him approaching, and before I know it, I was in this vice grip,’ Friedman added

        Read more:

        Hey, you should probably check your “facts” before you spout off on some ignorant rant about how this article negatively affects women, because for some reason you feel like you have the right to judge how women are going to feel about something.

    • Not sure what your source is for the statement that he was with his girlfriend, but in the photographer’s autobiography, he didn’t mention a girlfriend.

      “In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make a difference.”

      and that, combined with the other quote above that the sailor admitted he’d been drinking, are what they call ‘Primary Sources’

      • The source for the statement that Mendonsa was on a date with his girlfriend (Petry) are the three news articles cited in the previous post about the Kissing Sailor. The sailor himself explains in the interviews how he was on a date with Petry (who later became his wife) and, how he’d been drinking and how he then left the bar determined to kiss the first nurse he saw.

        So it’s not speculation, and the source is as primary as it can be.

  11. I’d always heard that this photograph was staged. I guess something about it never seemed quite right. It’s not that it wasn’t spontaneous, it’s that it wasn’t consensual.

    • I just found this post a year late and am reading through the comments. If you’re at all interested (and it doesn’t come up later in the thread) I believe the photo you’re thinking of is Robert Doisneau’s “The Kiss”–which I believe was staged and which, in comparison, is a much less aggressive image.

    • I generally hate to agree with the guy who sounds like a troll, because I’m not one myself, but… I have to agree here overall. I’m glad the writer provided a part 2 to the piece, and tried to defend her position against the most common of criticisms leveled against it. Unfortunately, the reason I’m glad is because she failed to rationally defend *a single one*. I teach logic and rhetoric, and her rationale is specious in several places, and straw-grasping in another.

      I agree with the broader sentiment, of course, but this was simply an improper vehicle through which to express it. I’m not an old-timer, by the way, romanticizing a bygone era. I’m 33, and so liberal that I don’t even like making right-hand turns. But this? Just wrong-headed, and as others have said, potentially damaging to the issue about which we all agree. And that’s sad.

      • You missed the point. The article is about a form of aggression, towards women, which is socially acceptable. Yet it’s disgusting and horrible for a woman or girl to have a man impose himself in such a manner. I speak from experience!! Logic, sir?? Perhaps the world would be better off without your cold hearted thinking that says it’s ok for a man to approach a woman in this mannner. As a victim of this type of aggression, many years ago when I was too young to understand what was going on & how to protect myself, I can only tell you it is very unpleasant to be grabbed by fat, ugly, smelly men and forced into unwanted kisses. (handsome young men need not have applied either!) This article has sparked a very raw nerve. Yep, yer a troll, Mr. Reason Prevails. If that’s logic, I and many others, can likely do without it.

        • Yeah, I fail to see the logic in Reason Prevails’ argument. It was one of the most impressive mental backflips I’ve ever seen! He agrees with the sentiment but is glad the author failed to defend her points? Riiight….!

          The way I understand logic, the Crates and Ribbons addressed the misconceptions in a clear and, well, logical way. Very easy to understand.

          I could see how it would be possible to misunderstand her first post on the Kissing Sailor if you’d never heard of rape culture before, or didn’t know the definition of sexual assault. But the failure to follow the reasoning in this post requires a certain amount of effort!

      • So are you claiming to have caught the blogger in logical fallacies? If so, would you care to indicate them, or at least be more specific about what parts of her argument you find specious? I have a B.A. in Philosophy myself, and saw no such problems.

      • “I’m glad the writer provided a part 2 to the piece, and tried to defend her position against the most common of criticisms leveled against it. Unfortunately, the reason I’m glad is because she failed to rationally defend *a single one*”

        If you “agree with the broader sentiment” of the article, why are you glad she, in your opinion, failed to rationally defend it? Also, if you think that the article is damaging to the cause the writer supports and, indeed, the cause you yourself support, why not help the writer out by pointing out specifically where and why it is damaging.

        Instead of vaguely criticising the article and its writer and taking pleasure in her so called failures, why not further the conversation by pointing out specific issues you have with it? Until then, you’re no more helpful than the troll.

  12. Does MBlume consider that perhaps the writers of the modern articles are also taking into perspective that this happened in a different time with different values? Even if they’re not, it should be assumed that the writers included those specific quotes to perhaps send the message without treating their readers like 1st graders.

    Sure, it’s “fucked up” that none of the articles note that the woman acknowledges this man grabbed her and kissed her. Again, though, do you think she would have responded the exact same at the time? She’s had 67 years to change with the times. 1945 was quite a different place and mindset than it is now.

    I challenge all of you to think of something that happened to you ten, twenty, thirty years ago. How have your perceptions changed since then of the event? Surely, at the time and place, you had quite a different experience and perspective than you do now; you’ve changed over the years due to internal and external influences.

    • Let me understand this, if it wasn’t considered inappropriate for the times, say corporal punishment of a wife, then there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the behavior? There are things that, over time, we’ve become more vocally intolerant of, and have a better understanding of just how violating they were, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t wrong to begin with. It just means that we’ve developed better language over the years to define them.

      • Your argument implies that morality is based on absolute truths, which they are not. Things are wrong inasmuch as we make them wrong, same with the good.


        • I feel secure in saying that “right” or “good” have always been defined by those being allowed to participate in making those decisions. So, of course beating your wife wasn’t considered a moral failure, as the morality was defined by people who beat their wives. The prevailing moral culture of a body of people has an interest in maintaing the status quo of the people and will always physically, and legally marginalize populations by disallowing their participation. So I don’t buy that I’m projecting.

  13. …a picture showing the strong emotions of a marine, knowing that the war is over… What do you want to suggest ? That this picture could have been taken at any time ?


      • I doubt she saw him walking towards her. Even if she did, she obviously had no chance to stop him. Look at the body language! There is nothing about this photo that says she wanted this.

        • I take it you didn’t look at the link I posted. I’m on your side of the argument.

        • No…sorry … I saw the link and without knowing the backstory to this, would totally agree she is being held and slobbered on against her free will.

  14. Pingback: A Totally Different Perspective… | Rouge Media & Public Relations

  15. Thank you for this article. I believe 100% that you are absolutely right.
    Please look at the body language in the image! It’s violent, forceful and unpleasant, & I’ve always believed the woman was not a willing participant.
    The man has grabbed the woman from behind, twisted her around, put her in a headlock with his forearm – the bony side of his arm pressing at her neck, & he’s clenching both his fists, the other with which he claws violently at her waist. Look at the twist of her spine! Compare her shoulders to where her feet are. He’s bent her backwards and sideways, practically folding her in half as he hovers menacingly over her. No woman would happily participate in such an embrace unless she had a great deal of flexibility – the woman in the photo was a nurse, not a ballerina or a gymnast. OUCH! She probably walked away with a few injuries.

    The reason nobody knew for sure who was in the photo was perhaps embarrassment. I suggest he knew he was being forceful – who knows what she said to him afterwards. Likely she never admitted who she was because she did not want to be associated with the misconceptions and values of the photo – a young woman locked in an embrace with a total stranger. Perhaps her parents & family would have punished her severely had she been identified.

    I, and many women – can certainly attest to what it’s like to be grabbed unexpectedly and kissed by a stinky, ugly, big, strong man who thinks he has the right to every woman’s body. I hope every child, boy or girl, brought up today knows that NOBODY has the right to touch them in an unwanted way; and that all children are taught how to tell people to keep their hands off.

    As for the photo, who knows who was really in it? The women who claim to be the one seem to have at least cued into the fact that this so called embrace was not an embrace at all.

  16. I find the use of the word “rape culture” quite problematic here. As a rape survivor I am not comfortable with the collapsing of all unwanted and even criminal interactions into the most repulsive action. It not only brings my ordeal and that of tens of thousands of women in this country every year into the realm of a forced euphoric kiss, it also sows the seeds of disagreement. I want to be taken seriously when I speak of being a rape survivor and not asked if I was kissed or merely touched, since both have been collapsed by feminist cries into the “rape culture” setting. Call it what it is – coercion culture.

      • I said “forced euphoric”. The guy was clearly not in his right mind AND he assaulted her. There is no denying both. Put differently, if you don’t see the difference between a kiss and rape then we have a bigger problem than a “rape culture”. It is coercion. It is a dark, bad, thing. But it is neither rape nor is it a gateway to rape or indicative of this country’s reaction to rape. It is indicative of our society’s nonchalant dismissal of other forms of coercion and violence. Call rape rape. Call coercion coercion. But don’t try to tarnish and muddle different beasts or to evoke stronger reactions by calling a kiss rape.

        • Rape culture is different to rape. I think you might be arguing at cross-purposes here, or at least I hope so. Rape culture is the mechanism that allows people who rape to see their actions as anything but rape, to blame victims, to excuse those who are guilty of rape, of failing to control their impulses, and to dismiss the people who call it out for what it is.

        • Maybe we could rename “rape culture” as “SEXUAL coercion culture.” That would be accurate but wouldn’t it sound like a euphemism that diminishes the brutality of rape? Rape, forced kisses and gropes are not all equally bad but they are different manifestations of the same thing. That’s why “rape culture” is also accurate and it has the added benefit of not being a euphemism.

    • I absolutely, 100% agree that you should be taken seriously when you speak of the crimes that were committed against your body. But I don’t understand how discussions of rape culture diminish that. Perhaps I am merely uninformed, but from what I have read so far, discussions of rape culture are generally an attempt to point out the horrible gaps in our culture when it comes to how women are treated. The idea behind discussing rape culture and defining it is to make sure that people who do suffer sexual assault *are* taken seriously, instead of merely dismissed because we judge what they went through wasn’t quite horrible enough to register on our radar. It is also attempting to educate those who are unaware of rape culture, so that they don’t end up continuing it.

      It’s true that people disagree on the concept of rape culture, and whether or not it exists. And I can understand not wanting to see that kind of divisiveness, especially when you have been wronged or are in need. But you can’t deny that our current society and culture is badly slanted towards a dark place, especially if you are a woman. In my mind, the only way to help fight that is to change it, and to change it, first you have to define and discuss it.

      That said, if I have gotten the wrong impression, or if there is something Super Obvious that I have missed, please fill me in. I am only speaking from what I have seen so far, which are articles and blog posts talking about rape culture and the effect it has on our daily lives. Personally, I have found them very educational. But I am only one person with only so many free hours in the day, it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed something. Please feel free to correct me. :)

      • Look, she was kissed against her will. That’s bad. Extremely, extremely, bad. There is a nonchalance about this in this culture. There’s more than that. There’s a nonchalance about many forms of violence and marginalization of women. There’s a nonchalance about racial divisions. There’s a nonchalance about, yes this happens, women treating men badly. Because, hey, they deserved it, right? We don’t know the whole story, right? It makes me as sick as it seems to make you to hear such things. It makes me angry to listen to someone trying to diminish or explain away the wrongness and violence inherent in this move. But in all this we should never stoop so low to think to ourselves “hey, they don’t listen when I tell them this is bad, let’s call it rape and maybe then they listen”. It’s not rape.

        It’s bad. Maybe, in your mind, as bad as rape. I won’t hold it against you if it is. I can understand that you might feel that way. But it’s not rape. I bet you that most people who explain or excuse away this sailor’s behavior would react with no understanding had he raped her. You can’t force their understanding by likening this kiss to rape, but you can evolve and educate it by making coercion such as this one its own issue and explaining how it is as wrong.

        • Nobody aside from you is likening the kiss to rape. With the best of intentions, I urge you to please calm down a little and then have a look at what has actually been said.

        • Yeah, but Emilia, you’re missing the point. Rape is one idea, and no one is calling this picture rape. Rape Culture (capital R & C) indicates the societal forces at play which shape our perception of these actions. Rape, the action, is a symptom of Rape Culture. I think you are hearing the word rape in Rape Culture and assuming that this is broadening the definition of rape in some misguided attempt to draw attention to it, but therefore weakening the impact of the word. This is not what is happening.

          Rape Culture is the society that reacts to this photo and says, why are feminists ruining everything? Can’t we just have a little fun and kiss whoever we want?

          Rape Culture is the person who asks if you were legitimately raped.

          Rape Culture is the books and stories we read that make violence against women sexy (Mad Men, e.g.), Rape Culture is the narrative that “boys will be boys,” that gives men sympathy and carte blanche and places the blame on victims.

          Rape Culture is NOT using the word rape to say, omg, he kissed meh! Raappee! That’s not at all what this is doing.

          You and the term Rape Culture come from the same place, the term Rape Culture is fighting against the dismissal you face, not making it worse.

          You saying that objecting to this detracts from your case of “real” rape actually is helping the other side. They say, yeah! Real rape! Not like when I comment on my secretary’s ass, let’s talk about real rape!

          Do you see what I’m saying?

        • See misconception #5.

          No one is calling this rape. No one is calling this act as bad as rape. If they are, then you are right: They are acting foolishly.

          What we *are* saying is that the fact this situation went virtually unremarked upon is part of rape CULTURE. Which is different. Rape culture is basically a term used to describe a culture in which these types of sexual assaults–and this kiss is, by the technical definition, a sexual assault–are seen as commonplace, acceptable, and normal. As such, it creates a perfect breeding ground for crimes against women (and sometimes men) leading up to and including rape.

          No one is trying to call this picture a rape just so it gets more attention. Again, if they are, they are in the minority, and acting foolishly. There is nothing in either of Leopard’s posts which indicates this.

          “You can’t force their understanding by likening this kiss to rape, but you can evolve and educate it by making coercion such as this one its own issue and explaining how it is as wrong.”

          The first part, I absolutely, wholly agree with. You are right: The people who see this kiss as an untouchable national icon are the same people who would likely be unmoved if Greta had, in fact, been raped. However, I think the idea of discussing a coercion culture is–in this case, anyway–redundant. Rape culture is a culture of coercion, specifically targeted towards women. Rape culture is, once again, a term used to describe a culture in which coercing another person in a sexual manner is seen as acceptable, even natural in some cases. As such, the terms are practically interchangeable. (At least in the context of this blog post which we are currently discussing.)

          In other words, I think you and I (and Leopard) are all on the same page, but perhaps you have been confused by some of the language used. We are essentially talking about the same things, but I think the usage of the term “rape” may have caused you to believe we are likening this picture to an actual rape, which we are not.

          And I can completely understand your frustration. There have been many times when people casually refer to rape or liken “lesser” (I hesitate to use that word, but I will because it is legally accurate in this context) sexual assaults to a rape. That is wrong. It is also a direct result of rape culture, which I believe is something most people who frequent this blog are dedicated to eradicating. If you are interested, there are many fine articles and blogs dedicated to the subject, which I would encourage you to read, especially since you already recognize the negative coercive forces at work in our culture today. I think you will find the two concepts are not at all mutually exclusive.

    • Yes, Emilia. Precisely. More people who’ve been through what you have survived need to be clear as you have been, otherwise the rest of us are likey to diminish the severity of the crime and perhaps, as you point out, take little notice when someone else is crying out for help.

      We need to call things what they are, not create definitions to promote a social or political agenda. Rape is rape and it’s outrageous and hurtful beyond explanation. A stolen kiss is inappropriate and perhaps an assault, but no sexual assault of any time, and not a servere form we call rape.

      Emilia, I’m glad you are still with us. You obviously have a great deal to contribute to the world.

      For others, beside you, who read this reply, understand the need to both call things what they are and to do something about serious evils in the world.

      Practices that could be called “Rape Culture” are in place in Darfur, Somalia, and Congo. And, there’s extreme abuse of women throughout the world, from impossible-to-obtain education, to sexusl trafficing and slavery. Rent “Half the Sky” if you want a clue. Be prepared to be shocked. Half the sky is neglected and that part of the world is in darkness. Light a candle, won’t you?

    • No one here is saying that this woman is a rape survivor. They are saying she suffered from sexual assault. There are varying levels. I’m a sexual assault survivor myself and it’s important we all understand that there are differing degrees and that it should all be taken seriously.

  17. I think this post and the related one are completely on target. Thanks.

    Just to point out the obvious, it is also wrong for a woman to force herself on a man in this way. When this happens, it’s often seen as “funny” because the guy is the victim, but it’s really the same thing.

    • Agreed! I am often horrified by television shows or movies where women stalk, harass, manipulate, or generally force themselves on men in an attempt to make them fall in love with them, get back into a relationship with them, have their children, etc., etc. It’s inappropriate for BOTH sides. Men actually seem to have a worse time of it, because the overwhelming assumption is that they’re constantly looking for/love any sort of sexual contact from a woman. I can’t even imagine the kind of pressure a man would feel to brush off that sort of unwanted sexual attention as “no big deal”, lest his buddies kid him mercilessly about being gay or weak or a “sissy” of some type.

      • Let’s remeber though, that what you are referring to is a media portrayal of women, not an accurate one. In movies we often see women who have an unreciprocated romantic interest acting crazy, vindictive and obsessive, as you mentioned. Women who display interest in men who are uninterested are almost portrayed as engaging in ritualistic and psychotic behavior, which is a complete attack on a womans own right to have feelings for someone without seeming creepy or insane. On the contrary, men who display unrequited love in movies and tv shows are portrayed as the underdog, deserving and unfairly rejected. We are lead to feel sorry for him and feel his frustrations when he is “friend zoned” because after all he is a wonderful, loveable guy and the girl is crazy for not being in love with him. You can see the paradox in portrayals here. Women are shown forcing themselves on other men, having shrines in their closet, following them around and manipulating them, while the pursuit of forced affection by a man onto a woman is portrayed as romantic, the way it is depicted in the portrayal of this picture.

        • You make an excellent point! It did not immediately spring to my mind because I tend not to be interested in shows/books/movies that are dedicated to romance. The paradox you mention is one I hope to see eliminated in the years to come. Writers who rely on tired old tropes like that are, in my opinion at least, dedicating themselves to a very weak style of writing. (Which as a fellow writer saddens me deeply.) They are also encouraging young women to view their affection as something obsessive and twisted, as well as making young men feel righteously alienated whenever they are rejected. It’s not helpful.

    • Matt, I totally agree in the sense that I think men can get raped or sexually assaulted, and that is equally wrong.

      However, we’re talking about the Rape Culture forces that shape our perception of women. So this kind of doesn’t have a place.

      Moreover, this kind of “don’t forget about men!” rhetoric plays into the ideas that women gaining rights somehow detract from men’s rights. That, somehow, by addressing the issues facing women we’re reversing the system and we’re going to forget about you poor men! Don’t forget to talk about how these things happen to them too! When someone is talking about how terrible racism is in this country, I’m not like omg! don’t forget about how SEXIST it is!

      These things do happen to men, and I don’t deny that, I think it’s equally terrible. But why does talking about women have to be accompanied by “me too!”? Because your comment is kind of totally irrelevant to how this picture plays into the social power structures. Why was your comment obvious? Why did you think that had to be said? I’m not sure if you were trying to sound perceptive, or if you thought this was really pertinent to the conversation, but it isn’t.

      And that impulse to bring up men’s rights when we’re talking about women’s rights in a very specific context of cultural gender expectations that DO NOT apply to men is part of the dominant culture, and it’s part of what keeps women down.

      Try to unlearn your privilege, and try to sympathize with someone else without having to relate it to how things are unfair for you.

      • Actually, I think Matt’s point was very pertinent.

        It has been made clear numerous times in numerous places that sexism and patriarchy affects men just as much as it does women. To ignore this is folly, and serves only to alienate men who could potentially be our allies.

        Sometimes, men do traipse into the midst of a conversation, plonk themselves down and immediately demand: “Well what about ME!?!” They do this in conversations that really do not involve them, nor is their input necessary. I agree that such behaviors are quite annoying and unhelpful. (I have also seen women display the exact same behavior. It’s just as annoying and unhelpful when they do it.)

        But this blog post is a discussion on rape culture. This blog post is also discussing a scene in which one person forces themselves on another. Personally, I would find a woman forcing herself on a man to be just as disturbing. (I know this, because I watched it happen in a TV show this afternoon and it made me quite uncomfortable to watch.) Not to mention the dismissal of such an act would be ten times worse for a man, because of course, don’t all men love sex? Don’t they all love to have women throwing themselves at them? Aren’t they *always* in the mood? Wouldn’t it be such a great “score” that they could brag about to their buddies?

        If that’s not another branch of sexism which needs to be identified and stamped out, I don’t know what is.

        I do not view Matt’s comment as an intrusion at all, nor do I see it as him begging for attention and trying to derail our conversation. I do not see him acting in a privileged way. I do not feel “kept down” by him. I think he is sympathizing with all of us just fine, and merely wished to add his voice to the discussion. Being reminded that men suffer the effects of unwanted advances is not a bad thing. Men are wanted on this journey to equality as well.

        • UYP: We are talking about rape culture, which includes behaviour that contributes to any sexual physical or emotional violation of other human beings whether it’s man, woman or child. My personal interpretation of rape culture as understood in this article means anything of a sexual nature, from leering, cat-calling, inappropriate comments, groping, and unwanted kissing or touching directed at someone who is an an unwilling participant. I see rape culture as what many consider socially acceptable behaviour, and that behavior can leads to rape. It is behaviour that trivializes rape. The definition of rape now takes on a far broader interpretation than it once did. Male rape does not trivialize female rape.

  18. This kind of behaviour wouldn’t become sexual assault until about 25 years after it happened. I understand that this is covered by your point #1 above, but fail to see how this shows the existence of a ‘rape culture’ in the present day.

    • So the many comments from people contemptuously rejecting the idea that this was ever a bad thing are invisible to you?

    • Well, it has a lot to do with modern-day reactions to it. Just because it was not necessarily a crime at the time (and I am not entirely sure it wasn’t – I have not looked up the relevant statues) does not mean that it was not wrong.

      Continued acceptance of, and unwillingness to discuss the truth of this picture is evidence of rape culture in the present day. In a time when we know, and have codified in our laws, that unwanted touching is harmful to the victim, and therefore constitutes at least battery, to ignore this is to dismiss the harm caused by such behavior, and to provide strength and solidity to the kinds of MRA folks who daily abuse, denigrate, and degrade the rights of women everywhere. To people unfamiliar with the types of terminology used here, this might seem offensive, or insulting, but a careful reading of the comments on this page alone are all you need to explain to you how this contributes to rape culture, and provide you with a definition of what rape culture is and is not.

      I hope that you’ll take the time to look through these comments with the aim of furthering your understanding of what, I assure you, is a real and serious problem.

  19. Also, 1945 wasn’t *all* that long ago, and I don’t think a drunken sailor grabbing a woman on the street and forcing her to kiss him was seen as savory behavior back then, either. It’s certainly the kind of thing that would have started a fight between men (the woman’s boyfriend, father, etc., although that is a patriarchal kind of thing in its own right).

    I think people are defending the circumstances in the photo because it’s famous, and no one likes to be disillusioned. I had always thought it was a boyfriend/girlfriend situation.

    I agree with Leopard’s concept of a “rape culture”–and it applies both then and now. It wasn’t appropriate behavior then, and it wouldn’t be now. Not everyone would have cheered on the forced kiss back then, but some would have and apparently did (those smiling onlookers, presumably some of whom understood that it was a forced thing). The two older women in the one photo don’t look pleased, however (it could have been the situation or just PDAs in general).

    My point is that we kid ourselves if we think some line has been drawn between then and now. That is where we came from and, although some improvements have been made, there is still a lot of work to do. At the same time, there were also people back then who had what we would consider a more modern concept of boundaries.

    • I agree, Mat. And it’s interesting, if you look at the photos, people all around are watching and smiling. What’s up with that? Even a little old old lady smiles on. I think this story is an example of how society twists things around to believe what it wants to believe, how people put their blinders on in order to get along with others and not make waves. I always knew this was not a woman who knew the man.
      Truly: Humans can read animals better than we can read each other.

  20. I was grabbed and forcibly kissed by someone in the minutes before the turning of the Millennium – a similarly charged moment, and not something I remember with any fondness.

    • Joy – I know how you felt! I had this experience at NYE gatherings for years, being grabbed by fat, ugly, smelly old men. I get cramps in my stomach just thinking about NYE, and prefer to stay home now & go to sleep before midnight.

  21. But here’s a story I want to share, I was watching a docu on PBS about WWII and this older lady was telling a story: she and her 3 friends volunteered at the train station in New Orleans, and when a train full of GI’s would pull in and stop they would take them refreshments. One girl had a trey of sandwiches, one had a trey of coffee, one donuts and one cups. A train pulls up one night full of marines and when the girls got closer the boys started hollering and coming off the train. (and the older lady telling the story was smiling and laughing the whole time) Well, the 3 girls that weren’t carrying the coffee, threw down their trey’s and ran back to the canteen, but Polly, the girl with the coffee was stuck out there. Turns out these Marines had just gotten off the boat from the Battle of Iwo Jima, and these were the first American girls they encountered and they wanted kisses. After the commanding officers got the guys back on board, Polly comes back into the canteen and all the girls laugh. Well, when Polly got home her mother asked her how her night was and Polly said it was fine, then her mother noticed hand prints all over Polly’s coat and asked her how that happened, so Polly had to tell her and her mother just laughed and laughed and told Polly and her friends that they were doing a great service.
    I think this is great and funny event. I also think people in the 40’s having grown up in the depression knew real problems; like trying to put food on the table, waiting for their men to come home alive, and praying they would not be speaking German or Japanese one day, a few kisses were not a big deal to them or to me for that matter. That’s my 2 cents anyway. Y’all have a goodnight.

    • that’s pretty brutal, and totally not funny. This is exactly the type of behaviour that the article is addressing. You are trivializing and justifying the violation of women. I find it difficult to believe you’re human.

      • But they said we should all have a goodnight! Therefore, they must have our best interests at heart.

        It’s funny how I worry about pretty much those exact same “great depression” problems, (though perhaps replace German and Japanese with Chinese) and if I were to be grabbed in a street and forcibly kissed, I would still feel utterly violated, disgusted, and scared.

        Just because it’s not the worst thing that could happen, doesn’t mean it isn’t still awful.

        • I think it’s interesting that you all find it awful when the person that it actually happened too was laughing about it, even her mother found it humorous and not a big deal. And I really don’t think you have the same problems as they did in the Great Depression. I remember my grandmother telling me how they made possum strew and invited all the neighbors over. Have you ever had to go catch a possum to have a meal? Maybe you have, but I doubt it.

        • Why yes, I do find the idea of some random stranger grabbing me on the street and forcing me to kiss him completely awful and disgusting. I’m surprised that you don’t. Oh, but people laughed it off afterwards. That must mean it’s totally fine, right?

          And you can think what you want about my life–I’m not about to get into some weird “poorness pissing contest” with you. Suffice it to say that as humans our lives are short, and our history is often riddled with inaccuracies–as such, it’s easy to believe that ___ generation had it worse than ___ generation, or that because ___ happened in So-n-So’s lifetime that it was a unique happenstance and has no similarities to anything we go through today. Yes, the Great Depression was a horribly difficult time for thousands of people. There is no refuting that. But just because our world looks a little different now, doesn’t mean that the major problems aren’t the same. They just come in different packaging.

          Furthermore, the point of Leopard’s original post (and, to a lesser extent, this post which we are currently commenting on) was primarily this: When it came to light that this kiss was not between two lovers, but was in fact between strangers, one of whom was there against her will, NOBODY SEEMED TO NOTICE OR CARE. None of the people reporting on it seemed disturbed by an obvious depiction of a sexual assault. I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty crazy to me.

          Sure, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal in Greta’s time, or maybe she truly wasn’t that upset by it. But none of that matters. What matters is that we need to change the culture in which we live in so that depictions of sexual assault–at whatever level–are *never* romanticized. We need to stop accepting these things as normal, so that if something like this happens to one of us today, and we feel violated, when we turn to the people around us for support and help, we know that they’re not just going to shrug their shoulders and say “Well, at least you didn’t have to eat possum stew.”

        • I’ve seen this photo my whole life and never thought of it as romantic, just joy that the war was over. And after reading Greta’s full interview I feel I can still feel that way.
          I don’t believe we should romanticize violence or coercion or assault or bulling against women. Which is why I don’t understand how the #1 soap opera moment was when Luke and Laura got married, because his character raped her on the show! Now if this article had been written about that I would fully agree. I also don’t understand the fascination with the 50 Shades of Grey books or most “romance” novels out there. Written by women for women. Men aren’t buying those books.
          There is a lot I don’t understand in this world. I don’t understand why people can’t be nice or at least civil when commenting on here. Why can’t I have a different opinion than you and still be human and still be treated civilly. If you feel so strongly that you are right then you should not feel threatened by my opinion.
          I also feel that so many of you are projecting emotions on Greta; that she should have felt this or that, you cannot accept the fact that Greta wasn’t upset by this kiss. She wasn’t upset by it then or now. Accept it.

          Below is an interview of Greta:


          Mandaray, I agree that there is nothing new under the sun. But I feel that today we have it easier than past generations. I am a WWII buff, read about it, seen numerous docu’s about it, visited Normandy, and I feel that our grandparents generation had it a little harder than we do today. This wasn’t that long ago and Hitler had control of most of Europe by end of 1939 with Brittan standing alone to fight him because America didn’t enter the war until the end of 1941.Not to mention Japan taking over Asia and the South Pacific Islands. In my 38 years I have never felt that kind of uncertainty and fear, and a whole nation having to sacrifice to fund the war effort. (And I have had to deal with my brother and my husbands deployments in the war against terror we are engaged in today). I just feel that on that day the picture was taken that this was happy moment not an assault.
          Now is it strange that once it was known that this was not a couple that no one commented on it? Most of my life I knew it wasn’t a couple, I can’t remember why I knew that, just common knowledge since 1980 I guess. (see Greta’s interview) I believe no one said it was sexual assault was because Greta didn’t. And I truly believe her words, that this kiss happened very fast and was over in a second and that she went home and was ok, more than ok, she didn’t even think about it afterward.
          Hope y’all have a goodnight. ;-)

      • Really? You find it difficult to find me human? Ouch. (Not really, I don’t care) But just because we have a differ opinion you are willing to throw me off entirely? Interesting.

        • Being physically assaulted is no laughing matter, whether it’s sexual or not. It’s very serious. And women don’t speak up about assaults specifically because of the indifferent behaviour towards them. The woman’s mother was brutal to laugh, and just because her own mother laughs doesn’t make the behaviour of the guy or guys right. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 12 by a boy 13 years old, and was terrified to tell my mother for fear of being punished by her. Had she punished me for the boy’s behaviour would that have made my mom right and me wrong?

        • Polly might have laughed too, in the interview but I wonder if she laughed during the assault. I highly, highly doubt it!

  22. Look…I get what your saying, but I don’t agree with it. First off, you don’t ( or maybe you do but I didn’t happen to see it) actually criticize the problem here. The problem is the separation of the two genders. We need to enter into an age of sexual and gender one-ness devoid of any gender distinctions in order to move past this kind of problem. Also, your article and quite frankly your discourse ignore the concept of individual responsibility, emotional experience, and humanity. Your article ignores the emotional experiences of a sexually deprived soldier who was overseas for a very long time. You dehumanize HIM and deify HER and that is just as bad as the objectification that you claim to be solving on this blog. You need to recognize their places in history as HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS and not as symbols, tools, or components of your own feminist arguments. I mean really step outside of your obsession with being a victim at the hands of “rape culture” and “men” and realize that it isn’t men who are your enemy. While I might not sound like it, I am a feminist. But really, DON’T YOU PEOPLE GET IT, the reason that men don’t like your ideology is that you write over their identities and humanities and cast them as rapist pigs or tools of “rape culture”. Hardly any of them would have an actual argument against gender equality. And don’t give me that “BUT THEY ARE RAPIST PIGS BUISNESS”, rapists are HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS godammit, they have HUMAN FEELINGS and they make HUMAN CHOICES. I’m not going to let you try to claim otherwise, and I’m not going to let YOU escape YOUR responsibility either. Here you are sitting in your ivory tower simplifying the world into rapists and female versions of jesus christ but you don’t even realize that this is the same thing that RACISTS do. Racists, in this case, try to fight against parts of themselves that they declare “undesirable” and then they externalize that conflict in terms of racist violence. You do the exact same thing, but instead of creating a black vs. white dynamic you create a men versus women split that is self-defeating and self-fulfilling. You don’t recognize the humanity of those involved and that is a big deal; you simply write off the experiences of the soldier as insignificant (soldier and power structures all stacked against the rights of women, yeah yeah yeah seen it all before) and convince yourself that he must be a certain way when you actually have no idea what you’re talking about.

    In summary, that was a very long way of making a very simple point. This article needs to focus on explaining the feelings of the soldier and the woman. Feminism needs to focus on the humanity of men and women beyond this dehumanizing jesus on the cross business you have going on here. Because let’s be honest here this entire article is about what this picture means for “society” in other words your agenda and your ideals, not about Greta or George.

    And lastly, please don’t start attacking me, I’m not a misogynist and I don’t support the oppression of women. I just believe that we need to give humanity to everyone and that everyone needs to be seen as what they are. I appreciate your struggle to fight this societal ill, but I don’t want to throw anyone’s humanity under the bus in an effort to do this.

    • This is such crazy nonsense. If only because: “Your article ignores the emotional experiences of a sexually deprived soldier who was overseas for a very long time” is completely at odds with “You need to recognize their places in history as HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS and not as symbols, tools, or components of your own feminist arguments.”

      You are literally making this man into a symbol for all the hardships people in the military experience and writing off her experience, wherein she directly said this kiss was forced upon her, not something she chose to do. This man being “sexually deprived” during his time in the military doesn’t mean he gets to take whatever woman he wants. If your point is that he’s just a human being making human decisions, fine. But the decision he made her was WRONG because he literally forced himself on another person. I agree that rapists are “HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS.” I also believe that their human decisions to rape are monstrous. Being a human who thus inherently makes mistakes doesn’t mean we just excuse those mistakes.

    • Ok, but see, don’t racists also say that they aren’t racist? I’m not a racist, buuttt……

      You are just plain wrong. It’s not us writing off the humanity of the soldier, it is the soldier writing off the humanity of the woman. Whatever feelings the soldier had in his pent-up sexual whatever NEVER EVER excuse him touching someone without them asking. Sure he has feelings, sure he hasn’t had sex in a while, but what about that should be “understood” by this article? The point is his immediate wants and needs were the only thing at play when he decided to grab this woman against her will. This action deserves to be criticized, even if it was “human.” The impulse to murder is human, Hitler was human — should we talk about his feelings when evaluating the holocaust? Should we consider his humanity in our judgement of his action? Think about how poor Hitler never got into art school and was bitter his whole life, why don’t we ever talk about that?!

      Because once you violate someone else’s humanity, you have acted in a way that is counter productive and oppressive, and just because you are human doesn’t excuse that.

      The actions of the soldier were wrong, and contribute to the oppression of women; how do you propose we move into your post-sexual culture if we never point this out? If women never pointed out they were uncomfortable, why would men change their actions? Why would they stop to consider her as another human being if not doing that allowed them to kiss whomever they pleased, or made it so someone always did their dishes? We’re just being human! We’re getting what we want! but when you do that at the expense of another human being, we draw the line.

      It’s our job to try and point out that line, and when people cross it. It’s our job to stick up for women’s rights because if we don’t, the behavior won’t change.

      Also, I have to utterly disagree with your interpretation of feminism causing the “Men vs Women” atmosphere. This has been the norm for centuries, pitting men against women, women should be this! Men should be that! Are we causing it, or are we just pointing out that it oppresses women? Are we causing the boundary, or pointing to it?

      And your post is actually exactly why we have to point to it, because if we don’t point to it , you’ll sit here and look at this as this man’s humanity being ignored. Men are humans, but you’re raised to ignore women’s humanity, and thereby ignore their suffering. Instead, the world is this safe little whole that the feminists are threatening with this division, omg, don’t we get it?! Even though all around us men say that omg, women can’t be in the military! they’d ruin everything with their vaginas and nail polish! Why is it the feminists causing the trouble?

      Why do our arguments have to be considerate of your feelings and humanity, and thus are deserving of censure, but this man’s actions don’t? The way you interpret this argument reveals how unequally you consider people’s humanity, and actually how sexist you are without even knowing it. Your perception of this issue is colored by the sexism you claim so ardently to not have, but that’s the power in the system.

      That’s why we have to point it out, because you don’t notice it. Even when you are being sexist, you don’t think you are; sexist is normal. Sexist was normal for centuries. And we have to point it out so people like you stop ignoring how truly oppressed women are, how oppressed black people are, and gays and transponders and whatever it is that isn’t normal.

      I’m not saying it’s your fault for being sexist. I’m not saying all men are terrible people. I’m saying that men aren’t asked to think about these things, so they don’t. And why the fuck would they? I was myself, until my girlfriend relentlessly pointed out to me how I was undermining her, how I was marginalizing her. I didn’t notice that I was much more likely to interpret her actions as crazy because of our circumstances, but I did eventually. After she pointed it out. I didn’t notice how much I expected of her, and how little she got in return until with cold, hard, logic she drove the point home. She was doing the job of the feminist, and I found it really fucking annoying at first, but then I realized how wrong I was.

      Try to unlearn your privilege.

    • “This man being “sexually deprived” during his time in the military doesn’t mean he gets to take whatever woman he wants.”

      The Anonymous above me already said this but I want to quote it so that way you re-read it, since it’s very important that you understand this point.

  23. It is fairly obvious that his actions weren’t malicious. By using this picture, and excerpts out of context by the woman in the picture, to relate this to “rape-culture” of present day is really quite a reach.

    Read her interview as per the Library of Congress…

    It sounds, in her words, far more harmless, than you are trying to portray it to be.

    (Edited for abusive language)

    • I don’t mean this in an unkind way, but you don’t seem to understand the point. I don’t think anyone thinks his actions were malicious. Speaking for myself, I’m pretty confident he didn’t mean any harm at all. What he didn’t do, however, was stop to think about whether he had the right, no matter how elated he was, just to go around grabbing and mauling every woman in sight. Even if some of them didn’t mind, that still didn’t give him the right to do what he did.

      This is the point people keep missing: the blogger isn’t trying to demonize this man. She’s just trying to get people to think, to question their assumptions, and to recognize that what this guy did was wrong, even if his intentions weren’t bad, because he totally erased this woman’s right to choose whether to hug him or not. He forced himself on her, literally, and once he had, she had to make the best of it and “be a good sport”. But we would never expect men to behave in this way, we would never think men had to just accept being mauled whether they liked it or not.

  24. Wow. I just read this and through all the comments. You’ve obviously picked a great topic for conversation. I get the point of this – using this picture to demonstrate how ingrained it is in our culture that women’s personal boundaries should be nonexistent (and it applies to both genders, but that is another post altogether). I get the use of the terminology “rape culture’, despite its inflammatory nature.
    I also understand that in addition to cultural mores, individual perspectives are completely varied, and that they don’t see themselves as individuals, but people who are right about the whole of society. And that trolls are hard to distinguish from complete nutters.
    I admire your willingness to write about this subject and to put up with a lot of the shit that comes after. Good luck and thanks for the inspiration to be a braver writer!

        • Michael, she picked a perfect topic for conversation – talking about the glorification of men physically overpowering women – or for that matter, any human being overpowering another for self gratification – is a valid, meaningful topic, no matter what the time period or context the event took place. People need to know that this woman was far from a willing participant.

      • So, I’m wondering, Michael — in that emotionally charged time 65 years ago, let’s say an equally euphoric and drunken gay man walked through the crowd grabbing and kissing every man who took his fancy without bothering to find out first whether his attentions were welcome. Would you find that equally harmless, and feel that anyone’s objection was based merely on an “agenda”? If not, why not?

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

  26. I am guided by these quotes:

    Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it. – Leo Tolstoy

    Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. -Augustine of Hippo

    It takes less time to do a thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    At the end of the day, the lady in questions comments say that she did not want it and could not escape it. That’s wrong. Period. For all the guys who feel differently out there, think of this: If a beautiful girl according to your own standards suddenly grabbed you and kissed you, you may think of yourself as a stud. However, if a unattractive, ugly woman by your own standards, grabbed you and kissed you, you would be pissed beyond measure.

    Wake up and walk around in other person’s shoes.

    At the time and still in the context of how people see that time, nothing seemed of, even with revelation of the comments of Greta (the nurse) now. We don’t like our icons and fond memories questioned. Wrong is still wrong though.

    I am a father and I would not want to know that any daughter or son for that matter, was forced to do something against their will, no matter how seemingly small.

  27. Perhaps this site needs a moderator to remove inappropriate posts. I find comments such as those of Graham Milner above irrelevant, inappropriate and offensive.

  28. Let’s cut old George a little slack.There is no doubt in my mind that it is wrong to grab a woman and force a kiss upon her without her consent.That said,the man fought in a horrific war that killed upwards of 50 million souls and no doubt many of his own comrades.It isn’t hard to imagine that his actions came about in a spontaneous rush of happiness and relief that the war was finally over.

    • Did you actually read either post? The blogger said repeatedly that she’s not trying to make the man a villain.

  29. Context matters. And the end of the Millennium is NOT a similarly charged moment. Its a bit ridiculous to say that. But we don’t need analogies…the nurse herself never expressed horror or trauma about THE ORIGINAL EVENT. So why do I need Joy or Xeres Aurora to tell me about completely different events, in a different time and place? Analogous situations are a poor substitute for the real thing.

    I am pretty convinced that feminists don’t know how to actually reduce rapes or eliminate them. The feminist idea is that rape culture inevitably leads to more rape. But this is wrong. A good example of this is pornography. According to rape culture theory, pornography should make rape more likely….except it doesn’t. Pornography is correlated with less rapes! In Japan and the United States the liberalization of porn which lead in the case of Japan to very rape oriented porn actually lead to less rapes.

    Yes a massive increase in depictions of violent rape actually lead to less real rape as measured by crime statistics. This means that ending rape culture is not the key to reducing rapes!

    • I’m wondering what bothers you about “differing events, in a different time and place.” The photo automatically makes us relate to and empathize with this woman who is being assaulted.
      In Japan women are groped constantly by men who they’ve never met before.
      There are special cars on the subways for women only so that women can ride to and from work in peace. The fact that rape is little reported in Japan is linked to rape culture: women are extremely frightened to report a rape.

      Assman, I hope one day a big drunken strong man walks up and grabs you and overpowers you and slobbers all over your mouth while he has you in a headlock, bending you over backwards. Maybe then you’ll begin to get what this is about. Until then, you’ll never begin to get it.

    • How do you know she never expressed it? She never expressed it publicly, because by the time she was being asked questions about it by the media, it was in the context of a famous image that everyone loved. You have no idea what she said to her friends about it at the time, nor do I.

      Your argument about pornography and rape is a classic example of the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy. You’re assuming a causal connection between two events merely because one followed the other chronologically, meanwhile ignoring myriad other variables that have far more explanatory power. The drop in the rate of rape also followed the rise of the feminist movement, and widespread public discussion of rape as a crime for the first time. In particular, it followed the publication in 1975 of Susan Brownmiller’s groundbreaking book, “Against Our Will”, which was a massive best seller, highly controversial, reviewed in discussed in nearly every major newspaper and magazine at the time, and very influential in its message.

      There’s an interesting theory that it also followed one of the first depictions of male on male rape in popular culture, in the movie “Deliverance”. For the first time, men got an idea of what rape is really like from the perspective of the person being raped, as opposed to a sexual fantasy of male dominance over women. I don’t know what role that really played, but it’s interesting to think about how it might have opened some men’s eyes.

  30. Any comment made with reference to these two blogs can be refuted as misconceptions because the point that these blogs make depends upon one’s acceptance of the validity of circular reasoning. Anyone can make a point unassailable by reasoning backward from the conclusion to the premiss. The fallacy here is that this iconic image is evidence of a general acceptability of or indifference to what may called “rape culture.” The blogs actually make the reverse point. It’s taken as a given that we live in a “rape culture” and then one trolls for iconic evidence to support the pre-determined conclusion.

    The feminism of “rape culture,” primarily the feminism of the privileged, specializes in the de-construction of this sort of cultural material. So we’re led to believe that rape and sexual assault on women are constant and ubiquitous in this culture because any and every act, any and every and thought, depending upon who commits the act or expresses the thought, can, if useful, qualify as rape and sexual assault. But those who de-construct in the service of self-seeking ideologies and agendas are themselves vulnerable to deconstruction.

    Consider the so-called “war on women.” Is this a war that the U.S. government is waging against women (and, parenthetically, men and children) in other parts of the world where wanton death and destruction are visited upon defenseless people, or is the “war on women” being waged against privileged, American women, far from any scene of carnage on account of various religious institutions not providing benefits to which the “victims” feel entitled? I get the feeling it’s the latter. The Achilles heel of privileged feminism is its tendency to free ride on the sufferings of others. Consider the way in which its promoters have sought to equate the so-called oppression of privileged women with the conditions that triggered the civil rights movement, seeking to appropriate those sufferings to their advantage.

    The weakness in the kind of cultural debunking typified by these blog posts is that free riders eventually get kicked off vehicles they’re riding, and then and only then do they discover what it’s like to have to pay an honest fare to get to where they’re going.

    • Being grabbed against your will and forced into a position where you can’t resist, followed by a forced kiss for 10 seconds, is assault. What argument do you have that backs up your implication that this is not assault?

    • That’s a wonderful straw man party you’re having there. Please don’t let actually responding to anything anyone’s said here (or anywhere else, ever, for that matter) interfere with your fun.

  31. I’m one of those who thought they were a couple who met when he came home from the war. And I had never seen the third picture that shows her using her fist to try to separate herself from him.

    Turns out he simply grabbed a random stranger and forced a kiss, and continued his grip even when she made an effort to get away! It’s pretty awful. This picture should not be celebrated, really. I propose this one as an alternative! Sure, it doesn’t have the same artistic merit, or any artistic merit at all for that matter, but isn’t the timeless message conveyed what matters in the end?

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  33. For those who think the sailor’s behavior was just fine, try to imagine this happening to you. A big guy who’s way stronger and bigger than you, who you’ve never met before grabs you, possibly from behind, whirls you around, squeezes your jaw into the bony side of his arm, throws you half to the ground with your back twisted and bent backwards, and then he kisses you. Likely he slips you the tongue. Many of the folks on this site who think the sailor’s behaviour was ok are guys. Please, fellows – imagine how it would feel. Chances are you’ll be pretty repulsed. We women tend to feel just as repulsed.

    • Not to mention the feeling of isolation and loneliness that follows. I can’t even begin to imagine how scared and violated I would feel if this happened to me, but the people around me just kept smiling.

      To say nothing of seeing people defend this man’s actions simply because it was wartime, and he was a soldier.

      The idolization and defense this picture receives is the literal embodiment of rape culture.

      • I am curious about whether this woman who claims to be the one in the photo is really the one, and why she didn’t come forward sooner. I have a few theories on why nobody came forward at the time of the photo, and I haven’t done any research here, but what if this photo was staged? All those people standing around smiling, and the fact that the photographer just happened to be right there indicates to me that this might have been a plan the photographer set up with his sailor. I did see comments somewhere indicating that the photo was staged.

        • You bring up an interesting point. I can see it going both ways, actually. Either story or point of view could be true, and I would be fascinated to have confirmation of either one or the other.

          Though to be honest, the idea of a (likely male) photographer and a soldier conspiring together to grab a young woman off the street and photograph her being assaulted, then being rewarded so richly by society for it, kind of makes me nauseous.

        • Yes, but based on the social values of the time, and the attitude that women were the prize for the soldiers who fought, and all the justifications for the behaviour in the photograph, and knowing what media people will do to come up with a good story or photo, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Sad, but a possibility. It might also be an explanation for the anonymity of the slobberer and his victim

        • I read the interview transcripts and it seems that the woman had contacted the magazine when she saw the picture for the first time, years after it was taken, but they didn’t believe she was the nurse in the picture because someone else had already come forward. Later, when experts had analysed the photos and concluded that the interviewed woman really was the one in the picture, the magazine apologised to her for not believing her in the first place.

          As for the people standing there smiling, if you look at all four pictures, you can see the crowd gathering. Lots of people were out and about, and some of them stopped to watch this scene.

  34. I am curious how you made the determination that this was ‘sexual assault’ and should have been addressed as such by the media. This is an honest question so please treat it as such. Greta, while viewing is as unprovoked and non-consensual, does not seem to hold the view that she was violated. So is there an assault if there is no person that views themselves as being assaulted (I am asking about the ‘minor cases’ such as a ‘stolen kiss’ and not something like a rape victim in a permanent vegetative state)?

    Also I am curious as to why an unprovoked kiss (again not a violent throw a person in a corner and pin them down type of event) is ‘always’ a ‘sexual assault’? This position is problematic. An unprovoked kiss as a New Year’s Eve party seems to be significantly different (as social norms indicate that this is a place where some amount of personal space has been yielded consensually) than one on the street on a just a normal day, especially when there is no violence or threat of violence involved (such as pinning the person down etc). I guess you could take the view that absolutely any unwanted contact was a threat of violence but that seems to be problematic also. It seems that there needs to be a level of forcing oneself on the other person in a violent manner in order for an event to be a sexual assault or else you end up claiming that absolutely any unwanted physical contact is a sexual assault (there was one reply that tapping someone on the shoulder is or could be considered an assault under the law and therefore an unwanted kiss could be considered a sexual assault is silly as the person making the claim of assault has to show that there was some reasonable belief that the move was made to intimidate or threaten further physical harm, at least as I understand the law but I am not an expert). That conclusion seems ridiculous and indefensible.

    A final thought is how people in the replies to this blog seem to be drawing the conclusion that Greta’s statements, that the kiss was not consensual and that George had a strong grip, as being somehow verified in the photos and that Greta was somehow resisting George. Claims that Greta’s fist is an ‘obvious’ sign that she is struggling and that this is further proof that she was sexually assaulted seem to be unsupported. I see these type of comments as detracting from the overall feminist arguments and critiques against patriarchy as it has the look of being a projection of man-hate.

    • – Yes. Assault as we understand it is not defined by how the victim feels afterwards, but by what the assaulter does.

      Here’s an explanation. Besides, he’s grabbing her, maintaining a strong grip from which she’s unable to get away even if she tries (look at the third picture, her fist). The use of force makes the assault unquestionable. I don’t think you are sticking to reality when you talk about tapping someone in the shoulder. Why are you trying to do that? Why are you talking about tapping someone on the shoulder when what we’re talking about is someone grabbing someone, using force to prevent her from getting away, and forcing a kiss against her will?

      – About your final thought… “nuh-huh” is not a compelling argument.

      • I do not think that I am getting my point across here. To begin with I am unclear as to what is being called sexual assault on this blog and how the ‘Kissing Sailor’ is committing it. If the responses here are that ANY unwanted sexual contact (kiss, ass grab, etc) are sexual assault if unwanted than it results in a serious problem. That is why I give the absurd example of slapping a person’s shoulder. If assault was defined in the same way as people in blog are talking about sexual assault it would be unwieldy and result in the silly case I give. Obviously then this cannot be what sexual assault is. So I asked the question that if Greta does not view that she was assaulted (and the victim’s view is relevant in the lesser cases of sexual assault), and she was in an area where consent to a lesser sphere of personal privacy/space could be seen as being implicitly consented to (a jubilant celebration in the streets to the end of the war) then how was this a sexual assault. I am asking for this to be described to me as I am having trouble seeing it. I am not here to troll irate responses but I am asking a serious question because the idea that ANY unwanted sexual contact (kiss, hug, ass grab) is a sexual assault leads to a colossal mess that does not seem defensible (philosophically, legally) or workable.

        Also the law you linked seems to support the idea that there is a lesser amount of personal space/privacy implicitly consented to in certain places and times. Though the sudden grab by the George still seems to push this more towards a sexual assault.

        As far as “nuh-huh” I was pointing out that people are drawing some significant conclusions from the pictures that seem to support their predetermined conclusions instead of actually being supported by the pictures. It seems silly to say that Greta is actively resisting George, but people have said this. I was saying that the conclusion does not follow.

        • I agree with you, you should read Greta’s whole interview, I think you’d like it.
          Google her name and it’ll pop up.

        • I have described why it is sexual assault in my comment. Read it again. I described it explicitly. Please don’t act like people are saying tapping you in the shoulder is sexual assault, don’t be obtuse.

    • Maybe you should read the rest of the comments for the one of a woman explaining how she no longer goes out for NYE because she feels violated when men feel that it’s their right to force their lips onto hers every year. It’s not right at New Year’s, it’s not right at the end of the war, it’s not right. Period.

      Why is sexual assault the only crime that one must have a particular set of emotions regarding it for it to be assault? If you’re the victim of a scam, you are not required to care about the money lost for it to be a crime. If someone broke into your house, you’re not required to be upset about the action for the action itself to be a crime. Why is sexual assault any different?

      Don’t try to tell people how they should feel about assault please. Then we create an attitude where people who didn’t feel ‘right’ about it refuse to report it because people will question if they were actually assaulted due to how they reacted to it.

      • You obviously did not read what I had posted. Assault requires a ‘something’ to actually be assault. If this was not the case then any non-explicitly consented physical contact could be declared and assault. This is a ridiculous result and it is why the legal system requires a threat of further physical harm (again not an expert on this). So to say that an unwanted kiss, hug, or ass grab is sexual assault something other than pure non-consent is necessary.

        I was asking what this ‘extra’ thing is. I was also positing that is has to be non-appropriate for the environment (when at a NYE party one can be seen to be consenting to some sort of reduced set of boundaries i.e. being kissed by someone at midnight if not actively kissing someone) the act took place in and/or there is some reasonably perceived threat of further physical or sexual violence. A kiss by a random stranger at a New Year’s party does not seem to meet these. A kiss at a NYE party were one is forcefully restrained would. The violence of that act would seem to threaten future violence.

        Greta, while stating that the kiss was unprovoked, does not seem to believe that it was either inappropriate (as expressed by her rationalization of why the sailor kissed her) or violent, though she does admit that it was sudden and that George had a strong ‘vice’ grip. So how is this sexual assault? It does not seem to be either out of place or to threaten further physical or sexual violence.

        I am asking for a clarification as to how one can avoid saying that any unwanted contact is a sexual assault (which is not a coherent position or defensible) and giving a (at least workable) definition as to what is a sexual assault on the lower end of the spectrum?

        • Thanks, Volc for mentioning my comments on New Year’s Eve. It happened in the late 60’s & early 70’s as my loved ones looked on and nobody realized how sickening it was for me.I didn’t know I could speak up against it until the 80’s! That, to me is another example of rape culture, and it’s why I can relate to the woman in the photo.
          Richard, rape culture is behaviour that leads to rape, such as the behaviour of the man in this photo. He is not technically raping the woman, but if he were not in public, what might have happened to her? And the smiles all around might encourage him to run off into a dark corner and rape somebody.

        • Still not the question I was asking. I am asking what delineates a ‘sexual assault’? As far as I can see from this blog and the responses there is no delineation other than ‘unwanted’, and that does not seem like a defensible position. I tried to point out that in a case of ‘regular’ assault there is something beyond the unwanted incident (namely a threat of future violence). If it is the fact that it was unwanted than Greta was sexually assaulted but this seems to be a problem as it is too vague and subjective. If there is something else that must be present in the act (such as threat of future violence, physical or sexual) than Greta’s case does not seem to meet the requirements. This is what I am seeking an answer to. Is the position in this blog and in the responses really just that ANY unwanted contact (ass grab, kiss, hug, caress) is a sexual assault? Thanx for the discussion on a tough and emotional topic.

        • Noted, Fred…I’m not much on legalese, but I’m sure this article and the many comments have addressed some of your questions, however there’s a great deal to read though!!!
          For my own purposes, I simply think all this as unwanted touching. Also, for my own purposes it’s not about winning or losing an argument…it’s about communicating ideas about what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour now, so that we may progress as a society. Sadly, in order to do that, we must look at the past and sometimes, change the way we view our history.

  35. As you pointed out in this article, there are several shots (another one here:,) of that kiss and in each, the girl surrenders to the kiss.
    I can assure you an unwanted kiss wouldn’t leave that right leg in such abandon for so long.
    You talk about her hand as pushing back the guy: wrong, an open hand and a palm against the chest would suggest she’s rejecting him. It simply isn’t the case. Then if you analyse the pictures properly, you’ll see that this was the first picture. In the next pictures, that left hand goes to hold down her dress as the top of her stockings are starting to show.
    She never rejects the sailor.
    Basically, their embrace is typical of the 40’s Hollywood kiss: dominant and masculine posture for the guy and an “I’m swept off my feet” attitude from the gal.

    Those few points, the number of shots, and the spectacle it created among the amused bystanders indicate that it might have been just a little bit staged, at least not as spontaneous as we’re told to believe.
    The version that lady (born in 1918 and with the mindset of that time) gave might preserve her reputation, yet her body language tells us a sweeter version of events.

    To conclude, I’d like to say something about your notion of “rape culture”: the female body has definitely been objectified for the purpose of consumerism (perhaps for a couple more subtle reasons too) and we can start seeing it is now the turn of the male body to follow suite.
    But that has nothing to do with a “rape culture” and everything to do with the idea that women should be as sexually voracious as men and by extension that a woman is worthless if she isn’t as attractive as she can be.

    (Edited for offensive slurs)

    • fred, i think she was twisted around by the sailor, bent in half and couldn’t possibly keep her knees straight, thus yes – she was overpowered and weak in the knees. You’re off in an imaginary world somewhere, and need to figure out how things really work.

      • Hi again Aurora,
        I would much appreciate if personal comments could be avoided and if the critics could be kept to our arguments and not be directed at our persons.
        So, getting out of the imaginary world and stepping into the real one, we may ask a combat trainer who has knowledge of the body dynamics: “what happens when someone is put off-balance unwillingly?”
        Well the answer is that they don’t keep their legs in the same position for even half a second. Her legs are in the same position for at least four shots.
        But maybe she’s in shock, paralysed?
        Well no: her hands are moving, one is keeping her dress down and NEVER rejecting the kiss.
        Looking at the four shots and especially looking at them in order shows that she agrees to the kissing.

        • Did you see this animation I made? The first shot starts with Greta’s fist near George’s face then comes down for two shots and then goes back to a fist to his face again.

        • Fred, Reality is that more people than just combat soldiers have an idea of how the human body moves. We will never know for sure what happened in this photo. All I can say is what I see. Nobody can ever “prove” anything – but I know for sure his body language is aggressive as opposed to gentle, and this is not a mutual embrace.

          The way her legs moved depended on how the sailor moved her body -because it appears he is in control – and it simply looks like she’s been grabbed, twisted around and held in place. She can move her arm, but she might very well be in shock, and things happened very quickly here! Like I told you, I am not interested in arguing, as opposed to a healthy exchange of ideas. Preconceptions determine how we feel about this photograph, and we will all see what we see according to our past experiences, beliefs, judgements, academic training, thought processes, and emotions. I have seen this photo for most of my life, and have always tried to believe that it was an embrace as opposed to an act of aggression. It’s only recently that discussion has opened up, and I welcome it.

        • “Fred, Reality is that more people than just combat soldiers have an idea of how the human body moves”

          Yes exactly and I really don’t think it is necessary to bring experts in to see that she’s visibly agreeing to the kissing.

          “Preconceptions determine how we feel about this photograph”
          I definitely think preconception comes into account when seeing Greta punching George!



        • Her legs are in the same position while her hand moves? Proving what? Remember, she’s not a combat expert so you can hardly expect her moves to be carefully choreographed. She’s been thrown off balance and a lot of her weight is resting on the sailor’s arms instead of on her own feet.

          That’s a really awkward position to be in. I know from dance classes. You don’t just hop back onto your feet from that position, you can’t get the purchase. If you struggle when you’re being bent back like that, the chances are the other person lets go of you, in which case you might fall down on your back.

          Also, when was the last time you kissed with your hands clenched into fists? Don’t you rather use your hands to hold and caress the person you’re kissing? The nurse here seems to have no intention of putting her arm around the sailor, even though that would make her position more comfortable – she could grab the sailor’s shoulder simply to support herself, easing the strain on her abs and her back.

          If she consented to the kiss, wouldn’t it be logical of her to put her arm on the guy’s shoulder? Instead, she bunches her hand into a fist. That’s pretty clear body language to me.

        • Are we looking at the same shot? The one you posted shows the soldier’s arm wrapped around her head, practically in a chokehold. Her body is stiff and she looks incredibly unbalanced. She’s not turning toward him at all and her arm is held awkwardly at her side. She is not using them to keep her dress down.

      • bobcarn, I can not find the animation you made…I saw the link once but haven’t had a chance to search it out.

    • Fred,
      – it was you who mentioned consulting people who might possess an understanding of body dynamics. I certainly can not claim to be an expert in the field, but have taken a great interest and studied in this area for many years
      – I find that while most people are naturally pretty good at understanding body language in real time, they understand it on a gut level without thinking about it.
      – However, we’re dealing with a photograph here, so it is far more difficult to interpret
      -Usually the face tells us a lot in a photograph, but her face is buried.
      – our discussion has found no common ground and you’re right – it isn’t a good idea to continue. Goodbye to you too.
      -Goodbye to you too.

      • Well Aurora, it didn’t look like we were going to see things in the same manner!
        Anyway, such is the realm of Internet that we had a brief (and bumpy!) exchange without even knowing anything about each other…
        Take care, I wish you good and beware of those slobbering sailors!

        • sadly, I became all too aware of those slobbering sailors a long long time ago. goodbye and good luck.

  36. Has anyone mentioned yet that the sculpture of the photo in Sarasota FL has replaced Greta’s purse/wallet with a dozen roses? Maybe the sculptor was uncomfortable with the actual photo too and purposely sanitized it.

    • The body language of the photo and the statue are subtly different. The sailor was bent over the woman at a far greater angle than what is depicted in the statue. As a result, the statue appears less aggressive. Clearly, the artist had a mild sense of what was happening to the woman and softened the menacing stance of the slobbering sailor.
      Also, I suggest we rename the guy and call him the Slobbering Sailor.

      • I noticed the same thing! The roses seem to suggest these two are in a relationship, and the nurse is taller, making the sailor seem less overpowering, and yeah, their pose is different. The sailor is holding the nurse gently instead of bending her back violently, and the nurse seems relaxed in his hold instead of uncomfortably out of balance like she does in the picture.

  37. I can’t believe how defensive people are getting over their morality and beliefs regarding this photo’s celebratory history. Get over it. If you find words so offensive, try being a woman who is physically overpowered and/or groped, or leered at or cat-called. Far more unpleasant than having a piece of history changed and criticized.

    • I don’t think people here are defensive over their morality or beliefs.
      I think they’re upset that an ideology can deceitfully interpret a picture for something that clearly isn’t true.

      • Hi Fred, I’ve posted a few times here about the body language of the photo. It speaks a thousand words of truth. He’s bent her over backwards &has twisted her sideways, he hovers menacingly over her, he’s got her jaw in a headlock – painfully held with the bony side of his forearm, and notice the two fists he’s making. Ideology has little to do with the interpretation of the photo. One’s ideology stems from morality and beliefs, and you prefer to think there is some form of affection happening here.
        Fred, it’s also been mentioned previously that if most men were approached in such a manner by a man bigger, stronger, and more powerful, and if men were slobbered all over in such a manner, men wouldn’t like it either. Yes, Fred, people are defensive about their traditions and beliefs here, and it’s those who think the picture is a portrayal of affection who are most insulted.

        • Hi Aurora,

          I never talked of affection and I don’t know how that word has made it in the debate.
          Anyway, all men or all women for that matter wouldn’t stay in that submissive posture for so long (4 shots at least, from different angles and with different people around) if they didn’t agree with the kissing.
          The description you make is one of an aggression.
          Though you could see in many 40’s and 50’s Hollywood films the same type of embrace: the downward, dominant kissing from the guy, the exalted hold, the girl passive and weak-at-the-knee…
          Yet those scenes were perceived as romantic.
          The difference between your perception and those viewers’ is ideological.

        • Fred, this photo has been referred to many, many times as an embrace, which is how the word affection got into my discussion. Whatever an embrace is to you, to me it’s a physically mutual display of affection. She was unable to get away from the sailor because she IS being held aggressively by the sailor, which is how the photographer got four shots. She had no choice but to stay there!!!!!!!! She can NOT get away. He is bigger and stronger than her, she IS being overpowered, and to me this is not a kiss. I would call it a forceful slobber. She was weak at the knees because she was likely in shock, and being overpowered by him.
          You bring up a good point about the body language of the time with regard to passion – Stanley, Stella and Blanche, for example, in A Streetcar Named Desire. First of all, remember that movies of the time were directed and mostly written by men, so we see men’s points of view. Stanley Kowalski was a wife- beater, and the neighbours, listening to her screams -actually laughed. I cringed as much over that laughter as the concept of a man beating a woman.

          And this “exalted” hold you refer to may be exalting for the man, and possibly also for the woman when she is consenting to the physical pain induced by such a hold. However, in this photo, we can not see the woman’s face, which would have told us much about her feelings towards this embrace. We only have the body language to go by, and my gut, since the first time I saw the photo, has always told me it wasn’t fun for her.
          Yes, I was born in the early fifties and grew up with those attitudes. I find it a relief to learn that women no longer have to live with that crap.
          Once again, I ask you to imagine yourself being overpowered in the manner that this woman has been, and see if you’d like it.

  38. You cleared up all these misconceptions so eloquently! Thank you so much for the great work you do bringing gender inequality to light.

  39. I cannot find any trace of the comment I posted on this site a couple of days ago.. In that post I criticised the separatists and rad-fems for their political backwardness and their hostility to socialism.

    (edited to remove offensive comments)

    – Graham Milner

    • Graham, I requested the post be removed because it was offensive, unnecessary, and did not contribute to the discussion in any way, either positive or negative.

      I would personally suggest that to be taken more seriously, you refrain from name-calling (fruitcake, rad-fems, separists, etc.). I would also suggest you refrain from descriptions of private sexual acts because they have no place in this discussion.

      Please try to remain objective and at least we might care.

      To summarize, Graham – name calling and naming the details of your sex acts just doesn’t do anything for anybody except yourself.

    • Why would that comment have any appropriateness here, anyway? Do you just go anywhere anything vaguely feminist is being discussed and rant about “radfems”?

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  41. I will never look at this photo the same way again. While I didn’t necessarily look at these two as “a couple”, I DID presume they KNEW each other. I would’ve NEVER guessed they were total strangers. After reading the article, I looked closer at the photo and THERE IT IS! This sailor has the nurse in a head-lock; is pulling her torso into his; and judging by the nurses neck (or more precisely her “double-chin”), its obvious that either she was trying to PULL BACK from his mouth or his “kiss” was so hard it pushed her head further back into his crooked arm, making escape impossible. Thank you for this story, I am effectively OUTRAGED!

  42. I was reading along and was quite interested in how my emotions were continually trying to reject Ms. Friedman’s statements and the author’s assertions. The image is such a powerful and iconic image in the American mind and I realize I am loathe to ascribe anything negative to it. I like to think of myself as a man that recognizes the absolute right of all people to be free from unwanted sexual contact. A valid excuse for this act simply doesn’t exist. I further agree that what the author terms a “rape culture” exists to some degree.

    Here is where I disagree with her: according to the other sources the author links to there are/were a least three claimants to the title of the “kissed woman” and the “fact” that it is Ms. Friedman is based on the “forensic analysis” of the book’s author (no conflict of interest here) that presumptively identified her more than a half century after the photos were taken and her statements were made. I was also surprised to learn that there are photos over a 10 second period all the while with their mouths pressed together. The “fist in the face” is front in center in the argument and not the crowd of smiling people or the lack of any other display of struggle against an unwanted kiss.

    I imagine some would accuse me of rejecting what I professed earlier and interpret my second paragraph as making excuses for a sexual assault. Not at all. You are left here with an anecdote with an assertion decades gone that may or may not be true. I think the author’s argument is way overstated and she discounts or leaves out any other person’s version of the events. Rape/sexual assault is a very serious charge and should not be lightly leveled at a person.

  43. My apologies if this has been stated, but I’m wondering how people would feel if it had been a gay soldier grabbing and kissing a straight man against his will. If that changes your perspective, then maybe you need to think a little longer on the point the author of this blog post is making.

      • Jessica, if a gay soldier grabbed and kissed a straight guy and that straight guy reacted like Greta, no one would really think he’s that straight…

        Aurora, this is an answer to your post above. Your comments go in all directions and I’m going to try to pick up the pieces but I suggest the dispersion doesn’t go on any further.

        -An embrace -as a kiss or intercourse- isn’t always necessarily affectionate. It could for instance be passionate. Or mechanical.
        -Greta isn’t paralysed, neither is she nailed on the floor and immobilised: if she rejected the kiss, we would certainly see it in her reaction.
        -“A Streetcar Named Desire” isn’t a depiction of how the 40’s and 50’s idealised romance, far from it. It’s a dark tale about social classes.
        -That way of kissing is the Hollywood dramatized version of kissing, it’s ok for the camera but it doesn’t have to be like that in real life.
        -Yes, many women enjoy the masculine “exaltation”, even to the point where they may feel objectified through the act.

        And far, far away from the original subject we are.

        • – This is not a passionate kiss. This is not a kiss. It’s forcible mouth contact
          – She is neither paralyzed nor nailed to the floor. I totally agree, although she may feel paralyzed, as many people do when in shock and fearful. She is however, very likely immobilized, except for her arm.
          – It was you who initiated the subject of the old movies and the aggressive manner in which men held their women. I addressed the movies.
          – I had the mistaken impression that you approved of these dramatized kisses you mentioned
          – Although women may feel the “exaltation” you refer to, many do not, especially in public when approached aggressively by a complete stranger.

          – if we’ve gotten off topic, it’s to address the many topics YOU’ve mentioned such as hollywood movies. (Maybe I read wrong, and it was somebody else who brought those topics up.)

          – Body language is absolutely on topic, because it’s all we have to go by in this story. It tells us a lot. Whether or not Greta was the real woman in the photograph, her version of being held in a vice grip is what it looks like is happening.

  44. I’ve just read you whole blog after coming across the kissing sailor posts courtesy of! Thank you for this, and I hope you keep posting. I’ll be adding you to my RSS feed.

    I was just reading one of your earlier posts, in which you mused what you would do with bullying comments. Looks like you’d had plenty of opportunity to put that musing into action recently.

    You might find the discussion on the following blog post interesting:
    I found that link in the site policies section of

    It really got me thinking about what the purpose for a comment space is, which of course varies from blog to blog. For many feminist blogs, it is at cross purposes to allow bullying and abusive comments to let stand, because the point of the blog and comment space is to foster discussion and problem solving about the problems engendered by the patriarchy. Bullies do not contribute to this. If they bring up a “point” that the intended audience would like to address, this can perhaps be done by bringing it up in a separate post. This strips the abusive commenter of his/her agency and redirects the conversation in way in which the author and the intended audience have control.

    Something I’ve been thinking about anyway. Thank you again for this blog, and these kissing sailor posts. Very well done.

    • Thanks for this. You’re right, this is something I’ve been thinking about recently (comments hadn’t really been a problem till now). Thing is, as I said in my earlier post, I don’t want misogyny to be invisible, and I don’t want to pretend that the world is better than it is. And I do feel that many of the comments I’ve got on these posts actually provide evidence of how much work feminism has left to do.

      On the other hand, I don’t want to upset my fellow feminist readers, or those tentatively seeking to explore more about feminism, by having to see abusive comments on my blog. So I need to strike a balance somehow.

      I’m leaving the house in a bit, but when I get back, I’ll set up a proper comments policy section. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. =)

        • Thank you tigtog! That was very useful. After further consideration I’ve got a comments policy up now; it’s quite a simple one. While I don’t wish to censor discussion I’ve decided to make the comfort of my feminist readers a priority. Will start cleaning comments now…phew!

        • I love these examples! “Be at least one of: feminist, friendly, amusing, or perspicacious. Two is even better!” :)
          I especially love how inter-textual it is, with the glossary and all. I think making it obvious that a comments policy is part of a larger discussion is a good move.

        • Thanks, Kai Em. They have been an evolving documents for nearly six years now, in collaboration with my co-bloggers, so the inter-textual nature seemed an appropriate acknowledgement of how we arrived at various guidelines.

        • I’m just replying for the purpose of telling you I love the name of your blog.

      • I was reading the article about this article in The Globe & Mail last evening, and the comments section was hugely comprised of bullying and name-calling. A respected newspaper – you can’t write the word hooker or fart, but you can write abusive, bullying comments. It seems the publishers there too need to come up with a better policy.

  45. As a History major, I was taught to analyze pictures, using courses in Psychology and Sociology to help interpret what I saw. In the first picture, her foot is off the ground, her other foot is past his, like she was midstep when he kissed her. His arm is wrapped around her neck, not her shoulder, and he had completely blocked her face, so that she is, essentially, trapped. In the second, her body is arching away from him, not toward him, her hand clenched in a fist. His hand is also clenched in a fist and his hand has slipped much further around her waist. In the final picture, one arm is trapped between their bodies while the other is up near his head, clenched, as if to push him away, Her stance is defensive. The first time I saw this usually picture, I thought it was cute and pasted on by. The second time, I stopped to study it with a historian’s eyes. And realized instantly that the woman was defensive and looked trapped. These pictures scream “BAD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN” to my mind. It’s not romantic, it’s scary.

    • As a history major you should also value primary sources (of which the pictures are one source). How would you integrate the narrative (which is an interpretation of a primary source) that you pulled from the photos with Greta’s interview? Do you think that she rewrote the personal narrative in her head to mesh with the narrative that popular culture has created about the photos? And if you do are you discounting her own personal narrative in some way (as Greta does not voice that she was assaulted)? Also which narrative do you give more weight to, her’s or your’s?

      • are you discounting her own personal narrative in some way (as Greta does not voice that she was assaulted)?

        Greta does not use the world “assaulted”, but the sailor’s actions she describes (being grabbed suddenly and held so that she could not get away, and kissed forcefully while being restrained) meet the legal definition of assault. The sudden grab and restraint make it assault simple, the kiss makes it sexual assault.

        Did you know that there are studies showing that an alarmingly high percentage of men will agree that they have engaged in behaviours which meet the legal definitions of rape, so long as the word “rape” itself is not used when asking those questions? The fact that those men didn’t call what they did “rape” doesn’t magically make it not-rape, and the fact that an assault victim might not use the word “assault” doesn’t make it not assault either.

        There are very carefully worded legal definitions of these criminal behaviours, and if the witnessed/described behaviour meets those definitions, then that’s what it legally is, no matter what the perpetrator (or the victim) calls it. It is not discounting a personal narrative to note that the actions recounted by the person constitute a crime or misdemeanor.

        • tigtog – I was asking Aly a question less about the pictures and more about their ‘psychological interpretation’ of them. I also have a history degree and I also know that using one’s own ‘interpretation’ of photographic evidence to reach a conclusion that does not seem to be supported by eyewitness accounts is a serious no-no. Basically it stands to inject you own biases into the narrative at the expense of those who actually experienced the event. That is what I am pointing out. Psuedo-academic authority is being used and I, as a History major, do not like that. A discussion about Greta’s interviews is one thing. A discussion about current legal definition and philosophical/legal ideas is another. Using psychology to interpret pictures in yet another. Using the psychological interpretations to reach a strong conclusion though is a serious historian blunder.

          Why did you link the ‘rape’ article? It might be interesting to see how George views and describes his actions to see if he is acting in a similar way but this is not unique to rape and that not what I was questioning in any way. You see a lot of this in the personal narratives of the perpetrators of genocidal actions, about how their actions while fitting all the criteria are not to be considered genocidal for some reason or another. People do not want to think of themselves as evil, and they will rewrite the narratives in their heads to avoid that conclusion. Those who cannot are either some breed of sociopath or end up suffering from severe psychological issues as a result of the incoherence.

  46. I once spoke with the photographer of these photographs at a party in NY’s Soho area. He described his shooting this moment. He saw the sailer approaching, and noticed the nurse standing while looking for someone else. The photographer “knew” that this sailer was going to take advantage of this nurse He raised his camera to capture it. I’ve always believed that this photograph captured a woman being molested by a stranger, while she was waiting for her boyfriend or husband. If I had been her boyfriend/husband I would have been furious to have learned what this ‘drunken’ sailor had done to my girl.

    A large statue of this event stands near the waterfront of the Florida city where I presently live. It’s very popular as a setting for photographs, especially for romantic couples. And I think, “what a joke – if they only knew the true story behind this image”. Nearly as many try to look up the female statue’s dress – as a joke. Even today, this woman – the image of this woman – is still being sexually taken advantage of.

    • Interesting that the photographer knew the story but didn’t ever set the world straight on what really happened. He allowed everything to snowball into a complete misconception. Wow!

      • I sensed, when he was telling me the story, at a party, that he had told this story many times, and had enjoyed, over the years, the fame and notoriety this photo had given him. It was a career changer for him.

  47. Well, it seems that i have been raped by women multiple times now, if kissing me without my consent already is sexual assault. Not all were pretty, some smelled pretty awful (after a night of heavy drinking). But so what? I pushed them away gently and it was fine. Couldn’t say that I have severe traumata from those experiences. I never kissed a women without consent but to call it sexual assault goes a little to far, i think.

    • Congratulations on your entirely logic-free and thoroughly sophistical trivialization of what people are saying. “Well, it seems I’ve experienced z several times if what you’re saying is that x = y!” Not that this will matter, because I don’t think you really want to understand, but: rape is one form of sexual assault. Not all sexual assaults are rape. Hope this helps you with your reading comprehension in the future.

      Congratulations also on being teflon to the point being made, unless you’re saying that all these women were much larger and more physically powerful than you, and were able to bend you backward and kiss you on the mouth at length against your will, so that you were helpless to do anything except submit.

      • That was a really excellent and really simple explanation! The thing is, the corralation of rape and sexual assault has been explained about 300 times in the previous entry, and I’d estimate about 50 times in this entry. Either Nico hasn’t read any of the earlier comments, in which case he deserved an explanation of his own.

        But if he has read the comments, and still somehow doesn’t understand – he’s a troll.

  48. Tradition dies hard, especially for people whom the tradition favoured. Men grabbing, groping, touching without consent, leering & cat calling – these are old traditions that favoured men. Fellows, next time you pass a woman in a checkout stand and are inclined to touch her gently at the waist or low back simply keep your hands to yourself. It is much appreciated, and the change in your behaviour will stimulate your brain cells and bring them back to life, keeping you young.

  49. Love the 3 photos! I noticed in the 1st 2 she grabs her skirt and pulls it down, then, what I see, is pushing him off. Great article and I think it is dead on! It was a different time, and I am glad this time for women has passed.

  50. Obviously, a VERY important point about mutual consent. Pivoting such a fundamentally important social issue on a such a weak piece of evidence devalues this human right issue.The Battle couldn’t be more important – don’t trivialize it with a mixed message, wrong context, 60 year-old photo…and Yes, they do do make a difference.

    • It’s a very strong piece of evidence. The photo (look at it and imagine yourself as this woman) tells you the whole story, She is being BULLIED!!!!!!!!

    • I agree that it is a very important issue, but I also that the this post makes a very good point, not about 60 years ago, but about our modern society. It’s not just the 60 year old photo that is the evidence, it’s the modern day articles that are still romanticising the photo even after learning that it was non-consensual. Could you also explain where there is a ‘mixed message’ in the article, the message seems very consistent to me.

  51. Pingback: Iconic VJ Day Photograph “Sailor Kiss” Decried As Depiction of Sexual Assault « Consent, Assault Awareness, and Relationship Educators

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    • I have re-read the full interview, Tiffy. It helps me to understand how joyful you feel at seeing a woman being bullied into something she very clearly did not consent to or know was going to happen to her. It was a different time where nobody spoke up against this type of behaviour because it was socially acceptable, back then. Now, in 2012 we behave differently.
      I’ve always felt sad looking at that photograph because it was clear to me, as somebody who has been trained to understand body language, that this woman was taken by surprise and was not a happy participant.
      Yes, she has enjoyed the fame of the photo, and no – according to Greta, she did not suffer very much. (Which also causes me to wonder if she really was the woman in the photo or if she simply matches the body type closely. I personally believe she would have walked away with a few aches and pains from being twisted, bent backwards, and maybe had a bruise on her jaw from having the bony side of an arm forced against it, while she’s in a headlock.)
      Notice George’s fists too – and the right one, grabbing her waist probably left some bruising. She was not able to support her own weight because she was bent backwards – she was supported partially by this hand, which had to grab in that manner to prevent her from falling back to far. Her weight was also supported by the other arm pressing against her jaw.
      Please note also that (as I recall from re-reading the interview) when she met George again years later, he apologized to her for his behaviour that day. I think that’s a crucial clue to what really happened – he knew she deserved an apology, he admitted he was wrong, and good for him! Even George agrees his behaviour was wrong!!!!!!!!!!
      People, men or women will do anything for fame, and if it hurts a bit to get famous, that’s what we all do.
      Enjoy your happy emotions. I will continue to find this photo disturbing until the day that the general public’s attitude towards it changes, and we begin to see it as a physically and emotionally unpleasant experience for the woman, as opposed to the jubilation felt by this man, who on that particular day played the role of a big bully.

    • I agree with what Xerex Aurora said, and like to add that even if Greta felt bad about it immediately after the incident, consider that the interview took place decades after the event. She would have forgotten the shock in that time. Or she might remember the shock but not feel it anymore. Being kissed forcibly like that is unpleasant, but not something you can’t get over in time. Of course this depends on the circumstances. Some circumstances are more traumatising than others.

      Even if being restrained and kissed like that isn’t necessarily a traumatic event that scars you for a long time, I still think we should all get to choose who we kiss. We don’t have to give up our freedom of choice just because some man is in a kissing mood.

      I’m not saying we should condemn these pictures because of the event captured in them. We can still continue to appreciate them as the spectacular pieces of photography that they are. But we could maybe acknowledge they’re not portraying the romantic scene we thought.

      • HI inmyinterest, I agree with you. And I think we need to condemn the attitudes that prevail regarding this photo, the attitude that this is a romantic photo, the attitude that bullying women and people smaller than you is ok if you have cause to celebrate. We need to condemn ideas surrounding rape culture. These are in fact, amazing photos – they have captured an event in time, just as there are war photos capturing events in the fields. But this photographer knowingly allowed the world to misinterpret his photos. Shame on him. I suspect he felt that if he told what had really happened, to Greta, the photo would not have become famous and there his career would have gone. The photos made him famous, and he used them, and a sexual assault, to further his career. What a boor!

        • You could be right about the photographer intentionally hiding the real nature of the event he caught on camera… however, I think the explanation might be even more gruesome. I’m afraid that back in the day, almost no one would have cared if the kiss was forced. They would have still thought it was romantic, maybe a bit exciting, like Rhett carrying a struggling Scarlett up the stairs to claim his rights as a husband.

          I’m getting a bit sidetracked but I think that’s one of the most harmful scenes in film history, especially when the next scene is Scarlett humming in bed the following morning, happy and content, full of renewed love for her husband. As if a bit of rape was just the thing to fix the marriage when the woman was being moody and wilful.

    • What about the words ” It wasn’t my choice to be kissed.” is it so confusing to you that you feel the need to keep trying to contradict the point being made in this blog? It’s right there in black and white. She repeatedly insists that she didn’t participate in the kiss of her own free will. She makes it very clear that the kiss was not in any way consensual, but she apparently forgives Mendonsa because she’s a nice lady and the circumstances were special ones. That doesn’t make what he did all right, it makes her a nice lady. Nothing in that interview disproves anything in either of Leopard’s posts in the slightest.

    • Tiffy – If you’re going to accuse people of projecting emotions, then what you need to say is that we don’t know how she felt about it, because we don’t — other than that she took pains to make it clear that she didn’t choose to be kissed, and When given the opportunity to re-enact it, she refused. You are making claims for which you have no more support than does anyone who says she was upset.

      I particularly don’t understand what your point is in bringing up works of fiction that some women enjoy in this context. This wasn’t a fantasy. In fantasy, one is perfectly safe, and can enact any role they choose, certain that they are in no real danger. This was a real encounter, in which Ms. Friedman could have had no such certainty.

      • Fantasy is involved in the view that this photograph should be celebrated. People are seeing romance and beauty in the photo – where it does not exist. There’s a major work of fiction right there for you – now that the facts are pointed out, people can’t seem to see the reality of the photo because we’ve been told otherwise for so long.
        Tiffy – I don’t watch TV much, and soap operas especially don’t appeal to me. it doesn’t surprise me that this show, whatever it is would have Laura & Luke (whoever they are) marrying after he raped her. Televsion shows are pretty good at portraying women the way men want them – beautiful and subservient, and they also like to emphasize the catty side of women – as an attempt to instill mistrust in one another.
        Jose, can you recommend some good books for Tiffy to read? Personally, I found Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth very good.

        • I had to look it up, the soap was General Hospital and Luke and Laura were married for over 20 yrs, after he raped her. They were married in 1981.
          I mostly read fiction, some non-fiction though, like Same Kind-of Different As Me and Auschwitz recently.I haven’t read a “romance” novel in a long time, except my friend Chandra Ryan’s books and in her books there is consent, it’s nicely done, but it’s not like a typical romance novel were the woman/man hate each other then in the middle of an argument the man just grabs the woman and starts kissing her until she succumbs to the passion that she just realized she had…blah, blah, blah. I’ll look into Beauty Myth…”beauty is fleeting and charm is vain…”

        • Tiffy, I haven’t read many feminist books…a few magazines, & this book I just named. One from a long time ago, possibly outdated now which was my first, was called “The Women’s Room,” by Marilyn French. It was my first on feminism, in the early 80’s. It seemed the more I read the more it peeled back layers and just kind of had an amazing truth to it. I couldn’t help liking the stuff, it just all made so much sense. I’ve lost friends over feminist views, but sometimes learning new stuff, and discovering new ideas is what keeps us young.

      • MissNorma Desmond,
        I believe the interview clearly states that Greta did not find this a big deal, was not physically harmed, and was not emotional scared. (some people have written that they do not believe this to be true or that they think she has forgotten the trauma, so much so that some doubt that it is really Greta in the photo.)

        I brought up fiction because I have always found it ironic that in most romance novels/soaps (007 movies) the man basically forces himself on the woman until she succumbs to passion and women eat this crap up! (I am a 007 fan) but in life, like this one second kiss that happened on V-J Day some woman are yelling sexual assault. It’s a mixed message as far as I am concerned. It’s the same unanswered question: does art imitate life or does life inmate art?

        (And my degree was in speech communications so I know about non-verbal communication too.) Just had to add that.

        • Tiffy,
          I’ve seen you post quite a few comments about the fact that Greta did not consider the incident a big deal. If this is the case, then for her sake I am glad that she was able to cope with what happened in this way. If she is downplaying the way that the sailor’s actions on her made her feel, then I am very saddened that she feels she must do so. Whichever of these is the truth I don’t think I will ever know – only Greta herself can.
          However, you are overlooking what has been stated many times in many ways by the other commentators to this article. The issue is not how Greta felt after the fact. The issue is the fact that this event occurred – that the sailor felt he had the right to force actions upon her, regardless of how they would later make her feel. Greta states she did not have a choice. That’s the problem right there. Not whether or not she was distraught by the kiss.
          The reason that the issue is the event alone, and not its effect in this one case, is because it’s the event that sets a precedent. If society ignores the fact that this individual felt he had a right to forcefully grab and then kiss another individual, then others will feel they have the same right. There will be more incidents, and it is very possible that in these following incidents, the victims will feel violated and hurt.
          You have argued your point with dedication, and I respect you for wanting to make your point. But I want you to recognize that society should not wait for a martyr before speaking out against unjust conduct. It’s wonderful that Greta was able to move on. But for all those people, of all gender variations, who would feel victimized and afraid if put in Greta’s place, we as a people must recognize that the actions of this sailor were unacceptable.
          I hope that this has clarified things a bit. Thank you for hearing my point of view.

  53. Pingback: Celebrating Assault: The Case of the Kissing Sailor

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  55. Okay, I know you will disagree with me, and I’m not going to change your mind, but after reading every word of every article you linked to, as well as reading the entire horribly-transcribed interview with Greta, I think I am ready to speak my mind about this. I think I have made up my mind, but I would like to think I can be persuaded otherwise.

    Maybe, just maybe, the reason no other blogger pointed out the fact that this woman was sexually assaulted, was, just maybe, because Greta didn’t say she felt like she was sexually assaulted, or victimized in any way.

    We can try all we want to parse exactly what she meant when she said these things. We can assume that she was traumatized by this act, yet she couldn’t say so because the photo was so famous. We can assume she didn’t enjoy the kiss by her posture and because she didn’t specifically say she enjoyed it. We can assume some deeper meaning than any of the involved parties ever felt, thought, said or meant.

    We can assume a lot of things.

    But maybe, like she said, it just didn’t bother her at the time as much as it’s bothering us today. Maybe we can actually believe her when she says that it was something that she didn’t think of for almost two decades, and probably wouldn’t ever have if the photo never was published. Maybe we can really listen to her when she says that the fame she has received because of this photo is “a little fun.” Why do we have to assume that all women are victims in situations like these? Why can’t she really just not care that in a moment of jubilation someone kissed her without asking? Why does this have to be some commentary on rape or sexual assault? Why do we feel like we need to defend this woman’s honor? Isn’t she perfectly capable of doing it on her own? Don’t we believe that?

    Was it sexual assault? Who. Cares. We are making a victim of a person who doesn’t believe she is one. Isn’t that a horrible thing to do? If we have to tell people who feel no shame for what has happened, people who don’t seem to harbor any physical or emotional scars, that they are victims, are they really victims? Or are we trying to feel vindicated in our own world view?

    If we are all victims who don’t know any better, then what does being a victim actually mean?

    • I agree with your point that if Greta doesn’t want to be treated like a victim of sexual assault, then there’s no need to do so. But I also think that there are other reason to point out that the image is not okay, and that talking about it as if it is is not okay.

      Let’s imagine that Greta had said something along the lines of, “It was non-consensual, but I am 100% okay with what happened and I was 100% okay with it at the time”, and we somehow knew that she meant it and wasn’t just saying because she felt pressured or anything like that. Even then, I would still argue that it is important to not continue to romanticise the image and to point out that what happened would today be considered sexual assault. And it’s not for Greta’s benefit that I think this is important.

      As to whether or not we should consider it sexual assault, I think that the most important point is that even if Greta was fine with being kissed like this, we, and most importantly George, can only possibly have known that she was okay with it AFTER it happened, because George didn’t wait to find out before he did it. Surely consent needs to happen before the act? If we say that this is fine because afterwards we found out that she didn’t mind, what sort of precedent does this set? And it is this that concerns me. If we continue to romanticise an image of what would now be considered sexual assault, then are we not implicitly condoning that behaviour?

      My point isn’t really about Greta and George at all. I’m not judging George for what he did (I think the act was wrong, but he was a product of his time and so I’d say it’s unfair to judge him based on today’s standards) and I’m not going to treat Greta like she’s been greatly wronged if she doesn’t feel like she has been. But if we romanticise an image that depicts a non-consensual kiss (that we today would call sexual assault), then that sends out the message that sexual assault is okay.

      The issue is that the other articles mention that it was non-consensual, then continue talking about it in gushing, nostalgic terms. Imagine presenting this image in that way to a young boy. You show him the image, tell him it was non-consensual, then start talking about what a great moment it was and how it symbolises happiness and victory. What will that young boy conclude?

      So when you say “Was it sexual assault? Who. Cares.” Me. And not for Greta’s sake. I’m a lot more concerned about what that young boy thinks of it and what he’ll grow up thinking. And if we show him the image, tell him it was non-consensual, then talk about how great a moment it was, then I’m very worried that he’ll grow up thinking that sexual assault is okay.

      • Marc, I see your point, and it is well made. I may have been a bit hasty with the “Who cares” remark. As the parent of two boys, I feel a great responsibility to teach them that this type of behavior today is not acceptable.

        We talk about it being a different time, but it wasn’t just that. This wasn’t just something that happened in a vacuum. Look at the circumstances. Technically under most circumstances, this would not have been proper even during the 1940s, but it was the end of a war that had seen tens of thousands of those people’s husbands and sons and brothers killed and maimed. People were going crazy with glee. Can you imagine what that must have been like? In a fit of drunken jubilation, this man kissed this woman. Context does matter in this. It does. If this happened during that time period outside of that context, say in a bar, or on the street, or in an alley, or a bedroom, it would have been inappropriate. It would have been disdainful. It would have been assault. No one would argue that. Even then.

        But that wasn’t what happened, and context does matter.

        The author claims that context doesn’t matter. That we’re talking about it today so we should apply today’s values to judge the value of the photo and the incident. Well, I believe that to a point, we should. I can honestly say that knowing the context of the photo, it does diminish some of its luster. Knowing that these people had no connection to each other alters the light by which I see this photo. But the act does not deserve our disdain. It was a joyful act. Greta says so herself. It was not an act of lust or dominance. It was an inappropriate act, even at the time, I think we can all agree on that. Heck, even in context, it was still inappropriate. But it shows just how crazy the end of the war was. Just how excited everyone was about it. Just how insane with glee everyone was at knowing the world would be normal again. No more rations. No more stars in windows. No more death and pain and sacrifice.

        The issue I guess is with the whole tone of the argument. It’s an unassailable position, and not because it has merit. If I disagree with the argument that we should look at this photo with disgust, then I am actively contributing to the “rape culture.” If I don’t mention that this man sexually assaulted this woman when we talk about this photo, then that must be a reflection of our “rape culture.” If I disagree with the premise that Greta was a victim of sexual abuse, then I am am someone who doesn’t think that women have value and that only proves that we live in a “rape culture.”

        • dash2481, I so so so much agree with you! And you say it so much better than I did I think. Thank you.
          I think what you said is just plain common sense to me.

  56. I’m not sorry that the term “rape culture” makes people uncomfortable. I’m glad it does. People aren’t likely to do anything to change what makes them comfortable. It’s discomfort that results in action.

  57. This kiss was given because of the joy being felt at the war ending. It was not done with malice or sexual intention. It was merely an expression of joy after years of horror and death. I too am a rape survivor and cannot see anything sexual in that picture.

    • Dash – In the interview, Greta says that George apologized to her for his actions. This itself implies that both George & Greta agree that the so-called kiss was inappropriate. Sadly, there was no discussion about this apology; why he offered it and why it was accepted. George was definitely joyful and behaved inappropriately. The media has, for years now, been telling us it was a couple embracing, It was not a couple – they did not know each other. It was not an embrace because Greta was overpowered and unable to get away. It was not a consenting act. It was not a “kiss” because Greta did not consent to it.
      It’s very, very important to consider the culture that CONTINUES to embrace the lies we have been told about this picture. If the media and society continues to celebrate this photo, then the photo becomes a part of our present culture.
      We have been lied to about this photo, because the photographer himself knew the true story. He claims to have seen the man walking towards Greta, who had no idea what was about to happen, but the photographer is trained to predict, whenever possible, what’s about to happen. Got the photos, and misled everybody by allowing it to be considered a happy couple embracing.
      The media continues to display this photo as a joyful, consenting act, but it is NOT. It’s based on lies, and it’s time everybody realized that it was not what we thought it was.

      • I think lie is a strong word to use here. I don’t think we were lied to. I honestly never once thought that this was a loving couple. I always imagined that it was a spontaneous, yet consensual kiss of two people who probably didn’t know each other. A lot of people did, I think (though willingly acknowledge that I have no evidence to support that idea. I’ll have to do a little research.). The fact that it wasn’t consensual does change my attitude about the photo, however slightly.

        Also, no one is continuing to embrace the lies. The articles that the author mentions both refute the story that these two knew each other. In fact, it’s the reading of those stories that brought out the supposed sexual assault the part author, and you it seems, is so incensed about.

        So, no, we were not lied to. We as the public, with no information about the photo, imagined a scenario that fit our worldview. We chose to imagine that these two were both happy and celebrated the moment with a kiss. We imbued that photo with all the emotions and feelings of a country that just found out they were no longer at war. If we were really a “rape culture” wouldn’t the story we all imagined collectively be that of a man taking what he wanted (I honestly tried to come up with something that a culture that doesn’t value or respect women might say about the photo, but I couldn’t come up with anything else).

        • Dash – it seems you have completely ignored my comments about George’s apology to Greta, her acceptance and the reasons for the apology; and you’ve forgotten my mention that although the photographer knew that this was not a celebratory kiss on Greta’s behalf, he continued to allow the photo to be celebrated as a jubilant event – thus lies are involved. No further discussion with you because I don’t like having to repeat things.

      • Here is what the photographer said as early as 1969,

        “In The Eye of Eisenstaedt (1969), he recalled differently:

        I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I’d hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn’t been a nurse, if she’d been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn’t have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor’s dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.”

        Sounds like no one ever should have thought this was a “romantic” photo. I don’t know anyone who actually did. The photographer surely didn’t. He told people so.

        Also, sorry for not replying to each and every one of your points. I replied to your comment specifically to counter the idea that we had all be duped or lied to. If I responded to each and every point in each and every reply, I would never get any work done. ;)

        You obviously have made up your mind about this, but please make sure you get your facts straight before repeating yourself. I’m trying to understand all the facts in the case, and the more that I read and the more that I understand what actually happened, the more I am convinced that there has been a serious overreaction to this.

        • You obviously didn’t read my earlier comments, and since I don’t really feel like repeating myself, no more conversation with you. ;)

        • Dash, the misrepresentation in the media was the idea that it was a consensual act. I don’t see where you got the idea that them being a couple or not was ever an issue of concern.

          (For the record, I’m Australian, and I grew up with the understanding that this was a picture of strangers kissing each other. Never heard the idea, until these blog posts that it was one person kissing another without warning or consent.)

  58. Leopard – There’s been a turn in the type of comments on the Globe & Mail’s site. More positive comments being made, and even some people who might have posted negativey have reposted some very positive comments. Yay!

  59. Pingback: Women Speaking Out « Dish 'n' Dash

  60. You’re not on the spectrum if you don’t leer, don’t touch inappropriately, don’t physically bully,. etc. Congratulations – Your wife is sure to be happily convinced, and you’ll win every argument with your new found sense of logic.

    I’m copying & pasting Leopard’s words below.: Please read everything leopard has written – both articles which includes as the “…Misconceptions” page, and the interviews, as well as the various articles Leopard links us to, demonstrating that the general attitude towards the unwanted kiss pay little attention to the fact that it was unwanted. Also – I think the word “unwanted” is the key here.
    “Misconception #5: Rape culture? The sailor never raped her. We shouldn’t compare this to rape, since that diminishes the experience of actual rape victims.

    I think there are two misconceptions embedded in this. Firstly, just because George hadn’t raped Greta doesn’t mean it’s no big deal, nor does calling it out as sexual assault diminish the experience of rape victims. Yes, there are different levels of every crime, and no one is trying to say that the experience is the same across the entire spectrum of sexual assault. But they do stem from the same culture, and just because there are greater evils does not mean we should just ignore the lesser ones.

    Also, many seem to be confused as to what is meant by the term ‘rape culture’. Our living in a rape culture doesn’t mean that everyone thinks rape is fantastic. What it does mean is a culture where rape and other forms of sexual violence are normalised, to be expected. It’s a culture where attitudes towards women’s bodies and attitudes towards perpetrators combine to tolerate and condone sexual violence, even while we pay lip service to the monstrosity of rape. It’s a culture where victims are criticised for their choice of clothing, their behaviour, and their sexual freedom, as though they are partly to blame for their fate. It’s a culture where women’s bodies are public property; they undergo scrutiny in the media, and weight gain in female celebrities like Christina Aguilera or Lady Gaga seems like a justification to hurl abuse at them. And the fact that Greta’s comments were given no attention in the news articles is certainly a manifestation of rape culture, contributing to and reflecting it.


    I’m sorry that the term ‘rape culture’ makes people uncomfortable. But perhaps it’s time we stopped being comfortable. After all, it is when we start to acknowledge that society isn’t as perfect as we thought it was, that progress can be made. “

    • Hmm, I know I didn’t say I had a wife.

      Xeres, I’m glad to see you’re not repeating yourself, just other people. ;)

      I wish you would have read my other comments as they clearly state that not only have I read the two posts by leopard, but I have also read most, if not all, of the links the author provided as well as searched out and found the original transcript of the interview with Greta and comments made by the photographer from as early as 1969. (You’re right. Repeating yourself is HARD).

      I cannot find much objective evidence for your conclusion that we live in a “rape culture” as you and leopard have defined here. I believe you are seeing what you wish to see. You try hard to fit everything you see into your small worldview, and you discard facts, or flat out make stuff up [see comment about “Lies” above].

      In fact, sexual assault and rape are on a pretty stark downward trend in the U.S>[]. There are now more women than men graduating from high school and college, and they get better grades. That means, in less than a generation, we are likely to see the gender gap shrink and swing in the other direction. Hooray for progress!

      Are there terrible, horrible people out there? Rapists and those who don’t value women for anything? Of course. And if you think we will ever be rid of those people, you are delusional. We are a culture that is a work in progress. Are women treated fairly all the time? No. Are we better about that than we were 10 years ago? Absolutely. And we will continue to get better. Culture changes, especially ones that seek to change thousands of years of repression, take generations. Feminism started in earnest four or five generations ago. By the time we have finally achieved gender equity, we will have another dire cultural issue that we will strive hard to fix. Then there will be another. It’s a never ending cycle of bettering ourselves.

      If you choose only to see the terrible in our society, then you miss the good and the progress that we are making.

      And with that. I’m out of here. I imagine you will have something to say about this comment. I will let you have the last word. But remember, if you disagree with me on anything I have said, it just goes to show what a represive, logic-hating culture we have become, even if it’s just at the edge of the spectrum. If you don’t see the logic-hating culture, well, you’re just not looking hard enough.

        • please refer to your other post … whereby you mention you have a spouse. I guess it’s not a wife. also…I feel there’s little reason to reword Leopard’s words, since it’s all said there.

      • I don’t understand why people go out of their way to diminish the importance of conversations like this. Clearly rape is still a problem. Clearly there are conversations we still need to have about all the factors that make rape a problem. What on earth do you think you’re contributing by just going around and telling people it’s not that big a deal?

        • Okay, I will respond to this, but then, really, I have to get back to work.

          I am simply saying that this type of overreaction to a 60 year old photo does not win converts to the feminist camp. it does not help people value women more. It’s great for web site hits. But it makes ALL feminists seem silly and out of touch with reality. This type of holier-than-thou conversation where someone insinuates that if you don’t agree with them that they are “sorry for you” because obviously you are too stupid to see it their way doesn’t. Help. Anyone. And it definitely does not help women to be valued more.

          This whole conversation started with the demonizing of the modern media for not instantly pointing to the picture and screaming “SEXUAL ASSAULT!” at the top of their lungs. That’s the kind of reaction that would have made the “rape culture” crew happy. Anything less and it’s a poor reflection on our culture as a whole (See misconception #1, if you don’t believe me). We are all culpable because we don’t see the horror in this photo. The horror, mind you, that THEY always saw. They’re like the hipsters of the feminist movement.

          Ultimately, what makes me most upset is the fact that they are trying to make a victim out of someone who didn’t feel like a victim. They are projecting their own feelings and trying to read between the non-existent lines to justify their own tiny worldviews. They are saying on one hand that women are perfectly capable, valued, human beings, and on the other saying that this woman is such a victim that she doesn’t even KNOW she was a victim. She is something to be pitied. Poor, poor, Greta.

          This is the ultimate caricature of what a feminist is. Always reactionary. Always making a mountain out of a molehill. Always trying to use the latest buzzwords just to show how hip and cool they are. It makes me sad and angry when right-wing nutjobs use this caricature of feminism to demonize ALL feminists. They always point to these radical feminists and use that to show that NO feminist has anything valid to say. You just watch, Rush or Sean Hannity or someone on the right will pull this exact “controversy” out and use it to prove a point in the near future.

          The conversation that would have been nice to have was, “Was this sexual assault.” Period. That would have been worth having. That would have been an interesting topic by itself. But, no, instead we get unassailable arguments about the “Spectrum of the Rape Culture” and other such nonsense. We get people feeling sorry for all of us for being blind to the “rape culture” around us.

          I say the rest of us, who actually believe that women have value and should be treated with the respect all human beings deserve, we should speak up and not be shouted down by these radicals. Not be told how sorry people feel for how stupid we are for not seeing what’s right in front of us.

          And I think now, I have spoken my mind on the matter. I’m sorry for taking up your valuable time. I hope that someone reading this will see the value in what I have to say.

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  62. I feel like this horse has been well and truly flogged, but I would like to add/clarify a couple of important points:
    1. Somewhere in the melee of comments someone suggested that this could not have been a criminal assault under NY law at the time, maybe the tort of battery, etc., but no assault because intent to injure, etc etc. As an attorney I can tell you that, to meet most states’ definitions (legal definitions, not social/cultural definitions) what this man is doing, in the state of Missouri where I live, could certainly be classified as a 3rd degree assault, and in fact I even “paint”-shopped a copy of it with the words “3rd Degree Assault” across it and posted it to share. In many states, although the mouth to mouth contact might militate toward being of a sexual nature, we don’t know if George’s mouth is open or whatever is happening, just as well, it would be harder to get a conviction, in my opinion, for a type of criminal sexual assault. “Assault” in many states is merely equated with battery, which starts as “any unwanted touching,” and goes from there. Since she did not give consent and was “hijacked” for this, George clearly is the “masher,” to use the word of the time. He may be providing the symbolic representation of attitudes towards physical domination of women in society without permission, and in many cases those interactions are of a sexual nature, but this is not so clearly defined LEGALLY as a sexual assault, but clearly is an ASSAULT, in any state.
    2. I think what is more telling about much of this is the tendency on the one hand of an older generation that has iconized this photo to defend its “performance” or staging–that being in a different time, or place, or under the right conditions, this behavior is not only condonable, but possibly romantic? and on the other hand, those who continue to take offense simply at the discourse here–Leopard, and her spots, are fully entitled to explore the nature of this photo, interact with it and question the story behind it, its staging, and what representations the photo makes and how it inflects in our society to this day. My mother tells me there was a 20 foot statue version of this photo in downtown Sarasota (which I actually remember) but it was run over and destroyed–not by a crazed radical feminist, but likely a Senior Citizen who couldn’t control their vehicle! And strangely, many people there *miss* the statue, apparently they either don’t want to question its origin or believe that much of what is being discussed now fails to appreciate the mindset of the time, as if somehow that excuses all manner of personal (bodily) violation, or our right to challenge it.
    3. Iconized (valorized) is an important idea, because what the photo is *meant* to portray is the opposite of how the photo has been perceived, and even if people are made to understand that they were complete strangers, they have primarily rationalized it away, saying that it is somehow still fine, either because in being utterly defenseless Greta has acquiesced, and thus consented (a laughable idea), or George, being drunk and disorderly, (another possible legal charge that could be imposed on him), intends no visceral harm, as if anyone outside of his clench could decide whether it imposed a real harm or not. But most of all, by challenging this pervasive, and in my opinion idealized, warped view of the permissibility of this moment, or far less likely, that anything truly romantic is happening here, we are calling out “the greatest generation” on a (clearly wrong) pervasive attitude towards this kind of behavior, and they and their apologists really don’t like it, not least because it forces them to acknowledge a great deception, one of many that they would sooner forget about their societal attitudes. For example, if this had been a picture of a different couple, similarly kissing, but, for argument’s sake, with mutual consent, but it was a black man and a white woman, or two men, or two women, well, where’s the romance now? They would have been charged with Gross Indecency! So, their (the initial audience of this photo) moral compass counts for little in apologizing for a staged assault praised as iconic romance. And we have every right to judge them.
    4. Not to say however, that we do not understand why this picture has been perpetuated under false pretenses. The false pretense continues to veil and disguise the issue Leopard has raised. While I don’t really like the term ‘rape culture,’ for sure there is a culture of male physical dominance, which plays out in many more variegated ways than rape. As many experts have suggested, rape is primarily about exertion of dominance and power (over the person, the body), sex is the means to assert that power.
    5. Last point (I promise, sorry if you’re bored by now, you can go on to the next ranter) insofar as continuing to challenge this presentation generates discussion, I think it is useful. Some posters have stated that this is old news, or no one cares, etc. Well, it apparently still resonates with some elements of society, those who seem to have invested a lot of emotional capital in the photo’s ultimate ‘meaning,’ or what it signifies–do they have a right to completely misconstrue this photo and disregard the reality of what we now interpret to be happening? Of course they do, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t seek to subvert that faulty understanding, or failure to come to terms with what lies behind the story of the photo. And I think that is what Leopard’s principal point was.

  63. Pingback: Mädchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » Das legendäre “Kissing Sailor”-Foto bildet Gewalt ab, keine Romanze

  64. I understand that the sailor was in the wrong for forcefully kissing a stranger, however, I am a woman in my twenties (as she was) and do feel as if you exaggerated the entire situation.
    What may seem like crossing the line to you is different for everyone else. Given the joyous occasion, I don’t feel that his kiss was entirely inappropriate. He’s lucky the woman shrugged it off, as I honestly would have.
    If a drunk man kissed me over the bears winning- I may have a problem with that.
    An ending war is such relief that we don’t sweat the small things.

    • I’m actually a little bothered that this comment didn’t get a bit more attention.

      I agree entirely. If a man kisses a woman briefly without asking, and the woman didn’t want it, he deserves a slap to the face and a harsh word. Legal action, or political upheaval, are both complete overreactions.

      If that same man committed the same offense after coming home from a devastating war, I think the woman should probably be able to find it in her heart to forgive him. Maybe make it known that it was out of line, but it seems like a huge amount of people are reacting extremely violently on behalf of the woman involved in this, and that, I think, is completely ridiculous.

      (If this isn’t in the spirit of your comment, then I apologize, and still do appreciate what you said.)

  65. I haven’t read Leopard’s other blogs so I can’t comment about them, but I typically have issues with other “feminist” bloggers who I think are prone to over-analyze/over-react and apply a double standard that works against men, but I truly can’t see how anyone can question that unwanted touching is assault and if it’s sexual in nature (like a kiss) that it’s sexual assault. I have daughters, a mother, a sister, and female friends and I wouldn’t want anyone laying a hand, lip, finger, and probably not even a lingering glare on them without their consent not because I’m possessive, but because I know that would make them unhappy (at a minimum) and I don’t want them to be unhappy. Although I would be the first to tell them (including my daughters) not to be over-sensitive to things that fall short of touching or comments directed at them (directly or indirectly) which is where I tend to disagree with some feminists. In this regard my views about some feminist’s double standards are proven correct every time I pass by my female assistant’s desk and overhear her talking with “the girls” about “boys”.

    I get the whole “different times – different standards” thing to a degree, but that doesn’t explain why there isn’t more discussion TODAY about the lack of consent now that everyone knows it wasn’t some jubilant couple kissing but a dude grabbing a woman at random and laying one on her without her permission. I imagine people don’t want to beat up on old George since he is a vet and back then probably thought what he did was perfectly acceptable but, unless I missed the point of the blog, I don’t think it was about George per se but that “the kiss” continues to be romanticized TODAY even though everyone now knows it wasn’t consensual. It would seem appropriate that news stories would, at a minimum, make the smallest mention of that point even if they want to put it in the context of those times.

    I agree with the posts about guys coming home from Afghanistan, Iraq, getting some other wonderful news, etc. and feeling they can do the same as George did back in 1945 – NOT ACCEPTABLE, and that is not over-reacting, applying a double standard to men, etc. It’s just kind of common sense isn’t it – keep your paws off?

  66. “I do think it’s worth taking into account that, even in today’s society, there is a lot of pressure on women to smile and get along, to ‘let boys be boys,’ to accept unwanted sexual contact like groping or kissing, and not to make a big deal out of it. Many of the comments have confirmed this, with gems like, “It’s just a kiss, get over it,” and how women should “stop whining” about such matters. In Greta’s case, the pressure would undoubtedly be much higher.” – Although the fact of the existence of the pressure is clear, it is inappropriate to imply (without being able to quote her) that Greta felt such pressure. She may not, in fact, have particularly minded (certainly her interview with Redmond seems to suggest this) and, although that would not excuse the act, it is not unimportant.

  67. If a gay man had kissed any of the straight men on this thread against their will, I garentee you their opinion about sexual assault would look very different.

    • Right – and consider that men (esp military men) are generally physically stronger than women, so a man being kissed would be less likely to feel physically overpowered.

      I imagine that’s feeling is a pretty scary thing.

  68. I still think both blog posts are making a mountain out of a molehill. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and there is nothing wrong with shining a bright spotlight on the unacceptability of sexual harassment – but this picture should not be an icon for that particular evil. There is way too much emotion and history behind that particular day to fold it into a larger discussion about boundaries, objectivization, bullying, or sexual abuse. All of those need to be discussed – publicly, loudly, and continually – but I don’t feel like this incident or photo really deserves to be part of the discussion.

    • I think it’s good that the the story behind the photo surfaced and a point was made that it was, in fact, street harassment, and not the spontaneity of love~feelings~joy. However, yes, I agree that this is making a mountain out of a molehill. (And the fact that there had to be a second post to address misconceptions could only mean that the first one just did not translate very well.)

      Suddenly, it’s as if everyone who stops and “aww”s at this photo is condoning sexual assault. This sentiment has spilled over to various feminist forums and had affected me personally because I decided to leave one community after I was flamed for having an alternate opinion. I do think this was sexual assault, but framing it the way the author of this blog did (as the new poster for rape culture) is a disservice to the conversation.

      In the end, this photo could mean anything. Yes, it was unfair that it represented false notions all these years, but I think the conversation brought upon by Leopard’s posts is also attaching the wrong ideas to the wrong thing. Leopard, there are many other things to pick apart.

      • I don’t think it means that at all – the blogger was quite clear what the issue was, i.e. that the woman identified as the “kissee” in the photo had made a statement about the forced kiss and her experience of it, and that this was glossed over.

        Still, when dealing with sensitive topics like national icons, one must tread very carefully… I didn’t find it unclear at all, but many took it the wrong way. To deal with such emotive issues and not cause a fuss, we have to be incredibly careful to spell out what we mean and don’t mean.

      • Just realized my comment wasn’t clear… by “I don’t think it means that at all…” I meant I don’t think this blog post means that ‘everyone who stops and “aww”s at this photo is condoning sexual assault’, just because most people don’t know the back story, but I see why you’d feel that (and I’m probably being too pedantic).

        I do agree that “framing it… (as the new poster for rape culture) is a disservice to the conversation.” As I’ve said elsewhere, using ‘rape culture’ to describe things which are not rape is unhelpful – it’s inflammatory in an emotionally loaded subject where it doesn’t take much to be inflammatory.

        • Leopard has brought this topic to our attention in exactly the way it needed to be presented. It’s important to know exactly what we’re dealing with, regardless of the emotions surrounding the icons we idealize. The photo at a glance looks like one thing, but looking closer we realize it’s not what we thought. Some of us questioned the photo long before Leopard’s blog. It was with a sense of relief that I read Leopard’s ideas, and learned about the interviews.
          This is not a molehill – the photo represents social values that many people have never stopped to think about, and Leopard has made more than one person re-evaluate our culture.

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  70. Not sure why this blog and the related discussion has captured my attention so much, but I think it’s because I generally agree with the sentiment that “the kiss” was sexual assault for lack of consent, but it also shows what happens when people with a cause choose to push their argument too far and use incendiary language. You can argue that “Rape culture” is a spectrum until you’re blue in the face, but the point is that you chose to use the word “rape” when discussing a much beloved and iconic picture. So while you sparked a debate, from what I can tell by reading this blog and media coverage, maybe 20% of the debate is over the consent issue and the balance is over the excesses of radical feminism. Unfortunately, I think this blog and some of the more vehement supporters of it do more to set back the cause of womens’ rights than they do to further it by reinforcing the view that feminists are unreasonable man-haters whose ramblings are best ignored. The same can be said for PETA and the animal rights movement, and also any number of “right wing” groups like radical pro-lifers, etc. who give those who disagree with their views ammunition to point out just how unreasonable the “other side” is.

    • It’s a good thing that you get what the whole idea is about. Yes, it’s a much-loved and iconic photo, and on some fronts I can understand what you’re saying. Rape-culture and sexual assault are similar ideas just different wording. It makes people think about the status-quo.
      Personally, I am enjoying Leopard’s blogs – stayed up half the night reading some of the other blogs, and it’s the most engaging material I’ve found in a long time.

    • I strongly agree on this point – that the use of the word “rape” to describe things that aren’t rape (though on the same spectrum) is counter-productive.

      I do really like this blog, but there’s a major communication issue here.

    • I don’t see anything “radical” in the idea that sexual assaults should be more widely condemned, and that women should get to choose whether they want to kiss a random stranger in the street or not. If the sailor had given the nurse the chance to opt out, everything would have been fine and dandy. But he held her in a headlock so she couldn’t evade the kiss.

      I don’t think Leopard was making something out of nothing. She sparked a discussion about what is acceptable to do to another person without their consent. It’s a problem that women who talk about these things are perceived as “unreasonable man-haters whose ramblings are best ignored.”

    • ” It’s a problem that women who talk about these things are perceived as “unreasonable man-haters whose ramblings are best ignored.” ”
      Right on, inmyinterest!

      • Thank you! I think that’s pretty much the main problem we have here. If we talk about a single incident, using it as an example, we get blamed for blowing a thing out of its proportions, giving too much meaning to an isolated incident. And if we talk about street harassment and sexual assaults as a phenomenon, without pointing out specific examples, we get blamed for making things up.

        Sometimes it feels like there is no correct way to talk about street harassment. Whatever we say, it’s always wrong.

  71. Pingback: “Kissing Sailor, or the Selective Blindness of Rape Culture?” says feminist blogger | The Story Behind the Shot

  72. What I think many commenters don’t understand is that even in today’s world this photo has been romanticized. I’m sorry to say that I knew growing up that they were strangers and I saw this as something rather romantic (although to be fair I hadn’t read her side of the story and how uncomfortable she was in the moment). Looking at the picture now as an adult, it’s very telling about how we romanticize men being forceful, which is just one aspect of rape culture.

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  74. Thank you for this post, it is freeing to know that at least SOME people know and see the truth that ANY unwanted sexual contact even “just a kiss” is sexual assault. The people who don’t see the truth have obviously never experienced traumatic events like this. Or lack the emotional intelligence to empathise with people who have.

  75. Angles: (1) The forced surprise random kiss is as much an extension of insane war fever as anything else. America’s entire involvement in WWII was an act of shocking hubris and self-worship…. in truth a rape of half the rest of the world, This is an arch-conservative speaking, not a hippie or anarchist. So for a sailor to get drunk and assault a passing woman this way was part and parcel of the debacle Churchill and Roosevelt had just dragged us into, and the false glory emanating therefrom. (2) Times have changed since then, mostly for the worse. Part of the legacy of WWII is the sexual revolution. That means bugs, germs and dangerous viruses are literally only a kiss away if one’s not careful. Herpes can be passed via something as minimal as a kiss, so at today’s rates of infection, today this sailor’s act would or should be actionable as assault with a potentially deadly weapon. (How many fresh new STDs did “our boys” bring home from WWII? A rude question, ’tis true.) (3) The Wikipedia article V-J Day in Times Square has a photo captioned “George Mendonça and Greta Friedman, guests of honor at the Bristol, Rhode Island, July 4 parade in 2009”. The alleged pair are happily sitting together on a parade float, waving to crowds. Who knows why for sure? Are the the real photo subjects? The article names many who’ve credibly come forth. Is she going along with it for money? All the world’s a stage, everybody has their price….. With today’s military madness at fever pitch and the country turning into a military dictatorship (sucking in numerous local police forces) there’s no telling what the media or politicians will rig up. Thank you, Edward Bernays!

  76. Finding this post makes me feel so bittersweet towards that photo. I loved it, and now I feel uncomfortable as if that had happened to me. It must be a very different thing to have a photograph of yourself being forcibly kissed become such an iconic image.

    I think that kissing needs to be taken seriously when it isn’t consensual. It is one thing to want the guy to kiss you, give clear signs and to make it a deeper kiss once he makes the move. Another thing is having an unwanted, surprising kiss, and then if it involves a “vice grip”, it means you are scared about it. I would be scared that was just the beginning and what could come of it.

    I’m not saying by any means I don’t want to acknowledge the abuse here, but wouldn’t it have been more romantic to just live in ignorance about it?

    Ah the sad, dirty, messy reality!

  77. Pingback: July 6 – World Kiss Day | 365 reasons to celebrate

  78. Pingback: If this had been consensual and mutually pleasurable, I think she'd have her... | Matthew Graybosch

  79. I don’t disagree with the premise of the article. I disagree with the term “rape culture”. Rape and sexual assault are crimes that have a perpetrator and a victim. They are horrible crimes. I was not brought up thinking that women were to be treated with any less respect than any other human being. Saying that we live in a rape culture makes myself and every other man in society implicit in one woman’s sexual assault just because we happen to be the same sex as the perpetrator. Some women perform sexual assaults as well. I don’t believe all men white wash other men’s sexual assaults. We obviously have people in our society that are more inclined to commit sexual assault than murder, because there are different levels of sexual assault, as you said in the article yourself, one not being any less wrong than the other. Just because that’s true doesn’t mean that the rest of use are cheerleaders for the “stolen kiss” or the slap on the ass. Some of us see it as just as wrong as you do and call other men on it when we see it. Instead of making all men feel like you see us all as potential rapist because we belong to the “rape culture” club focus more on the individuals who commit these crimes. Don’t push your allies away in the fight to educate people.

  80. I’d just like to thank you for writing about this topic. I find that too many people including women don’t want to talk about or bring up rape culture in society because it makes others uncomfortable. I’m happy to see someone has the guts to bring it up in an informed and insightful way. Thank you for bringing it to the attention of your readers. You are awesome!

  81. I agree that this sounds like sexual assault in many ways, but I just want to say that if men always waited till women clearly told them that they wanted to be kissed, that our species would be extinct by now. I’m not justifying this, I’m just pointing out that women in general (and not in this particular case, which involves a lot of speculation) don’t communicate clearly and honestly, and men HAVE TO take the risk of rejection. If a man acts shy and hesitant, he will certainly be rejected.

    Finally, this is sexual assault and not rape. Rape is FAR worse, and I know this from personal experience. Please don’t make light of rape.

  82. I think the points being made would be better made from some other jumping-off point than this photograph. This was a *moment* of extreme joy, the end of a hugely traumatic war, in which both the nurse and the sailor were (possibly unwilling) participants. Consider the trauma they may both have been experiencing for the preceding several years! As both a nurse and military vet, I can empathize with the gravity of that life-changing moment from BOTH angles. To equate behavior in that moment to behavior under normal circumstances, and to suggest the serviceman is some sort of rapist monster, or motivated by a desire to ‘assault’ is completely ridiculous, it belies a total misunderstanding of the extraordinary context (understandable, since we have not had any similar moments in the last 60 years!) The problem is very, very real – unfortunately, the author’s use of this example weakens her case.

  83. Why is everyone getting hung up on the photo? The photo simply represents the ecstasy people felt when the war ended. The story of the people themselves and how the media had nothing negative to say about the unwanted actions of a drunk man, However, is the problem.

  84. Pingback: The Kissing Sailor and Sexual Assault | The Stay-at-Home Feminist Mom

  85. I haven’t read through every single post here, but do your realize the guy who you are saying is the sailor, is not! The real sailor just passed away and tells a different story of the incident. Do you know that Greta and the imposter would and maybe still do go to autograph signings selling theirs on this photo for upwards of $150?! To take such an iconic photo from our history and smear it with innuendo and “facts” HA! is so unfair.

  86. The hand on him could be not necessarily pushing him away…it could be a romantic and innocent gesture during an unexpected still beautiful kiss. She looks completely surrendered to his arms.
    Analysing this is a waste of time, rape is happening on the streets of the globe and we are disregarding that fact.
    If it was rape or asolt, is there any allegation or denounce?

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