Being in touch!

This is going to be kind of a funny story not just because it’s about boobs but also it’s about my own participant observation! I am posting this story because it fits perfect to the previous post about different cultural perceptions…and can there be a blog about sexuality without a story about boobs? Then I have to say, that there must be a story about dicks at some point, too. Gender equality..ee! Hahaha! Science should be funny from time to time. But now, let’s go!

Once, I was in a supermarket with a friend (a man*). I carried a bag and the belt went diagonal from my shoulder to my hips (ok that’s sounds maybe weird…). The belt went over my breast and it looked like it put pressure on it (hahaa…even more weird, but it won’t get worse! :-)). And this friend just took the belt straight over my breast in his hand, put it away and said:

“Doesn’t it hurt you?”

In this few seconds that action happened I was looking down to his hand there and my mind was like:

“What the hell is he doing?”

I was just about to say something about that. I looked into his eyes. I couldn’t recognize any reaction of seeing that as a sexual action or that he was somehow excited about it. He just put the belt away and turned over to the woman at the counter and made his order as it would have been the most normal thing ever!
So, what was that?
I was quite unsure if I should see that as an offense. Though, maybe all the feminists would cry out loud…what can I say? Boobs are not so much of a big thing in Botswana. At least that’s what I figuered out through (participant) observation (ok, now it’s getting funny, too!). And once, somebody told me that among the Batswana the breasts of a woman are a less attractive sexual attribute then the thighs of a woman! Is it?
I asked a male interview partner what he think is more attractive: Boobs or thighs? His answer: “Ass!”
As a matter of fact this is a very subjective topic, but the breasts of a women seem really not so much at the heart of interest. I rather her something like: “Yah, breasts are nice, but….”.

But back to my case! The question is: Was that an offense from a feminist perspective? Was it a sign of seeing women as mere sexual objects? That a man can touch the breasts of a woman? Or can such an occasion be explained with cultural differences? And more: can it be accepted as something like that? Or does it have to be an offense in any way?
Well, I can’t speak for other women. In my case two things influenced my reasoning about not seeing it as an offense: The one thing was, I know him. If I wouldn’t have known him I would have freaked out! And the other thing was, that he didn’t grab at my breasts. So the reason for that were not my breasts (yah…it’s really funny to write something like that…), but rather thinking about I could feel uncomfortable. If the men who read that start laughing: Well, do so, but men have to care here. Not just about breasts…

I will try to put this in a broader picture because this post is not supposed to be about (my) breasts. Maybe “this touching” goes all back to that, that in Botswana, it’s much more common to virtually be in touch with each other: After I greet somebody it is kind of normal that this person holds my hand a little longer, or people stand sometimes very close next to me which I would consider as too close, or somebody may put her hand on my shoulder while we are talking.
To have that sensual touch seems therefore very important in this culture. After the outbreak of Ebola in Westafrica there was an article in a newspaper which complained that the Ministry of Health tried to halt this close physical contact between the Batswana. The article says that this would tackle the heart of the culture, too much.
So, while I would go mad about too much touching, Batswana people don’t even think about it. And probably if this friend would read this post, he would think: “Why is she writing about this? This is nothing worth talking about.”

I could start thinking about if this says something about the understanding of community? If this maybe says something about the perception of belonging? And the other way: Does this say something about individuality? And what does it say about the importance of the body? What is the body? I understand, that this has to be continued at some other point. For now, to end this: I don’t want to say that holding hands is equal to touching breasts. Obviously, it’s not the same. But for me, it explains to a certain extent why touching each others body is perceived as normal. Plus, if breasts are a less important sexual attribute, it is for me a great example of the different cultural meaning – even of the perception of different body parts!

*Actually, it looks like I would have a LOT of male friends. But in reality they’re just a few. I just want to keep their anonymity that’s why it sounds like they would be many….Am I justifying here myself? Looks like, isn’t it? This is all because of me as a woman doing research about sex.

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“A relationship is an understanding between two people”

I had this conversation about relationships with an interview partner. It made me thinking about that acutally every relationship is nothing which just happens like: “Oops, it happened that I fell in love with this guy/girl!” I cannot elaborate that very well, but for now I just want to put that piece of conversation on my blog.

I asked him what the meaning of a relationship is for him personally:

 “A relationship is an understanding. I would call it an understanding between two people. An understanding of boundaries, rules, untold rules, of what you can and cannot do. Relationship, yeah, I think it is essentially a bond. A bond that me and you are together and we choose to be together. It is definately a choice. So, yeah, that’s what I think a relationship is..essentially.

Further I asked him what kind of values are important within a relationship:

Honesty, communication.
Look, I can say all these things that would need to exsit in a healthy relationship but it doesn’t mean I practice them. I have a big weakness for like….sometimes I don’t communicate very well because of my chilled, non-challant way of living and that has been a problem within my relationships. But it is honesty…and communication is very vital. I think people always need to have an understanding of where they are in a relationship and yes, maybe actually, you can call me a coward because when you have sex with someone three times that is somewhat a relationship, you need to communicate. So, yeah, going back to that I agree with you. You need to tell someone…yes, honesty and communication. That’s what an relationship needs.
And happiness. You got to make each other happy. And what’s the use of being with someone if you once you been in a relationship it doesn’t make you happy? I’ve seen it so many times. A relationship should enhance you, make you feel good about living and if it doesn’t, then why the hell are you there? Relationship is like a job, actually. I wanna compare it to a job, so many people work. They don’t really enjoy their work. Why are you there? Yes, it pays for your bills. But you go home feeling sad every day. It’s the way of life. Life is a relationship. People go through day to day lifes and they are happy. I would life call a relationship. I would call life a job. I call rleationship a job. Unhappy relationships are jobs because people going to jobs and they are just in there just because, you know…It has to make you happy. You need to smile. And you need to be able to…you need to have…not a plan, but a way of doing things. I would say a relationship have to have a way of functioning like a car uses petrol to move.
So, yes, function. Relationships should have a way that it functions. If it’s not functioning then it doesn’t have a great perspective of moving on. A relationship shouldn’t take to many hits. I think there’s a certain extent of how much of a red zone a relationship can take. If we were in a relationship and you know me for…for…for sleeping with other girls: how much of that can you take? Relationships should have boundaries and that’s why I say a relationship is an understanding of two people that have agreed to be in this bubble of boundaries and, and, and love and interconnection and whether it’s not love or like whatever it is, it should have a way of functioning. It should have a way of working. A Future. A past. Both healthy for it to work. Just a relationship.

All about networking (Part 1)

More and more I get a feeling for what that networking means. It’s just a little insight I have yet, but it is like I get more and more pieces of a puzzle together.
It crosses my mind when we were driving along the road. A bus was driving in front of us. All of a sudden he stopped to put a way pieces of an old tyre. The driver took a look back at us, node is head and waved with his arm. When we overtook him he hoot. A little while later it happens that he overtook us again and he hoot again, we too. And again, after a while we overtook the bus again, so we hoot and he was waving with his arm and hit the hooter again. I thought about if something like that would happen in Germany as well. I came to reason to say, no. I don’t think so.
But this is just one little example of how people interact here with each other. You can’t get out of your yard without getting in touch with the people. Maybe a little bit similar to rual life in Germany, but though a little bit more interaction. Because in Germany one would greet people he or she knows. Here, eveyone is greeted. When I sit on my veranda and strangers pass by they greet. They wave and will say:

“Dumela, Mma. O kae?” (Hello Miss, how are you?)

And I will be supposed to greet back, of course, saying:

“Ee…Rra. Keteng”  (Yes, Mister. I am fine.)

This is  the formal greeting phrase. If you are not greeting it will be seen as a sign of disrespect. And on the other hand. Behaving in a respectful way is very important. I think it creates ties.
What is also interesting is that “O kae?” litterlay means “where are you?” And the answer “Keteng” means “I am here”. Maybe this contributes to the fact that is very important to which family one belongs. I’ve been asked almost from everyone of my neighbours where I belong to. Then I say that I belong to Mma and Rra Shimashima and then they would node their head saying “I see”. And if somebody introduces me to somebody else he would also tell him that I belong to this specific family. I got the feeling it is just impossible not to belong to somebody.  Even I would be asked by my Batswana family, “To whom is he or she belonging to!”, if a friend visits me.
This could be even stretched further as it also influences marriages. Though couples decide on their own who they want to marry it is still a matter of the families. So without knowing who one belongs to it gets difficult.

Sometimes I get the feeling everybody knows everybody. This is very helpful in everyday life. For example, recently our fridge broke. So we just could go to our neighbour asking for help and of course, he knows somebody could check our fridge. And if he wouldn’t know this person he would have known a person who knows someone. Of course, this may also be like life in rural german villages. But unless there, where I get the feeling it is a closed community, here, in Botswana everyone can be part of the community as long as one knows some few rules to behave respectful. From the very first moment, when I came to Botswana in 2009, my host family welcomed me as being like their own daugther. And this care continues through all the years until my return this year. I can go to my hostfather if there should be any problem and he will take care of it. Or sometimes it happens that he passes by our house just saying “Hi” and to let us know that he’s checking us to see if everything is allright.
Besides the practical side of always knowing someone who could help out with something it is a good feeling to know that others care.