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.