Day 228 – Cuban Salsa and Prostitution

2009/04/26 § Leave a comment


Very seldom have I felt as misplaced as I did, when going to a salsa club in Trinidad, Cuba. One must admit that we Europeans are just not equipped for the kind of hip-movement it requires to dance in a Cuban club (not me at least). On the other hand many European women seem to think they are, and really it makes them look funny. But then again, who cares? Not the Cuban guys anyway who fancy being with one of those westerners. There are mainly slightly older (really middle-aged plus) folks around. And I have noticed some of the older women hanging with massively younger men. Basically these boys could be grandsons. A curious thing.

Then for the gentlemen there also is the possibility or temptation to “sponsor” a local girl. Oftentimes this special relationship looks not so much different from how people would hook up in Europe, with some small differences. You never know if the interest is mainly financial of romantic. But then again, if as a man of humble wealth in Europe you buy a lady drinks, ask her out for fancy dinners or invite her to various types of costly entertainment you never know what her interest in you is either, do you?

Here they call this situation prostitution and sometimes money changes hand in exchange for “romantic” services, they say. Then it is a clear-cut deal I suppose- more or less at least. If, on the other hand, the situation is as described above, without “payment for action”, it is not as clear. How do you distinguish a one-night-stand from one with “benefits” for the girl? What surprises me (not really) about it though is, that the middle-aged women hanging with guys seem not to be frowned upon (as much), while the men choosing a local girl are. Or in other words, what the local men do is not considered prostitution, as far as I can tell. I wonder, how come if a man hangs with a local girl, it is considered prostitution while when a women hangs with a local boy, it is not?

I suppose it is simply due to tradition. We do not ascribe to a women that she would “use” her financial capacity in order to “attract” a potential mate. We are used to women being attracted to the financial security a men can offer her, while we expect a man to be attracted to physical beauty of his female mate. Evolutionary, many think, this arrangement makes sense. Women need a mate with potential to take care of their kids, while a man needs a healthy women to carry his offspring. But then again, in the Caribbean western females occasionally seem to do what men are “supposed” to do, and use financial arguments. I wonder if they look at it this way- doubt it though…

Fidel does not like prostitution and yet it is everywhere. It seems this so called oldest of professions is omnipresent here. As a man you cannot walk a street at night without being approached by women who want you to buy them “a drink”. And at the clubs it is impossible to distinguish if “real interest” has capitalized or if you deal with “genuine interest”. What was the difference again? 😉

But then again, it seems that some Cuban women reckon, that if they pick a guy for the night or some nights, as they would do anyway (they by the way say that inFIDELity is a national pastime) if they feel like “romance”, it may as well pay off financially. Seriously, I fail to see the difference to what some women may do in Europe when they go out in weekends and pick a guy for the night who they fancy, also, if not only for his financial capacities?! Except, surely, the fact that people here are poor and one suspects financial interests a more prominent incentive in peoples’ decision processes.

Already in Thailand have I realized that the idea of prostitution we have in Europe does often have nothing to do with what goes on in these countries where, sadly enough of course, poverty drives women into offering themselves in order to make money. You will see guys who hang out with a girl for the three weeks of holiday they have and they come back as often as they can, to visit her. They call her a girlfriend, live with her at their apartment, are roughly the same age as the girl, often good looking guys, who you do not expect to have any difficulty to find a girlfriend at home either and yet they dream about taking the Thai girl with them to Europe. A real love story? Well, the guy does pay her expenses and helps to sponsor her family. And while the girl also calls him her boyfriend, when he is gone the girl has other “boyfriends” until he comes back. We do call it prostitution therefore.

Were that same situation occurring in Europe, I doubt we would look at it the same way. But then again, the Thai girl has no other option, or does she? We assume that it could never be a “life-style” choice. I wonder however, if this assumption is always strictly true? In Scandinavia the view is quite popular that women are always forced into prostitution. I doubt that is true. In fact, there are prostitutes speaking up, even in conservative Sweden, who very vocally oppose this view, and who feel that they should have the right to choose prostitution as a career choice. Sounds bizarre? Maybe, but I think it is wrong to assume that they are mentally ill and need help for their view, as people do in Sweden.

Now, I am aware that you cannot compare a prostitute in wealthy Sweden with one in poor Cuba, but what I am trying to say is that in both instances the incentive for a womens decision to prostitute herself may be more complex than the conservatives amongst us may want to accept. In countries like Sweden, as in most countries, personal freedom is only awarded if the behavior is conform with certain conservative norms that society has adopted. Should freedom not be more universal though? How much freedom is it if it is tied to conditions? Do we need to “protect” people from themselves? If so, who decides what action people have to be protected from? Who is to say which behavior is harmful and which is not? Because the answer to this question is hard to find, some countries have accepted even prostitution as a valid life-style choice.

Maybe in life things are not as black and white as we think they are and need them to be, but more mulatto, like the Cubans… 😉

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