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Reportages Sexualization of women at parties in Cuba. Illustration: Jen Ancízar. Illustration: Jen Ancízar.

"Woman attracts man and man spends", sexualization in Cuban party projects

The girl, intrigued, asks why the price of her ticket is less than that of her friend. "Woman attracts man and man spends. They are just capitalist business models," explains the person in charge of designing and implementing sales strategies for the company organizing the event.

Behind the door, there are lots of lights, scenery, and deafening horns. There is a DJ who animates the dance, and to the single women who answer his call, he tells them not to be shy, and that prudishness is not rewarded.

At the entrance, a sign reads: "Mujeres gratis hasta las 12:00" (Women free until midnight). After that time the cover for women costs 300 CUP. For men 500 CUP, it specifies. At the same door, a few weeks ago, another sign said: "Women with an ass over 65 cm enter the party for free". And yes, that day some arrived with their tape measures and, grateful with their buttocks, entered as "privileged".

"Single women enter without cover" or "Welcome shot for women" are just the starters of a whole menu of forms of violence that can be manifested in these festive spaces. 176 people confirmed this out of a total of 237 who responded to a survey on the sexualization of women in party projects, which was taken as the starting point for this research.

What's worse, 192 people say they know of no way to report this type of violence. They have noticed it in bars, concerts, swimming pools, restaurants, university parties, outdoor activities, and downloading. In plays, private events, carnivals, and "any place with a party". However, only 83 people perceive it as a problem.

Promotion of an event in a bar in Cuba.

The experiences narrated under anonymity are as diverse as how violence is exercised. Some start from the naturalized symbolic violence and others go as far as sexual violence. In any case, none of them can continue to be naturalized or justified under "the excessive cleavage of women's attire", "provocative dances" or how "naughty one can be".

They manifest themselves from "the fact that they only hire women instead of men to attract potential customers, in addition to their wardrobe" or "with the stereotypes demanded by contractors where the waitresses are always young women with beautiful bodies, almost always white and wear clothes that, although not entirely provocative, make their buttocks stand out very well, etc.", say two men aged 25 and over 36 years, respectively.

"They do participation games or competitions of the type which woman wears the sexiest underwear, making many show their almost naked body in front of all the people." "I've seen the party entertainer call all the women and tell them to open their mouths to pour alcohol on them," says a young woman who is barely over 15 years old and occasionally attends events organized by party projects.

"I once started working with a project where this was seen at every party and a friend was one of the models who, in addition to wearing lingerie, had to wear leather harnesses," says a woman who is around 22 years old and attends these spaces once a month. 

"They have approached me, touched me, disrespected me without my having given a modicum of approval, and I have also seen it done to others," wrote a woman of about 23, who attends several times a month such events. 

Promotion of an event in a bar in Cuba.

Among the testimonies sometimes appear these statements: "Since it is so normalized, I had not even thought about it" or "It is something that I already notice as common because it is practically the norm". 

But some see no problem with it. According to a model of the modeling agency Planet Talent, which belongs to Planet Records and who preferred to keep her identity anonymous, "this is a common and ordinary job. There are people outside the industry who make erroneous readings and they are the ones who sexualize. I have never felt sexualized in a music video. But I did feel very slutty, for example, on the day of the [the bar] 2.45 when I arrived and they dressed me in lingerie," she says. 

"It's not the same to make a nude photograph as an artistic one. One thing can be vulgar and another can be art. It all depends on the context," he concludes.

It is precisely in this character of invisibility and subtlety that the danger of symbolic violence lies, according to Dr. Isabel Moya, "In addition to constructing an aggression in itself, it becomes a normalizer of other manifestations, such as verbal, physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence".

But what are we talking about, what is female sexualization, and where does empowerment end and profit begin?

For Lirians Gordillo, journalist researcher, and expert in gender issues, when we speak of sexualization we are not referring directly to sexuality in itself - which is nothing negative, because we all have sexuality - but to the eroticization of the female body: "This means reducing our identity to that eroticism, or in this case an 'exoticism'". A body that is thought and represented by another. An other that is not just anyone, it is not a woman, it is not just a man, but a middle-aged heterosexual man of a certain purchasing power, who is almost always the audience of this hypersexualization or sexualization of women.

Illustration: Jen Ancízar.

Certainly, part of women's rights is the appropriation of their sexuality and their bodies from a conscious point of view, from the individual and the collective, says Lirians.

However, he adds, in complete agreement with Pierre Bordieau's statement in his text Male dominationpatriarchy not only dominates with violence, but also seduces you. It begins to be about privileges, seductions and oppressions".

It is part of sexual freedom and women's empowerment that they can be free to enjoy their bodies, but what happens when there is a third party, who in turn is thinking of a fourth party, and is using them, not as beneficiaries of this promotional strategy, but as part of a system in which their participation is reduced to their presence and is worth, at times, the price of a beer.

Promotion of an event in a bar in Cuba.

Eddy Victor Flores Astengo, CEO of the Jey Project explains this phenomenon better from his experience:

"You don't see it in a direct way, but indirectly to do a flyer it's better to have a female body or face, just as it's better to look for female models than male models for the project. This is linked to the fact that men in bars are the ones who spend the most money, and if they feel surrounded by women they may be prone to spend more".

According to Samuel Hinojosa, artistic producer of the Habana Star project, the publicity strategies focus on a good event, a good show, and good gastronomic offers. "And although it is always conceived as inclusive for all audiences, we try to favor women with attractive offers because of what it means to have women at a party".

Illustration: Jen Ancízar.

Illustration: Jen Ancízar.

It is then when, faced with the paradise that "there are women at a party", it is time to wonder if something or someone regulates, in general, what is allowed to happen in this type of event.

During the research for this report, a total of five managers of party projects (Hashtag Eventos, Habana Star and Jey Project) were interviewed, who agreed that there is no regulatory body for their work, which does not mean that they should not comply with their tax obligations as any self-employed or MSME. 

According to Hinojosa, these types of projects must be registered as audiovisual projects, not as party projects in the strict sense of the word. 

"To register the project there must be an artistic performance (dancers, musicians, etc.). And it is done in the different cultural companies. The good thing is that you can then make contracts with state entities," he adds.

However, due to the complexity of the registration process, and the bureaucracy that can result, it is not a path that all projects follow, on the contrary. "Very few do it. Sources from the different projects agree on this.

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In Cuba in 2024, the regulations in force prohibit bars and other private centers from holding cultural programming outside the institutions.

Resolution 41, which establishes the principles and bases for cultural programming in the country, was approved in September 2021 and must be complied with by all actors in society that manage spaces where cultural programming is offered.

There is also the controversial Decree Law 349, which prohibits the exhibition of images or manifestations, both in live presentations and in recorded materials, that denigrate women or reproduce other discriminatory forms. However, since this decree is not being enforced, there is no sanctioning mechanism to limit the impunity that these private centers may enjoy. The only means of "control" is therefore the actions that can be taken by the Ministry of Labor and the legal bodies associated with it.

Illustration: Jen Ancízar.

What to do then in a scenario where these attitudes are consolidated, unfortunately?

Lirians Gordillo believes that these sexist behaviors remain because there are still many people educated in patriarchal patterns and behaviors, so the main task should be precisely that: education.

"Cuban women have gained autonomy and sexual and reproductive rights, we have it naturalized, but we still have to dismantle the patriarchal conception we have. Those of us who awake the critical look we do it in the university, when it should be at an earlier age. It is important the activism and denunciation from specialized spaces that can study and demonstrate the harmfulness of this type of action". 

Achieving a little more empathy and sensitivity. Rethinking pre-established successful models that are based on the use of the other or the exploitation of vulnerability, and building ourselves as more humane people, must become the duty of everyone, no matter where they are in the leisure industry, so that tomorrow, more than men who consume, women will be seen as entities that attract change.

Avatar photo Daniela Dashiel Daughter of Centro Habana. Journalism apprentice and procrastination expert. More posts
Francis Viñals Iglesias More posts
Patricia Escalante Velázquez More posts

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