That football kiss – time to embrace equality



Ah kisses! Sometimes there can be nothing more romantic. Remember that iconic picture of a soldier kissing a nurse at the end of World War Two? Or that real tear jerker song as Time Goes By in the film Casablanca, where Sam crooned “A kiss is just a kiss”.

Or is it? It depends on the kiss and, sadly in the aftermath of the women’s world cup, the kiss Spanish soccer president Luis Rubiales planted on Jenni Hermosa’s lips has become a political football. What should have been an innocent salute in celebration of the Spanish women’s team win has become the latest salvo in the sex war.

That meeting of lips has been labelled a sexual assault, has led to the suspension of Rubiales who is refusing to resign, while his mother, Angela Bejar, has gone on hunger strike in his support. The RFEF vice- president Rafael del Amo and 11 members of the Spanish national women’s soccer programme have resigned and the kiss has been declared seriously damaging to the image of Spanish football. Players have also threatened to boycott competitions should Rubiales stay on in his post and that’s only the half of it!

Two things are at play here. When Rubiales followed up a hug by holding Hermoso’s head in his hands and planting a smacker full on her lips it wasn’t consensual, according to Jenni who felt “violated by an impulse driven, out of place sexist act”, whereas your man felt it was “mutual and euphoric”. The other is spillover from the simmering tension over inappropriate sexual behaviour by men towards women characterised by the ‘MeToo’ movement against sexual violence against women and dedicated to justice.

The location of the kiss matters too, Rubiales gave the other women on the team innocent pecks on the cheek. But lips are sensitive erogenous zones, kisses there are erotic and can be a prelude to intimacy. Why did Rubiales single out Hermoso in this suggestive way ?

A decade or two ago the row wouldn’t have happened. Ms Hermoso would have wiped her lips and silently listed the incident as another unlooked for advance by a predatory male. Now such incidents are being outed and, while it’s really important that men should be respectful of women, I wonder if the reaction is out of proportion to an admittedly inappropriate embrace.

Can you be the victim and survivor of a kiss, and is a kiss cause for sacking? And what effect will the furore have long term in relations between the sexes: hopefully not an end of romance where men are afraid to attempt the first kiss of courtship.

Intention is at the heart of kisses and that end of WWII kiss that made the front of Time magazine was not what it seemed. Gretta Zimmer and George Mendosa were complete strangers when the drunken Mendosa seized Zimmer and began kissing her on the streets of Paris, unaware they were being photographed. “He was very strong. I am not sure about that kiss. It was just celebrating, it wasn’t a romantic event,” she said in an interview over half a century later. Quite, pity the celebration of the teams win over the UK has been eclipsed.

Last week I happened to watch a TV programme narrated by David Attenborough about courtship displays by birds. Male paramours go to endless lengths with brilliant feathers, dances and songs to attract females, before their advances are accepted. Birds observe the preliminaries.

It could be argued that men who make advances to women are simply doing what comes naturally. Man watcher Desmond Morris argues that when it comes to come-hither signals from the opposite sex men are more likely to misread them as positive than women which in the light of perpetuation of the species probably stands to reason.

This particular kiss is another step on the rocky road to equality in which the kisser stands to lose his job; the kissee suffered no injury but experienced the fury that so many women feel over unwanted sexual advances. I do wonder though if the roles had been reversed and Hermosa had been a football boss and planted an unsolicited kiss on Rubiales following a football win would the outcome have been the same.

Previous Does the picture match the sound?
Next The Raggedy Bush