This article was originally written for Stop Street Harassment. Click here to see the page.
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So this happened: I was enjoying Carnaval in São Paulo, following a nice bloco down the street when I see this guy forcing a girl to kiss him. She was uncomfortably laughing, in an attempt to get rid of him without spoiling the fun of the party. I had the same reaction as her: just watched him grabbing her and kissing her for less than 30 seconds and he was gone, and she was back with her friends, probably telling herself that this is normal during this time of the year and she should just let it go. It was too fast and I knew that, if I intervened, things could get uglier, so I couldn’t do much at that time.
French kisses during Carnaval are a tradition, of course. Even singer Claudia Leitte made a song about it and broke a record of couples kissing on one of her concerts. Unfortunately, forced kisses are also very common. I get stories from friends being kissed against their will on micaretas (out-of-season Carnaval parties) since I’m 15. I get also stories of male friends on their tactics: this guy used to take a tube of lança-perfume (an illegal mixture of ethyl chloride that gives a quick sense of euphoria, but can cause arrhythmia) and just hold the girls, forcing them to inhale it until they pass out, so he would kiss them. I guess every stupid action has its extreme.
Right before Carnaval started this year, a man was charged with seven years in prison for forcing a kiss into a girl in Salvador, Bahia, in 2008, which was considered rape. He was arrested at the scene and spent one year in jail before getting the right to appeal while free.
The main TV channel in the region used the story only to give us a great “why we need feminism” moment when they released a poll for their internet users, asking if “the forced kiss during Carnaval should be prohibited”.
Unlike me in the bloco, social media did not let this go. They even remembered the famous kiss after the war and the glamour behind a scene of violence:
As I can see from 30 years of Carnaval, this year is no different from any other yet, but at least we can see that the debate on forced kisses and harassment in general is rising. Let’s hope next year brings us an even better party, in which we will not hesitate to intervene when a forced kiss happens in front of us.