February 11, 2008

Culture or Rape?
Pacasmayo, Peru

I had walked a good distance out of town, drawn by the lighthouse on the horizon.

Culture or rape on the beach?

I didn't even know what the situation was, other than I'd seen them arrive together by tuk tuk. Maybe she was from another city, and was lured out to the vicinity of the lighthouse by this guy. Maybe it was his wife or girlfriend. Maybe she liked rough foreplay. I just didn't know… except than that if their lovin' was planned, it was done poorly, because they didn't even have water or a blanket.

It wasn't a romantic scene. He was aggressively keeping her pinned to the ground, and she was working hard to toss him off her, or keep him from kissing her.

I thought to myself, If she's really in trouble, there are plenty of rocks around to grab, or sand to fling in his face. …But geez, this guy really looks like he's about to rape this girl."

There's a culture at work here that I don't yet have a solid understanding of. My Aussie friend Brodie, a smart guy who has lived and worked in Japan for many years, complains about the "No! No! No! Yes, Yes, Yes!" sexual culture of Japanese girls. Who am I to say what is considered (a precursor to) rape Latin America, or not?

But as I stood there, I knew I needed to initiate a personal culture clash. This was someone's sister or daughter, and there are some lines that I won't let be crossed in front of me. If things went bad, I'd be on the next bus out of town, before he could round up a posse.

I slid and hopped down the hill of sand and rock that the lighthouse was atop, and walked over to the two, with the sun at my back.

"Hola."

The guy, straddling the pinned woman and caught off guard, suddenly looked up to see me a few meters away from the two of them. He was apparently was unaware of my approach.

I spoke again (in Spanish), using a deep 'don't screw with me' alpha male tone and intensity.

"…Everything OK here?"

The guy, playfully smiling, replied that things were fine. "Si, todo bien!"

But I wasn't interested in what the guy had to say; I wanted to hear something from the woman.

"…Miss, are you OK?"

(no response)

"Si, todo bien!", the man repeated.

(ignoring him) "…Miss?"

(still no response)

I couldn't see her face, so I circled around the two of them to get a better look. The man made no sudden moves. He looked in his early thirties, she in her late twenties.

"Miss, is there a problem here? Is everything OK?"

I couldn't tell if he had a handful of her black hair or not, but she was on her back, and her neck arched up. She looked upset and flushed in the face, but unharmed.

"Si seƱor, todo bien…" was her eventual, strained response, without much eye contact.

I took a sigh and stood there for a moment longer before saying "…OK", and walking away slowly.

A few minutes down the shore, I encountered a husband and wife with their young twin girls. I approached the wife and told her about the scene at the base of the lighthouse hill, and about the possible problem. She seemed a little concerned, but not very.

I squatted from a distance, waited, and watched as the husband and wife encroached on the couple's position—their daughters some distance behind them. I don't think they were even within speaking distance before the couple I'd approached got up, and moved out of view (obstructed by hill).

Now, had I caught the guy acting that way with his pants down, I wouldn't have walked away without the girl, but since she had plenty of rocks and sand available, I felt a little better about not pushing the issue. It's not my country, culture, or place to intrude any more than my curiosity or values permit.

I just hope there's a happy ending in there for the girl today.

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