Hell, they might even enjoy the attention that I found so problematic!
Walking through the narrow streets of Cuba’s capital of Havana one day, I found myself behind a Cuban woman and slowed my pace.
But it wasn’t just related to me: I often saw men gawping at other women in the same way – even if the women themselves didn’t seem to register it.
In the Colombian coastal city of Santa Marta, I walked back to my hostel with a group of female friends through what can only be described as a gauntlet; men lounging on either side of a narrow street, hands in their pockets while staring, whistling, hissing, and making lewd comments in Spanish at every foreign girl who walked the last few metres to the hostel’s front door.
I saw their mouths move in unheard mutters – ‘’ – and their shoulders start to sway.
From behind, you wouldn’t even know that she’d registered their presence.
Not just annoying or uncomfortable – it was downright threatening.
During these incidences, I often wondered whether I was simply being too reactionary – too soft – and that other women might not find it a problem.
We were both dressed for the July humidity; denim shorts, a thin, loose, sleeveless top, hair tied back, sunglasses over our eyes, umbrella on an arm. I wanted to see what treatment she received from the occasional groups of boys and men that punctuated each corner. As we approached a group, I saw their eyes switch to her body.
I saw them look her up and down, lips stretching into smiles.
The one and only facet of Latino culture I have still not changed my opinions about, because it tapped straight into a core part of my belief system.
Being treated differently, simply because I was female.
Despite meeting numerous men who’ve gone out of their way to treat me with kindness, I’ve also encountered stares and shouts, lusting eyes and flexed hands from car windows and unwelcome heavy steps echoing behind me.