Last night I went to the football.
Sure, take a moment to take that in.
This is not the kind of thing I do very often. My family has an annual pilgrimage to a particular match between two particular teams that represent a long-standing rivalry between my Dad and one of my Sisters.
I go because, well I can, and it's a whole world I never really visit. It is a spectacular, a theatre experience really.
At quarter time the people stop running around chasing the ball and 80,000 people go to the toilet or buy another drink or sit and check social media while the players chat about what happened and what they want to happen next.
To entertain those who are lost in the internet they do this thing they call the “kissing cam”. They go around the audience and pick a man and a woman (always a man and a woman) and they pressure them to kiss each other.
I was shocked.
I couldn't believe that this is really a thing. That this is still a thing. I can see how light it is meant to be. How people look at it and get a laugh. And mostly it is just people who are married or dating or have been together for a long time having a laugh and kissing on screen for an audience of thousands.
But there is this other edge that I found disturbing.
If there was reluctance from the two people on the screen, then the camera would linger on them and the man on the voice over would apply some pressure.
There was one particular man and woman who were extremely uninterested in kissing. I’m pretty sure they were not at the game together and had never met. So, maybe a producer has made a mistake and picked a couple who weren’t a couple…it’s what happened next that I found unacceptable. They lingered on them and said…
“We can’t start the next quarter until we get a kiss…”
The woman sat there stony faced (which I read as a silent plea to be left alone) and the man pointed off camera to his left at his unseen partner to indicate he was happy to give a kiss in that direction (one that would be, we assumed, consensual). Finally, the producer picked another two victims and the awkwardness abated, momentarily…because they kept coming back! Two more times they visited these two strangers and pressured them to kiss. At this point I realised this was all part of the script the producer was running. Find the reluctant pair and pressure them over time, create the tension and finally get a win when at least one of them gives in.
On the third visit to them (at which point the producer could easily have selected the man and his actual partner to get the kiss they felt they needed) the man reluctantly invaded the woman’s personal space and kissed her on the cheek without her consent.
I know some people would think this isn’t really worth thinking about.
That nothing happened, just a harmless joke on a couple of strangers at the football.
I think that view downplays the incredible power that ‘football’ has as an author of our culture. What was this ‘story’ saying to the men and boys in that stadium?
To me it was saying real men do the thing everyone is pressuring them to do, real men get the girl, that its ok to keep pushing until you get the thing you want (or that you are being told you want) even if the woman seems reticent or openly reluctant, that once you ‘get the girl’ the crowd will cheer and pat you on the back.
And what was it telling the women and girls in that stadium? I think it is telling them that if you say no to a man then you are wrecking things for everyone else, that you are letting the team down, that a man’s needs (or what he is being told he needs) are more important than yours and that everyone will appreciate you just giving in and letting him do the thing he wants (or thinks he wants) to do. I think it’s saying that your personal space, your body, isn’t really ‘yours’ its ‘ours’ and if we want you to ‘share it’ then who are you to say no?
I felt deeply for this man and this woman.
What was he thinking? I wished he’d had the courage to just look at the camera and shake his head or at least lean out of shot and kiss his actual partner. What did he want to happen? How did he feel about being placed in this position? Being asked to take something from someone he didn’t know?
I wondered what she was thinking. I felt offended on her behalf. Angry at this uninvited invasion of her life. I wondered what she really wanted to do? Did she want to give the camera the bird? Did she want to turn to him and say “kiss me and I’ll call the police”? Did she just want to walk away? Did she want to turn to the camera and shake her head?
I may have misread this whole situation. Maybe they were both totally into this ‘game’ that was thrust upon them…I don’t think so though.
Regardless, I think this kind of stunt sets up the culture that means men aren’t allowed to be kind and respectful in front of their mates and women aren’t allowed to be in charge of their own bodies.
The kissing cam is over.
It was never ok, but now it has run whatever course it had to run.
It’s time to stop this kind of rot.
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