The image above is perhaps one of the most famous kisses in the world. For World Kiss Day, I initially set out to find some back story for this iconic photograph, only to find that its history is not as romantic and wonderful and I imagined.
The photograph, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on August 14th 1945 in Times Square, New York, indeed depicts a sailor celebrating Victory Over Japan Day by kissing a woman in a white dress. You may image a history of painful love, of a woman who waited anxiously for her man to return, of a man who missed his woman dearly every time he left, and their joy at the news they would never be separated again, or some kind of similar cliché romantic tale. However the woman pictured in the photograph was kissed with any form of consent. The woman, dental assistant Greta Friedman describes the event: “Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn’t that much of a kiss…I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight. I’m not sure about the kiss…it was just somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event.” (2005 interview with the Veterans History Project.) You can see in the photograph below, which was actually the first photograph in the series of photos taken of the event, she has her fist clenched, like she is trying to push away.
The kiss was non-consensual. While this is obviously a form of sexual assault – grabbing a woman on the street and kissing her, during the celebrations of the time (the end of a horrible war), was it ok? I don’t think so. While Greta herself does not say she is traumatised by the incident, when you celebrate World Kiss Day today, make it consensual.
~ Darcie Rae