Friday, October 5, 2012


The Kissing Sailor

Oh. Oh. Right.

36 Comments / Post A Comment


I never really looked into the story behind this photo, so it never really clicked with me that they weren't a couple, I guess...?

But yeah, this is Bad.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
I looked it up because I used to really like the photo, and DAMN. It's crazy how the same unusual arm position reads fierce and passionate as well as abusive and controlling.


@Inkling I KNOW, RIGHT?


@Inkling Once I found out the details behind the photo, I can see how her body language says "No." It's mostly the mouth/jaw area that is the most obvious.


@KatnotCat Yeah, and if you were actually getting swept up by a boyfriend, wouldn't you have your arm around him for extra support instead of down at your side like that?


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher You know, it's really weird, but I always disliked this picture. To me, she always looked uncomfortable in it.

This iconic picture of a kiss ("The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville", taken in Paris in 1950), on the other hand, looks entirely consensual and tender. I really hope there's not a story like Greta's behind it.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Looking at that photo now, all I can see is the horrifying way he had his arm squeezed around her head.


@wee_ramekin I immediately thought of that photo too and felt relief that *it* was the poster I had in my dorm room instead of the sailor one. It did occur to me before that the sailor's embrace looked uncomfortable for the nurse but I honestly never thought much of it. Creepy.



THAT is an iconic kiss.


@stuffisthings Though I guess you could debate consensuality there, too. Господи, помоги мне выжить среди этой смертельной любьви!


@stuffisthings Whaaaat?! I have never seen that picture before! What is it? I LOVE IT (er, unless it is nonconsensual).


@stuffisthings http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2009/bruderkiss-in-berlin-wall-east-side-gallery/

(It's Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, btw) (EDIT: Sorry for the comment wonkiness)


@wee_ramekin Sorry, that was staged, at least according to this lady. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/that-times-square-smooch-right-to-the-kisser/
Depending on the shutter speed of the camera and the photographer, we can look really awkward or really romantic in a photo. It doesn't mean the photo actually tells the whole story.


@wee_ramekin Especially cuz that dude is fiiiiiiine

She was a retail whore

@Megano! YES! I just want to be the person who mussed up that dude's hair. So sexy!


@stuffisthings There is a terrific 1990 campaign poster from the Hungarian democratic youth party Fidesz that uses this photo.


It's like the reporter went to fill in the caption, and--
"Is that your boyfriend you've been waiting for all this time?"
"Wha--I don't know that man. He just assaulted me."

Hot Doom

Looks like I'm gonna have 'What would you do with a drunken sailor' stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.


Oh noooo. I never knew this! I'm so bummed out. Once you know the truth behind this picture it totally looks coerced and somewhat frightening. Poor Greta Zimmer Friedman.

The Attic Wife

@Asher Here's an interview she did with the Library of Congress if that makes you feel less guilty for liking the picture: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.42863/transcript?ID=sr0001 She does confirm she had no idea who the guy was, but she does say at the end that she thinks the picture is "wonderfully symbolic." Um. If that helps.

I always assumed it was staged, I'm shocked the image quality is so good if the photographer just happened to be snapping away and managed to get them framed like that if he only grabbed her for a split second. Does explain the awkward position of their arms.


I was telling my photographer boyfriend about this and he said there are five men still living who claim to be that sailor and a few women who claim to be the nurse. Also that there is a huge chance the whole thing was staged. And if you read the full interview with Greta, she herself says this was not assault, but just a kiss. This is insulting to real victims of sexual assault.


@josefinastrummer Wel I am glad your photographer boyfriend is telling us these things because that is WAY more reliable than people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about saying "Here are the people in that picture and here is what they say about it." Get this bullshit the fuck out of here.


@TheUnchosenOne Whoa, learn how to read and then tell me to get the fuck out of here. Did you read the whole interview with the woman who claims to be this woman in the photograph or did you just read what the blogger pulled from the interview?
Maybe people who go to photography school learn about, oh I don't know, FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHS. He's not just some schmuck with a camera. Read the full interview and learn how to think for yourself.


@TheUnchosenOne Here, I found you the actual interview with the woman who claims to be the nurse in the photo. Read it yourself and decide what you want from it. Last time I checked, it's not sexual assault if the person being assaulted says it's not!



@josefinastrummer Maybe people who go to school for something don't actually learn about BRAND NEW INFORMATION all the time. Maybe they continue to think outdated things because they haven't learned the new information. Maybe he hadn't heard of this book that only came out this year.

But yeah, I'm gonna trust your boyfriend over this person who actually wrote an entire fucking book about it.

And people who have been assaulted VERY OFTEN say they weren't. Like, all the fucking time.


@TheUnchosenOne Straight from the interview, since you can't be bothered to read it yourself:
" Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn't that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back. I found out later he was so happy that he didn't have to go back to the Pacific where they had already been through the war. The reason he grabbed somebody dressed like a nurse, that he felt so very grateful to the nurses who took care of the wounded."
Wait, you mean people can write books about things that aren't true?!? I had no idea!

The Hyperbolic Julia Set

@josefinastrummer You should probably go back to the original link and read "Part 2" about common misconceptions, because I feel like you missed some things the author clarified in that post.


@josefinastrummer Re: the "just a kiss", the subject categorizes it as a kiss and not assault - what the debate focuses on is not pinpointing actual, specific instances of abuse, but rape culture. It is not what's in the photo but what the photo says and how society/culture contextualizes it. We could go back and forth about whether it was assault or wasn't (FWIW my kneejerk reaction: "assault" seems a strong word but the behavior was certainly not consensual), but the issue here is rape CULTURE. Most people choose to view this as an iconic photo of rapturous peace and an expression of freedom. I think the author of the original blog post's most salient point is that articles omit any mention of force or consent because it doesn't fit in with the worldview we want to see. So, yes. Rape culture.


This is what the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, said about taking the photograph:

"In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make a difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds."

Combined with what Greta herself related about the moment, not only in the quote related by Josephina above, but elsewhere as well ... this is not a moment or an image that reflects our culture of sexual violence and control.

If you have a moment, send some good thoughts to Syria tonight. Violence and control issues there are overwhelming everyone.

Queen Elisatits

@Dancer@twitter I don't get how the photographer's quote changes anything. How is it better that the sailor grabbed multiple women instead of just the nurse?
Also the image itself is not the concern of the blog writer. The concern was that Greta's quotes about how kiss happened have not been addressed in the proper way. None of the articles' authors added "We guess grabbing random women off the street and kissing them is not a good thing to glorify" or "this photo is now more complicated". Instead her quotes were just there, with no further
comments about them.


@Queen Elisatits yeah - it's that part about the story - and lots of stories about sexual assault (DSK) that are quick to 1. laud the man for his other achievements as if that is enough to eliminate the bad thing he did. 2. fail to realize this is part of a broader culture (upthread, I know)


@Dancer@twitter Seriously, the phrasing, "I saw something white being grabbed" sets off alarms in my head about the way the act of kissing this woman was treated by the media culture of her own time, as well as ours.

Allie J

So, what do people think of a situation like Adrian Brody at the Oscars? When he won Best Actor he grabbed Halle Berry (who presented it to him), dipped her, and indulged in quite the passionate kiss. She seemed quite shocked at the time, and I remember thinking, "Whoa, dude! Inappropriate!" but it was largely passed off as him just being super excited. I think he got applause for it. I did not think it was cool.

However, I have always thought it was common knowledge that the sailor and the nurse were strangers and I even thought to myself, "She looks like she has no idea who this guy is who just grabbed her," yet I was never offended by that photo. I don't know why I have a double standard for this sailor and Adrian Brody. It seemed like people were going nuts in Times Square and kissing strangers, just like the Dutch and French women grabbing the liberating soldiers and kissing them, and that never offended me. Yeah, I don't know.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account