"Walking On The Beaches Half-Naked Is Bound To Titillate The Senses"

Illustration for article titled "Walking On The Beaches Half-Naked Is Bound To Titillate The Senses"

Rumors of a bikini ban on the Indian resort area of Goa have been greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, the truth — including victim-blaming and the assault of a child — seems even more disturbing.


Last week, Goan tourism authorities announced they would ban women in bikinis from their official advertising, although private organizations are still free to do so.

The apparent context is a series of high-profile rape and sexual assault cases, most recently one involving a nine-year-old Russian girl. A local politician who allegedly drugged and raped another, 25-year-old Russian in December was initially protected by police and absconded, but after an international uproar has now been apprehended.

The decision to ban bikinis from Goa's official tourism advertising seems like a misplaced reaction to high-profile cases that involved foreign women (and at least one child) being attacked by local men. But doubtless there are cases of sex tourism — on various points along the spectrum of coercion — that involve Goan women but don't command the same international publicity.

But judging from the quote deputy director of tourism Pamela Mascarenhas recently gave New Delhi's Mail Today, that argument is a bit of a red herring, particularly at a destination that, according to local press, has for decades encouraged its image as a hedonist, bohemian haven:

"You can't blame the locals; they have never seen such women. Foreign tourists must maintain a certain degree of modesty in their clothing. Walking on the beaches half-naked is bound to titillate the senses."

The minister also said of a British rape and murder victim, "What was she doing with those men in the wee hours?"

Another tourism official told Global Post, "There is a degree of cultural shock for our native population when they see certain type of dressing."


Discouraging the suggestion that women's bodies are on the list of tourism attractions for sale is a good thing. Next up: Ensuring the protection — and ending the further victimization — of the other women who visit.

Goa Bans Bikinis, But Only In Tourism Ads [Times Of India]
Goa's Tourism Boss Links Sexual Assaults To Bikinis [Global Post]
Nine Year Old Russian Raped In Goa [Hindustan Times]



During one of my visits to Calcutta to see my family, I read a series of articles about "eve-teasing," the term often used for sexual harassment. The number of comments that ran along the lines of, "Well, if she is wearing such tight clothes, men will respond," astounded me. Many men in Calcutta go about their day with no shirt on and women seem to be able to do ok without harassing them. So either the men aren't attractive enough (which I would suggest as a theory, but I'm probably in a very small minority of Indian women who think so...plus, it's not a useful theory), or women have been able to maintain self-control in the face of thousands of shirtless men walking around. I can also attest to feeling very uncomfortable with the way men look at me when I visit India, and I take great care to remove traces of a feminine form.

I really want to have sympathy for locals (though I don't know much about Goa to verify that) who don't want to see bikinis because I am aware of how conservative India can be about clothing (or anything suggesting sex), and I do wish people would be sensitive to this when they visit, especially if they say that they want to experience the culture (it's not a pick and choose situation). However, sexual harassment and/or rape—or offering justification for these despicable actions—are not remotely acceptable ways to register displeasure.

As a semi-related sidenote, anyone who suggests that men are just in Constant Need of Sex and just can't control themselves has clearly never faced the plight of my poor unfertilized egg in the week before my period...or really had any concept of what it's like to be a woman in heat. I get that men biologically have a reason for constantly thinking about sex, but women have as much of a biological imperative dictating their hormones on a monthly cycle and most of us seem to be able to exercise restraint.