I’ve gone to a few clubs (or boliches) and bars in my time in Buenos Aires so far and it’s been a pretty mixed bag. The boliches are the same as any club you would find in the United States: dark space with flashing lights, blaring the top 100, packed with people either dancing or awkwardly two-stepping, and the bathrooms always have a long line and never have any toilet paper. I might be a little biased in my judgment of clubs here since I never really enjoyed clubs in the United States (granted, I’m not 21 so I only went to the non-21+ clubs which are less than enjoyable for anyone).
However, there is a much different dynamic in the boliches here compared to the clubs in the United States, particularly in regards to gender. My second night here I went to one of the most popular boliches in Buenos Aires: Kika. It plays mostly plays popular American music along with some Latin pop (read: a lot of Daddy Yankee). After dancing in the boliche for a bit, I went off by myself to go to the bathroom since I didn’t really know anyone well enough in the group to do the “let’s all go to the bathroom together” thing. Both my journey to the bathroom and my experience in the bathroom were fine besides the fact that there was no toilet paper, but I digress. My unfortunate run-ins occurred during my trek back.
Part of the reasons I hate clubs is because it’s crowded and really hard to see with all the flashing lights, so finding your way back to your friends can be a journey. Already struggling to find my way back to the people I had come with, I encountered more struggles due to the highly prominent machismo culture that exists in Argentina and in Latin America. Machismo can be simply defined as exaggerated masculinity, but comes with misogynist attitudes and gender roles. Of course, machismo probably varies from in different Latin American countries, but here in Argentina machismo doesn’t involve asking for consent.
Despite the fact I was a little lost and clearly not showing interest in or acknowledgment of any man in the club, I was accosted by at least four men, who either grabbed me, tried to kiss me, tried to take a selfie with me, or a combination of the three. These weren’t light grabs or advances, people grabbed me hard and I had to push them away hard as well. My brother had warned me before I went to the boliche to be on my guard but I didn’t realize how commonplace this occurrence was. However, we do also have a similar culture in the United States in terms of male aggression in clubs, such as when men randomly grind on you without warning or consent so I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised by unwanted advances in a nightclub.
This experience was the complete opposite of the experience I had in Fiesta Whip, a gay club in Buenos Aires. First of all, the music was much better. Second off, no one grabbed me. Third, the girl I did kiss actually asked me in English, “Can I kiss you?” I was offput by the wild contrast between the two experiences. Of course, machismo is something taught to men or masculine people, but I was surprised that despite the fact that consent was clearly not taught to most men, asking for consent was still a thing here.
And not all men subscribe to machismo culture here; Fiesta Whip also had a club downstairs called Amerika which was not a gay club, and it was a bit clear the difference. I did get grabbed a few times, but at this point I was expecting it. However, I was pleased that some guy that I danced with actually asked to dance first which was cool, but then he started trying to make out with me without warning. Baby steps away from machismo, I guess.
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<p>Amanda Landaverde is a 20 year-old Spanish and Psychology student at Gustavus Adolphus College who aims for a career in neuroscience studying generational trauma. In her free time, Amanda likes to creatively illuminate and counteract social injustice through art, writing, and performance with her social justice theatre troupe on campus.</p>