Sex, Truths and Video Cameras / Ernesto Morales Licea

Nobody knows her name or the sound of her voice. Except for her family or close friends, her individuality doesn’t matter.

And yet she is a kind of atypical national celebrity. Her image has traveled the island from one end to the other, smuggled, multiplied by infinity in hundreds, thousands of personal computers and storage devices.

Currently she’s not a student: she was expelled from school where she intended to graduate in Computer Science a few years ago. Her body shows the perfection of youth in just over thirty digital photos available to any Cuban who owns a computer.

“I didn’t do it for money,” she explains. The occasion just presented itself, and I thought it was fun.  The person who took them was my boyfriend at the moment. There was no money in it.”

“And what did he tell you he was going to do with the photos?” I ask.

“Nothing. We were playing around and he took the camera out and I started to pose.  But it wasn’t something we planned or prepared, it’s something you can notice in the photos, it was just spur of the moment. When we finished having sex we looked at them and he told me he was going to save them on the computer. Then he gave me a copy of all of them. But he made the copies on a computer at school and that’s where they spread from.

She doesn’t doubt my knowledge of these images. She knows that I, just like a thousand other people – mostly men — have seen them on a personal computer, some have been stored with zeal and have been a secret inspiration for desperate single men.

This girl from Camagüey is twenty-three years old. Her beauty is impressive for a young girl from a working class family, without extremes of skin care or silicon devices. She asks me, though her body is better known than that of the Giraldilla, not to mention her name. I nod. It’s the only privacy she has left.

In 2005 she was another one of those purged from the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) in Havana.

After an explosion of digital pornography spread out from the center to the rest of Cuba, the managers had to invest more time in meetings and disciplinary measures than in teaching classes.

The scandal had gotten out of hand like never before in Cuban society.  Dozens of young men and women from every state of the country had been photographed and filmed in erotic poses, semi-naked, completely naked, or during full sexual acts with endless imagination.

The existence of a national or foreign market for this type of merchandise was proven in some cases.  In others, it was only about pure enjoyment of new ways of sexuality, which extended throughout the population by the negligence of whoever saved the material; simply out of desire.

“When we had taken about twenty photos was when he went and looked for the other girl,” she tells me.

Because in fact, the peculiarity of her images is the bisexual practice displayed.  While in the initial pictures it was only about her in diverse positions, including oral sex with her boyfriend (who never appears), later she surrenders to carnal pleasures with another young girl, a roommate, according to what she tells me.

“Are you resentful?” I ask.

“Listen, I think that the only thing that honestly hurt me was getting expelled from school – she says. “I patched it up fast with my parents, they know that I’m young, but that I am also an adult, and I make my own decisions.”

“Tell me something, how have you been able to handle the publicity that those intimate pictures have attracted?”

Her answer, in this case, seemed to me so sincere it scared me:

“Look, that doesn’t worry me one bit. And you know why? , because what I did on there, and what everyone sees, is what the majority of people, especially young people, are doing when they are intimate. Or what many haven’t done but would love to do. I don’t have to be ashamed for something that doesn’t harm anybody. If I had killed someone, if I had stolen, that would be something else.  But for having sexual relations with a man and a woman before a digital camera, not at all.”

I am from the same generation as she is, and despite it all, I cannot get over being surprised by her shameless declaration. The phenomenon seems a bit striking to me. I think about the sexuality I began to discover during adolescence, and I’m aware of the notable differences that exist with today’s practices.

Not only because ten years ago I had never seen a digital camera, not even up close.  But also because not too long ago, the behavior of the most sexually active people still had an intimacy, hidden from the public, like something sacred and inviolable.


His name represented a watershed for the understanding of the human sexual behavior, early 20th Century.  Alfred Kinsey, a North American biologist and sexologist, was one of the precursors of the so-called Sexual Revolution that came a bit later.

Nobody, before him had spoken with such freedom and naturalness about the phenomena which were perceived by the public as pathological deprivations, or human psyche deviations.  Let’s say masturbation, (feminine especially, a subject which has not yet overcome its taboo) let’s say homosexuals and bisexuals.

“Kinsey’s Scale,” one of his most fundamental contributions, understands all the steps that, according to the scientist, explain human interests in the sexual area, with its nuances and variations.

In his books “Male’s Sexual Behavior” (1948) and “Female’s Sexual Behavior” (1953), affirmations like the following could be read: “Nothing that takes place between two adults, during their intimacy, and with the consent of both parties, can be considered sick or unacceptable. The supposed immorality is another social farce.

Also, provocations as such: “If all human beings would come together at a stadium, for example, and each one confessed aloud their sexual fantasies, they would all discover that what they assumed to be individual barbarities, in reality area the thought of by almost everyone.”

I think about this, now that the sexual map of my country seems to have changed colors. It is notoriously changing. To see it, it is enough to sharpen the senses. It is enough to put together evidence, declarations. To study with a magnifier the reality that surrounds us, to discover that, to the surprise of many, while in the sociopolitical plan the Island is still the same as a few years ago, Cuban sexuality has experienced an evident transformation, especially in its younger population.  Mrs. Karelia Cobas Ordaz, Master in Sexology and author of a soon-to-be published book about new challenges towards sexual education in adolescents, also recognizes the same thing:

“Despite it not being a private phenomenon in Cuba at all,” she tells me, “this type of freedom is very interesting in our country because of the fact that in other aspects, Cuban society has barely changed. For example: In a country as sexual as this one, places to go on a date for occasional relationships are almost nonexistent, nor does pornography sell as a legal product. So it seems very unexpected that, under these conditions, the sexual practices in the young community have experienced such a notable change.”

She also affirms something very important: according to the data included in her Master’s thesis, the occasional lesbian relationships of young girls between the 18 and 27 years of age, in Cuba, surpasses by a few percentages the data retrieved in studies about sexuality in countries like Chile, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.

According to Cobas Ordaz this doesn’t reveal an increase in the young lesbian population, but an openness to practices, especially feminine, where curiosity about of new ways of pleasure, lead to its acting out, for example, sexual threesomes where relations between women are frequent.

About the subject of “advertising” sexual intimacy, the specialist affirms:

“It’s a subject that Sexology in Cuba has pending in a special way.  Is evident that modesty, the fear of exhibiting one’s own body in a public way, has yielded the field to other types of behavior.  It’s true: many young people photograph themselves nowadays without worrying about the spread of those pictures. In many cases, they spread them deliberately.”

For these types of behaviors, which teeter towards the edge of very dangerous terms like pornography or prostitution, the Cuban Penal Code does not recognize sanctions.  According to what Alejandro Mojena Ramirez, a Law School Graduate explains, in this type of material, whether it is pictures or videos, there is no felony as long as the people involved are over age, and no monetary profit is gained by the ones who are involved in such acts.

The truth is that the number of young people, mostly females, whose bodies can be appreciated today in the digital Cuban universe, is not only very large but is also growing.  For some it is about a way of earning easy money.  For others, it’s a way to access new experiences.

While from the beginning connotation of a national scandal that surrounded the case of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) student was extended to the new “models” who appeared everywhere; there is no doubt this vision has started to change.  It no longer sparks extreme surprise.  All that is left is the inevitable disease and the lewdness that attaches to each new girl whose nakedness becomes common property.

How much do the positive and negative of these tendencies weigh on social patterns?  It is something that sociologists and specialists will have to determine. Or how helpful are the practices that don’t allow us to assume that sex is an act only of two, and bring it back to previous centuries, when the term orgy was patented almost exclusively for sexuality?

Meanwhile, I hold in my mind the last words from that exotic girl from Camaguey, whose flesh and attitude are a sample of this new era of Cuban sexuality.  Before saying my goodbyes from that unusual interview, she asks:

“It seems to me that at least in the subject of sex Cubans have stopped being obedient to the norms and have started to do what they really want. I think young people are very free in the sexual field.  Don’t you think that’s a good thing?”

And I, with an amused smirk on my face, say, “Yes.”

Translated by Angelica Betancourt

September 13, 2010