Received in about two days

The sidewalks in downtown Buenos Aires are usually packed during the weekdays. Successfully maneuvering their relatively narrow widths involves getting around potholes, piles of fresh dog shit, and that family of four spread out across the walkway’s entire width during their midday constitutional. Grrr…

Senses have to running in overdrive:  squinting eyes deciphering the seen-better-days crosswalk lights in the blaring sun, nose filtering out the aforementioned fecal matter and exhaust from the ancient buses roaring by.

But a blind man would know when he’s reached an intersection of two major streets – maybe Corrientes and Callao, or Córdoba and Uruguay, or Lima and Rivadabia – because of a distinctive snap, snap, snap. It’s more regular than any traffic light audio signal to help those with low vision.

Its source – youngish men popping little pieces of paper and shoving them toward any male over the age of 16 passing by. On them, services are offered by women who, in the ads at least, go by names Ambar, Alma, or Justine and promise to fulfill your every desire – often for cut-rate prices good for a short time only. Act now!

a little more beauty, a little less prurience?

Londoners will just yawn, since such ads fill those red phone booths so beloved by tourists – or at least they did when I last spent any time there. But Buenos Aires is awash in them like no place I’ve ever seen.

OK, before you call me a member of the prude patrol, let me set you straight. I am not one, a fact to which most who know me will attest. Yeah, I’ve been tempted to yell “get a room” to some of the couples you see in the parks around here, like the one I stumbled upon today in a niche outside of Bariloche’s main cathedral – embarrassing for everyone concerned.  But, hey, live and let live. Maybe I’m just jealous of young love and unbridled passion. Amsterdam’s red-light district doesn’t raise an eyebrow…wonder why all this does?

I don’t know, something for me and my psychoanalyst, of which there are dozens in my neighborhood. I kid you not; Freud is huge here.

But back to the the topic at hand. In Buenos Aires, go to any public phone and your senses will be overwhelmed by a sea of silicon boobs and thong-clad butts staring out at you from those small slips of paper. Larger versions of the same ads are often posted on electrical boxes and poles. They’re generally somewhat more discrete in that the woman is actually facing the camera, or her rear-end is clad in a little more than just a quarter-inch strip of cloth. Discretion, you know.

Hard to know what this hypersexualization of the public sphere means to people, or if it’s just ignored.

Street scene

It doesn’t end with bad photocopies handed out blank side up by dodgy looking 20-somethings. The newsstands, features of every block in the city where porteños buy their daily papers, magazines, and catch up on the gossip, often seem to double as adult bookstores – albeit of the soft-core variety.

Usually one end of the display is devoted to the harder-end version of the lad mags…silicon in full view, or as Argentines seem to prefer, a woman in her early twenties oiled up, wearing the thong, pushing her glutes up and out. When it comes to T&A, the Argentines go for the A.

And, on the other side, there’s a real shortage of beefcake around — in print I mean. Argentine men can be incredibly attactive, but publishers don’t seem to be interested in showing it off. Sex objectification has not penetrated the other gender side in this land of very-much-intact machismo.

Now all in all, I’m pretty sex positive, but, come on, think of the children. I mean, perhaps in this era of hard-core Internet porn as far away as a click or two, a little skin on the street is nothing. But the message this puts out to young minds looking for the latest Mickey Mouse comic and confronted two stacks over with a vision of impossibly huge breasts and sexualized positions can’t be edifying. Am I behind the times? Get me to a nunnery?

And who knows? Perhaps to become a truly successful Latin Lover, training has to start early.