Accepted paper:

Breadwinners, sex machines and romantic lovers: entangling masculinities, moralities, and pragmatic concerns in touristic Cuba


Valerio Simoni (The Graduate Institute, Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

Sexual and love relationships with tourist women lead Cuban men to enact contradictory models of masculinity. A situated understanding of the affective, moral and pragmatic concerns informing such enactments sheds light on the transformations of masculinities that tourism engenders.

Paper long abstract:

Experiences of sexual and love relationships with tourist women lead Cuban men to articulate and act upon different - often contradictory - models of masculinity. When gossiping among peers, for instance, it is common to brag about one's sexual conquests and 'macho' exploits with tourist women. In contrast to this, when interacting with foreigners the tendency is to insist on the allegiance to a romantic lover ideal. Intimate experiences with tourist partners also lead to reassess, by way of comparison, relationships with Cuban women, in which the men's wealth is portrayed as the key for accessing (just) sex. These contradictory enactments of masculinity generate mistrust, suspicion, and accusations of deception, leading tourists and Cubans alike to question the morality and truthfulness of each other's engagement. In counterpoint to such reductive readings, which tend to reify gender relationships, the approach adopted here advocates a more situated and multilayered understanding of Cuban men's affective, moral, and pragmatic concerns as they move in and out of the world of tourism. When seen in this light, important dimensions of their paradoxical enactments of masculinities can be highlighted and explained. What emerges is that in struggling to respond to competing demands and aspirations, Cuban men's purposeful alignments as 'breadwinners', 'sex machines', and 'romantic lovers' afford different relational possibilities and expressions of masculinity. By taking seriously these possibilities, the paper illuminates the transformations of masculinities that tourism engenders, assessing its potential to amplify and subvert (stereo)-typical configurations of 'being a men' in present day Cuba.

panel W072
Masculinities in times of uncertainty and change