Response to “Real Natives Don’t French Kiss” Essay
Teresia Teaiwa portrays many ideas relating man to violent natures in a few of the readings done thus far. She does no different in “Real Natives Don’t French Kiss (When They’re Making Love)” when she discusses French kissing and its relation to disease and cannibalism. Through her relations, she brings to light the negativity and negative influences of French kissing in Oceania. After the two young girls witness the couple on the beach rolling around and French kissing and then the girls do it themselves, there is a “They were going for it.
Licking and biting each other like nobody’s business. It became their favourite game” (16). The young girls can be seen as naive given their age, and therefore they have a very simple mind and would address things with more simplistic manner. So it makes sense that they can picture the Western romantic gesture as a game of nearly eating each other’s mouths. This negates the romanticism of French kissing into a game than could be seen as more violent since it appears to the young girls as eating people in the simplest of the nature.
After the girls’ grandmother catches them and talks to them about the game they were playing, she points out the idea of people eating each other and acting cannibalistic. She reminds the girls that their natives “never ate people. It was the white people who wanted [the natives] to make the cannibal forks. It was the white people who wanted the cannibal forks” (17). Teaiwa’s use of the grandmother’s statement establishes that the natives do not eat people and therefore do not French kiss.
White people, or the European colonizers, pictured the natives as savages and pictured them as cannibals. So if they told the natives to make the cannibal forks, the colonizers are able to manipulate their idea about the natives being savages into a more accurate idea by using the cannibal forks as artifacts from the native people. To say that French kissing is lethal can be a stretch. On the other hand, Teaiwa goes ahead and makes that stretch with mentions of how French kissing would have been brought over to the Pacific and what the kissing brought along with itself.
The first people who would have brought over French kissing would have been early White seamen. After months of being on a ship on water, when they land, the seamen are dirty, “unshaven, rickety, scurvied, hungry and horny” and the first native to have been assaulted by one of these seamen would have been “assaulted by the lecherous tongue” of this very dirty seaman (18). It is obvious that the natives did not see the white people who came over as appealing in a sexual or romantic manner with the dirty description.
So it is harder to imagine such an act of sexual passion to the Europeans as to have come from the least erotic group of people. Instead of a native to just encounter this different act of kissing, Teaiwa’s use of the word “assaulted” makes French kissing seem like something aggressive and not romanticized like how Europeans may see it. It is aggressive to the point where it can be comparable to an assault like rape or, in this case, being eaten. French kissing made it easier for contagious diseases to spread, including influenza and tuberculosis, and caused many deaths of islanders (18).
On top of that, today there are diseases such as “herpes simplex B, mononucleosis, strep throat, they’re all, you know, kissing diseases too” (18). The idea that something more simple than sexual intercourse, like kissing, can spread all this disease as well, makes French kissing seem less romantic and more disease-ridden. Teaiwa’s point brings in more fear factor into French kissing by saying that instead of down right just eating another person, those who French kiss are bringing possible death to the recipient. This gives French kissing more violent characteristics.