Pinterest or Pornterest? The Sexualization of Latinas Online.

I admit it. I have an addiction. 

My addiction keeps me awake for hours when I should be sleeping, and it distracts me when my boyfriend is telling me a story.

As much as I loathed the fact that my parents would frustratedly joke that they should’ve named me “Xiomara Internet Maldonado,” I have to say they were probably right.

But there’s a certain Internet site I’ve been particularly addicted to lately: Pinterest.

The thrill that comes from finding a great image to pin or repin is intoxicating, and I just can’t seem to stop.

I’m too busy pinning, repinning, following and liking to remember that I have cookies baking in the oven until I smell them burning. (Especially since I just can’t seem to figure out which of my 28 boards I should pin an image to.)

I refuse, however, to give up my interest in social media and other online programs and services. I’ve learned that the Internet is a great resource for entertainment, creativity, networking and sharing.

I’ve also learned that not everything in this virtual world is wholesome–hackers use Facebook and email accounts to send out spammy messages; stalkers track their prey through Twitter; and sleazy pop-up ads promoting “Sexy Russians” with huge nipples assault your computer screen.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I typed “Latina” in the Pinterest search button for my new “Everything Latina Y Latino” board and came up with a page full of pornographic photos of women.

I personally use Pinterest to find tips on organizing my home, improving my blog and making Chinese dumplings. I spend hours admiring photos of our world’s intriguing architecture and natural beauty and sharing inspiring quotes.

I happily look to Pinterest as a resource for social issues that are important to me, such as parentingdevelopmental delays and disorders, social justice, sexual violence and mental and physical health. (Click on any of those links to see and follow these boards.)

So I was astounded by the number of photos objectifying Latina women I saw. Butts, breasts and vaginas of all shapes and sizes flashed before my eyes as I scrolled down the screen.

Some of the pornographic images were of every day women. I didn’t follow through any of the links, but I have to question if these women knowingly put their photos online. Could any of them have been taken advantage of by former sex partners that they trusted not to share their private photos?

Other photos of near-nude women were of famous Latinas, such as Eva Mendes and Dorismar, which were purposely posed and probably photoshopped.

However, one image of Salma Hayek was an innocent photo taken while she was simply sitting and talking; but the pinner’s caption ignores the photo’s context by swiftly turning viewers’ attention to her “sweet set of cans.”

In fact, most of these photos have creepy captions. Some pinners describe the female subjects with phrases like “Hawt,” “Sexy Latina Mamis,” “Latina Fuego” (Latina Fire),  and “My sexy ass latina babe.”

Other pinners used captions, such as ”Phat Ass Latina,” ”Culos de latinas” (“Latina booties”) and ”Big booty and busty latinas,” to focus on the females’ specific body parts.

Still, other captions promoted stereotypical generalizations of Latina women with captions like “The erotic of Latinas and exotic beautys” and ”Latinas are the best ladies.”

One may argue that these captions’ creators are “complimenting” Latinas. However, the combination of such words with the display of Latinas’ bodies for public consumption offends me.

As is true in my experiences with catcalling, such vulgar comments and photos do not uplift women. They degrade us. They make us feel sad and scared. 

The pinners’ use of the English words, “my babe,” and the Spanish word, “mami,” in these captions is also upsetting because they should only be used by people to describe their loved ones.

I don’t mind when my boyfriend calls me “baby” or “mami,” because I know he is committed to having a relationship with me and means them in a loving way; but I feel unsafe when random men in the street call me by those titles.

In applying such terms of endearment to the photos’ female subjects, the pinners assume a level of intimacy, much like catcallers do, that is inappropriate for strangers.

I accept that a person’s body is a part of who that person is, but the body is just that–a part of us. I may appreciate the beauty and curvature of one’s body, but I don’t ever forget that they are an entire person.

As a Puerto Rican woman, it frustrates me that my search for images linking to articles on Latina history, Latina pioneers and Latina politics led me to the reality that I, along with my Latina sisters, am often viewed as public property to be commented upon, leered at, touched and judged.

I am not angry with Pinterest, itself, for the presence of nude photos (as in, nude photos that are not artistic, meaningful or of women breastfeeding) on the site.

In fact, Pinterest offers a “Report Pin” button to report a pin for “nudity or pornography,” and a few of the most pornographic photos of women that I saw a couple of weeks ago have already been taken down.

I am angry, instead, with the people who pervert the fun Pinterest site into a “Pornterest” site by circulating sexualized imagery of women.

This circulation perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes Latina women already have to battle every day in their workplaces, in their homes and on the streets.

Even as I write these words, I’m wondering how many hits this post will get through Google searches for “Sexy Latina” or “big booty women.” I hope that, at the very least, the person behind that search will stay on this page longer than 10 seconds to learn a little something about why women shouldn’t be over-sexualized.

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