Judge supports lecher

December 15, 2000

The Spanish sport of street piropo was in the dock last week on a charge of sexual harassment.

A waiter successfully fought his dismissal for telling his female colleague that she had "a cute bum", and that he knew "what women like". He used tradition as his defence - piropo became a notorious national sport in which males fought to show ingenuity and, above all, grace in throwaway comments about the appearance of women walking by.

Academic Gabriela Preisig has just published a study of piropo. She said that although many could be described as "lyrics of love", the common denominator was humour. Her material was drawn from sources as diverse as 18th-century plays to taxi drivers.

Today the piropo custom has almost disappeared. But not for the court judge. He rejected the charge of harassment, saying that the comments were "a type of flattery like a piropo" and that the accused "did not seek to make his colleague feel bad but rather was making a frustrated attempt at seduction with more melancholy, perhaps, than aggression".

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