'Pokemon' Teens' Kissing Spree Shocks Chilean Public

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 20 2008 5:43 PM

A band of kissing-crazy, spiky-haired teenagers known as the Pokemons, who have a penchant for alcohol-free afternoon raves, is sending shockwaves through conservative Chile.

But unlike earlier historical youth movements, these disaffected kids, aged between 12 and 18, are totally uninterested in politics and changing the world.

And they have little to do with the popular Japanese animated "pocket monster" creatures of the same name.

Instead a kind of androgynous fashion sense accompanied by the latest gadgets and a desire to kiss as many people as possible in one of their afternoon gatherings in the Chilean capital, Santiago, seems to be the glue which holds this urban tribe together.

"It's great to dress like this, it gives you the freedom to mix and match many things," said 16-year-old Maria Jose.

At a typical gathering, hundreds of boys and girls compete to see who can kiss the most number of people on the lips. They talk openly about sex, and have no problem with gay or lesbian relations.

All this in a seriously conservative country where abortion remains illegal and divorce was approved only in 2004.

"We Pokemons respect the freedom of others," said Ignacia, a Pokemon teen, who had gathered with friends on cold Southern hemisphere mid-winter afternoon at the Cadillac disco to dance to reggaetone music.

"We don't care who you're with, the only important thing is that there is affection."

It is unclear when or how the "Pokemon" phenomenon began, but sociologists have begun to dub them an "urban tribe" recognizable by their spiked hair, tight jeans and body piercings.

They straighten their hair with gel or heating irons, and dye strands green, violet or pink. Plastic bracelets, necklaces, and oversized earrings are popular, while belly, nose and tongue piercings are common.

The main Pokemon entertainment is going to rave-type dance parties, which begin in the early afternoon and end when the sun goes down.

No alcohol is served and few of the Pokemon smoke or use drugs. However there is plenty of kissing, known locally as 'ponceo'.

The kissing "is super-massive in the discos," said Jorge, 17. "I have friends who love going to these parties just to kiss girls."

Another Pokemon activity is fully clothed simulated sex, often on the dance floor. A recent Newsweek article suggested that they engaged in public oral sex with as many anonymous partners as possible, but that caused a storm of denials from Pokemon members.

Their behavior "comes from the high level of exposure these youths have had to an eroticized media, combined with a permissive style of parenting," Sebastian Daza, a sociologist at Santiago's Catholic University, told AFP.

"Parental restrictions have become much more flexible compared to the previous generation," he added.

Every generation seeks to break from the authority of their parents, Daza said, but the Pokemons "have made their disenchantment with politicians especially clear."