“Brazil is Famous For Sexual Freedom”: Reuters Pope Reporter

Top local color story from the Pope’s visit to São Paulo today:
Santinhos — campaign pamphlets so-called because they resemble cards bearing the images of Catholic saints, with a prayer and a hagiography on the back — associating the image of the Pope and Frei Galvão with internationally indicted corruption king Paulo Maluf are found circulating at the Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo today.

On the other hand, the line between reporting and commentary is sometimes unclear. W. Lance Bennett (2001:7) points out that there is a tendency “to report shallow, dramatized news that often put the focus on the most personal and sensational aspects of politics and social life.” Bennett contends that such a tendency is not due to journalists’desires, and he attributes it to pressures beyond their control. —–See Brazil: Recent Notes of a Rohter Decoder

Young Brazilians rally for Pope, some skeptical: Todd Benson of Reuters, who seems to have a pretty substantial back catalogue of reporting on the Brazilian religious scene, covers the big Pope rally at the Pacaembu football stadium in São Paulo today.

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of young Brazilians crammed into a soccer stadium on Thursday to hear Pope Benedict tell them to lead pure lives and turn their backs on the sexual freedom their country is famous for.

Where on Earth does Reuters — or the Pope, for that matter — get the idea that Brazil is a sexually libertine society?

The recent push to enforce compliance with “family-appropriate” content ratings on broadcast television provides a signficant counterpoint. See “Não É Bem Assim”: Fact-Checking Globo’s Censorship Claim.

Telelixo Baixarias — the PT-Br counterpart to Sp. telebasura, or “trash TV” — is probably a bigger sore point among average Brazilians than Janet Jackson’s tittie was among average Americans, I would venture to guess. Just a guess.

But this point really does seem to be part of Reuters’ boilerplate characterization of the vast, diverse South American nation.

See also, for example, World in Crisis: Reuters on the Virtually Naked Cidade Maravilha, in which a Reuters writer gabbles:

Rio’s Carnival, famed the world over for lascivious behavior and virtually naked beauties, take place this year amid an explosion of criminal violence that has exposed the dark side of the “Marvelous City.”

Nudity! Explosions! Is this news analysis or a James Bond movie?

I personally find that once you get off the beaches of the Zona Sul — sexual tourism hot spots that they are, unfortunately (and who runs the prostitution rackets?) — the general run of Brazilian sexual morality, among the general run of Brazilians, is relatively conservative, on the whole.

The infamous Help! nightclub on the Av. Atlántica in Rio de Janeiro is not a microcosm of Brazilian civilization. Nor is that area south of the Av. Paulista not far from the Conjunto Nacional. You know the one. See also “Teenaged Hookers Are Good for Business!”

As I always counsel potential visitors, just because the girl from Ipanema is tawny and nearly naked does not mean that she has gotta have it.

Sometimes it is simply too hot for clothes. Even very socially conservative people in Brazil, I find, are often less body-modest than you might expect. Again: It is freaking hot.

So remember: you do not want to get on the bad side of that girl’s brothers by making indecent proposals. You could end up in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer.

See also Brazilian Hooker Arbitrage, in which the Murdoch-owned Times of London perpetuates the same smirking myth.

But as the International Encylopedia of Sexuality notes:

Overall the sexual attitudes of Brazilians depend on gender, age, region of residence, and religious influences. The rural population and the migrant rural workers living in large cities suffer profound influences from Catholicism’s religious teachings and ceremonies. This group is also characterized by a low level of education and culture. In this group, premarital and extramarital sexual contact is condemned. The Catholic Church approves only the natural means of family planning and condemns abortion. Ignoring Church doctrine, many in this group favor the contraceptive hormonal pill and surgical sterilization; the incidence of condom use is much lower. The Evangelical churches accept the use of the contraceptive pill as well as other methods, but are also vehemently opposed to abortion. Claims that the IUD is an abortifacient rather than a contraceptive method have caused its usage to be proscribed by Evangelicals. However, some government programs support use of the IUD in women of low income with numerous children.

By some Evangelicals, mind you. There are various kinds. But it is important to note the influence of Evangelicals generally because the Catholicity of Brazil has been dramatically eroded by Pentecostalism and the like in the last decade — especially among those rural immigrants to the big urban centers.

Why is that? Well, once upon a time there was a peculiar institution called the latifúndio … and then something called liberation theology came along … and then there was Veja Magazine: Is Nothing Sacred?

Authoritarian messages do not play as well as they used to.

And by the way, we collect the art and poetry of rural migrant workers. I even play the viola caipira myself (badly but with yowling brio that drives the neighbors buggy).

It often exhibits a high level of culture. See my The Horse That Shit Money for an example.

The last stats I read indicate that Brazilians identifying themselves as Catholic has fallen from 85% to 65% in the last decade.

Of those, about one-third identify themselves as “observant” Catholics.

Will the Pope’s visit stimulate the growth of Catholicism in Brazil? No, 65%. Source: Zero Hora (Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil). 2006 presidential election plurality for the incumbent: 61%. Number of voters reporting being approached with offers to buy their vote, nationwide: 8%. In regions of the Northeast, traditional stronghold of the voto do cabresto: 15%

Among Brazilians with a higher level of education, especially in the large cities, various forms of petting are acceptable as well as premarital sex and extramarital sex, the latter being less frequent than the former. A variety of contraceptives are accepted as normal, with a preference for the contraceptive pill, surgical sterilization, condom, and abortion, in that order. Brazil is the world champion of Caesarean births, 35 percent of all births. The majority of Caesarean section deliveries are accompanied by sterilization of the woman through tubal ligation.

I did not know that, although Hilda Hilst, among others, has written, er, evocatively of the, er, technical virginity preservation techniques of her generation.

This, I find, is typical of a certain class of Brazilian: Casuistic justifications of de facto sacanagens that technically do not qualify as sacanagens. “I did not have [vaginal intromissive] sexual relations with that woman … Ms. Lewinski …”

In comparing attitudes toward sexuality and love among Brazilians of different socioeconomic levels and different regions of the country, it seems to us that two different societies exist. One culture maintains the traditional attitudes of the Third World; the other culture has been influenced by the modernization trends commonly seen around the world and has gradually adopted more permissive attitudes.

Gradually, and relatively permissive, yes — relative to the Taliban — but not yet Larry Flynt permissive.

That’s my general impression, too, even a decade or more after that study.

(Not that you should rely on my general impression: You presumably pay the big bucks to subscribe to your global risk-management screen because it is full of hard numbers gathered from reliable sources and leading experts, and screened for quality. This, on the other hand, is just another stupid blog.)

The recent push to enforce compliance with “family-appropriate” content ratings on broadcast television is a case in point. See “Não É Bem Assim”: Fact-Checking Globo’s Censorship Claim.

[Popular women’s magazines have the purpose of transmitting the cultural norms, such as monogamy, similar to those in the U.S. and other countries. The August 1994 Portuguese edition of Cosmopolitan, called Nova, for example, highlights such issues for women as “A guide to self-confidence,” “Attracting the right man,” and “Monogamy: Is it possible to keep the fires hot?” (RJN/SA)]

Not much has changed since then, I think. I read a lot of Brazilian fashion magazines myself, since Neuza is kind of in and out of that racket — and because I once did a stint at a WWD title myself. They are not all Cosmo Girl or Jane, I can tell you that. See my post Clod, O Vil for a recent example.

Anyway, moving the parade of tired clichés along the avenue, Brazilians are also typically joyful:

Many of the some 30,000 young men and women sang and danced with typical Brazilian joyfulness to Christian rock music before the Pope arrived at the Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo.

Buy me a beer and I will sing you the world’s saddest-ever country-music ballad, “Romaria” [“Pilgrimage”], as recorded by the great Elis Regina.

Me disseram porém
Que eu viesse aqui
Pra pedir em romaria e prece
paz nos desaventos
Como não sei rezar
Só queria mostrar
Meu olhar. Meu olhar. Meu olhar.

You want to make a samba com beleza? It’s got to have um bocado de tristeza (a little sorrow). Because without a bocado de tristeza, não se faz samba não.

And hot for each other, as Reuters’ man on the spot observes coyly in his third graf:

But some couples spent the time kissing and groping each other instead.

How many is “some”? What was the ratio of gropers to popers? Roughly?

Media-soaked middle-class teenagers in the fourth largest city in the world, rocking out and making out.

Well knock me over with a feather.

Horny teenagers.

What brave new world is this, that hath such creatures in it?

Ah, but Carnaval, you ask? Surely there is a decadent affair if ever there was one.

Rio Carnaval, with its gostosas rebolando, is not the only Carnaval tradition in Brazil.

That’s just TV and Riocentric tourist industry advertising.

TV — you may not know this — is not a transparent window on reality. That goes double for Brazilian TV, too.

Indeed, you saw a major MiniC-driven marketing push this year to promote the trio elétrico of Salvador and the frevo and maracatu traditions of Recife, among others, as TV attractions in their own right. The athletic frevo, in particular, with its trademark parasol and dance moves cribbed from capoeira, is extraordinarily wholesome, really.

Despite the fact that some revelers may be drunk — though you can achieve a similar, or better, effect simply by dancing and singing your ass off like mad, I find — hardly anyone in those celebrations is naked or even necessarily doing it in the road.

Salvador may be an exception. But Salvador is Salvador — where your chance of getting the snot beaten out of you for existing while black and getting laid during Carnval seem about equal, it sometimes seems.

The trendy thing to do for Carnaval these days is to go to these small cities in the interior and see traditional, pre-Globeleza carnaval da rua, with New Orleans-like brass bands and big satirical papier machê heads and the like.

People always ask me why I don’t hang out more with the expats.

The thing is that some of those expat cats are pretty freaking creepy.

“Girls Gone Wild” video-producing creepy.

I am married to a raving Italo-Paulista beauty who hedges her religious bets with daily candles to Our Lady of Aparecida and occasional visits to the preto velho.

And she does not cotton to that kind of creepiness. Even if she does like to get naked.

Want to get over with a Brazilian hottie?

Pitch your woo in the key of Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

That has been my experience, anyhow.

Why, even Carmen “Chica Chica Boom Chic!” Miranda pleads for moderation:

Vestiu uma camisa listrada e saiu por aí
Em vez de tomar chá com torrada ele bebeu Parati
Levava um canivete no cinto e um pandeiro na mão
E sorria quando o povo dizia:
“sossega leão, sossega leão!”

We took our 9-year-old Chilean niece — I am now known officially as Tio Dude, after The Big Lebowski — to the concentração and saida of the local escola de samba this year, by the way, where a Carnaval ball for kids was being held.

When it was over, the girl was weeping copiously because she did not want it to ever end — unconsciously recapitulating the emotions of Carmen’s famous Adeus, Batucada.

A mapuche sambista was born that day.

It was incredibly touching.

And no one was copulating in the streets.

Mrs. Paranhos-Sánchez, though kind of a wild thing by Santiago standards, is still a dour Chilean — the tango-yowling Scotsmen of the Global South — at heart.

She would not have stood for it.

Augusto Paixão, “hunky movie star and prophet of the sertões,” part of an exhibition of Olinda-style big fat carnival heads in the São Paulo Metrô at the moment. I will explain big fat carnival heads to you sometime. Pretty interesting, actually. Augusto’s shades are made from Chevy hubcaps.


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