Sex in Brazil: Stereotypes vs. Reality

Sex might be one of the things most commonly associated with Brazil after soccer.

Carnaval attire—beautiful, bedazzled costumes used by samba dancers that leave little to the imagination—is often sexualized by people from countries where nudity is more taboo. The country is home to a number of world-famous lingerie models. It is closely linked to bare vulvas, a.k.a. the “Brazilian wax,” which was reportedly invented in the U.S. in the 90s, albeit by Brazilian salon owners. Meanwhile, legal prostitution has made Brazil one of the world’s top destinations for sex tourism.

But the country’s sexy image also comes with stereotypes that range from inaccurate to offensive, according to Brazilian people who have traveled abroad or encountered tourists at home. During the World Cup in 2014, sexual harassment was so rampant that I wrote a story for The Wall Street Journal about complaints from local Rio de Janeiro residents.

In reporting that story, and through many conversations with expats and local residents in my years living in Brazil as a foreign correspondent, it was apparent to me that stereotypes about Brazilian women didn’t just lack nuance (as stereotypes do)—they were far off base. The reality of sexuality in Brazil is that it is as diverse and complex as in any other place.

On one hand, when compared specifically to the U.S., Brazil has fewer hangups when it comes to things like nudity and public displays of affection. On the other, the country’s religious history leads to social pressure for Brazilian women to be more conservative. Currently, there is a major culture clash under way in the country between increasingly powerful evangelical groups and a feminist movement looking to take on chauvinistic attitudes.

So while I was back in Brazil this year, I sat down with two women, Tatiana and Amanda, and asked them to share their perspectives on stereotypes and cultural differences when it comes to dating and sex. The following is the two-part video series that came out of that conversation:

Featured photo by Kevin Jones.

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