The IPEA Study & Sexualized Spaces

Update: IPEA has retracted the results, saying it was incorrect and that the actual percentage is 26%, not 65%.

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Yesterday a shocking IPEA gov’t study was released saying “65% of Brazilians think women who wear revealing clothes deserve to be raped” and “59% of Brazilians think there would be less rapes if women knew how to behave” (infographic, PT). The reaction from the results, based on interviews with 3,810 Brazilians all over the country (and of all different types, PT), reverberated all over the Brazilian web yesterday.

Pernambuco.com’s Twitter feed (an entity tied to Diario de Pernambuco) started a hashtag campaign #VAITERQUERESPEITAR (vai ter que respeitar – you’re going to have to respect women) which illicited supportive responses from loads of followers throughout the day.

One tweet said the following, “It’s worth it to mention that both men and women made up these numbers”, meaning the final numbers in the study were the result of questioning both sexes. On an article mentioning the study over at Jornal do Commercio, one commenter said this, “I don’t agree that a woman dressed in skimpy clothing should be attacked, but I’ll defend the idea that a woman of good upbringing won’t be walking around the streets wearing a short skirt or short shorts, and a small shirt showing off her stomach.”

As if these results weren’t enough, the same people interviewed also said that if a man hits or swears at his wife/girlfriend, then he should definitely go to jail. In other words, violence is seen as something non-sexual in nature.

Sexualized Spaces

Coincidentally, I read a paper by Thiago Soares (who has a PhD in Communication and Contemporary Culture) last night on sexualized spaces in Recife’s brega music scene which talks about young male-female interactions leading up to and during brega shows. While it doesn’t excuse any type of behavior pointed out in the recent IPEA study above, it does show the highly-charged environment that young people look for (or endure, depending on one’s view) when they go out at night. I’ll translate part of the 11-page text below and put it on my Research Paper page. (Also see my posts on Eyes On Brazil titled “Defining the Pegada” and “How the Youth of Brazil Fool Around“.)

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MC Sheldon and Michelle Melo will take to the stage at the Atlético Clube de Amadores (Athletic Club for Amateurs), together, singing “Se Me Trair, Vou Te Trair Também” (If You Cheat On Me, I’ll Cheat On You Back) a track whose video clip already exceeded, the time of that research for this article was done (in February 2012), over 350,000 views on the digital video sharing platform Youtube. We are on the sidewalk in front of the Amateur Athletic Club. And the sidewalk is recognized as the space for “esquenta” (warming-up) for the evening dedicated to brega. On the sidewalk, there are food carts for hot dogs and kebabs – all offering cheap beer at R$1.50 (a 500 ml-sized “latão”, or large beer). The smoke and strong odor of skewered meat/chicken being roasted frames the arrival of visitors. There, at the entrance of the club, people are already getting ready to go in. Men and women, aged between 16 (although minors are “officially” banned) and 35 are seen – with some men appearing to be 40/50 years. Women over 40 years of age (so-called “coroas”) appear very discreetly.

The sidewalk, such as this “warm-up” environment for the night ahead, is really a place for courting and flirting. Men park their motorcycles and carry their helmets with them. Some, less “wealthy”, park their bicycles. Others, insist on showing off their car. They park their vehicle near the tables and plastic chairs set up by the food vendors. One of them opens the car door and turns on the radio. Brega songs – those that, in about an hour, will be heard, live, inside the club – are put on maximum volume. We note a relationship based on hiding or revealing a male’s economic situation through where they park their means of transport: bicycles (which denote the poorest men) are almost “hidden” on the side street to the club; motorcycles are placed facing the entrance the club and the cars are located exactly on the main street and near the “focal point” of female groups.

This sidewalk in front of the Amateur Athletic Club, on the days with brega shows, appears in a space of sociability that extends to the club itself. Some regulars attest that there are only, “aquecendo” (warming-up), and will not enter the event. They say in a traditional tone that they’ll “tomar uma na frente” (have a beer in front) and go home. Often, the compensation of the price of a concert ticket (R$10) is converted informally by patrons into beer. “It’s possible to have six Skol (beers) and still have money left over”, calculates one guy. “And from here, you still get to see the novinhas cheirosinhas e arrumadinhas (perfumed, dressed-up young women),” muses another.

The novinhas are how the MC Sheldon and MC Boco, authors of the song “Nós Gosta é de Novinha” (sic), call the teenagers attending their shows, which have their “franjinha de lado” (bangs to the side) and are “gostosinhas” (hot little things).

The spread of the term novinha in the Recife brega scene reverberates the imaginary of sexuality and performance genres (male and female) that inhabit songs and reenactments at shows and clubs dedicated to this musical segment. The novinha echoes the nymphet, the lolita, young and seductive, sexually voracious and able to summon a man for a night of sex. The utopia of male achievement, the novinha appears as a staging of the girl-woman dichotomy who seems to be the “trophy” of a night that begins with flirting with women and novinhas on the sidewalks.

The impression that one has is that, when a man gets with the novinha, during a night out, and takes her to the “espelhado” (which, actually, is a “mirrored room,” the metaphor for a sex motel), he acquires status in his group of friends. Coroas would be “really easy” women because they are, according to respondents, “carentes e fogosas” (needy and intense). The novinhas, in contrast, are more “difficult” because they configure themselves in groups that are very frequently approached. The choice of partners for a novinha is larger, thus they get to choose.

The geography of desire and the reframing of spaces

The Amateur Athletic Club and its sidewalk are environments of games of seduction and flirtation. And it is from this perspective that our observation is outlined. We have here what Richard Parker (1999) classifies as a “geography of desire” in the nightclub, spaces that are reinterpreted towards a logic of flirting and “pegação” performance, environments that exist to be steps in the stages of flirting, approach and “pegada”. This environment, bathed in low light, many alleys and cramped spaces is ideal for “brushing up”, rubbing bodies, touching elsewhere. A touch that can turn into a kiss, a grabbing of the hips or even in arranging the bodies together, almost like a step from tango or forró. An intense and overwhelming approximation.

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Conclusion

When contrasting the ideas of respect (of oneself and others) and the sexualized social intereactions that dominate contemporary Brazilian culture, it’s rather obvious to me that both cannot peacefully exist in the same society. Not only does a re-education process need to take place for kids growing up now but current behavior among young adults and adults must change, too. I’ll leave you with the Killing Us Softly lecture which features one aspect of global culture that definitely needs to change sooner than later. Also, check out Women’s Bodies, a short documentary from Italy. For another recent revelation from Brazil (and only in Portuguese) see the results of the Chega de Fiu-Fiu study.

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