I just read last night an interesting article in the BBC about Germans and their approach to nudity – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18021714
In this article, the author Stephen Evans, argues that the people of Germany have a very easy approach to nudity. In their eyes a naked body is something natural and common in everyday life.
This made me think a little bit and do a quick parallel to Brazil. The common world view of my country is of a land of sexual freedom. For many years the international perception was that Brazil is a land where people would run naked in the streets having casual sex.
This view is propagated by our biggest touristic event – the Carnival. I am sure that more than 90% of the carnival posters and promotional videos will stamp a dark skinned woman with minuscule clothing. Her facial expression will transpire an image that she is ready for anything. If you go to a beach in Brazil, a lot of the girls will be using tiny bikinis which will cover just the absolute minimum.
Even though everything points for a über liberal sexual society, this is not the case. Brazil is a quite traditional conservative country. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro (the most famous one) doesn´t allow full nudity in any case. The sexual organs must always be covered and if something slips out people will get in trouble. The same ladies who are tanning in the beach with the tiny bikinis will cover themselves the minute they leave the sand.
In Brazil you can be on the edge of showing it all – but just on the edge. Short skirt is perfect for any girl to use, but if it is 5cm too short she will be easily tagged as a prostitute. Using a gigantic cleavage is ok, but if it is transparent the stares and comments will start.
Even weirder is the case of topless sun tanning. Besides being culturally not accepted, it is, in fact, prohibited in most beaches in Brazil (exception to the nudist areas in secluded regions). Recently, a group of English girls were approached by the police because they were without the top part of their bikinis in Salvador. This is a paradox considering that Carnival is full of dancing ladies displaying openly their mammary glands.
Big Brother franchise is still a mild success in Brazil. In many episodes couples performed sexual acts, but they would always happen under a duvet – it was OK to have sex on TV as long as no flesh would be seen. The female (and male) participants of the show would take extra care to change their clothes. I think that in the last season they “imported” a Spanish participant. Everyone was very impressed that this lady would just change her clothes without worrying about cameras or other people watching.
Still today there was no male gay kiss in the Brazilian TV and only last year the first lesbian kiss was shown by a smaller tv station – even though the legal partnership between homosexual couples was approved. The newspapers are full of stories where same sex kisses are frowned upon generating conflicts. So you can live with your partner but will have problems showing your love.
In a way society can not be seen naked, it has to be covered in veils – even if these strips are minuscule. Just like the girls clothing on the beaches.
By the way, here is the link of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Brazil doing what turists think they can do: