Sexual connotations associated with the Brazilian black man and "mulata" woman: positive images or dehumanizing stereotypes?

afro brazilian women
Nielson Silva and Monica Rangel
 

In modern day Brazil, the power and economic structure is dominated primarily by men of a European phenotype or something close to it. On television, in magazines, in its halls of power and on its modeling runways, Brazil continues to present itself as a reflection of its European ancestors while almost completely ignoring its African and indigenous heritage although anyone who has visited the country is surely to come away with a different idea of what Latin America’s largest country’s citizens look like. During most of the year, save for the soccer field and the musical stage, Afro-Brazilians are largely hidden from the spotlight, at least considering its their status as numerical majority in the Brazilian population. But then comes Carnaval season when descendants of the 4-5 million African slaves that arrived in Brazil over the course of three centuries are allowed to briefly shine for a period of about a week as the ultimate symbol of Brazilian “alegria (joy)”. For that entire joyous week in February, images of these brown bodies are broadcast to a worldwide audience often promoting the country as tropical, exuberant country of endless parties, fast times and easy sex. But alas, when its all over, blacks, it’s time to go back to where you came from!

The legendary Samba musician Candeia perhaps said it best in the lyrics to his song “Dia De Graça”:

Vamos esquecer os desenganos (que passamos)

Let’s forget the disappointments (that we went through)

Viver alegria que sonhamos (durante o ano)

Experience the joy that we dreamed of (for the whole year)

Damos o nosso coração, alegria e amor a todos sem distinção de cor

We give our heart, joy and love to all without distinction of color

Mas depois da ilusão, coitado

But after the illusion, poor thing

Negro volta ao humilde barracão

Black people go back to your humble shack 

The image of poor, hard-working but sexy black body is one of the tools that elites use to attract millions of tourists to the country every year. The virile “negão (big, black man)” and the hypersexual “mulata”. According to the stereotypes, the mental capacity of these people leaves much to be desired, but the bodies are the sources of unbridled sensuality and boundless sexual pleasure. The funny thing about Brazil is that while it promotes the figure of the mulata as a sex symbol and the ultimate sexual experience, this same woman is mostly invisible on the cover of the magazine most often considered to be the bible of female beauty, sensuality and sexuality: Playboy (Brasil) magazine. To be sure, no one likes to be stereotyped, but being considered a source of considerable sexual expertise, adventure and fantasy are compliments that one should proudly wear as if it were an “S” on the chest, right? Let me just confirm that I’ve had this discussion about the image of the viril, well-endowed black man with both Brazilian black men as well as American black men and I have yet to meet anyone who has a problem with this stereotype. This discussion of black men is common on online forums, social networking sites and websites. Here are just a few comments of the hundred or so that I saw at the website Bolsa de Mulher.

The title of the discussion was: “homens negros…fazem seu tipo…? (black men…are they your type?)”

 

“Wow !!! (This is) too much. The majority of my girlfriends like black men, they say that they were good in bed, well-hung. I always preferred white guys and they (girlfriends) would tell me: “The day that you try one, you will not want white guys.” Now I am with a black man and I say IT’S ALL GOOD!!! He’s strong passion, good in bed and I really don’t want white men. I recommend, whoever never tried (a black man) you don’t know what you’re missing.”

 
 

“Hahahaha….they say that his “id (member)” is enormous…but they’re not my style…”

 
“I am a black woman married to a black man. Black men are handsome, really. And this thing about black men being more sexually potent is folklore. My husband is wonderful, but this goes beyond his skin color. There is involvement, chemistry, passion and desire. I believe that this history came up partially to compensate for the shameful stain in the history of this country, which was slavery of Africans. And this girl that posted that nonsense, my God, she is sick.”

So in the three comments, we have a woman, presumably white, who supports the sexual stereotype of black men based on her own experience. Next we have a woman who can only speak of what’s she’s heard since black men aren’t her style. Next, we have a black woman who is married to black man and whose attraction to black men is based in other attributes that she finds pleasing. So do sexual stereotypes do a disservice to black men or black people in general or should people accept these ideals as compliments? Here’s what writer and blogger José Nunez had to say on the topic. And stay tuned for more as we delve further into the subject of sexuality through a Brazilian lens throughout the rest of the week.

Stereotypes of the Brazilian mulatto and negro: The sexual connotation of the black Brazilian 

by José Nunez

The centuries-old stereotypes to which blacks are connected and enrooted should not be a source of pride for anyone, these are the characterizations to which the negro has been stigmatized throughout history that have the power to keep him in the same condition of any black slave. There are many stigmas, but the most troublesome are those related to sexuality and sex, this sexual look on the black man and black woman is a prison of our colonial history and slavery in Brazil, from a time when black women were sexual objects of plantation masters and their children, and black men were desired by white women because of their physical vigor and their lack of civility and morality, in the white and Christian manner, which allowed them sexual practices and performances that for the white, Christian man was taboo.

Sexual intercourse with a slave, was certainly much more pleasurable for the slave owner than the intercourse with his wife, this is easy to explain knowing the human sexual depravity, the power relations involved in it and the distance between sex, morals and feelings. The mulata woman that gyrates her hips and the black man with the abnormal sexual black member should not provoke pride in anyone, these characterizations and the words of a sexual nature is a machine to degrade black men and women and reduce them to sex objects in the social imagination, leaving them where they were placed in slavery between the excluded and the inferior. Unfortunately, Brazilian Carnival is the most powerful machine that exists to reduce mulata women to their gyrating hips and the sexual connotation of her color.


Demilson Silva and Grazi Dantas
With a certain informality, I mean a movie, a comedy, where the character asks her husband to “do me like a negão”, this scene seems harmless, but it is more than enough to demonstrate the sexual connotation, fun and the function of sexual object in which the negro and the word “negão (big, black man)” are overloaded.
 
Any reference to black is always associated with religious, culture-laden prejudices, work devalued and brutal work of all kinds, violence of every kind, crimes and exclusions of every kind, when there is some reference that apparently is valued, this enhancement is accompanied by stigmas, stereotypes that holds blacks to an incapacity and a grotesque caricature of disability of their behavior, culture and history.

Raphael Neves and Andressa Vieira
 
To have certainty that this sexual connotation of which the black is victim is in fact a machine of exclusion it is enough to note that the power, the portion of society that has all of its rights guaranteed and the elite, are dominated by individuals to whom are not are attributed not one sexual connotation or stereotype. The power, the rights and the elite are for people who own the superior knowledge, the intelligentsia and the sciences that build society in any part of the world. Black culture is reduced to cultural collaboration, allowed by those in power, entertainment and fun and profit of those in power, cultural heritage, manipulated and used to consumerist and capitalist taste, ie, uncharacterized product in the hands of power.
 
I would not vote for a black man for president of the republic only because he has a huge sexual member, I would not vote for a mulata woman with her gyrating hips, but I would vote for a black man and a wonderfully intellectualized couple like the Obamas, who make us proud.
 
Why not value our great poet Cruz e Souza (1), Machado de Assis (2), Lima Barreto (3), etc? Why not value the intelligentsia of Martin Luther King or Mandela’s wisdom.

Willians da Silva and Juju Mota
 

The appreciation of physical beauty in blacks is a reflection of the prejudices suffered by them and it is also a reflection of the sexual connotation of which blacks are victims since slavery, this behavior and this self-affirmation is the result of an inferior look upon themselves as if this was the only way for blacks to be valued by society, even if this sexual appreciation keeps them excluded and without civility. As if that weren’t enough, now there is an appreciation of elements that are a result of our exclusion, as is the case of the slums and of the customs resulting from our lack of knowledge and social chaos.

The preservation of culture can also be the preservation of our exclusion and misery, conservation cynically permitted by the power that represses.
1. 19th century Afro-Brazilian poet
2. 19th/20th century Afro-Brazilian novelist, poet, playwright and short story writer, widely regarded as the greatest writer of Brazilian literature.
3. 19th/20th century Afro-Brazilian novelist and journalist

Source: Artigos ImparcialistasBolsa de Mulher

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18 Comments

  1. I love your blog page. I went to Brazil about 7 years ago. All I ever knew about Brazil was their beaches, very fair skin mixed race women, the Amazon and the thong bikini. I was truly amazed to see so many people that looked like me and when I was in Bahia I thought I saw Nigerians. We need to start seeing ourselves in a more positive image and that starts by first imagine seeing yourself as doctor, lawyer, intelligent human and not this sexual creature. I find it degrading that black men and women are viewed like this all over the world. I was shocked to see nude paintings of black women on the streets of Rio as common as newspaper stands in the US. I was really ashamed and stayed in my hotel room till the next day when we went to Bahia. Sexual stereotypes are one of the most horrible forms of labeling and often times makes us victims of sexual crimes especially against our children. It's funny because other races have these stereotypes about us but yet they are not viewed as being sex craved and animalistic. It just makes me sick to think people see us like this.

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Black Women of Brazil. As a social scientist of race in the diaspora (and specifically Brazil) this is an amazing resource I am so happy I stumbled upon it. This article asks great questions! Makes great points! Is so relevant!

  3. Excellent article. Wish more Black people (all around the world) could read it. Keep up the great work!

  4. We must remember that we (Black people) didn't create these stereotypes. Racist white people did, as a means to justify and cover up the white slaveholders' abuse of Black women, and to scare white women away from Black men. This is, indeed, the legacy of slavery. Therefore, we must be suspect of any pride which we attribute to these stereotypes. It is important that, no matter what, we love who we are as people of African descent in the Diaspora, and that we love and embrace the power and the strength of our history and our culture. Moreover, we men cannot allow these stereotypes to distort our respect or corrupt the beauty of Black women. Lastly, we Black men must realize that, first and foremost, we are spiritual beings and not solely carnal sex machines. Our spiritual essence should be our first definition of identity. Great article. Keep it up.

  5. I agree with some parts of this article but not everything: there is something real about black bodies stereotype, they are stronger, usually, in gym and everything that is physique including sex. This is a fact. Apart from that, a person deserve to be considered a whole person in all aspects with his-her feelings and character… I hope that my english is understandable, I am white but I had almost only balck boyfriends, in my life.

  6. Hello Manuela,Your english is fine, we understand you. Notice that you mentioned you are WHITE, and I quote your words"but i had almost only black boyfriends, in my life". The fact that you voiced your admiration about the physique of black men plays right into the stereotype. It make me wonder if you only date black men because of the myth. I really hope you don't, because if you do this you are a part of the problem. Dating whomever you are attracted to is great, however please be conscience of your reasons. Black men(my brothers), Afro-American; Afro-Brazilian; Afro-Central and South American; Afro-Caribbean and African women need love to. Without these women, you nor I would exist. Thanks for posting the article. I will have to inform all of my male friends.(signing off with love, from an Afro-Dominican/Afro-American male)

  7. THIS COULD NOT HAPPEN IN ENGLAND, BRAZIL MEDIA RUTHLESS IF THEY THINK CAPTURING A BLACK PERSON AS SEX CRAVED WE GOOD ONLY FOR TAKEN OUR CLOTHES OFF

  8. brazil looks a great country to visit if this the portrayal of black people i will not be visiting this country anytime soon and recommending out of the question, very racist

  9. Simply, let Brasilian govt't and businesses of Whitemen stay out of Afrika. Brasil can't treat Afrikan-Brasilians one way and come to Afrika talking nonsense. We will take on these hypocrite….Izwe Lethu

  10. Wow… what are they feeding these people? They are the best or the worst looking people, ever… BUT for the economy… the US is heading this way too…. how did brasil get this way… maybe we can stop our downfall…

  11. Manuel Garreffa, while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you've merely managed to perpetuate the same stereotypes spoken of by this author. I guess what im saying is that you have missed what he was saying. The author does not wish to down play or take away from the physical manisfestations of what is a strong or beautiful black man or woman. He has however, tried arduously through this article to educate blacks that they are not only their physical endowments but can be recognized also as intellectuals and accomplished individuals who've reached higher hights through means not associated with their aptitude to entertain or based solely on their looks, or physique. I say you missed it because even though you acknowledge that black men might be stronger than white men it does not attribute much to this particular conversation. It is such a premise that influenced the capture of blacks that were sardine packed and conoursed to plantations all over the world, via the middle passage. Slave traders would cite that our color suited us for field work for extended periods in the sun and that we were stronger in essence to do manual labor. I think you need to get the true essence of the article and then make another comment.

  12. i have often wondered about Brazil, a country with a predominance of African heritage and culture which seem to be suppressed. I live in Guyana and I see mostly white Brazilians comming to guyana to live and work in the mining industry where they practise the same type of racism. I look forward to the future when Afro Braziliams will increase their presence in the economy and politics of Brazil, reflecting a true representation of their population. The strugle must continue for better education and cultural unity.

  13. Sand_Mo,"We need to start seeing ourselves in a more positive image and that starts by first imagine seeing yourself as doctor, lawyer, intelligent human and not this sexual creature". Thank you so very much for something I've been saying for "quite a while now", but people still aren't hearing, or don't seem to care about.If I hear or read one more time, "it's because you Americans are so repressed" or "the body is a beautiful thing why not show it off", I think I'll truly vomit all over myself. This is a freaking cop out and nothing more than a ploy to get this 'would be' or other actors/actresses to take their clothes off, and sadly they're falling for it hook, line, and sinker.Thanks once again Sand_Mo, as it's past time that my Brazilian sisters and brothers stop falling for this mess, and keep their clothes on, to prove they can still get the job done.

  14. Great points specially now on Carnaval!It's sad to see that when a person thinks in black people in the same time think in sex. We are more than this!

  15. I love braszilian girls, specially if they are ebony, i think they are very sexy and the most important they are so fanny…

  16. I’m confused as to why the men are called black while the women are labeled “mulata” (assuming that’s Spanish for mulatto). In the pictures used in this article, the women look as black as the men. Maybe I’m missing something, I know nothing about Brazilian culture, but that’s just confusing.

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