IndexAmericasSouth AmericaBrazil / Brasil


Featured: Kagwahiv, Bakairí, Nambicuara, Wai-Wai, Xokleng, Guatos, Kayapó, Ramcocramecra Timbira, Bahia, Bororó, Apinayé, Mehinaku, Kaingángs / Aweikoma, Kayabí, Trumaí, Tupinambá, Wari’, Canela, Shavante, Tenetehára, Tapirapé, Mundurucu, Urubu-Kaapor, Ticuna, Jaminawa; ®Yanomamö



General Observations


Kidnapping, seduction, and child rape were all epiphenomena of a socially accepted sexuality and reflected the disquieting landscape of gender relations in 19th-century São Paulo; in the case of rape the problem was related to the dramatic situation of child destitution (Campos, 1995)[1].


Wagley[2] documents that a rural Brazilian girl at marriage is “expected to be a virgin- even innocent of the facts of sexual life”. “Girls should be carefully protected” and chaperoned [p166, 167]. Willems (1953[3]; cf. Donald, 1954:p310-1)[4] speaks of a rigid premarital standard, chaperonage and a “virginity complex”. “A young Brazilian is expected to get actively interested in sex at the age of puberty. Even before puberty the average boy becomes used  to the sexual bravado of older companions. He learns that regular sexual intercourse is not only believed to be physically healthy, but above all an essential attribute of manhood. There is a generally accepted opinion that early and frequent sexual intercourse is stimulated by peculiar racial qualities and the physiological effects of a tropical climate”, a belief not even weakened by the Catholic church (Willams, p341-2). Girls marry between 14 and 17, and premarital virginity is not a prerequisite for stable unions. In Brazil, there are no ceremonies to mark the onset of menarche; however, the Portuguese word moca (teenage girl) is used instead of menina (young girl) for a female who has menstruated and is not yet married[5]. Correa (1994)[6] provides an analysis of sexual attitudes among Brazilian urban teenagers. Focusing on 62 adolescents aged between 13 and 15 years, both male and female, their acquisition and development of the language and normative rules of sexuality.

According to Neuhouser[7], in a Brazilian shantitown, “Regardless of age, a moça [adolescent girl] becomes a mulher [woman] with first sexual intercourse. […] Without educational or occupational goals that would delay motherhood, girls often become sexually active and mothers in their early teens” (p346). As for boys:


“[…] in terms of the requisites for becoming a man, young men and women mentioned that there are two fundamental steps to becoming a man: (a) becoming sexually active and (b) financially supporting oneself and one's family. For most young men interviewed, becoming sexually active was seen as the easier of the two requisites. In essence, becoming sexually active was perceived as easy to do or, if need be, to lie about; finding a job and being financially responsible, however, were seen as being far more difficult, and impossible to lie about. Thus, the sexual conquest as a sign of manhood was seen as necessary but not sufficient and was, for males, secondary to the role of financial provider. It is also interesting to note that young women more commonly defined becoming a man as being sexually active, whereas males more frequently mentioned the pressure they felt to be a provider […]”[8].



Parker (1995)[9]:


“The consequence of the social shaping of active and passive stances among boys and girls becomes fully evident only as children begin to take part in sexual activities. Upon entering adolescence, rapazes (boys or young men) who have (or in whom society has) successfully built up an ''active" stance in relation to their gender identity are clearly expected to demonstrate and even follow through on their desire for the opposite sex, as are moças (girls or young women) who have succeeded in adopting a properly "passive" stance, though the actual activities of adolescent girls continue to be closely guarded and controlled by their male relatives, who are thought to exercise rightfully absolute authority over the sexual powers of their female relatives. As they progress through adolescence and on into full adulthood (most commonly marked in Brazil by marriage), however, these same individuals will not uncommonly also take an interest in sexual play with members of the same sex. Indeed, such play is frequently reported by informants as at least one important part of their early sexual education. Among rapazes, same-sex play and exploration is almost institutionalized through games such as troca-troca (turn-taking), in which two (or more) boys take turns, each inserting his penis in his partner’s anus. It is perhaps even more obvious in the expression "Homem, para ser homem, tem que dar primeiro"—A man, to be a man, first has to give (in receptive anal intercourse)—often used by older boys seeking to comer their slightly younger playmates. And while such practices are perhaps less explicit among groups of moças, early sexual play with same-sex partners is cited nearly as frequently by female informants as by males. Such experiences seem relatively widespread, and as a game such as troca-troca would indicate, offer participants at least some room to explore both active and passive roles. Assuming that the cultural system has, in fact, successfully carried out its mandate, however, such early adolescent play is quite explicitly not expected to disrupt fundamentally the process of development that will ultimately transform the rapaz into an active home and the moça into a passive mulher” (p245-6).


Ribeiro[10] experienced hardship in addressing children’s sexuality among nursing students.



Urban Brazil


A Brazilian doctor told Rosen (1962:p620)[11] “wryly”: “When a child is born they look at its genitals. If it’s a boy they spoil it; i[f] it’s a girl they discipline it”.

Whitam and Mathy (1986:p44-52)[12] gives some indication of sexual development (attraction in childhood sex play, gender of first sexual contact, age of first sexual contact, age of first sexual attraction, age of realization of sexual orientation) among Brazilian, as compared to Guatemalan, Phillipino and North American, hetero- and homosexuals.

In two reports, Leite, Buoncompagno et al. (1994, 1995)[13] report on a 1990 questionnaire among female and male freshmen students.


Porto et al. (1994)[14] found that among 496 street adolescents from 9 to 20 years old in central Brazil, the age at first sexual intercourse was as low as 9 years old, and approximately 60% of this sample had had at least one “sexual relationship” by the age of thirteen.


Rios (2003:p228)[15] details aspects of (cross-age) erotic experiences in homosexual males.





·        Miranda-Ribeiro, P. (2003) The stud, the virgin, the queer, and the slut: a qualitative study of teenage sexual identity in three brazilian communities. []

·        Ribeiro, Jucélia Santos Bispo (2003) "Sex-daring games": sexuality and gender socialization in the working-class children's universe, Cad. Saúde Pública 19 suppl.2:345-53 [] [Portugese]

·        Paiva (1995:p106)[16]

·        Raffaelli et al. (1993)[17]

·        Whitam et al. (1998)[18]

·        Juárez, Fátima & Teresa Castro Martín (March 2004) Partnership and Sexual Histories of Adolescent Males in Brazil: Myths and Realities. Paper prepared for presentation at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, April 1–3, 2004, Boston, Massachusetts

·        Bozon, M. (nd) Juvenile sexuality, contraception and gender ratios. Spontaneity and inbalances between partners in sex initiation in Brazil. L'Association Internationale des Démographes de Langue Française []


·        Levinson, R. A. (2004) The impact of cultural context on Brazilian adolescents' sexual practices, Adolescence. Summer;39(154):203-27

·        Borges AL, Schor N.  (2005) [Sexual debut in adolescence and gender relations: a cross-sectional study in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2002], Cad Saude Publica 21,2:499-507. Portuguese. []





According to Capt.Thomas Whiffen (1915)[19], small boys of the North-West Amazon (Peru) use a recognised sign as a ribald gesture for sexual intercourse. “The right elbow is grasped with the left hand, the elbow being so flexed as to allow the hand to point upwards”. In Northwest-Amazonia, initiation, more than marriage, means “passage from the asexual world of childhood to the sexual world of adults (Hugh-Jones, 1979:p110)[20]. However, “[b]oys approaching initiation are sometimes involved in homosexual teasing which takes place in hammocks in public [...]” (ibid.,p160).



Ethnographic Peculiarities



Featured: Kagwahiv, Bakairí, Nambicuara, Wai-Wai, Xokleng, Guatos, Kayapó, Ramcocramecra Timbira, Bahia, Bororó, Apinayé, Mehinaku, Kaingángs / Aweikoma, Kayabí, Trumaí, Tupinambá, Wari’, Canela, Shavante, Tenetehára, Tapirapé, Mundurucu; ®Yanomamö




Additional refs:


§         CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p51-68. Also id., Progress Report, 2000, p24-9

§         Merchán-Hamann, E. (1995) Grau de informação, atitudes e representações sobre o risco e a prevenção de AIDS em adolescentes pobres do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Cad Saúde Pública 11,3:463-78

§         Rosemberg, Fulvia Maria B. & Andrade, Leandro Feitosa (1999) Ruthless rhetoric: child and youth prostitution in Brazil, Childhood 6:113-31

§         Suplicy, M. (1994) Sexuality education in Brazil, SIECUS Rep 22,2:1-6

§         Dimenstein, G. (1992) Meninas do Noite: A Prostituição de Meninas Escravas no Brasil. Säao Paulo, SP: Editora Ática [adapted chapter (Engl.):]

§         GUIMARAES, Alzira Maria d'Ávila Nery, VIEIRA, Maria Jésia and PALMEIRA, José Arnaldo. Teenagers' information about anticonceptive methods. Rev. Latino-Am. Enfermagem, May/June 2003, vol.11, no.3, p.293-298 []

§         Gusmao, Veronica & Ruiz, Schiavo M. (2001a) The adults attitude [sic] with regard to the manifestations of the infantile sexuality, in the urban area of Rio de Janeiro. Parisexo 2001 WAS World Conference

§         Gusmao, Veronica & Ruiz, Schiavo M. (2001b) The fathers and the repressive attitudes. 2001 WAS World Conference




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Jun 2005


[1] Campos, A. (1995) Crianças estupradas na São Paulo itocentista. relações de gênero [Child rape in 19th-century São Paulo: gender relations], História [Brazil] 14:139-52

[2] Wagley, Ch. (1953) Amazon Town. 1964 ed., New York: A. A. Knopf

[3] Willems, E. (1953) The Structure of the Brazilian Family, Social Forces 31,4:339-45

[4] Donald, P. (1954) The Family in Brazil, Marriage & Fam Living 16,4: 308-14

[5] Sardenberg, C. M. B. (1994) De sangrias, tabus e poderes: a menstruacao numa perspectiva socio-antropologica [Of Bloodletting, Taboos and Powers: Menstruation from a Socioanthropological Perspective], Estud Feministas 2,2:314-44

[6] Correa, M. (1994) The Construction of Sexuality among Adolescents: A Study of Two Different Groups in The City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Paper for XIII World Congress of Sociology, also Published in Pfeffer, G. & Behera, D. (Eds) Contemporary Society: Childhood and Complex Order. New Delhi: Manak

[7] Neuhouser, K. (1998) “If I Had Abandoned My Children”: Community Mobilization and Commitment to the Identity of Mother in Northeast Brazil, Social Forces 77,1:331-58

[8] Barker, G. & Loewenstein, I. (1997) Where the boys are: Attitudes related to masculinity, fatherhood and violence toward women among low income adolescent and young adult males in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Youth & Society, 29,2:166-96

[9] Parker, R. G. (1995) Changing Brazilian Constructions of Homosexuality, in Murray, S. O. (Ed.) Latin American Male Homosexualities. Albuquerque: University of  New Mexico Press, p241-55

[10] Ribeiro, M. O. (1989) [The feelings and reactions of the nursing student facing situations related to children’s sexuality], Rev Escola Enfermagem U S P 23,2:3-19

[11] Rosen, B. C. (1962) Socialization and Achievement Motivation in Brazil, Am Sociol Rev 27,5:612-24

[12] Whitam, F. L. & Mathy, R. M. (1986) Male Homosexuality in Four Societies. New York [etc.]: Praeger; Whitam, F. L (1980) The prehomosexual male child in three societies: The United States, Guatemala, Brazil, Arch Sex Behav 9:87-99

[13] Leite, R., Buoncompagno, E. et al. (1994) Psychosexual characteristics of female university students in Brazil, Adolecence 29,114:439-60; Leite, R. & Buoncompagno, E. (1995) Psychosexual characteristics of male university students in Brazil, Adolecence 30,118:363-80

[14] Porto, S. O., Cardoso, D. D., Queiroz, D. A., Rosa, H., Andrade, A. L., Zicker, F. & Martelli, C. M. (1994) Prevalence and risk factors for HBV infection among street youth in central Brazil, J Adolesc Health 15,7:577-81

[15] Rios, L. F. (2003) Parcerias e práticas sexuais de jovens homossexuais no Rio de Janeiro [Sexual partners and practices of young homosexuals in Rio de Janeiro], Cad Saude Publica [Brazil] 19 Suppl. 2:S223-32 []

[16] Paiva, V. (1995) Sexuality , AIDS and gender norms among Brazilian teenagers, in Brummelhuis, H. & Herdt, G. (Eds.) Culture and Sexual Risk. Amsterdam: Gordon & Breach, p97-114

[17] Raffaelli, M., Campos, R., Payne Merritt, A., Siqueira, E., Antunes, C. M., Parker, R., Grego, D., Halsey, N., & The Street Youth Study Group (1993) Sexual practices and attitudes of street youth in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Soc Sci & Med 37,5:661-70

[18] Whitam, F. L., Daskalos, Ch., Sobolewski, C. G. & Padilla, P. (1998) The emergence of lesbian sexuality and identity cross-culturally: Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States, Arch Sex Behav 27,1:31-56. Cf. Whitam, F. L., Daskalos, Ch. & Mathy, R. M. (1998) A cross-cultural assessment of familial factos in the development of female homosexuality, J Pychol & Hum Sex 7,4:59-76

[19] Whiffen, Th. (1915) The North-West Amazons: Notes of Some Months Spend Among Cannibal Tribes. London: Constable

[20] Hugh-Jones, Ch. (1979) From the Milk River. Cambridge University Press