Traditional Christians welcome the first day of Lent with modest practices, such as attending mass. Not the Brazilians. The Brazilian Carnaval is a five day extravaganza of nonstop music and sexual decadence that ends the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The celebration itself is believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia which, in Christian terms, is a final celebration before committing to sexual dormancy for purposes of religious discipline. Brazil is often characterized by outsiders as having a sexually inclined culture, whether it is the impressive physical looks of Brazilians, their cultural openness towards sexuality, or that a source of national pride is bedroom performances. The possibility that Brazilian sexuality could be undermined by any form of psychosexual dysfunction counters what people view the Brazilian sexual identity to be. Yet, psychosexual dysfunctions are common in Brazil. Because psychosexual disorders are rooted in the psychological rather than the physiological, Brazilians face many social, economic, and stresses of culture that may make them more vulnerable to suffering from psychosexual dysfunctions than most other cultures.
Sexual dysfunctions are characterized as a disturbance in sexual desire or arousal. Studies investigating psychosexual dysfunctions in Brazilian society reflect the profound influence external pressures have on psychosexual health of ordinary Brazilians. In particular, psychosexual attitudes are dictated by three aspects of Brazilian society: the political, the social, and the economic.
The predominant religion in Brazil is Roman Catholicism with 70% of its near 200 million population practicing Catholicism. The predominance of the Christian faith has had a powerful influence in enabling policies that support Christian doctrine and attitudes become legislation and become accepted by Brazilian society, particularly concerning sexuality. For example, in Brazil, abortion is officially illegal except if the pregnancy puts the life of the woman in danger, or if the pregnancy is the result of a rape. Yet, even that compromise remains a source of tension and has earned the ire of the Roman Catholic Church. In March 2009, a national debate broke out after Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho announced the excommunication of a mother and the doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old that became pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. This case demonstrates the profound influence the Church has on the legal and moral dimensions of such debates in Brazil.
Similarly, it is because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church that sexual education in public schools is generally nonexistent. One study performed by Dr. Sérgio Luiz G. de Freitas, head of the Brazilian Association of Sexology, demonstrates the psychosexual consequences of ignorance towards sex in Brazilian society. In this study, 150 women from a poor background in rural areas with no access to media or sexual education from school were being treated for anorgasmia. These women equated sexual intercourse with immorality as their exposure to prostitution and rape in their environment conditioned them to think this way. Although they were married, they accused their husbands of wanting to rape them as they did not believe sex was a healthy part of a relationship. As a result of these anxieties towards sex, the psychosexual dysfunctions, such as non-existent libido and anorgasmia, occur. Though these women do not represent the majority of Brazilian society as a result of mass media becoming increasingly accessible among rural workers, these psychosexual effects do reflect the impact ignorance has on mental and sexual health.
Brazilian society is consistent in rural and urban sectors in their shared belief in machismo. Males are viewed to be superior in strength and cunning than their female counterparts which results in better economic and social opportunities. As far as the psychosexual repercussions of such attitudes, it is a double edged sword for both genders. Machismo is partly responsible for domestic violence being regularly condoned in Brazilian society, particularly among lower socioeconomic families. This is under the pretext that males were correct to assert themselves over women if they had been wronged or slighted. From this abuse in women, psychosexual dysfunctions arise from the resulting depression and anxiety from this position of helplessness, fatalism, and victimization. And this depression adversely impacts female sexual drive. On the flip side, Brazilian culture exalts the virile man with machismo. Psychosexual dysfunctions, such as impotence or reduced libido, are viewed to be a great shame. This creates a self-defeating cycle of self-blame, depression, and anxiety in men which only serves to exacerbate the psychosexual problems. Worse, his machismo pride will not permit them to seek help openly.
[ad#downcont]Broadly speaking, Brazilians have a comparatively high sexual culture. Many rituals and ceremonies do not seek to hide it, but even flaunt this. But with so much meaning assigned to sexuality, it creates dangerous leverage for psychosexual dysfunctions to have on the mental and physical impact on Brazilians. Indeed, Brazil is full of contradictions that challenge the view that Brazilians enjoy the greatest psychosexual health because of their cultures openness: Lower educational levels, wide income discrepancy in Brazilian society, sexist cultural norms, and religious beliefs all influence the psychosexual well being of the Brazilian. Much as with psychosexual dysfunctions itself, it is the internal conflicts within Brazilian society that undermine the external expression of sexuality.