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Rafael L. Ramirez
Victor I. Garcia-Taro
Ineke Cunningham


Caribbean Masculinities:
Working Papers

Rafael L. Ramirez

Victor I. Garcia-Tore
Ineke Cunningham

HIV / AIDS Research and Education


of Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico


.305. ~ ,

2002 The University of Puerto Rico

Published by
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University of Puerto Rico
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ISBN: 0-09633448-7-0

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Caribbean Masculinities:
Working Papers



The Editors


Culture, Political Economy, and Sex/Gender Systems:

Masculinity in Latin America and the Caribbean
Richard Parker

Refming Gender Methodology: Studying Masculini ty

through Popular Song Lyrics
Patricia Mohammed

Fieldnotes on Masculinity Research in the Caribbean

Linden Lewis



The Use and Abuse of Ethnography

Roger N. Lancaster


Masculine Identity and Sexuality:

AStudy of Puerto Rican Blue-Collar Workers
Rafael L. Ramirez
Victor I. Garda- Toro
Myriam L. Velez-Galvan
Ineke Cunningham


Power Games and Totalitarian Masculinity in

the Dominican Republic
E. Antonio de Moya


"Man Gone, Man Stay!": Masculinity, Ethnicity and Identity

in the Contemporary Sociopolitical Context of
Trinidad and Tobago
Rhoda Reddock


Ethnographic Reflections on the First Gay Pride March

in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Mark B. Padilla


Bibliography about Masculinities in the Caribbean




For several centuries, the human experience was largely described
and analyzed through men's lenses. Although the hegemonic
masculine conception of human nature and society has always been
contested, the predominance of macho ideology is an important
constituent of Western ideology. With the exploits of the conquistadors and the colonizers, the Caribbean, the region of initial
contact and exchanges between the Old and the New World,
received the impact of Western patriarchy. The structure of colonial
Caribbean societies, with European males at the top of the social
hierarchy, reproduced and reshaped the modes of exclusion of
both women and subordinated men. For more than four centuries, resistances expressed the voices of the wretched of the
Caribbean. Afro-American religions, popular culture, and spontaneous rebellions
are important
of those
resistances. The colonial revolutions of the mid-twentieth century
and the Cuban revolution brought important changes in the
relationships between the colonizers and the colonized. Caribbean
men became protagonists in shaping their own histories. Nevertheless, postcolonial politics did not change the structures of
inequality embedded in gender relations and sexual politics. At
present, such forces as feminism, the women's movements, and
the globalization of gay and lesbian movements are shattering the
patriarchal foundations of Caribbean societies. The deconstruction
of hegemonic masculinity as an oppressive gender and sexual
ideology is an important subject in contemporary
debates on
exclusion and subordination.
The articles included in this anthology represent critical approaches
to the study of masculine and sexual identities in the Caribbean.
The authors discuss diverse methodologies and research strategies
to investigate gender relations, power, and sexuality. Two major
topics unify the articles: the importance of framing research
projects from an interdisciplinary perspective, and the incorporation of race, class, and ethnicity into research designs. The authors
share a constructionist approach. Constructionism
upholds the
systematic identification of cultural and social processes and its
correlation with notions of gender and sex. This theoretical
approach springs from the understanding
that gender and


sexual identities are mediated by meanings, symbols, beliefs, and

norms. All of the authors included in this book are experienced
researchers in the areas of gender and sexuality from diverse ethnic
and national backgrounds doing research in. the Caribbean and
Latin America. They are members of the Caribbean Masculinities Network, a group of scholars studying the construction and
manifestations of masculine identities and sexualities in the region.
The network is affiliated to Proyecto Atlantea of the University of
Puerto Rico. The latter is a project that promotes links among
scholars working in the Caribbean region sponsoring joint research
projects, academic exchanges programs, and publications. The
articles were originally presented at a conference held at the
University of Puerto Rico in March 1999.
Richard Parker presents a synthesis of his numerous studies of
masculine homosexualities in Brazil. His central argument is that
masculine homosexuality plays a significant role in the regulation
of masculine behavior and is normative in the representations
masculinity. For this anthropologist,
sexual practices and identities are embedded in the culture and social structure in which
they are expressed. Echoing other authors in this publication,
Parker argues that a sexual life is not static. He underlines the
necessity of studying the transformations of masculine sexualities.
Patricia Mohammed draws upon a srong background and in
the field of cultural studies to explore research methods for the
study of masculinity in popular music, with a socio-linguistic focus.
In her paper, she examines two editions of compact discs in which
Calypso is the predominant musical manifestation.
The first one
is a collection of twelve songs by Harry Belafonte titled Mati/.da,
and the second is a four-CD compilation with the title The Story of
Jamaican Music. The author analyzes the function of Calypso music
in establishing masculine meanings, the visions that men have of
the feminine, and the rules that codify the sex-gender system in
Jamaican society.
Linden Lewis studies masculinity from a multidisciplinary
stance, using concepts from sociology, political economy, and the
field of cultural studies. The methods used in his investigations
are field research and focus groups. The paper concentrates on
the description of his experiences using focus group techniques
with men from Barbados, particularly prisoners.


Roger N. Lancaster discusses the importance of integrating

ethnography, history and political economy in the research designs for the study of masculine gender and male sexualities.
Rafael L. Ramirez, Victor 1. Garcia Toro, Myriam L. VelezGalvan and Ineke Cunningham present a conceptual framework
and a research design for the study of masculine identities and
sexualities based on the concept of masculine hegemony and its
interrelationships with other masculinities, such as the accomplice,
the subordinated, the contesting, and the hyper-masculine.
E. Antonio de Moya makes a synthesis of his research in the
Dominican Republic during the last three years using participant
observation. He analyzes the diversity of the categories of masculinity that prevail in contemporary Dominican society. This author
asserts that masculinity is a totalitarian representation of gender
that produces a diversity of power games between men, intended
to oppress others while at the same time avoiding being oppressed
by others.
Rhoda Reddock examines the discourses of masculinity in the
two principal ethnic groups of Trinidad and Tobago. The author
underlines that the Afro-Creole and Indo-Tr inidadian masculinities are masculinities in competition, and that they are equally
fractured and unfulfilled because the basis of that society's masculine
hegemony is the Euro-American ideology. That ideology establishes
cultural dominion and the prevalence of whiteness in a Creole
and mestizo society. The data she uses for her analysis are calypso
lyrics and newspaper articles from Trinidad and Tobago.
Mark B. Padilla utilizes the ethnographic narrative tradition
to describe the first Gay Pride march that took place in the central,
historic zone of Santo Domingo in March 1999. He discusses the
events that preceded the march and the importance of understanding it as a transgression of the dominant gender codes in the
Dominican Republic.
The articles include some of the themes of the Network's
research agenda on masculine identities and sexualities, as follows:
Gender, Sexuality, and the State. Gender relations are a constituent and fundamental part of the structure of the State. The
State centralizes and institutionalizes gender-ba ed power. The
creative and regulative power of the State allow it to intervene in
gender politics and in the regulation of sexuality. Specific research
topics in this area are: the regulation and control of the expressions

of sexuality; the meanings of sexuality as established by the State's
regulation; and the resistances and argumentative replies to the
State's dominion over individual sexuality and of sexual politics.
Other research topics include the international influences in sexual
politics and in the expressions of sexuality in the Caribbean, with
particular attention to sexual tourism, and the influence of international politics on nation-states' formulation of population
policies and HIV / AIDS prevention and care policies.
Becoming a Man. The construction of a masculine identity or
the process of becoming a man is an important research theme in
gender studies. The topics included under this theme are: rituals
of masculinity and rites of passage; masculinity as representation
and performance;
and homoeroticism,
phallocentrism in the construction of masculine identities. In addition, researchers should study the influence of social change on
the masculine paradigms of the diverse Caribbean societies.
Representations of Masculinity in Popular Culture. Musical
expressions in the Caribbean are full of references to sexuality,
the relationships between men and women, misogyny, and homophobia. The analysis of the lyrics of the principal forms of
musical expressions in the region-salsa,
plena, merengue,
bachata, rap, calypso, reggae, suka, cadence-suka, tumba and calypso-stroke suka-provides
insights about the
construction of gender and sexuality.
Sexual Communities, Cultures, and Territories. The study
of sexual communities leads to the understanding of their common purposes, feelings, experiences, and goals in terms of
community members' sexuality. It is also important to study the
social organization of sexual interactions and the cultural contexts
in which sexual activities are shaped and expressed. The purpose
of research in this area is to understand the context in which
sexual relations occur and the cultural rule that organize sexual
practices. In the study of sexual cultures, we seek to understand
the relationships between ideal and actual sexual practices; public
vs. private conduct; and prescribed vs. voluntary behavior. Furthermore, the members of the Network expressed the importance
of studying sexual spaces or territories; meeting places to make
sexual contacts the erotic activities that occur there; and the characteristics of the participants. The identification of these spaces
and knowledge of the dynamics of sexual interactions in these


places are important for projects related to the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and for sexual education.
Male Sexual Practices and Identities, Erotic Desires, and
Sexual Scripts. Sexuality is expressed through relational scripts
and practices. Knowing the sexual scripts of Caribbean men will
provide researchers with a better understanding of the connections between desire, sexuality, sexual practices, and identity.
Violence and Masculinity. Violence is essentially a masculine
Although there are non-violent men and violent
women, violence is a basic component of masculine ideologies in
many societies. Other related topics for research are varieties of
violence such as physical, verbal, and symbolic; women's responses
to men's violence; and violence in same-sex relationships.
Masculinity and Health. Under this heading are included
the study of the relationships that men establish with their bodies, as well as how men signify the different parts of their bodies.
An important topic is men's sexual and reproductive health due
to the paucity of information in this area in the Caribbean region.
Male and Female Relationships. This topic includes the variety of relationships established between males and females at the
domestic level, in he workplace, and in other institutions of society.
The publication of this book is a project of the Caribbean
Masculinities Network. We recognize the contribution of Jane
Barnes de Ramirez for her careful edition of the articles' texts.
We also thank the following persons for their participation in this
effort: Maite Ramos-Ortiz, Anais Alonso-Ferrer, Mayra CortesPineiro, Rolando Guardiola, and Jenny Lozano for copv-edirving.
The conference at which these articles were presented, as well
as others activities of the Network, had the financial support of
Proyecto Atlantea, and the HIV / AIDS Research and Education
Center of the University of Puerto Rico.
Rafael L. Ramirez
Victor 1. Garcia-Tore
Ineke Cunningham
Rio Piedras, PR
August 2002

Culture, Political Economy, and

Sex Gender Systems: Masculinity in Latin
America and the Caribbean'
Richard Parker

Over the course of the past decade, significant new attention

has been given to the study of masculinity in Latin America and
now, as this meeting attests, in the Caribbean as well. The reasons
for this are multiple, of course, including the growing impact of
feminism with its problematization of gender systems, the gradual
emergence of gay and lesbian movements throughout the region,
the impact of HIV and AIDS, questions related to women's and
men's reproductive health, and so on. The consequence, however, has been an attempt to explore the social construction of
masculinity in Latin America and the Caribbean not as a single
unified experience, but as a complex field of meanings and
exchanges built up in quite diverse ways throughout the region:
the study of Latin American and Caribbean masculinities and male
sexual identities, very much in the plural, rather than as a single
gender category. The benefits of such an approach are obvious, I
think, yet so too are the risks: while it allows us to begin to explore
the complex diversity that can be found within the construction
of masculinity in different contexts, and draws our attention not
only to hegemonic masculinities but also to multiple subordinate
or subaltern masculinities found throughout the region, it is also imperative that we develop theoretical strategies and methodological
Portions of this text are drawn from a number of previous publications (see
Parker 1989, 1991, 1998, and 1999). For a fuller discu sion of the issues raised
here, s~in
particular, Chapters 2 and 4 of Beneath the Equator: Cultures of Desire,
Male rfo~osexuality, and Emerging Gay Communities in Brazil (Parker 1999). For a
presentation of much of the argument and the ethnographic data in Spanish (see
Parker 1998).

that will enable us to address such diversity in
meaningful ways, through both comparative analysis and a fuller
of the dynamics of power that structure the field
of masculinity-and
of sex! gender systems more generally. In
this paper, I try to draw on some of the work that I have been
carrying out over a number of years now on the construction of
male homosexualities in Brazil, and to examine the ways in which
this work might suggest fruitful lines of investigation more generally-in
particular, in relation to the countries and cultures of
the Caribbean that are the focus of our meeting here this weekend.
Like all of the societies of the contemporary Latin American
and Caribbean region, Brazil is a kind of patchwork quilt of diverse
cultures and subcultures that seem to intersect and intertwine in
the flow of daily life. This intricate weave of cultural systems is as
characteristic of sexuality as of any other aspect of Brazilian life,
and Brazilian sexual culture can be described as built up out of a
range of distinct cultural frames that overlap and interact in
remarkably diverse ways-and
that are ultimately central in
shaping the sexual experiences and understandings
of different
individuals (see Parker 1991). Responding, perhaps above all else,
to a complex interplay between continuity and change, between
tradition and modernity,
in the uncertain world of the late
twentieth century, these multiple cultural frames seem often both
to contradict and yet at the same time to intersect one another,
opening up not a single, unique sexual reality, but rather a set of
multiple realities (see Parker 1991, 1998; more generally, see Parker
and Gagnon 1995). And nowhere is this multiplicity more clear
than in the case of male homosexuality, which, in Brazil at least,
must be characterized
less as a unitary phenomenon
than as
diverse one--a
case, at the very least, of a
variety of somewhat different homosexualities
rather than of
a single, unified homosexuality (see Fry 1982; Parker 1985, 1987,
1989, 1998; Trevisan 1986).
In this paper, I will try to develop some of these ideas more
fully in examining the social and cultural organization of male homosexuality (and, through the organization of male homosexuality,
the social and cultural organization of masculinity more generally,
since it is central to my argument that male homosexuality plays a
key role in the regulation of normative masculine conduct [see



"-'''' ..~.

Parker 1991; see also Lancaster 1992, 1995]). I will focus, in
particular, on a number of very distinct systems of sexual meaning
that seem to structure same-sex interactions in Brazilian culture,
and will examine some of the different ways in which these systems
influence the experience of sexual desire and sexual identity. In
particular, I will examine what might be described as three different
dimensions in the evolving history of homosexuality in Brazilian
life: 1) the traditional constitution of same-sex relations within
the sexual ideology of popular culture; 2) the recent impact of
science, medicine, and the media in building up a more rationalized
notion of homosexuality as a distinct sexual identity; and 3) the
increasingly rapid emergence of diverse cultures or subcultures,
organized in a variety of different ways around understandings of
homoerotic desire, within the fabric of contemporary Brazilian
life (see Parker 1998).
Ultimately, I argue that male homosexuality-and,
by extension,
masculinity more generally-is
rarely static or unchanging. On
the contrary, my argument is that sexual life is constantly transformed, both at the level of society and at the level of individual
experience, and that an understanding of the transitory nature of
sexual meanings is thus fundamental to an under tanding of sexual
experience (see Parker 1991, 1998). At the same time, if sexual
experience is in fact constantly in motion, fluid, flexible, and in
the process of being transformed, it is also totally boundless (see
Parker and Gagnon 1995). On the contrary, sexual experience,
and homosexual experience in particular, alwaystake shape (in Brazil,
as elsewhere in Latin America, I suspect) within limits-within
complex field of power and domination, in which the possibilities
for transformation,
the freedom of movement experienced by
individuals or groups, the choices or options that are opened up
by different cultural systems are simultaneously shaped and molded
by relations of force (see Foucault 1978; Lancaster 1992; Parker
1991, 1998). Indeed, culture and power are best understood as
mutually implicated, and the task of seeking to make some sense
out of sexual experience in any setting is largely an exercise of
unraveling the strands that weave together these two apparently
disparate domains-of
developing what, following my friend
and colleague, Roger Lancaster, might best be described as a kind
of "political economy of the body" (see Lancaster 1995; Lancaster

and di Leonardo 1997) capable of offering some insight into the
ways in which the subjective experience of sexual life has been
constituted in specific settings.

In seeking to develop some understanding
of the experience
of male homosexuality in Brazil, it is fundamental to realize that
the very notion of homosexuality, as a distinct sexual category, is
actually a relatively recent development,
in Brazil as well as in
other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. While a whole
set of new (and rapidly changing) ideas related to homosexual
behavior as well as to gay identity have begun to emerge in Brazilian
culture in recent years, these ideas have mainly been the product
of a complex and ongoing cultural dialectic in which the traditions
of Brazilian society have necessarily had to confront and interact
with a wider set of cultural symbols and sexual meanings in an
increasingly globalized world system. Making sense of the ever
more diverse and complex range of meanings that organize samesex relations in contemporary Brazilian life thus requires at least
some understanding of the very different economy of sexuality in
traditional culture-an
economy organized less around the symbolic
value of sexual desires or sexual identities than around that of
sexual roles (see Daniel and Parker 1991, 1993; Parker 1989, 1991,
1994, 1998).
As I have argued elsewhere (see in particular Parker 1991, 1998),
this "traditional" system of sexual meanings is hardly a free-floating
cultural domain. On the contrary, it is anchored in a wider set of
meanings and practices that have come to be known throughout
the Latin world rather generically as machismo (see, for example,
Brandes 1980; Gutmann 1996; Lancaster 1992; Parker 1991). And
in Brazil, as in many parts of the circum-Caribbean
region, I suspect, it can be further rooted in the complex social and cultural
system that was gradually built up around a highly concrete mode
of production-the
rural plantation economy that dominated
Brazilian life for nearly four centuries, and that has only very
recently given way (if only partially) to the rapid urbanization and
that have characterized the past fifty years (see
Freyre 1963; Parker 1991, 1998). In spite of the rapid changes that

have recently taken place in the organization of Brazilian society,
particularly in the most developed urban areas, the heritage of
this traditional system continues to exert profound influence over
the flow of daily life, constituting a kind of cultural grammar that
continues to organize important aspects of experience even in
settings that would otherwise seem far removed from the past
(see Parker 1991).
Within this traditional cultural system, understandings about
the nature of sexual interactions can hardly be separated from the
social construction of gender. Indeed, the body itself, particularly in
its sexual performances, becomes the raw material for the construction and reconstruction of gender, just as the relations of
power that traditionally circumscribe and organize the universe
of gender become the basic structures organizing the sexual field.
Within this model of sexual life, cultural emphasis seems to be
placed not merely on sexual practices in and of themselves, but on
the relationship between sexual practices and gender roles-in
particular, on a distinction between perceived masculine atividade
(activity) and feminine passividade (passivity) as central to the organization of sexual reality. It is in terms of this symbolic distinction
between atividade and passividade that notions of macho (male) and
fmea (female), of masculinidade (masculinity) and feminilidade (femininity), have traditionally been organized in Brazil. In everyday
life, of course, these notions are constructed rather informally
in the discourses of popular culture. They are less a product of
self-conscious reflection than of the implicit values encoded in
the gendered language that is commonly used to speak about
the body and its practices, about the combination of gendered
bodies, and about the classificatory categories that flow from
such combinations (see Parker 1991).2
The importance of gender-based notions of activity and passivity in structuring
both gender relations and sexual interactions between men has been extensively
documented. In Brazil, it was noted as early as 1950s by Jose Fabio Barbosa da Silva
(1959). More recently, the importance of activity and passivity has been examined in
a range of anthropological and sociological texts (see for example Daniel and Parker
1991, 1993; Fry 1982, 1985; Fry and MacRae 1983; Guirnaraes 1974; MacRae
1990; Parker 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1994; Perlongher 1987; Trevisan 1986; for
an overview of this literature, see Guimaraes, Terto Jr. and Parker 1992). A different, though very intriguing, reading of the relationship between penetration, gender,

Perhaps nowhere is this distinction between atividade and
passividade more evident than in the popular language used in
describing sexual relations, in verbs such as comer (literally, to eat)
and dar (to give). Comer, for example, is used to describe the male's
active penetration of the female during sexual intercourse. It implies a kind of symbolic domination that is typical of Brazil's
traditional culture of gender, and can be used as a synonym, in a
number of different contexts, for verbs such as possuir (to possess)
or veneer (to vanquish). Oar, on the other hand, is used to describe
the female's supposedly passive submission to her male partner,
her role of being penetrated during intercourse. Just as comer is
used to describe various forms of domination through reference
to the relations of gender, dar can be used to imply submission,
subjugation, and passivity. Drawing, then, on these categories (and
any number of others that function in precisely the same way),
the sexual universe is continually structured and restructured, in
even the simplest and most common verbal exchanges, along the
lines of a rigid hierarchy: a distinction between sexual atividade
and passividade that is translated into relations of power and
domination between machos and jemeas, between homens (men)
and mulheres (women). What is particularly important to understand, however, is not simply the structure of this hierarchy, but
the fact that, within the traditional context of popular culture, it
has been used to organize and to conceptualize sexual relations
both between members of opposite sexes and between members
of the same sex. The symbolic structure of male/female interactions seems to function in many ways as a kind of model for the
organization of same-sex interactions in Brazilian culture. Within
the terms of this model, what is centrally important is perhaps
less the shared biological sex of the participants than the social!
sexual roles that they play out-their
atividade or passividade as
sexual partners and social persons. The homem who enters into a
and sexuality has also been developed by Kulick in his work on transvestites in
Salvador (see Kulick 1997). Variations on the theme of activity/passivity have been
amply documented
Latin America (see for example Adam 1987;
Almoguer 1991; Alonso and Koreck 1989; Bao 1993; Block and Ligouri 1992;
Caceres 1996; Carballo-Dieguez 1989, 1995; Carrier 1971. 1985. 1995; lancaster
1988. 1992. 1995; Llgouri, Block and Aggleton 1996; Lumsden 1991, 1996;
Murray 1992. 1995; Prieur 1996, 1998; Taylor 1985; Whitam and Mathy 1986;
Wilson 1995). as well as in the Mediterranean (see Brandes 1980; Gilmore 1990)
and a range of even more distant culture areas (see for example Aggleton 1996).

sexual relationship with another male, then, does not necessarily
sacrifice his culturally constituted masculinidade-at
least so long
as he performs the culturally perceived active, masculine role during sexual intercourse and conducts himself as a male within society.
On the contrary, however, the male who adopts a passive, female posture, whether in sexual intercourse or social interaction,
almost inevitably undercuts his own masculinidade. By upsetting
the culturally prescribed fit between biological sex and social
gender, he sacrifices his appropriate categorization as homem, and
comes to be known as a viado (originally from the term, veado,
which literally means "deer," but is more commonly spelled with
the accentuated "i" replacing the "e") or a bicha (literally, worm or
intestinal parasite, but also, instructively, the feminine form of
bicho or animal, and thus a female animal) thanks to his inappropriate femininity (see also Parker 1991, 1998). On the basis of his/
her perceived passivity and internalized femininity, then, the bicha
or viado is seen as a kind of walking failure on both social and
biological counts-as
a being who is unable to realize his natural
potential because of inappropriate social behavior, yet equally
unable to cross the culturally constituted boundaries of gender
due to the unavoidable constraints of anatomy. Not surprisingly,
he is thus subject to some of the most severe symbolic and often
physical violence found anywhere in Brazilian society-an
of constant ridicule and shame, which serves to stigmatize and
marginalize deviant gender performances while at the same time
reinforcing normative patterns of masculinity and femininity (see
Parker 1989, 1991, 1998).3
Within the framework of this relatively traditional model, then,
there exists a fairly explicit cultural construction of homosexual
desires and practices. What is perhaps most striking is that an
individual's choice of a same-sex object seems to be, in some ways,
In spite of the general importance of the Roman Catholic religion in Brazilian
life, religious beliefs seem to have very little to do with the organization of sexual
stigma in this regard. On the contrary, priests and bishops are themselves the object
of gender-based stigma due to their lack of heterosexual activity, and their consequent
symbolic as ociation with passive femininity. Jokes or comments about the priests'
robes as saias (skirts) are common in daily life, as are allusions to suspected homosexual behavior.

rather less significant than his sexual role; less significant, in other
words, than the connection between anatomical and social gender
as played out in terms of the calculus of atividade and passividade.
In light of this, it is hardly surprising that central cultural
emphasis has traditionally focused on the problem of assuring
the atividade of young boys as they grow and develop. Typical parents may be unlikely to reflect upon the deeper psychological
processes involved in the formation of gender identities, but they
nonetheless tend to view the masculinidade of their young sons as
almost constantly threatened by too close contact with female
relatives such as mothers, aunts, and sisters (see Parker 1991).
Men, in particular, make a conscious effort to encourage active,
aggressive, masculine behaviors on the part of young male relatives-and
to reprimand and stigmatize unacceptably feminine
The consequences of this social molding of an appropriately
active stance (and of the stigmatization of inappropriate passivity)
become fully evident only as the child begins to take part in sexual
activities. Upon entering adolescence, boys or young men who
are perceived, from the perspective of the hegemonic gender
hierarchy, to have successfully built up (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 they progress
through adolescence and on into full adulthood, however, sexual
play with members of the same sex may not be uncommon, and,
indeed, in some instances may even be used as a way of reaffirming
notions of masculinity. For appropriately masculine boys, same-sex
play and exploration becomes a means of reaffirming one's growing masculinity, whether through the competitions of size and
force that confirm masculine virility, or through the sexual domination of younger or weaker playmates. At the same time, if such
play tends to produce a sense of masculinity by reproducing the
hierarchy of activity and passivity, it is not a kind of strait-jacket
excluding any possibility for freedom of movement.
On the
contrary, at least on some occasions (and particularly in private
settings involving only two relatively egalitarian friends or partners),
there may also be room to play with this structure of dornination

and submission, as long as an implicit pact of equality is basically
maintained. The space for sexual exploration is almost institutionalized through the culturally recognized game of troea-trom
(literally, exchange-exchange), in which two (or more) boys take
turns, each inserting his penis in his partner's anus (see Parker
1991, 1998). If the possibilities for sexual exploration are particularly
evident in the notion of troea-troea, however, they are equally obvious
in expressions such as Homem, para ser homem, tem que dar primeiro
("A man, to be a man, has to give [i.e., take the passive role in anal
intercourse] first"), wich are often used by older boys seeking to
comer their slightly younger playmates. Such experiences seem
relatively widespread and, as the very name of a game such as
troea-troea would indicate, provide participants with at least some
room to explore both active and passive roles (see Parker 1989,
1991, 1998).4
Assuming that the cultural system has successfully carried out
its mandate, such early adolescent play is quite explicitly not expected
to disrupt in any fundamental way the process of development that
will ultimately transform the young rapaz (boy) into an active homem
at the end of the day. For the rapaz who, for whatever reasons,
has failed to acquire an appropriately active stance, however, it is
in such adolescent sexual play that psychological disposition begins
to be transformed into a distinct social role. For such individuals,
4 There is some disagreement
about the rigidity of active/passive categories in
different parts of Latin America (see, in particular, Murray 1995). My own sense is
that there is probably some variation from one country to another throughour the
region, as well from more rural to more urban areas even in the same country. In
general, there seems to be somewhat more flexibility in the organization of active/
passive roles in Brazil than in the Hispanic American countries just as other aspects
of Brazilian culture, such as Roman Catholicism, tend to be somewhat less rigid.
Statistically non-representative
behavioral studies (based on more or less wellconstructed convenience samples) in the wake ofHIV/AIDS
seem to document a
fairly high degree of role switching, at least over the course of an individual's entire
life, not only in Brazil (see Parker 1994; Parker and Terto Jr. 1998), but also in
Mexico (Izazola et al. ] 991) and Costa Rica (Schifter and Mad rigal 1992). In our
work in Brazil we have found that although most informants [end to have fairhstrong preferences for one sexual role or the other, room for negotiation and
nonetheless also exists for a significant percentage of men. Unfortunately, much of the discussion of this issue has tended to confuse the analysis of
cultural systems and representations
with the empirical investigation of sexual
if the two were somehow one and the same thing.

the available role is not the positively sanctioned category of the
homem, but the negatively stigmatized categories of the bicha, the

viado, or any number of other regional variations, such as the

baitola or boiola in the Northeast, or the maricas in the Southterms that can only partially, and somewhat inadequately,
translated using "queer" or "faggot" as English-language equivalents
(see Parker 1991, 1998). As Roger Lancaster has argued with
regard to the category of the cochon in Nicaragua (see Lancaster
1988, 1992, 1995), the point that is crucially important here is
that the bicha or viado has a different ontological status than such
English-language parallels-that
they are produced in a distinct
sex/gender system, and that the circulation of stigma associated
with such figures (whether in Brazil or other Latin American
societies) is simply qualitatively different from the stigma and
oppression that mark out the space of the "queer" or "faggot" in
Independently of the specific origins or regional variants, terms
such as bicha, viado, or baitola all call attention to the centtal fact
of sexual passivity-which
in turn seems to translate rather into
an all-pervasive emphasis on the social or performance style of
the opposite sex. What is perhaps most difficult to understand in
this cultural construction
of the bicha or baitola, however, is
the degree to which the role is simultaneously stigmatized and
institutionalized in traditional popular culture. On the one hand,
the viado or bicha is subjected to constant ridicule and discrimination.
And all too frequently, such stigma breaks out into outright violence, socially sanctioned and approved. Yet, at the same time, in
spite of the very real and powerful stigma, discrimination, and
even violence associated with the bicha and the viado, there is also
a socially constructed space for the bicha in popular culture,
often in quite unexpected places. Any number of studies have
pointed to the importance of effeminate bichas in the structure
of Afro-Brazilian religious cults, for example (see Fry 1985; Landes
1946; Wafer 1991, and others). Much like female prostitutes, bichas
or baitolas can be found in virtually any small town or city in the
interior of the country or on the frontier-often
highly valued,
much like the female prostitute, for (sexual) services rendered to


the local male population. And in the working-class communities

and favelas or shanty towns in all major cities, similar figures can
be found, specializing in a range of usually feminine professions
(such as hair stylists or make-up artists), and surprisingly integrated
into community life. Precisely because the bicha violates the
traditional expectations of masculinidade in popular culture, then,
s/he is at one and the same time rejected and yet necessarysubjected to violent discrimination, and often to outright physical
violence, particularly in the impersonal world of the street, yet
also accepted as a friend and neighbor, integrated into a network
of personal relationships, in the traditional culture and highly
personalized social relations of what in Brazil, as in other parts
of Latin America, are described as the classes populares (the popular classes, i.e., the poor, in what is still an overwhelmingly
poor country).
Ultimately, then, this traditional system of meanings and
practices, in Brazil as in other parts of the Latino world, takes
shape as a quite specific economy of the body, organizing the sex!
gender system in particular ways, and opening up a determined
range of possibilities for the experience of sexual life. It defines
what an homem is and what he is not, what he can do and what
he cannot, what he should desire, and what he should not. It
determines how both opposite-sex and same-sex relations can be
organized, and the range of practices and identities that can be
produced around such relations within the flow of daily life and
the structures of popular culture. Bringing meaning and power
together in highly specific ways, it provides what is still today (even
in social settings that are far removed from the context in which
this system originally emerged) perhaps the most deeply-rooted,
and deeply-felt, framework for the organization of sexual relations
between men.

Sexual Identity
Even if subject to at least some regional variation in terminology and usage, the basic structure of the traditional or popular
model of sexual reality described
above has been central


throughout Brazilian history. As a number of writers have suggested,

this model seems to have dominated the sexual landscape in the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and continues to function,
even today, both in rural areas as well as among the lower classes
(many of whom are themselves migrants from the countryside) in
larger, more modernized and industrialized cities (see Fry 1982;
Parker 1991, 1998; Trevisan 1986). Indeed, quite literally, all
Brazilians are familiar with and implicitly understand the cultural
logic of this system of sexual meanings, even if they may not
necessarily use it today as the primary framework for the organization
of their own sexual experience (Parker 1991).
By the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, a number
of important changes had begun to take place in Brazilian society,
which would pave the way for the development of a growing range
of alternatives in the social organization of same-sex relations. In
particular, the rural agricultural society, where the traditional gender hierarchy and the active/passive system of sexual roles was
most clearly rooted, gradually began to give way to progressive
urbanization and industrialization (see Parker 1991, 1998). These
in turn, were linked to the emergence, and the
gradual consolidation
over the course of nearly a century, of a
Brazilian bourgeoisie closely associated with this growing urban
The details of this transition are, of course, complex, and have
been analyzed in detail in a range of historical and demographic
studies (for a fuller discussion and further references, see Parker
1998). For our purposes here, however, what is most important is
a sense of the extent to which these transformations in the structure
of Brazilian society and economy simultaneously opened up a set
of changes in the organization of gender and sexuality (see, in
particular, Costa 1979). Situated between the extremes of the
powerful plantation oligarchy, on the one hand, and the disenfranchised ex-slave peasant population, on the other hand, the
rising bourgeoisie (or perhaps falling, since it can be understood
as in many ways a spin-off of the plantation class [see Freyre 1963])
would be linked to the appearance of a whole new urban world of
increasingly specialized professionals-academics,
lawyers, and
doctors, educated chiefly at the old-world universities of the

major European centers, and responsible for much of what might
be described as the "modernization" of Brazilian social and cultural
life during the late-nineteenth
and early-twentieth
centuries. It
was during this period that the developments of Western science
and technology began to make their way to Brazil, and that a
whole new range of techniques aimed at social engineering began
to emerge. Disciplines such as social medicine and psychiatry
began to take shape and to exercise increasing influence over the
regulation of social life (see Costa 1979, 1989).
At least one of the relatively rapid consequences
of these
developments was thus the increasing importation
and incorporation into Brazilian reality of a whole new set of disciplines and
rationalities linked to the investigation and organization of sexual
life (see Carrara 1996; Costa 1979; Parker 1991, 1998). And
together with this process, new models for the conceptualization
of sexual experience would also begin to compete with the earlier
system of sexual meanings. In particular, a new medical/scientific
model of sexual classification-introduced
into Brazilian culture,
at least initially, through the writings of medical doctors, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts, and translated only gradually into the
wider discourse of popular culture-seems
to have marked a
fundamental shift in cultural attention or emphasis away from a
distinction between active and passive roles as the building blocks
of gender hierarchy, and toward the importance,
along AngloEuropean lines, of sexual desire, and, in particular, sexual object
choice as central to the very definition of the sexual subject. In
practical terms, this new emphasis on sexual attraction, on sexual
orientation, is itself the product of a new medical/scientific
of sexual classification, based on the invention of a new set of
classificatory categories-notions
such as homossexualidade
bissexualidade (bisexualitvr-c-for mapping out and interpreting the
sexual landscape. This invention first of "homosexuality", and then,
belatedly, of "heterosexuality" and "bisexuality" in Western medical
and scientific discourse has, of course, been documented at some
length by any number of writers (see, in particular, Foucault 1978;
Halperin 1990; Katz 1995). In comparison, the exportation and
importation of these categories outside of the Anglo-European

world has received almost no attention. In this regard, Peter Fry's
early work in Brazil was ground breaking (see, in particular, Fry
1982; Fry and MacRae 1983; see also Parker 1991, 1998). Much
still remains to be done, however, to begin to develop a fuller
understanding of the global incorporation of Western medical
and scientific rationalities.
By the middle of the twentieth century, these new categories
had become central to the medical and scientific discussion of
sexual life, and had been fully incorporated into the language of
law, government and organized religion as well, marking out a
world of normalidade (normality) and anormalidade (abnorrnalirvj-cof sexual saude (health) as opposed to doenr;a (sickness), perversdo
(perversion) and desvio (deviance)." But until perhaps the late 1960s
or the early 1970s, the influence of this new system of classifications seems to have been limited almost entirely to a small, highly
educated elite-the
same segment of the population that has traditionally maintained contact with and been most influenced by
the European and North American culture (see Fry 1982; Fry and
MacRae 1983; Parker 1991, 1998).
Restricted to this elite, notions such as homossexualidade (understood not merely as a form of sexual behavior, but as a class of
people, or even a distinct way of being in the world) had largely
failed to penetrate the language of daily life or popular cultureor to playa significant role in the lives and experiences of the vast
majority of the population. When my own research in Brazil began in the early 1980s, for example, a remarkably large number
of my informants, particularly from what in Brazil are described
as the popular classes (as opposed to the elite), were altogether
unaware of categories such as homossexual or homossexualidade.
These categories, as sexual classifications, were largely restricted at
first to medical or scientific discourses, and then only gradually
began to spread to more general educated circles over the course
of the 1980s, perhaps above all else as a direct consequence of the
emerging AIDS epidemic and the resulting discussion of such
biomedical and epidemiological classifications within the broader
To recount the history of this conceptual framework in Brazil would take a fulllength book, or perhaps a series of books. From different viewpoints, at least some
of this history has already been documented in studies by Costa 1979; Fry 1982;
Fry and MacRae 1983; Green 1996; and Trevisan 1986.


framework of the mass media. Particularly through media reports,

which served (often in quite distorted ways) as filters for medical
and epidemiological information about the epidemic, categories
such as homossexualidade began to become increasingly common
as ways of carving up the sexual universe and organizing sexual
experience. Indeed, in less than a decade following the emergence
of the epidemic, even relatively sophisticated distinctions between
comportamento sexual (sexual behavior) and identidade sexual (sexual
identity) advanced by social scientists (such as my colleagues and 1)
had become the stuff of newspaper reports and television talk
shows, offering a whole new, rationalized, and at times profoundly
medicalized, map for the sexual landscape, and spreading out, it
would seem, from the clinics of medical doctors and psychoanalysts through the offices of epidemiologists, the news rooms of
jounalists, the sets and studios of television talk show hosts, and so
on, into the living rooms not just of the educated elite, but of
Brazilians from all walks of life.
The growing significance of this new system of classification
can be seen quite vividly in the successive cross-sectional surveys
that we carried out in Rio de Janeiro between 1989 and 1995. In
1989, when asked for a term to describe their sexual identity, 50
percent of the men interviewed
homossexual, while fully 33 percent either failed to respond at all
or responded using popular categories such as bicha or viado. By
1995, the use of homossexual had climbed to 57 percent, while
non-response and use of popular classifications had fallen to only
17 percent (see Parker and Terto Jr. 1998). The extent to which
such highly rationalized and medicalized systems have, in fact,
become the key organizing principles for the experience of sexual
life on the part of anything more than a small minority is, of
course, a question that is open to debate. Yet the fact remains that
over the course of the past fifteen years, growing numbers of men
engaging in same-sex relations have come to define themselves as
either homossexual or bissexual, and the notion of sexual identity
(as opposed to sexual role) has become increasingly widespread as
somehow definitive of sexual experience. For better or for worse,
then, the increasing rationalization of sexual life has taken place
at a remarkably rapid pace-and
the question ofhomossexualidade

has been absolutely central to this process. A new relationship
between meaning and power has emerged, focused far less on the
relations of oppression and domination that are implicit in the
hierarchy of gender than on what, following Foucault, might
better be described as the subjectification of sexual life (see Foucault
1982; Parker 1998).
In its relationship to sexual experience, then, it would seem
that power has increasingly come to function not merely through
the ideology of popular culture, but through the elite discourses
of science and medicine-discourses
that have been incorporated
into Brazilian life through a process of cross-cultural transmission
that began to take place long before discussions of globalization
had become fashionable. Passed from one elite to another (in what
is, in fact, often typical of the processes of cultural globalization),
and then increasingly repassed through a complex process of diffusion from elite culture to popular culture, these once highly
specialized discourses have thus spread out to offer ordinary people
a way of organizing and understanding
their experience. And if,
at one level, this process can be understood
as a form of
subjectivization in which medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and
a range of related disciplines have come to exercise oppressive
power over the lives of increasing numbers of individual subjects,
it has simultaneously offered many lay people a vantage point from
which to critique the oppressive categories of the traditional
gender hierarchy. Indeed, in Brazil, as in the Anglo-European
world, then, the highly rationalized discourse of homossexualidade
has at one and the same time become a point of departure for
strategies of resistance aimed not only at the stigma and discrimination of the traditional gender system, but also at the notions of
normalidade and anormalidade that this new system itself has imposed. From this point of view, assuming the condition
homossexual not as a form of deviance, but as part of the natural
range of sexual variation, a growing number of men and women
have begun to challenge the otherwise hegemonic structures not
only of gender, but also of a scientific, medicalized, and ultimately
oppressive sexuality that has sought to define them as deviants
and to subject them to diverse forms of treatment and cure.
Indeed, it is perhaps only within this framework, with its articulation


of identidade sexual as a new principle for organizing the sexual

universe, that the very notion of a movimento homossexual (homosexual movement) or, increasingly, movimento gay (gay movement)
as a distinct framework for political action (again, modeled in important ways on Anglo-European
experience) began to emerge in
the late 1970s and early 1980s, and to take shape more clearly
over the course of the past decade (see Daniel and Miccolis 1983;
MacRae 1990; Parker 1989, 1991, 1998; Trevisan 1986).
The ways in which this new understanding
of sexual identity
as a framework for interpreting the sexual universe will develop
over time are, of course, impossible to fully predict. Yet what is
already clear is that it has come to offer an important new frame
of reference, in contrast to the calculus of activity and passivity
in traditional
popular culture, for the organization
of sexual
for the reorganization
of the power relations
that stake out the sexual field. It has opened up a new set of possibilities that have increasingly begun to be explored by both men
and women as options for building up a life course, and for taking
a stance in relation to the violence (physical as well as psychologicalor symbolic) that so often marks normal daily life.

Cultures of Desire/Cultures

of Resistance

In Brazil, as in the Anglo-European

world, however, the
relatively recent invention of identidade sexual as a new way of
organizing the sexual universe, and of homossexualidade as at least
a partial substitute for more traditional
or popular notions of
atividade and passividade in the conception of same-sex relations,
should not be read to suggest that nothing in the way of a gay
world existed prior to the 1980s or 1990s. On the contrary, a
complex (and only partially secretive) sexual subculture organized
around male same-sex desires and practices has clearly been present
in urban Brazil since at least the early twentieth century, and has
continued over the course of the past fifty years to become more
diverse and complex, particularly in rapidly industrializing
modernizing cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In recent
decades, this urban subculture has rapidly become increasingly
visible and multidimensional,
breaking down at least in part into

any number of diverse (though overlapping) subcultures, each with
its own particularities and specificities-multiple
social worlds that
might best be thought of as diverse cultures of desire, organized
around varying forms of same-sex practice, and, simultaneously,
as cultures of resistance, which provide at least partial protection
from the violence, stigma, and oppression encountered in the
outside world."
While this emerging gay world overlaps constantly with both
the traditional world of active vs. passive gendered relations and
the more recent elaboration of a rationalized sexual identity, it is
nonetheless also importantly distinct from both. Again, it is rooted
in a specific social and economic system, linked to the processes of
urbanization and industrialization that have transformed Brazil
into a predominantly urban society in a period of less than fifty
years and that have created the relatively new (at least in Brazil)
social space of a rapidly expanding industrial working class, together
with the relative anonymity and impersonality of urban existence.
Its history thus contrasts sharply with that of the active/passive
gender hierarchy inherited from the plantation past, as well as
with the rationalized homosexuality-heterosexuality
of the rising bourgeoisie. And yet it intersects with these other systems
as the constant flow of rural migrants entering
the city merge with the industrial proletariat in the living conditions of the favelas and the suburbios (poor suburban areas on the
outskirts of all major Brazilian cities) or in the vicissitudes of the
informal labor market.
Within this immense, often impersonal, and remarkably complex urban system, it has generally been more through their shared
sexual desires and practices, and the complex sexual geography
present within the relative anonymity of city life, that diverse types
of men who have sex with men have nonetheless been able to
find one another, and to establish a shared social world. The
symbolic center of this urban subculture has thus been less
psychological than spatial-the
cafes or bars, the plazas and streets
Until very recently, Trevisan's Perverts in Pamdise (1986) stood out as the only
full-length study that discusses the historical development of this subculture in
detail. An important history focusing on both Rio and Sao Paulo has recently
been completed by James Green (1996). Glimpses of this history can also be found
in anthropological studies by MacRae (1990); Perlongher (1987); and Terro Jr. (989).


where individuals seeking such sexual contacts were known to

meet. Protected, at least up to a point, by the increased anonymity
of urban life, a loosely organized, flexible, and constantly shifting
homoerotic subculture (or set of subcultures) began to take shape
in the streets of Brazil's larger cities at the same time that a
notion of homossexualidade as a distinct mode of sexual being was
beginning to form in the salons and studies of the well-to-do and
well-educated (see Parker 1989; Trevisan 1986, see also Green 1997).
Since at least the mid-twentieth century, then, and increasingly
over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, yet another model for the
conceptualization and organization of same-sex desires and practices
had begun to emerge. At first glance, this new model, organized
around homoerotic desire and practice, would seem to contrast
rather sharply both with the traditional, gender-based model of
active/passive same-sex interactions available in popular culture
and with the interrogation of sexual identity that had begun to
emerge in medical/scientific discourse and in elite culture. On the
contrary, it would seem to have focused largely on the eroticization of otherwise public space while at the same time carving out at
least partially protected safe havens in an otherwise hostile world.
Within this model, virtually any public space might become a focus for homoerotic interaction. Public toilets, parks, plazas, public
baths, and the like were invested with erotic meaning, mixing pleasure and danger in an almost constant game of ca~a (hunting) or
pega~do (cruising).
Gradually, over time, more private commercial settings began
to emerge as well, offering protected alternatives to the potential
dangers of homoerotic contacts in public settings. In part, this
took place through the almost determined invasion of what would
otherwise be perceived as non-homosexual spaces, such as (heterosexual) pornographic movie theaters in the centers of most
major cities. Increasingly, however, particularly during the 1960s
and 1970s, such spaces were carved out through the opening of
establishments focusing specifically on a gay clientele, such as bars
and nightclubs catering to homosexual patrons. Public baths that
had long been known, at least secretively, as the focus for samesex interactions
had to compete
with newer,

saunas that had opened exclusively for a gay
Like the world of homoerotic pleasures in public space, these
enclosed private or commercial spaces also took shape primarily
against a backdrop of sexual desire-concretely
represented in
the quartos-escuros (dark rooms) of popular nightclubs and successful saunas. Together with the transgressive pega~iio in city streets
or the shadowy embraces of the parks and plazas, this growing
range of commercial establishments
opened yet another set of
possibilities for the organization of same-sex interactions-a
growing, alternative sexual subculture, or set of overlapping subcultures,
closely linked to the rapidly changing realities of urban life, in
which sexual desire could open up the transgressive possibilities of
pleasure, at least in theory, at almost any moment, and could
become, at least for some, almost a distinct style of life.
If this urban gay world initially took shape in apparently sharp
contrast with the rationalized distinctions between homosexual
and heterosexual identities, however, by the late 1970s, and increasingly in the 1980s and 1990s, the histories of these different
models had begun to merge. The emerging, self-identified urban
gay subculture and the somewhat more tentative gay liberation
movement, together with a gay-friendly AIDS activist movement,
began to become increasingly significant forces in contemporary
Brazilian society. While this subculture continued to be organized,
in important ways, around homoerotic practices independent of
any kind of sharply bounded homosexual identity, in many of the
very same physical and social spaces (ranging from public cruising
grounds to bars or discos, saunas, and even the offices or meeting
places for gay groups or AIDS-service organizations) it also came
to intersect with the increasingly conscious and articulate use of
homosexual or gay identity as an equally important organizing
principle. Indeed, this emerging gay subculture gradually became
a point of convergence where the elite appropriation
of modern
and the popular reality of a
relatively open-ended erotic field of same-sex practices could be
brought together and, at least up to a certain point, integrated.
the 1980s and on into the 1990s, these various
currents continued to flow together and mix, increasingly merging,

in some cities at least, in the growing sense of a comunidade gay
(gay community) with its own traditions and institutions (see
MacRae 1990; Parker 1989, 1991, 1994, 1998; Trevisan 1986).
With the emergence of AIDS in the early to mid-1980s, and
the ongoing association between HN / AIDS and the experience of
gay and bisexual men in Brazil, the relatively gradual social and
political mobilization that had been taking place within the emerging gay community over the course of more than a decade would
increasingly begin to go hand in hand with intensive AIDS advocacy
(see MacRae 1990; Parker 1994; Parker and Terto Jr. 1998; Terto
Jr. 1996, 1997). In Brazil, as in other parts of the developing world
(and, for that matter, even in the developed countries), AIDS
would provide an important basis, as well as a significant source of
funding, for increasingly visible gay organizing and mobilization.
From the middle of the 1980s through the middle of the 1990s,
AIDS-related work and gay political advocacy would build upon
the substratum of the different cultural models described above,
ironically reinforcing the distinctive differences of same-sex relations as constituted through traditional sexual culture and the
growing sense of homosexual or gay identity as a key foundation
for gay community, and thus contributing in important ways to
the progressive formation of what is now probably the largest
and most visible gay subculture to be found anywhere outside of
the fully industrialized West.
As I have tried to emphasize, however, it would be a mistake
to view this subculture as nothing more than an importation from
slightly tropical version of the gay community as it
exists in Europe or the United States. It clearly has been, and
continues to be, profoundly influenced by external models and
forces. While this influence has increased substantially over the
course of the past decade, however, this gay subculture has also
continued to respond in a variety of ways to particularities of Brazil's
own social and cultural context. Perhaps nowhere is this more
evident than in its reproduction of traditional distinctions such as
actividade and passividade in a profusion of sexual categories or
types. Terms such as viado or bicha are reproduced and other, even
finer, distinctions are added. Effeminate bichas, for instance, are
contrasted with hyper-masculine bofes (which might perhaps be

"dtra e ") . M uc h t h e same
trans Iate d as "stu d'"s or, in some mstances,
distinction between perceived active and passive roles is perhaps
even more obvious in the increasingly prominent world of male
prostitution, where a sharp distinction is drawn between the travesti
(transvestite) and the miche (hustler)-between
an exaggerated
feminine figure who is associated primarily with a passive sexual
role and an almost equally exaggerated masculine figure thought
to be generally available for the active role but unwilling to perform
the passive role. An elaborate set of active/passive distinctions
thus typifies this subculture and underlines its relation to traditional
Brazilian culture (see Daniel and Parker 1993; see also Kulick 1997).
Yet even here, it is important to emphasize just how different this
is from the traditional model of the sexual universe that continues
to dominate life in rural Brazil.
In the emerging gay subculture, the implicit possibilities for
playing with sexual roles are explored and worked upon in increasingly conscious and intensive ways; the distinctions that characterize
this urban subculture are never seen as absolute. It is part and
parcel of the ideology that structures this world that such active/
passive oppositions can always be inverted, that bofes or miche can
be persuaded to dar while travestis and bichas also comem, and so
on. The overturning of such categorical distinctions is possible
precisely because, unlike the distinctions of traditional culture,
these categories are determined and defined from within the gay
subculture itself. The viado in traditional
culture is primarily
defined from without, stigmatized and labeled by members of the
wider society, and ultimately excluded from the world of proper
homens. Here within this homoerotic subculture, in contrast, it
begins to become possible to at least partially escape such externally
imposed labels and to begin to define or re-define oneself on the
basis of one's sexual and erotic preferences and within the community of one's fellows. And the company of one's fellows, in
turn, provides at least some form of protection from the kinds of
hostility and oppression that one might still have to face when
confronting the wider social world.
This sense of community comes through perhaps most clearly
in the fact that all such elaborate categories can be subsumed
under the more general headings of entendido (Literally, one who

knows or one who understands) and, increasingly, gay. The term
entendido had apparently been present for some time within the
relatively secretive, almost underground subculture that began to
take shape in the middle of twentieth century. It began to be used
much more frequently, however, with the great expansion and
the increasing visibility of this subculture in the late 1970s and
early 1980s. Since at least that time, it has been used by the
members of this subculture themselves as an all-encompassing term
referring to anyone who, to whatever extent, participates in and
thus, by extension, knows or understands the nature of this specific community. Significantly, the term entendido applies both to
those individuals who have adopted a strictly homosexual or gay
identity and to others who have come to take part in this particular subculture even sporadically, without necessarily limiting himself
to it or defining himself solely through his relationship to it. In
short, it is a category that can apply to individuals who engage
exclusively in same-sex interactions as well as to individuals who
engage in sexual relationships with both sexes.
Increasingly, the notion of entendido has been juxtaposed with
the growing use of gay, imported directly from English, and applied precisely to those men whose primary erotic focus is found
in their relations with other men. Interestingly, however, while
the meaning of entendido has been constructed as all-inclusive and
expansive, the use of gay, on the contrary, has often been restricted
and contested in a variety of ways. In the early 1980s, when the
term gay was originally imported into Brazilian Portuguese, it was
applied almost exclusively to travestis or other men marked by their
exaggeratedly feminine mannerisms, almost as if it might be understood as a kind of third gender category. Over the course of
the following decade, however, particularly as the discussion of
homosexuality became linked increasingly to the question of HIV /
AIDS, an alternative use of gay as a form of self-identification
began to become increasingly common among at least some men
not otherwise marked by effeminate dress or mannerisms-rather
unassuming entendidos whose self-proclaimed styles could be seen
as closer to those of Anglo-European gay men than to those of
traditional Brazilian bichas or travestis. Again, our survey data
provide some sense of these changes. In 1989, only five percent

of the men interviewed described themselves as gay. In 1993, this
had increased to ten percent-and
to 17 percent in 1995 (Parker
and Terto Jr. 1998).
These relatively different readings of gay life thus seem to
co-exist both in the homosexual or gay subculture itself and in the
broader world of contemporary
Brazilian culture, staking out a
set of claims on the territory of sexual life that are based on what
would appear to be sharply contrasting notions of the ways in which
such differences might be resolved. At the same time, the result of
these contrasting readings is in many ways less closed off than
open-ended, co-existing more or less amicably in both the public
and even the private spaces of this urban subculture, and looking
each day less like a stereotypical vision of Latin American homosexuality than like the rapidly changing sexual subcultures of the
Anglo-European world.
Indeed, increasingly, and perhaps somewhat ironically, the
of sexual styles and lifestyles drawing on quite
different meanings and assumptions, yet bumping up against one
another constantly on the streets or in the nightlife of Rio or Sao
Paulo, has begun to take shape more like the emerging queer
cultures of the Anglo-European
world than the world of more
traditional Brazilian sexual cultures. Peopled by exotic transformistas
and drags (drag queens), by barbies, (implying Barbie dolls, and
used to describe the self-conscious and exaggeratedly masculine
physique manufactured only through long hours of weight training
and aerobics), boys (boys, implying both youth and a certain
androgynous quality), and bichas velhas (aging queens), by travestis
and miches as well as entendidos and gays, by militantes do movimento
gay (gay activists) and interventores de AIDS (AIDS prevention
workers), this evolving subculture has in fact spread out from Rio
and Sao Paulo to cities around the country. A veritable boom in
what has been described as the mercado gay (gay market) has found
firms and entrepreneurs in such centers'exporting Festas (commercial parties) and Shows (musical and theatrical performances [by
drag queensj) to smaller cities around the country.
In short, what seems to have emerged over the course of the
past decade in large urban centers such as Rio or Sao Paulo-and

only to a slightly lesser extent in smaller cities such as Belo Horizonte,
Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, or Fortaleza-is
a relatively complex
sexual subculture (or set of overlapping and intersecting subcultures)
that nonetheless provides an alternative model for the organization
of sexual reality that contrasts sharply with both the more traditional
patterns of popular culture and the rationalized sexuality of scientific
discourse. At one level, of course, this emerging subculture is very
much the product of a set of largely impersonal social, political,
and economic transformations
taking place not only in urban
Brazil, but also far more broadly in the contemporary world. At
the same time, it is also very much a product of human agencyof often quite conscious action aimed at making, unmaking, and
remaking the world and the possibilities that it offers, and at creating options that may not have existed previously. While this
remade world may at times reproduce many of the characteristics
that are typical of both these other (traditional or rationalized)
systems of sexual meaning, it would seem to organize them and
link them to the formation of identities and experiences in rather
different ways. And it clearly offers those individuals whose lives it
touches a very different set of possibilities and choices in the
constitution of their own sexual and social lives (Parker 1998).


Culture and Power

Taken together then, these different systems of meaning

begin to map out the social and cultural space, or at least the
semantic boundaries, of male homosexuality in contemporary
Brazilian culture. At some level, it is tempting to view them as
part of a kind of evolutionary sequence, a series of phases in which
one model gives way as another takes precedence. Yet while each
of these systems is clearly tied to the others through a set of fundamentally historical relationships, the notion of a series of distinct
phases is no less clearly inadequate as a way of characterizing their
interrelation. On the contrary, for all of their differences, there
is little in the way of an abrupt break or rupture from one to the
next. In everyday life, in the lived experience of ordinary people,
they tend to merge together and interpenetrate
in a variety of

more or less confusing and often fragmentary,
yet also fascinating, ways.
What I particularly want to emphasize here, however, is that
these different systems of sexual meaning are also linked to a set
of quite concrete social and economic structures. They are rooted
in the traditional plantation economy that has long dominated
rural life in Brazil, in the emergence of an urban professional
class during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
and in the accelerating pace of urbanization
and industrialization over the course of the past fifty years. Yet, again, while a
historical relation exists between these socioeconomic systems and structures, they, like the sexual cultures that
they have produced, cannot be understood, in Brazil at least, as a
series of neatly divided phases-modes
of production (not only
of goods, but also of bodies and pleasures) that fall in upon their
own internal contradictions before giving way to a new historical
phase. On the contrary, perhaps the key quality of Brazilian
society, and certainly the quality that sometimes seems to make it
most difficult for (Anglo-European) outsiders to comprehend, is
precisely the fact that these systems in many ways continue to
co-exist even in contemporary life.
It is this juxtaposition
of differences, as much in political
economy as in the political economy of the body, that is in fact
the defining mark of contemporary Brazilian life (and perhaps of
the contemporary
global system as a whole). The glittering,
late-capitalist financial centers of cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo,
connected as they are to every corner of the globe by the velocity
of wire transfers and the shrinking nature of both time and space
(see Harvey 1990), continue to co-exist side by side with the factories
of a relatively early and still expanding industrial capitalism, as well
as with the favela shanty-towns, the largely domestic production, and
the street vendors of what is typically described as the "informal"
economy. Traditional, modem, and post-modern aesthetics and ideologies compete for space not only in the landscape of the city,
but also in the images of mass media. Local cultures are necessarily
situated in global contexts, and the connection
between the
two increasingly takes shape not merely through imposition,

but through rather more complex and multidimensional
of interaction.
Within a world that is simultaneously traditional, modern,
and post-modern, male homosexuality, as an especially important
element in the construction of masculinity more generally in
Brazil (as, I think, is the case in other parts of Latin America and
the Caribbean), has increasingly become a key point of intersection
between different systems of meaning and structures of power. It
is characterized not by its singularity, but by its multiplicity-by
its interfaces and its apparent contradictions. It is constituted and
shaped by a series of broader social, economic, and political
processes that are taking place on a global level in the late twentieth century. Indeed, it is perhaps the complex encounter between
local social and cultural traditions and broader global flows that is
most characteristic of the changing shape not only of homosexuality, but also of sexuality (male as well as female) more generally
today. And this encounter (as everyone here is surely aware) is
equally true throughout
the Latin American and Caribbean
region, even if its details may vary in specific locations. It is
precisely because of this, I think, that research on masculinity and
male sexual identity must increasingly be reframed and reconceived:
a new emphasis must be placed not so much on the definition of
masculinity and male sexuality within Latin America and the Caribbean as on the examination of changing masculinities and
sexualities as they are on the move within Latin America and the
Caribbean, through Latin America and the Caribbean, and as
part of Latin America and the Caribbean. Much of the most compelling recent work on gender and sexuality as they are lived in
different settings has in fact focused on breaking down monolithic
myths: Gutmann's work on the meanings of macho in Mexico
(Gutmann 1996), which has so convincingly taken apart the
singularity and the uniformity of machismo and masculinity, or
Lancaster's work on same-sex relations in Nicaragua (Lancaster
1992), with its reframing of active/passive role categories as part
of a far more complex political economy of the body. Indeed, the
most compelling work being done is in fact not the construction
of Weberian types, but the rethinking of local experience as part
of the wider world. Thank goodness, for it is only through the

reframing of our work along such lines that what we do can
perhaps be of some use in the very real struggles that are taking
place on the ground today, throughout
Latin America and the
Caribbean, as well as the wider world.

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Refining Gender Methodology:

Studying Masculinity
through Popular Song Lyrics
Patricia Mohammed

Whenever I am away from Liza, water come to me eye

Every time I am away from Liza, water come to me eye
Come back Liza, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye
When the evening starts to fall, water come to me eye
I need to hear me Liza call, water come to me eye
Come back Liza, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye
Come back Liza, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye
Standing here in the market place, water come to me eye
I need to see me Liza face, water come to me eye
Come back Lua, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye
Come back Liza, come back girl, wipe the tear from me eye.

This song dates back to somewhere in the first half of the

twentieth century, very possibly the earlier decades. It is a Caribbean
folk song, this song of undisguised love-a
simple yet eloquent
song, unpretentiously
declaring the mood and the emotion of
longing and belonging. Was it written by a man or a woman? Was
it written as a male song of love? I would venture to say it was
written by a man; "I need to hear me Liza call, I need to see my Liza
face" resonates (for me) with the sensual rather than, say, the parental cry for a departed daughter-although
this latter could
very well be the case. Perhaps it is the fact that it was sung by
Harry Belafonte, an icon himself of black masculinity, who
universally popularized such traditional songs sung by Englishspeaking Caribbean peoples.


The authors are rarely known for such songs as this and many
others that have become folk songs of the region, such as "Brown
Skin Gal" and "Jamaican Farewell," and the context must forever
be imagined. The popularity of a song is itself the extent to which
it captures the fantasy of the listener and can enter the popular
imagination, despite the class, culture or age group of the listener.
Several decades after it was written, this is still a song that catches
the ear. It tells about the vulnerability and dependence of a man
who has loved and who can openly demonstrate this emotion of
love. Yet, the popular presumption is that men, and Caribbean
men in particular, are not prone to, are not willing to, or cannot
openly demonstrate emotions of this nature-love,
caring, tenderness, tears-certainly
not for only one woman!

A Female Dilemma in Researching Masculinity

For the last few decades feminist research has interrogated,
deconstructed, analyzed, explored, and theorized about femininity, woman, and womanhood. By and large, there has emerged a
set of oppositional stereotypes and analytical frameworks positing
dichotomous distances between the two sexes, even while feminism
was itself attempting to break down the definition of the masculine
as sustained by a negation of the feminine. In this process of
unwrapping gender, it became quite clear that masculinity, the
subject against which inquiry took place, was not fully understood
either by women themselves or by men in society (Mohammed
1996). More specifically, perhaps, some aspects of masculinity
remained virgin territory. Gad Horowitz and Michael Kaufman
observed that
although the feminist discussion of sexuality is making
important advances, the understanding by men and women
of male sexuality lags woefully behind. Even among gay men,
where there has been a continuing
affirmation of male
sexuality, much more has been written on gay history,
identity and culture than on sexuality per se (1987:81).
If, today, feminism has progressed so that it emphasizes the
parallel and overlapping
study of masculinity,
at the same time


women who do feminist research may find themselves caught in a

dilemma. How do we step outside of the mirrored gaze of ourselves?
Describing this paradox, Helen Haste writes:
If I look into the two-way mirror and see only my own
reflection, I am unaware of the existence of my companion.
Furthermore, the message I get back from the mirror is only
what I present to it... the only way my companion can enter
into that image-can
be seen by me-is
to come out from
behind the mirror and join me on my side of the screen,
become part of my picture (1994:5).

Haste continues the analogy by suggesting that with careful

adjusting of the lighting, not only can we see the companion beside us, but also our own reflections in each other's faces (Haste
The mirrored image is a valuable one for the artist to see
himself and the other, and the ways in which the visual artist has
done so sheds some light on the form and content that others
adopt in the production of popular culture. John Berger, in his
classic little book Ways of Seeing, notes that in the post-Renaissance
period, when the tradition of painting became more secular, "the
mirror was often used as a symbol of the vanity of woman ... You
painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you
put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus
morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted
for your own pleasure" (Berger 1972:51). Paraphrasing Berger's
words: a woman looks at herself being looked at by the male; men
act, women appear, thus women remain the object, keeping the
male as the subject. As another extension of this return gaze of
the male, we can think of the subject treatment of the man looking at himself in the mirror by French painter Rene Magritte. In
Reproduction Prohibited (1937) he selects this subject, but the
reflection in the mirror is the rear view of the man's head, rather
than the expected return gaze and visage of the looker.
The challenge for female researchers in understanding masculinity is to do likewise, to play around with these images, allowing
them to enter as companion, or to superimpose themselves onto
our own shifting ideas of femininity. The same rule clearly applies

to male researchers in examining masculinity and femininity.
Then and only then may feminist epistemology move beyond the
more readily accessible cognitive categories imposed by a dualistic
When we position ourselves squarely in front of the mirror, it
is clear that some differences do exist between the male and
female, and for the most part these are celebrated, if not at present
necessary for the survival of the human species. These differences
are not only inscribed in the body of man and woman, but also
they are evident in the social scripts that we are handed from
birth. Yet both men and women find ways of rewriting the
narratives within the larger script of masculinity and femininity,
and have had to do so insofar as economic and material circumstances
dictate what each sex must do, and can do, in order to survive.
While gender roles and practices have, in general, undergone
tremendous changes over time, there is still a remarkable recurrence
of the ideas and imagery that keep gender differences opposed.
Apart from issues of power and privilege, which maintain hierarchies of one sort or another, dualism in gender also recurs because
the concept of gender is conveyed through metaphor, the latter
far more difficult to dislodge. "Our conceptions of sex difference,
sex roles and sexual relations are couched in metaphors that explain
and justify" (Haste 1994:11). In speaking of metaphor here I am
moving away from the use of stereotypes and referring rather to
the way in which "metaphors underpin our taken-for-granted
assumptions about the world ... Because we share metaphors, we
can share ideas" (Haste 1994: 11). Over the years of feminist
research and activism, I have become convinced that to change
ideas of gender we need to change metaphors, or rather these
have to undergo change in popular consciousness,
since the
feminist movement is by no means the only agent of change.
One of the most important ways in which metaphors are transmitted from generation to generation, by which they are kept
alive within a culture, by which they persist in this or that form
even when people migrate outside of a culture, is through popular
culture and its parent, folk culture.
The field of cultural studies and, within this, popular music in
particular, offer the opportunity both to explore and to appreciate

continuity and change. This field is expansive, including oral,
scribal, and bodily expressive forms such as dance. In a previous
paper entitled ''A Blueprint for Gender in Creole Trinidad,"! I
examined the calypso in Trinidad between the 1920s and 1930s,
suggesting that through an analysis of the calypsos written and
sung during this period one could trace the emergence of a set of
ideas that informed a generalized sexual culture and rules
pertaining to gender in Trinidad. By identifying this as a blueprint,
I am suggesting as well that such ideas frame the basis for gender
norms acceptable and unacceptable to groups within the society.
The singers and writers were primarily working-class men, contesting their own privileges with other men in relation to their
women as much as they were establishing what constituted the
dynamics of gender in the society. A very good example of just
this kind of blueprint being laid down is seen in the range of
calypsos that proliferated in this period. Two calypsos written and
sung by Houdini (Edgar Leon Sinclair)-"Sweet
Like a Honey
Bee" (1928) and "Woman Sweeter than Man" (1929)--constructed
ideas of femininity and masculinity that were popularly believed
in the island. In "Sweet Like a Honey Bee" Houdini sang, "the
Blacker the woman, the sweeter she be," prefiguring a genre of calypso
that would extol the virtues of one race of women in relation to
another. "Country Club Scandal" (1933), written by King Radio
(Norman Span), used a wife's honour to dishonour the husband
and established the calypso as the airing ground for sexual grievances of one man against the other, while permitting the space
for the slighted victim to publicly gain revenge. The same King
Radio or Norman Span produced in 1939 another calypso entitled
"Man Smart, Woman Smarter," one which we shall see not only
found favour with the local population, but also became very popular overseas and in the Caribbean in particular. The music itself
may have accounted for some of this popularity. Gordon Rohlehr
notes that this fitted into the "Swing" phase of calypso when singers, composers, and musicians were in touch with a wide range of
interrelated musics, dances and song types (Rohlehr 1990: 147).
! This paper has been submitted for publication in Gender, Sexuality and Popular
Culture in the Caribbean, ed. linden Lewis (forthcoming).

The task in the above paper was primarily to examine the
themes and issues that the lyrics of the calypsos suggested and to
deduce, from this crucial vehicle of popular message-carrying in
the society of Trinidad, what ideas about gender were being debated
and thus imprinted on the minds of listeners. I asked a set of
questions of such calypsos:
How do symbols of maleness and femaleness, ideas of gender
and difference, and concepts of masculinity and femininity
surface as representative of a population? Are these accepted
or rejected by the society? Does acceptance reflect the
condition and sensibility of the majority of men and women
in the society at the time? .. How and why are ideas of
masculinity and femininity and male and female sexuality
in a society becoming mythologized through popular culture
itself?" (Mohammed 1997)
In the paper, written two years ago, while empathetic to the
positions of both sexes in the society, I did not attempt to separate
the two as if they had two existences of their own, each with its
internal logic.
After two decades of my own experience of researching gender,
it seems to me that the good interviewer or researcher can employ very similar methods to research masculinity itself, either
separate and apart from femininity, or in dialogue with femininity.
The critique of a feminist standpoint theory offered by Sandra
Harding is still apposite.' It is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel
or to make the same errors that all research is prone to. What is
perhaps more important is that both men and women need to
emerge with a collective set of rules that guide us to also appreciate
the idea of the male standpoint. We must, at the same time, be
mindful of not widening the chasms between masculinity and
femininity. The sensitivity required of gender research should
allow us to enter another's body and see the world through his or
Sandra Harding, in a valuable paper entitled "Is There a Feminist Method?",
aruues the notion that feminist research had expounded a new and different
mcrhodology that must be examined with caution. Whnt femini~t fficthoc!olo:..'y
cmphasises is that in presenting the research data and analyses t hcn; shoukl he
ureatcr openness in expressing political biases :lntllimitations inherent in a pnrricul.ir research.

her eyes.' In this essay, I approach the task of looking at popular
songs again, centering masculinity this time as the fulcrum of my
gaze, while attempting to look into the mirror over my shoulder
at the shadowy one that represents femininity, through a glass,
More precisely, in this paper, I am concerned with exploring
methods of researching masculinity and examining data sources
for what they tell me, assuming that my preliminary analysis will
merely provide insights, if any, for further research. While the
general sphere of my inquiry is popular music, and popular song
in particular, my approach is from a sociolinguistic point of view.
Therefore, the lyrics, the singers, and the themes covered a re
selected for scrutiny rather than the musical form, which I am
not competent to assess. Why did I choose popular song? Because
I think that songs traditionally reflect the moods, ideas and feelings
that people have about the things that concern them at any
period. I refuse to buy into the idea that capitalism has intrinsically been able to obfuscate the boundaries between good and bad
Again feminism is by no means reinventing the wheel. Many years ago as :1
young student of sociology, I read and appreciated the research carried out by
John Howard Griffin (a white male) in a book titled Black Like Me. The researcher
:1n,1 author wanted to understand racism in the southern USA and what it was
like ro experience being black in this society. He was medically treated so that his
skin colour changed, learnt how to act like a black man in the USA, and travelled
inro the south as a black man. His first hand insights from being perceived and
rrcnrcd as black while clearly having had the experience of being white since birth
IIWC obviously
more intense than if he had had a second-hand exposure to the
sul-jccr. In this case, the idea of participant
observation clearly was taken to its
Il'giLallimits. I am sure there is research carried out in which women have dressed
:IS men or men have dressed like women; or details from cross dressers' experiences
could be vastly helpful here. Thus far, I have not had access to such studies.
-+ .-\ thought occurred to me while writing this about the capacity of the fiction
writer to enter the persona of either male and female. In this respect, the work of
Tennessee Williams has always fascinated me: The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcr
Nmned Desire are the best known ones, All of his characters, male and female, are
so convincing in their maleness or femaleness, disturbingly and hauntingly so. Hi,
aurhoriccd biographer, Lyle Leverich, also at one time producer of his plays, wrote
abour him: "His was the most enigmatic personality I had ever encountered
in or
our of rhc theatre. Accessible <1~Tom, elusive as Tennessee, he could be c.mdicl :lIld
deceptive, kind .ind cruel, gcncrl'lIS :1n,1 penurious, shy :1n,1 aggrl'';,i\'c, trusting
and suspicious. lucid .md rn.mic. Orten purposclv evasive, he seemed composcd ot
several personalities" (Leverich 1995:xxi\-).

the popularity of a song may depend on how much
airplay it receives from a particular radio station or DJ at any point
in time, those songs that become icons of a period or get repeated from generation to generation are clearly ones that have
captured the popular imagination and therefore speak to the universal rather than to the particular, thus coming into being as
folk culture. In this respect, one needs to limit the choice to those
considered popular by the public and by the producers of CDs.
Why is song an important choice for looking at masculinity? I
am assuming here that the opportunities or cultural expressions
available to men for communicating some kinds of emotions, those
generally associated with femaleness rather than maleness, such
as fear, hope, sadness, despair, jealousy, love and so on, are limited. In general, men may hug openly on the football field or in
those spaces where homosexuality is allowed freer expression. They
may cry when a child or parent dies, but not when they lose a job,
or when a lover departs. I am limiting myself, for this exercise,
primarily to the emotions surrounding sexual and romantic love,
itself problematic and indefinable, I know, but at least interesting
as a social experiment in research methodology and masculinity. I
started off this paper with the usual baggage of ideas drawn from
feminist theory and scholarship about the nature of masculinity
and manhood-the
male, particularly the heterosexual male, as
a privileged position. I am in a sense "returning the stare'" from
the male perspective, being as faithful as possible to the experiment as I go along, admitting it is loaded with conjecture and

Songs in the Key of Life

My data is drawn from two CDs, the first a compilation of
twelve songs sung by Harry Belafonte entitled Matilda, produced
in Italy in 1995. The songs generally can be dated before 1950.
"Returning the stare" is a phrase I have appropriated from Derek Walcott in
relation to literature; I find it equally applicable to the processes taking place in
gender research. "Because the native, the exotic, the victim, the noble savage is
looking back, returning the stare"-What
the Twilight Says, Faber, UK, 1999.
Another way of seeing this is that men are turning the gaze onto themselves rather
than primarily onto women.

"Come Back Liza" and "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," already
cited in this paper, are two of the titles in this album. The
compilation appears to be a list of songs that would qualify
eclectically as black folk songs from the Caribbean and, to my
knowledge, southern USA. The second set of songs I am using is
the first CD in a set of four packaged under the title The Story of
Jamaican Music, researched and compiled by Steve Barrow, produced
by Chris Blackwell, and packaged in London, rights reserved
under Island Records Ltd. The songs are dated between 1958 and
1967. Again, the songs are largely written and sung by Jamaican singers and singers from the USA, particularly as during this time the
music industry expanded as a result of these cross-fertilizations of
music from the USA. To my knowledge, the songs on this album
are all presented by the original artists.
On the first CD, Matilda, the first and title song among the
oldies depicts love leading the man to ruin.
Matilda, Matilda,
Matilda, take me money and run Venezuela
Matilda, Matilda,
Matilda, take me money and run Venezuela
Cross the water,
Matilda, Matilda,
Matilda, take me money and run Venezuela
500 dollars friend I lost,
Woman even sell me cat and horse,
Don't you know,
Matilda take me money and run Venezuela
The money was to buy me house and land,
Then she get a serious plan
Matilda take me money and run Venezuela
Well me friends never to love again,
All me money gone in vain,
Matilda take me money and run Venezuela.

Men are used by women for money, destroying the trust they
have in womanhood. Yet in "Come Back Liza," cited above, another man sings about his dependence
and despair.
Shenandoah, we hear the plaintive cries of a man bound to leave

his land, crossing rivers ... "Farewell my love, I'm bound to leave you /
away you rolling river. / Shenandoah I'll not deceive you, /away, we're
bound away, / cross the wide Missouri." While the origin of this
song appears to be Irish, in this version it is appropriated by a
man in the southern USA. The land becomes the woman and
the woman the land-the
song hints at deep commitment to
both, and the sadness and yearning for both are intertwined.
In the fourth song in this album, "Man Smart, Woman
Smarter," referred to above, we see a reinforcement of the biblical metaphor of woman as the temptress Eve, and perhaps an
appeal to fellow men to be careful in love.
Let us put man and woman together to
Find out which one is smarter
Some say men but I say no
The women got the men deep, they should know
And not me, but the people they say,
Man has always led woman astray,
But I say, please listen when I say
Women, smarter than the men every day
(CHORUS after each verse)
That's right the woman is smarter
That's right the woman is smarter
That's right the woman is smarter
That's right
Ever since the world began
Woman was always fooling man
And if you listen to my bit, attentively,
I goin tell you how, she smarter than me.
In the garden of Eden Adam built a home
When he settle down, Eve start to roam
Many a night he spent in pain
Whenever Eve was able she was raising Cain

You meet a girl at a pretty dance

Thinking that you would stand a chance
Take her home, thinking she's alone,
Open the door, you find a husband home
I was treating a girl, independently
She was making baby for me,

When the baby born and I went to see,
The eyes were blue it was not by me
The garden of Eden was very nice
Adam never work in paradise,
Eve meet snake, paradise gone,
She make Adam work from that day on
Methusaleh spent all his life in tears
Live without woman for 900 years,
One day he decided to have some fun
The poor man never live to see 900 and one.

Liberally laced with humour and double entendre as was necessary in the calypso form at this time, there is the underlying
expression of fear and mistrust-men
are forever being outsmarted by women. At the base of this fear is the mistrust of the
sexual power that women have and of female sexuality, the latter
linked to the biblical notions of Good versus Evil, separating God
who is Good from Satan who is Evil. Woman does not resist the
temptation of the Devil in the garden of paradise, according to
the Christian creation story of western society, therefore her name
and character are a subset of the Devil. She is Eve, temptress and
seductress, not to be trusted, separated from man who has, because of his will-power and strength, been able to resist temptation.
While continually resisting it, men are, at the same time, still prey
to her wiles and become servants to it-"She
make Adam work
from that day on." Yet another song that follows, "Hallelujah, I Just
Love Her So," is an unselfconscious song of trust in a woman, a
song of the need for and the companionship of a woman, even in
the face of possible warnings about putting all of your eggs in one
Let me tell you bout a girl I know
She's my baby and she lives next door
Every morning before the sun comes up
She brings my coffee in my favourite cup
So I know, yes I know
Hallelujah, Ijust love her so
When I'm in trouble and got no friends
I know she will be with me until the end

Everybody asks me how I know
I smile and tell them I just know.

"Take My Mother Home" is another song that supports the

popular notions of love between mother and son. This one is
again conveyed through a biblical allusion to the relationship between Mary and Jesus who, when he was about to be nailed to the
cross, thought about his mother: "1 think 1 heard him say when he
was struggling up the hill / 1 think 1 heard him say / take my mother
home / then I'll die easy / take my mother home."
Three of the songs on this CD are slave gang work songs. The
tenth song is "Turn Around":
Where are you going my little one, little one?
Where are you going my baby, my own?
Turn around, and you're two, turn around you're four
Turn around you're a young girl going out of the door
Where are you going my little one, little one?
Little dirndls and petticoats
Turn around and you're tiny
Turn around and you're grown
Turn around and you're a young wife with babes of your own.

Again we see the unselfconscious love song of a man for his

children (in this case his daughter), the idea of parental love and
caring, the brevity of childhood.
Song eleven, "Jamaica Farewell," is one of the most popular
Caribbean folk songs:
Down away where the nights are gay
And the sun shines daily on the mountain top
I took a trip on a sailing ship
And when I reach Jamaica I made a stop
But I'm sad to say, I'm on my way,
Won't be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town.
Down at the market you can hear
Ladies cry out while on their head they bear
Ackee rice, saltfish are nice and the rum is fine anytime
But I'm sad to say, I'm on my way,
Won't be back for many a day


My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.
Sounds of laughter everywhere
And the dancing girls sway to and fro
Imust declare that my heart is there
Though I haq'e been from Maine to Mexico
I am sad to say, I'm on my way,
Won't be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.
The words resound with the history of the islands, peopled by
migrant groups, the transience of a migrant culture, and the
impact on relationships, particularly on sexual relationships. Men
were dominant among the earlier travelers and migrants coming
in and going out. This is also the sound of the sailor who may find
a woman in every port, but he is not indifferent to the land that
again he must leave. There is the universal theme of migration
and departure, of romantic interludes that appear fleeting but
leave their mark on the one who departs as they do on the one
who remains.
Of the twelve songs on this CD, eight are different expressions of male emotions in relation to the woman. Love is
dependence, longing, the loneliness of distance and of leaving;
love is paternal or that of a son towards mother; love is both eras
and agape. Love is also afraid of woman and woman's controlboth "Matilda" and "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" echo distrust
of women and are recurrent themes, particularly in calypsos. Love
is also kind, respectful of difference and of what womanhood may
affection and partnership, continuity and rootedness.
The second CD, The Story of Jamaican Music, contains 27 songs
that were recorded between 1958 and 1967. Three songs are
joyful rhythmical songs, or music reflecting the changing beat of
the time: "Boogie in My Bones" by Laurel Aitken, "Ba Ba Boom"
by The Jamaicans, and "Man in the Street" by Don Drummond.
The last is particularly interesting because another nine songs are
strictly about what it takes to be a man of the period.

Several other songs, including "Forward March" by Derrick
Morgan and "Carry Go Bring Home" by Justin Hines and the
Dominoes, deal with the issues of the time of nationalism and
In one of these, "Queen: Majesty" by The Techniques (Queen majesty / may I speak with you / So much I long to
speak to you / True Iagree, Iam not of your society / Iam not a king just
a minister / with my songs for you I'll sing .... / Though you are a queen
I see love in your eyes / I love you too / Your majesty), woman and
nation appear to be conflated. It must be recalled that this period
also coincides with Jamaica's independence from Britain.
Of the twenty-seven songs, eleven are specifically related to
heterosexual love, and of these eleven, two are sung by women
and one is a duet between a man and woman. These must be set
against the nine that are defining masculinity, primarily a working-class, urban masculinity of the ghettoes where rude boys reign.
The verbalization of masculinity here is rarely in relation to women
but rather to other men, those in authority. To be a rude boy one
has to be "Rougher than Rough, Tougher than Tough," as the
song by Derrick Morgan indicates:
Rudy is in court now boys
Rudy's in court
Order, now this court is in session and
1 order all you rude boys to stand
You're brought here for gun shooting,
Ratchet using and bomb throwings
Now tell me rude boys
What have you to say for yourselves
Your Honour, rudies don't fear
Rudies don't fear boys
Rudies don't fear, no boys Rudies don't fear
Rougher than rough, tougher than tough
Strong like lion, we are iron
Rudies don't fear boys rudies don't fear
Rudies don't fear no boys rudies don't fear
Rudies agree Rudies are free
Yes boy Rudies agree
Court adjourned.


In another, "007 (Shanty Town)" by Desmond Dekker ("007

at Ocean Eleven / And now rude boys a go whale / cos them outa jail /
rude boys cannot fail / cos them must get deal/Them
a loot them a
shoot, them a whale / a shanty town, them rude boy a bomb up de town
/ a shanty town "), the influence of the movies and their impact on
defining masculinity clearly emerges. The song "AI Capone" on
this CD, sung by Prince Buster, starts with the long screech of car
tyres, and the voice of the man who walks the walk and talks the
talk: "Al Capone guns don't h'argue / Don't call me Scarface, my name
is Capone / Al Capone." The song is dub poetry, a few lines accompanied by music. "The Harder They Come," sung by Jimmy Cliff,
which appears later in the 1968-1974 period, is an elegy to the
rude boys who live vicariously through cinema and the fantasy
world created by the film, the western cowboy and the mafia gun
men who live hard and die harder still. Rudies must display no
emotion of fear; fear is an indication of weakness and therefore
vulnerability; they must be feared themselves if they are to remain alive.
Not all the songs on masculinity are tougher than tough,
though. In "Simmer Down" by the Wailers, the song is both the
warning of a mother to a child ("control your temper or else you'll get
no supper," as the song actually says) and, at the same time, a note
of caution and temperance to men themselves to "simmer down."
"I've Got to Go Back Home," by Bob Andy, is a reminder of the
loneliness of the new migrant in exile:
I've got to go back home
This couldn't be my home
It must be somewhere else
Cos I don't feel myself
I can't get no clothes to wear
Can't get no food to eat
Can't get no job to get some bread
That's why I got to go back home
There is no gladness
Nothing but sadness
Nothing like a future here
Igot to leave this land
I got to find myself on some other sand

Igot to go back home
Even if I've got to crawl.
and poverty combined
with hunger and
homelessness are desolating, and masculinity has suffered tremendously from the idea that success is measurable by material gain,
especially when one migrates. To admit to having to go back home,
a failure, even if one must crawl back home, is to admit to human
The mood of love songs undergoes a shift in the urban setting
from the fifties onwards, incorporating the new, perhaps less subtle
idiom of the age, and new beats to the rhythm of the heart. Few
women were singers or song writers at the time, and the two songs
that are recorded by women, possibly not written by them, are
very similar in tone and lyrical content. "My Boy Lollipop" was
sung by Millie Small and, in fact, became one of the most popular
hits of the period:
My boy lollipop
you make my heart go giddi.up
You are as sweet as candy
You're my sugar dandy
My boy lollipop
Never ever leave me
Because it would grieve me
My heart told me so
I love you I love you I love you so
But I don't want you to know
I need you I need you I need you so
And I never let you go
My boy lollipop
You make my heart go giddi-up
You set the world on fire
You are my one desire
You're my lollipop_

The other, "Don't Stay Away" by Phyllis Dobson, is essentially

If you knew
How much I love you

How much I need you
You wouldn't stay away
If you knew you are my one desire
You set my soul on fire
You wouldn't stay away
Now darling
I know you have got another girl
She treats you nice I know
She is even more beautiful than I
But if you knew, how my heart burn for you
And how I long for you
You wouldn't stay away.

Help yourself to the interpretation of these two. They are about

simple, uncomplicated, and adoring love that places the male on
a pedestal and at the same time is unsure of his total commitment
or love in return.
The songs by men run the full gamut of male emotion again
with regard to love. "Miss Jamaica"-Jimmy
Roses are red, violets are blue
Believe me, I love you, let's not be apart,
Cos you're the rose of my heart,
And sweet rose you're my Miss jamaica
You're my Miss jamaica
I'm crowning you myself,
Although you may not have such a fabulous shape

To suit the rest of the world

But you suit me, that's all I want

to know,

I need not know nothing more

You're my Miss jamaica
You're my Miss jamaica
I'm crowning you myself.

"The Train Is Corning" by Ken Boothe:

The train is coming baby
I said the train is coming now
So long I've been waiting, waiting for you
The train is coming baby
The train is coming now
And I am lea'l;ing on that train

Every day Iwait for this little hour
Now the time has come
And I want you to stand by me
Because the train is coming
And we are leaving on the train
And we will roam this land where we will both be free.

"Loving Pauper" by Dobby Dobson is interesting.

A young
man admits that he cannot measure up to other men nor provide
material things to a woman, but he will make up for it with his
loving. Its primary focus is on sexual love, but romantically put,
and in a sense a refutation of the idea of Sparrow's calypso where
the woman tells him, "No Money No Love." Dobson sings,
I am not in a position to maintain you
In the way that you're accustomed to

Can't take you out to fancy places

Like other fellows that I know can do
I'm only able to romance you
And make you tingle with delight

Financially I'm a pauper

But when it comes to loving I'm all right.
Don't show me what your friends are wearing
I really don't want to see
Don't tell me what your friends are buying
Cos money does not grow on trees
Tell me bout the tings that excite you
That makes you tingle with delight
Tell me where to hold and touch you
So when it comes to loving I'm all right.
You wear things I can't buy you girl
Or drive you in a GT car

If you're hungry girl I can't feed you,

On my money girl you won't get far
I got so many patches on my clothes girl
A hole in the bottom of my shoe
But if you prefer love
Then you got to tell me that I'm all right.

Sexual prowess is the marker of masculinity in this case, but he is
willing to listen and please the woman, and for himself, needs
reassurance that this and his lovemaking are acceptable.
The theme of men rejected or hurt figures again in several
songs. "Oh Carolina" by the Folkes Brothers was one of the most
popular, because of its very infectious musical beat:
Oh Carolina, Oh Carolina
Oh Carolina, Oh Carolina
Oh Carolina honey darling
Oh I am so lonely Carolina
Why did you leave me now
Carolina my darling, how I long for you
Carolina my honey, you know I love only y?U
Oh Carolina, Oh Carolina
Woman you make me cry
Carolina my darling, you know I love only you
Oh Carolina ... my sweetheart
Come back and make things right.

Here is a man who is willing to open himself up, not only to

the woman who forsakes him, but also to his peers-a
theme, in fact, to "Come Back Liza," but this time he is not crooning; he is more insistent, perhaps more confident in tone."
The subject of an extension of this paper already presents itself if you look at the
newest version of "Oh Carolina" released in 1993 by Shaggy. The increasing violence of language about and towards women perhaps needs to be analyzed in
relation to the changing tenor of gender relations and the gender system itself. If
compared with other songs, like Beenie Man's "Old Dawg" and "Girnrne the Girl
Wid de Wickedess Slam," there is a suggestion of a fall in the idea of virtue and
modesty expected of women, to more sexual love as opposed to romantic love in
the last decades of the twentieth century.
Carolina wine your body gal/Let
them know seh you have it to mad them Oh Carolina,
(gal 'pread off) jump and prance / Oh Carolina jump and prance / oh Carolina girl my
love, watch how she jump and prance
Carolina come boogie pon me, oh watch how she groove / Carolina come wine pon me,
oh watch how the girl groove / Oh Carolina, (gal 'pread off) jump and prance / Oh
Carolina you hav' fi jump and prance
Oh Carolina is a girl/She never trouble..and now she rock her body and move just like
a squirrel
Ah say oh baby girl I love how you move you just a rock to the rhythm and the rhythm
to the move / Oh Carolina ... Jump and prance
Oh Carolina girl mah love, girl/Watch
how she rock / Cause how she move it go
cause road block

are desired but feared in "Easy Snapp in" by
Theophilus Beckford: "Every thing you said, easy snappin, but baby
why you / When you walk down the street you break the guy's heart in
two / Easy snappin."

Similarly in "Happy-Go-Lucky

Girl" by The

Paragons, the woman is a teaser, uncaring of men's affections. A

woman who does this should

be controlled,

but is also beyond

What can I do
Imagine how many pride you broke
Imagine how many hearts you stole

Everyone in town knows about you

The life you lead isn't too good
I have tried my best to change you

Oh how much I would love to control you

Happy-go-lucky girl.
At the same time, quintessential man must not be controlled.
Like Don Juan in Derek Walcott's musical play lokerofSeville (1972),
man's love is "immortal and defiant as desire." In "Girl I've Got a
Date," Alton Ellis sings,
Girl I've got a date
And I just mean I can't stay late

All my life I've been warning you girl

You just can't be my wife
Take this from me I am free
As free as the birds in the tree.
Carolina wine your body gal/Let them know seh you have it to mad them Oh Carolina,
(gal 'pread off) jump and prance / Oh Carolina jump and prance / oh Carolina girl my
love, watch how she jump and prance
Carolina come boogie pan me, oh watch how she groove / Carolina come wine pan me,
oh watch how the girl groove / Oh Carolina, (gal 'pread off) jump and prance / Oh
Carolina you hav' fi jump and prance
Oil Carolina is a girl/She never trouble..and now she rock her body and move just like
a squirrel
Ail say oil baby girl I lOIJehow you move you just a rock to the rhythm and the rhythm
to the move / Oh Carolina ... lump and prance
Oh Carolina girl mah love, girl/Watch
how she rock / Cause how she move it go
cause road block.

The Joker of Seville ends with the song of the caged bird who sings,
"every heart has the right to its freedom." Walcott does not distinguish
here the male from the female heart.
A duet sung by Derrick and Patsy, titled strangely enough,
"Housewife's Choice," consists simply of two lines, the first sung
by Derrick: "You don't know how much I love you, or else darling you
wouldn't have made me cry" and the second a response by Patsy:
"Hush darling, you should know I love you, as my heart, dear, is trembling like a leaf."

Reflections in the mirror

There is a recurrence here of the symbolic differences between
the male and female capacity to love. Men love but cannot be
caged or controlled; women's love is always a salve for the pain
experienced by manhood, which requires an unfearing approach
to the rigours of life on the streets/public life, unprotected by the
"safety" within the domestic walls. Women's love, as men interpret it, must therefore be purer, less cumbersome, although not
completely comprehensible to men. There is no recurrent assumption here that women are smarter than men, but the idea that
they are capable of intlicting hurt on men is evident. Women, in
turn, are not viewed as capable of being similarly hurt. The
cosmetic simplicity of female emotions as expressed by the three
female singers reinforces the notion of women's powerlessness in
the face of male sexual attractiveness.
In the economics of a
contemporary sex/gender system, the exchange and scarcity is not
that of women, but of men. The resource being exchanged
between women is the male phallus, for pleasure, rather than
monetary gain as "Loving Pauper" expresses, since erotic satisfaction
is wrapped up in romantic love-ribbons without the responsibilities that this requires for satisfying other needs. Women's power
over men, the idea of sexual gratification through heterosexual
sex and the romantic monogamy assumed in women is turned
other words, men are the prize sought for by women;
this is a narrative that men share among themselves, and one
which is a key to the definition of masculinity in society.

Sexual love is expressed by the capacity of man to fulfill erotic
desires rather than other needs that women may have, particularly
as we move into the second half of the century. Man is no longer
to be merely viewed as protector and provider, if he ever was
(whoever deciphered this script needs to be interrogated here as
well). This is possibly an unconscious response to the recurrent
theme expressed in the early decades of calypso, woman's cry of
"No Money No Love" (Sparrow). Nonetheless, in "Happy-Go-Lucky
Girl," the notion of in-control and controlling women still persists.
The contradictions
of manhood in this particular context of Jamaican urban society, in which a tradition of matrifocaliry in
kinship relations has already begun to make its mark on the gender
system, resonate with some ideas raised by Gayle Rubin in The
Traffic in Women. Rubin suggests that the exchange of women
becomes an obfuscation of the issues pertaining to power broking
in gender systerns-c-even in patrilineal societies, male power must
still be passed through women who give birth to men (Rubin 1975).
The power of women resides not merely in their sexuality, but
in their mothering role. The powers of men as protector and
father are both combined. Women may change from a father
protector to a husband protector, while mothering itself does not
seem to undergo such transference. What is masculinity to do in
the face of such odds? They must, in the first place, be born of
woman (biological/biblical resonances), then be individuated from
woman (psychoanalytic-object
relations theory), and must also
contend with the male/male bonds necessary for survival and
themselves complicated by same-sex desire. I raise these points for
discussion rather than as definitive findings on masculinity, male
sexuality, and love.
Why men write love songs, however, needs to be considered.
The notions thrown out here are that men who do so are more
poetic, more romantic, or more in touch with their feelings. It
might also be that the boundaries of macho-masculinity
do not
allow this-little
boys are socialized not to cry or demonstrate
emotions, therefore big boys have to find alternative means to do
so. At the same time love songs, as with any literature written by
men, mu t be viewed as a way in which masculinity chooses to
refine and redefine sensibilities of gender and the rules that guide

the gender system in any society. We need to consider the extent to
which rigorous analysis of the popular song can, in fact, demonstrate
more than we deduce from it at present.
Finally, I do want to foreground my own reflections in this
mirror of why women may want to study masculinity. That I know
what it is to be woman has made it both easier for me to empathize
with women, and at the same time, to be discerning about women
and womanhood--dearly
more in my own culture than elsewhere,
since there are specific cultural issues involved here. That the study
of the other has been used as a powerful tool to control, must be
contemplated. What are we to gain from studying masculinity and
men? Is this another feminist ploy for control over masculinity
and manhood, for regaining power lost in some previous era, for
"knowing the enemy"! These are all arguments against. What are
the arguments for the study of masculinity by women and by men?
These may be different for each sex. I am not convinced that the
ideas are so apparent or easy to grasp, but am willing to engage in
a mutual and hopefully rewarding process of exploration of what
it means to be different yet equal sexual beings.

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Note from the author:

I am greatful to both Jacqui Stevens, Assistant Lecturer of the
Mona Unit, Centre for Gender and Development Studies, and my
husband, Rex Dixon, for discussions on this topic while writing this