The Death of Dating in Brazil

Studies on socialization, flirting and dating in Brazil can be enlightening at times and so I found myself reading someone’s dissertation titled “The Stud, the Virgin, the Queer, and the Slut: A Qualitative Study of Brazilian Sexual Identity in Three Brazilian Communities” on Google Scholar (which I link to at the bottom). For anyone who has spent enough time in Brazil or around Brazilians, you might have heard of their version of having fun with no strings attached, which is not to say that all Brazilians actually do it but it does play a role in the ‘dating’ scene down there. It’s known as ficar (to stay) and the people who practice it are ficantes. In my high school years, there was a similar practice called ‘getting with someone’ (or ‘hooking up with someone’) which, like ficar, has a wide range of possible interpretations. When I suggest that ‘dating is dead’, what I really mean to say is that ficando has assumed the common role among 20-somethings and younger that dating once held. If the ‘hook up’ has gained such prevelence, where it once had from very little to none, then will its ‘market share’ just continue to increase until we enter a Brave New World where we ‘engage’ each other at will and whim?

“Chaves (1994) discusses a new behavior that has completely changed courtship among teenagers — teens just stay together, acting as if they were girlfriend/boyfriend, but have no commitment. Her study of middle- and upper-class teenagers in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Belo Horizonte suggests that this type of relationship which appeared in the eighties attracts, seduces, and corrupts individuals to the extent that it offers immediate and non-committed pleasure. If this kind of rationale stimulates the ficantes (those who ficar) to ficar with as many partners as possible, it is also true that male and female ficantes face different consequences for the same act in terms of reputation. For the male, ficar with more than one female in one night suggests he is a stud. For the female, the same behavior is not well regarded among males and may ruin her reputation.

According to the picture drawn by mothers from all social groups in all three sites, dating was quite different when the mothers of teenagers were teenagers themselves. It was strictly supervised and there was not very much they were allowed to do in terms of physical contact with their boyfriends — which does not mean there was no such contact. Dating was, in the past, the natural path to marriage which, many females believed, would free them from their authoritarian fathers. Thus, marriage tended to happen very early in their lives. Yet freedom was not always the consequence of getting married. As one mother reports, her husband is as authoritarian as her father was and, instead of freedom, she has moved from one prison to another. Her experience is exactly the same Freyre (1956) reports to be the case for nineteenth century Brazil, when females moved from the “stern tyranny of their fathers [to] the tyranny of their husbands” (1956: 419).

In the past, you dated to get married. (Catholic mothers, Montes Claros)

The other day I was talking to my aunt, she said she dated 12 years with commitment. She said he [the boyfriend] never hugged her, never kissed her. (More educated mothers, Macambira)

I married very young and also with my first boyfriend. I started dating him when I was 13 and I married when I was 16. So, I married to have more freedom, because in my house it was very much like a very closed system. I didn’t go out, I didn’t have any freedom. So I thought that, if I married early, I was going to have more freedom, and all that. It ends up, you know, with you going to another prison. (Upper income mothers, Montes Claros)

But lately people are getting married with this conviction that, if it doesn’t work, they break up. This is what I think. Not in the past [when it was different]. First people dated (…) and [then] married the first boyfriend. They got engaged before they got married. Nowadays the person is pregnant when [he/she] gets married. (Catholic Private School female teens, Montes Claros)

As the female teens from the Catholic Private School mentioned, dating today is completely different from what it used to be. In fact, nowadays there is more than dating or having a steady relationship. Ficar (to play around) has become a very common behavior among Brazilian teens. It means staying together and acting as boyfriend/girlfriend but with no commitment. It may involve one or more actions such as kissing, hugging, cuddling, petting, and having sex. If a couple fica together one night, it does not mean they are going steady.

Other evidence that suggests the difference between ficar and going steady is the fact that ficantes, especially males, do not necessarily care about beauty or the physical appearance of the other. The important element in ficar is just having fun. When asked about characters in the telenovela they would like to date, marry or ficar, many teenage participants state they would ficar with characters they would not necessarily go steady with or get married to. – Source (continue from pg. 12)

5 thoughts on “The Death of Dating in Brazil

  1. It would be interesting to study the differences, if there are any, between the dating scene in Brazil and that of Europe and America. I have observed the dating situation here in the States through my children and their friends, these past few years, and have seen the direction shift to a more “Brazilian” approach; more physical intimacy less commitment.
    Is this an age issue or is it cultural?

    • I think it’s a cultural issue geared towards the youth as the media literally updates them with new modes of behavior. The problem used to be certain teenage boys who always went after less commitment and they were well known for that. Now, it seems it is more acceptable among most teens across the board and since every two-person decision takes two yeses or one no to be answered, the girls are no longer saying no. This is the real shift, that girls are receiving two mixed messages, one they see as slightly antiquated, saying they deserve equal rights and consideration as their male counterparts and two, which is the updated version, that part of their perogative is to be with whoever they want, when they want. This new perogative is taught to them by examples in the media who parade around in music videos in skimpy clothes and who have all the decision-making power (Beyonce, Britney, Lady Gaga, etc). It’s basically a new female mandate that is more in tune with the go-getting career mandate than the nurturing mother mandate. Such behavior has been attributed to the rise of the so-called Female Chauvinist Pig.

      If one goes further into it, it’s possible to look at stages themselves. Things that are elevated on a stage or platform are to be followed and adored. Actors, politicians and priests. As for Hollywood, there’s the idea that it is the holy wood, or stick, with which the magician casts their spell on the public. And what do we call people in Hollywood? Stars, and stars are things we look up to in the sky, which navegators used to not lose their way. It is easy to dismiss such things but I prefer to remain open-mined.

  2. Great post! I’ve been in Brazil for 2 years, and I’m still utterly confused / flabbergasted at how relationships work here. Everything you wrote about I’ve seen, but you articulated it much better than I’ve been able to.

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog. I like the concept and look forward to reading more of your posts.


  3. Pingback: How the Youth of Brazil Fool Around | Eyes On Brazil

  4. Pingback: How the Youth of Brazil Fool Around | Adam Arch

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