The Pornographic State: Erotic Film and State-Sponsored Production in Dictatorial Brazil

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:20 AM
Cabinet Room (Omni Shoreham)
Benjamin Arthur Cowan, George Mason University
Brazil's two-decade military dictatorship (1964-1985) was characterized by fluctuating levels of state violence and of hard-line ascendancy within the regime. In many ways, the government's war on "subversion" revolved around right-wing reaction to changes in morality and sexuality--such that during the most intense years of repression, powerful rightists within and outside the regime viewed repression as a tool for stamping out the perceived liberalization of public sexual, moral, and gender standards. By the late 1970s, however, cracks were beginning to show in the government consensus on moralism-as-countersubversion. In moves that clearly demonstrated the "bagunça" (mess) effect--that is, disunity and chaotic cross-purposes within the regime--certain elements in the government promoted what right-wing and hard-line factions perceived as "pornography"--films, television shows, and birth control programs that offended the sensibilities of the government's most ardent, moralistic supporters. This paper explores the contradictory policies and the debates raging within the dictatorship at this moment, showing the ways in which "the" authoritarian state disaggregated even when it came to issues that had previously seemed cut-and-dry, such as moralism and opposition to the publicity of sexual liberalization.