The arrival of hundreds of thousands of raucous male soccer fans in Brazil is sparking complaints from residents that tourists are treating host cities like a playground and local women with disrespect.
For the past two weeks in Rio de Janeiro and other host cities, women say they have faced an onslaught of aggressive catcalls and other inappropriate behavior on the streets in various languages.
“They’re so rude, they don’t respect the women here,” said Gabriela Steenbuch, a 20-year-old Rio resident. She said the crude behavior is sapping the joy of the World Cup for her and her female friends who have come to dread encounters with boorish foreign men.
“They think we’re like objects on a shelf, available for them to call as they please, and we have to go or else be grabbed by the arm,” she said.
Brazil has long grappled with overtly sexual stereotypes of its women. Rio, for example, often finds itself on lists of the world’s top sin cities, in part because of its famous Carnival parades in which dancers compete in fantastical costumes that leave little to the imagination.
Such an image is a contradiction in the world’s largest Catholic country, where more conservative attitudes toward sex are growing, especially with Protestantism on the rise. Though Brazilian couples may be more open about kissing and other public displays of affection, traditional values in romantic and sexual relationships still prevail.