Latinos seen as super-sexual the world over

Rudolph Valentino, “Latin Lover” of yore

Woo-hoo, I’m back, folks! I’m all moved into the new digs and am 95% unpacked. And being unpacked means I can refocus on work (teaching/research) . . . which in turn means that I can procrastinate in earnest and get back to blogging. Yay!

As ever before, I’m riled up about representations of Latin@s in the media–in this case, the international media. For this just in: 18 Again, a “vaginal tightening” gel from India promises to make you feel “like a virgin” at any age. Which, of course, is just what every woman wants because the first time is always so pleasurable and all. (Fun fact that I must mention here: my first time was with a guy who had the surname of “Laycock.” Yes, Laycock. I’m serious–you can’t make this sh*t up!) I found out about this lovely product from this post over at Jezebel.

So what does this have to do with Latin@s? Well, check out the video for 18 Again:

Surely you will notice that the couple at the center of the video performs salsa- and tango-inspired moves to a hodgepodge of “Latin” sounds, including strumming, flamenco-style guitars; bongo drums; conga rhythms; and even a shrill samba whistle, thrown in for good measure. Why is this music playing instead of something more specific to the culture that produced the product?

The answer seems obvious to me: In the minds of many people–in the US and clearly well beyond–Latin@s have a lock-down on all things sexual. Because we are by nature hot-blooded, passionate, sensuous, ready to bust out salsa moves at the drop of a hat…ugh. I find this stereotype so exasperating.

It reminds me of a feature article I read in Glamour back in the late 1990s. The title was something like, “10 Reasons to Try a Latin Lover.” The piece began by saying, “Fortunately, you don’t have to be Columbian, Brazilian or Puerto Rican to experience the prowess of Latin men!” It also included several testimonies from white women whose world had been rocked when they slept with said “Latin” men. One of the women dreamily observed, “I loved dating Ramon. He was literally HOT to the touch!”

Just thinking about this article makes me want to vomit. At the time, I was so irate I had to pen an angry letter to the editor explaining why the article was so offensive. I clearly recall that my letter began, “Fortunately, ‘you don’t have to be Columbian, Brazilian or Puerto Rican’ to realize how stupid this article is.”

So here’s a special announcement for the makers of 18 Again and anyone else who cares to perpetuate this pernicious ethnic stereotype: Latin@s do not have any special sexual secrets, techniques or powers. Although our skin may come in various shades of brown and our families sometimes come from tropical regions, we are just like any other group of people when it comes to sex. And not every “Latin lover” is worthy of the title. Trust me, I know, I’ve been with some of them. They’re not always worth writing home about!

4 thoughts on “Latinos seen as super-sexual the world over

  1. See—this is also the same type of thing that annoys me about certain popular latino figures in the media as well. Particularly the entertainment industry. Take Sofia Vergara for example. I love her. I think she’s beautiful, a good comedian and great on Modern Family. But I hate all the commercials she’s in for Pepsi and cosmetic companies and even the way she was scripted during the opening of SNL. Its almost like she’s a modern day Carmen Miranda. Yes, we know she has a strong colombian accent and she’s obvisously sexy. But it just seems like they completely exploit those characteristics—-thus spitting out a “version” of “latino” which then becomes a standard (that we are all judged by) in popular culture and mainstream media. Maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with it—-if it wasn’t always the same standard : that we’re all “Cal-e-ente!”, loud, crazy or “loca”, always listening or dancing to latin music or salsa, irrational, spicey!—-ugh! the list go’s on and on! The portrayal is always LOUD and spicey with clown-like actions and over exaggerated accents. Another perfect example would be her character in her first notable film, Chasing Papi. That whole movie actually! seems like an exagerated version of latinos in general.

    But I watch this stuff and sometimes enjoy it in a light hearted way—because its all thats out there so far. We need to change that!

    One more note, I think Carmen Miranda is a very special woman and talented performer. I think latinos should regard her as our very own Marilyn Monroe. Not just because of her beauty and candor but because she was misunderstood in a similar fashion. Beloved in Brasil at the start, she eventually exploded onto the American movie scene. People loved her—her style, fashion….her “spice.” It was crazy, Vogue published shoots with models in turbans and espadrille-like, thick platform shoes. And then of course her country sort of turned on her—looked down on her for becoming popular or “selling out” in America. She was devastated. Enter her ‘Bananas are my Business’ period. And after a while—after the america had had their go of her (bring them up to tear them down)—started the back lash. Reporters and media would joke about not being able to understand her “accent”, she was made fun of—made to be a caricature of herself. I’ve read this depressed her quite a bit. But she kept performing—dancing literally till her last breath.

    Some of what happened to her has to do with how actors were treated and demanded of back in those days. And a lot of it has to do with media. I often watch old movies and videos online and wonder about the Carmen “inside.” How brave she was — to always have to be smiling smiling smiling! and “on!” in front of the camera all the time—all the while maybe never getting to be all of herself. Popular culture didn’t care who she was when she took off her turban.

    thats one of the dangers I see in letting the media [or anyone] exploit latinos through THEIR versions or standards of us. Its not to say that we’re not “hot” or “spicey.” I do believe that all latinos have a special something or characteristics that are not anything like Americans, “whitefolk” or anglos. Even Chicanos who were second, third, forth generation—-its there. I suppose what I’m saying is… don’t deny the spice. The spice is there. Its just not all there is to us—-so don’t pigeon hold us to the spice. And don’t make a goofy caricature out of it and say we’re all the same.

    I guess I’m rambling now. :) As always, I love reading your posts—–they impassion me and get my brain off its butt!

  2. Tightening cream? Eww. Excuse me while I gag. A lot. Forever. Also, wouldn’t the fact that you have to apply the cream sort of make it not work?

  3. Just wanted to say I have missed you! I haven’t been reading or writing anything for a while, but I’m all caught up now. Glad everything is going well for you! Keep up the good work!

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