Latin American Countries
In many Central and South American countries, people do not tend to think in terms of homosexuality and heterosexuality, but rather in terms of masculinity and femininity. Male gender roles, for example, are defined by one’s machismo, which, in terms of sexual behavior, is determined by being the active partner, or penetrator. Therefore, a man is not considered homosexual for taking the active, penetrating role in intercourse, even if he is penetrating other men. As long as he is penetrating, he is a man.
In Nicaragua, for example, penetrating another man does not make you homosexual; a man who is the active partner in same-sex anal intercourse is called machista or hombre-hombre (“manly man”), a term used for any masculine male (Murray & Dynes,
1999) . In fact, penetrating other men is seen as a sign of manliness and prestige. In the Mexican state of Jalisco, where the charro (Mexican cowboy) originated and defending one’s honor with a gun is common, being the active partner in anal sex with other men is seen as a sign of healthy sexuality (Carrier, 1989).
In other words, these Latin American countries look at sexuality in a fundamentally different way than we do; the basic categories of manhood are not homosexual or heterosexual but masculine and feminine. Masculine men sometimes penetrate other men and are admired, whereas feminine men allow themselves to be penetrated and are generally scorned.
Note that the implicit message of such cultures is that to mimic female behavior is disgraceful and shameful in a male. This attitude reflects the general nature of these societies, which tend to be patriarchal, with women lacking political and social power. Because women are, in general, considered inferior to men, men who mimic women are to be ridiculed.
In other Latin American countries, homosexuality may be viewed differently. For example, homophobia is widespread in Costa Rica, where prior to 1971 the punishment for engaging in sodomy was 1 to 3 years in prison (Arroba, 2004). In Brazil, homosexuality is acceptable only for those in the theater, movies, music, or television industry, and it is viewed negatively for those in all other professions (de Freitas, 2004).