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Brazilian Men On the Beach….and My Speedo-Phobia!

Summer is just around the corner, and over the last few weeks the hot weather many associate with Brazil has made a welcome return. Not only does this mean that soon I will be contending with the mosquitoes that find me irresistibly delicious, but I’ll also be making frequent trips to the beach in an attempt to bronze my lily white body. Three years have intervined between me arriving in Brazil and now, so here is the dilemma I find myself in: Should I finally embrace the one aspect of Brazilian culture I’ve consciously done my best to avoid, it’s speedo culture?
It was during my first ever trip to Copacabana beach that I became acquainted with it. As I stepped out onto the world-famous sandy beach, I looked around and was a little taken aback by what I saw. On this particular day there were women walking around in these tiny dental floss bikinis and men sporting pretty tight speedos (or sunga as they’re known over here), all parading their flesh as far down the beach as the eye could see. Almost everyone on the beach was just a slither of fabric away from being naked. 

I, on the other hand, had walked onto the beach wearing a white vest and pair of knee length board shorts. I really felt like I’d been summoned into another world, one in which I was pretty overdressed.

Fast forward a few years and I’m still wearing the same sort of clothes to the beach. Despite being aware of how different I look to most of my friends (a small percentage of whom are with me on the board shorts…until it’s time to go into the sea, where they whip these off to reveal their budgie smugglers underneath), the voice inside my head telling me not to join the lycra club is still screaming at me pretty loudly. What it’s telling me is ‘don’t even think about it!’ But…should I listen? I would never even entertain the idea of wearing a pair of speedos if I wasn’t in Brazil because in the UK it’s just competitive swimmers (and of course Tom Dailey) who get away with wearing them. There is a pretty big stigma attached to wearing a pair back home and as a result some public pools have even banned them. When you’re around women and children, the lump and bump enhancing speedo isn’t really considered appropriate.

The same rules clearly don’t apply over here though, and my reluctance to wear the sunga is often met with smirks.“Oh look, Andrew is still wearing his foreigner shorts” said one at the beach last year (in his ball-crushingly-tight sunga), before flashing me a teasing smile. The trouble is when you are the only one NOT wearing speedos in a group of your mates, its difficult to argue that you’re the one who doesn’t look ridiculous.
 
So why do so many Brazilian men feel so comfortable wearing them? Well this was a question I found myself asking one of my friends not long after arriving here. “If you wear these surely everyone will be able to see….everything?” As soon as these words came rolling off my tongue, his face stretched into a mocking grin. “Andrew. If people can see my dick through my speedos and don’t like it, this isn’t my problem it’s theirs! And why would they want to look anyway?”

And I guess this is a convincing argument. That is until you’re relaxing on a reclining chair on the beach, and suddenly the sunlight you’re enjoying becomes eclipsed by your friend’s body. That’s when you’re instinctively going to look up to see what’s going on. Then you may well find yourself coming face to face with a less then subtle outline of your friend’s genetalia staring right at you.#truestory

I also asked some of my male students about why they wear speedos, and the question was met with a knotted forehead and a puzzled look. “Well, why wouldn’t we wear them?” was their response. Then they looked at me in genuine confusion like I’d just asked them to explain water.

The reality seems to be that a whole load of Brazilian men wear speedos simply because they are comfortable in them. But this makes me more aware that my, ‘I’m foreign, so I don’t wear sunga’ argument is starting to wear thin on every visit to the beach. So I’m wondering if its time for me to get over my cultural hangover? Should I just embrace the lycra and get it over with?

To sunga or not to sunga…that is the question!

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Comments (27)

  1. Great post! Some time ago in Brazil the sunga was not very popular, for young people maily. But I think we started to care more about being comfortable and less about looking beautiful. And we really like to bronze most skin as possible. You should try!

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  2. I’ve been wearing speedos as far as I can remember however, being a Brazilian living overseas for so many years I too adopted the knee length beach shorts when I’m out and about in foreigner countries coastal lines. The famous phrase comes to mind “when in Rome do as the Romans do!”, back home in Brazil I have no problem sporting the famous speedos :) Great post, it put a smile on my face

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  3. You should embrace this experience hahahhahhhha It´s totally go for it! I am sure you will look handsome in one speedo !! I love your blog, it´s really fun;)

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    • I’m not sure if handsome is a word I would use for me in a speedo, but thanks for the vote of confidence! Ha ha! And thanks for leaving a comment, I’ll let you know how it goes if I decide to go for the lycra!

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  4. I finished school in Spain in 1971, then made the god awful mistake of moving back to the USA. For the next 39 years I regretted my lost freedom. Americans are judgemental when it come to beach wear, and don’t understand this because most of the truely gay guys are wearing the dork shorts as a cover up, and they look very gay. They cannot be comfortable with all the fabric gathering sand all day and chafing your skin. But they continue to dress in the gay dork shorts. I moved back to Europe in 2010 and my wife of 37 years understands the true meaning of freedom.

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    • Hey Al, when it comes to speedo wearing I guess we don’t really think of our shorts chafing or gathering sand. It’s just part and parcel of the whole beach experience, so I know I never really think much about it.

      And you raised another point I didn’t go into in the post, about people in the UK and US associating speedos with gay guys. Because of my culture, seeing a macho guy in a tiny pair of speedos with his arm around his girlfriend is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to! But I am interested in the sense of freedom you talk about, maybe it really is time to give speedos a try!!!

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  5. The tan line in Rio is sacred, and you can only get a proper one with a sunga. I remember the first time I went to the beach with my ex, and ended up with slightly tanned/burned skin. But I had the outline of a sunga. The first thing she said after was, “You just look so much more interesting now!”

    No matter what, you’re going to be pale to cariocas, even with the best tan of your life. I suggest you find a female friend you trust and go to Blue Man or something similar, and get a quality black sunga. Black is really the only option for our pale skin.

    Now you’ve waited so long that your friends are going to give you shit as soon do wear a sunga. Might as well stuff your pride into one and get it over.

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    • “You just look so much more interesting now!” Ha ha! What an ego boost your ex sounds! Thanks for the tip on sunga buying, I’ll have to look into what they sell at Blue Man, bite the bullet and drag someone I trust along to help me pick out a pair!

      And hopefully I won’t get too much grief from my friends when I go to the beach too (and a great tan!)

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  6. Oooh lord. I’m Brazilian but I was a volunteer in Ireland for a year, and I took our residents to the swimming pool once a week and I always wore my speedos, nobody ever told me that it was inappropriate… I’m ashamed

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    • I really wouldn’t be ashamed if I were you, people know other cultures embrace the sunga. It tends to be professional swimmers who wear them too, so you might have got yourself some respect by looking like a pro and wearing them!

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  7. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I never thought of shorts being weird, both are ok in my experience.

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  8. I recently started swimming for exercise and embraced the speedo (in the pool for laps) and haven’t looked back. No one cared or even looked twice – most of the other guys swimming either wore similar or less!
    Just do it!

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  9. I wore my first speedo this summer when visiting Tel Aviv – and it felt a bit funny at first but I quickly got over it! Then I actually realized how much more I prefer it and I haven’t gone back since! (Of course there’s a lot less beaches here in Germany…though Germans are famously okay with wearing as few clothes as possible in public…)

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    • I think I`ll be speedo shopping this weekend, so hoping I will be able to get over wearing a pair quickly! And thanks for stopping by to comment, I`m a big fan of your blog and have even used a few of your posts in my English classes over here!

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  10. Great post. I lived in the US over 25 years, and I always wear a “sunga” (speedo) despite what people think about it, I really enjoy beaches and my speedos. Now I’m back in Brazil and still wearing them. I don’t know if is cultural, but it feels natural to me.

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    • I actually wore a sunga for the first time over Christmas and actually preferred it to the long Bermudas, so I know what you mean…I’m sure I will write a post about this soon! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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  11. Good luck with embracing the speedo. They really are far more suitable beach attire than long baggy shorts. A blue or green pair would suit your paler skin and black is always fine, probably a good colour for modesty too. I am a straight guy from Australia and occasionally wear them but not on a super crowded beach just yet – I’m working up to it.

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    • Hey Scott, last Christmas I was in Rio….bought a pair of blue speedos (I still don’t understand guys who wear white ones, they may as well not be wearing anything!) and haven’t looked back. In fact I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in them after just a few minutes…a post on this will follow at some point.

      Thanks for the comment (and the sunga tips too!)

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  12. particularly i also associate speedos with gay or those playboys who live in gym and want to show their muscles in beach.it`s the male version of the dental floss bikinis.extremely vulgar,both.just my opinion.and that must be a rio/thing for sure!i`m brazilian,living belém,and in beaches around here and also in fortaleza and recife,i just haven`t seen every men wearing a speedo!some do,but others do wear bermudas(knee lenght shorts) for going into the water!i guess only in rio people dress almost all similar.i `ve never been there and i`m impressed!anyway,if it makes you uncomfortable,just wear what you like.not wearing speedos is not offensive.also,there are various lenghts of shorts,which are not as long as bermudas,but also,aren`t as skinny as sungas.you could try one, if you want.

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    • Thanks a lot for the advice, I assumed that most Brazilian men wore sunga on the beach until I posted this blog! I actually bought a pair of trunks whilst I was in Rio over New Year and it didn’t take me long to get used to it, they felt very natural after just 10 minutes. They didn’t chafe and didn’t feel as as awkward as I’d imagined too!

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