Don't Blame It on Rio

The Real Deal Behind Why Men Go to Brazil for Sex


By Jewel Woods

By Karen Hunter

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This tell-all book gives a unfiltered first-hand account of the extramarital exploits that men get up to while supposedly traveling for work.

There is a not-so-new, not-so-secret destination where a growing number of American black men are traveling for the kind of sex and freedom they say they can't find with black women. Thousands of unsuspecting women are kissing their men good-bye while they go on "business" trips to Rio where they meet up with some of their friends and have sex every way they can imagine-no strings, no hassles, and no conscience.

Jewel Woods, a social worker and Ph.D. student at the Mandel School of Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University and founder of The Renaissance Male Project Inc., investigates this phenomenon. He will not only uncover a secret society of cheating savvy businessmen, but he will attempt to explain why they are going to Brazil to do it. 



I want to thank the men who agreed to tell their stories. Without your candor, I would not have had the opportunity to explore men's lives the way I have sought to in this book. Although I am certain you will not agree with all of my findings, I hope what I shared reflects what was spoken and unspoken in the numerous conversations over the years.

I want to thank New Voices for granting me a fellowship that allowed me to do this work. It is because of that support that I now look forward to building a multi-cultural, multi-issue men's organization that truly influences the lives of men and boys everywhere.

To the men in Michigan and Ohio, whom I have had the pleasure of working with and for over the years, thank you. Special thanks to Rafael, Brett, Dominick, Lincoln, Carlton, Vince, Steve, and David.

I also want to thank the extraordinary mentors I have acquired over the years, like Dr. Rich Tolman, Dr. Celia Williamson, Dr. Vincent Diaz, Dr. A.G. Miller, Dr. Rubin Patterson, Diane, Linda, Moe, and Peggy.

Thanks to my homies: Dave, Vince, Leslie. Special thanks to Dr. Larry Clark, who has been there supporting me since the beginning. This book is intellectually indebted to six writers, whose projects have deeply shaped my thinking: Jamaica Kincaid, Orlando Patterson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Philippe Bourgois, Patillo McCoy, and Clyde Franklin II.

Special thanks to Dr. Thaddeus Blanchette, a brilliant anthropologist and activist working in Rio, who has influenced my thinking about the issues of men and sex tourism. Thanks also to the activists and intellectuals who work in the domestic and sexual violence movement. These are awesome men and women who do inspiring work every day.

To the writer who has been instrumental in this project, Lady K. (Karen Hunter). Some may never know about your passion and your commitment to black people, but I do. Thanks for everything!

To my editor, Karen Thomas, and the entire Grand Central Publishing/Hachette team, thank you for believing in this project and giving your all to make it successful. And to Ian Kleinert, my agent, thank you, too, for getting the vision and making it happen.

Thanks and love to my immediate family: my mother, Cassandra; my sister, Tanisha; and my nephews, Jason and Javon.

Finally to the three individuals who give my life meaning, structure, dignity, and grace: my wife, Abena; my daughter, Akua; and my son, Azikiwe. I hope that I give as much as I receive.

Chapter One

Eight Signs Your Man Is Traveling for Sex

Women always want to know, and they need to know, if their man is cheating on them. It is an age-old question. While I can't tell you if your man is cheating, I can give you some signs that will help you know whether he is heading to Brazil for sex.

The question isn't simply, "Is my man cheating?" But the real question should be, "Why?" I have attempted to answer that question.

And while many women are just in denial about their men, others are simply in the dark. Here is some light that might help you make some decisions about your man. Check out some of these signs:

1. He goes on trips for several days, often with a group of friends.

The first time I went down there I went with a large group of guys that I really didn't even know. Somebody put together a trip, and there were twelve guys from my area—all brothers. I was primarily with four other guys the entire time. We were there five days on our first trip, and eight or nine on the second trip.

It was eight hundred dollars for a ticket. If you do the apartment together, it's no more than thirty to forty dollars a night. The food is not expensive. Unless you're paying for a lot of women, Brazil is not expensive at all. Everything is way below the rate you would pay (in America). Going to Brazil for eight days is cheaper than a weekend in Atlanta.

—Ralph, 43, IT manager, Myrtle Beach

The first part of this sign could be obvious, but if your man is going on a trip that lasts more than a week, and particularly if he is traveling with friends, he is more than likely going overseas to participate in a sex and romance vacation.

The average trip in Brazil, according to one of the top researchers of sexual tourism, is to Rio and is between seven and ten days. So this is not just "a night out with the boys." Rather, these extended vacations or "business" trips are about another kind of business.

And men are lying to get away. One of the men I interviewed, who had not made the trip but wanted to, told me, "I'm still trying to find a way to lie to get down there." Another black professional told his employer and colleagues that he was going on a missionary trip. That wasn't exactly a lie, because he did use the missionary position on at least one occasion. And he did scream out the Lord's name a couple of times.

2. His sexual appetite changes.

At twenty-five, I was still a novice at sex. Even though I was having sex for years, the biggest thing for me was numbers—how many women could I bang. As I got older, my concept of sex changed and I dealt more with pleasure and experiences. My fantasies changed. The more money you have, the more you go up your sexual scale. After you had a pretty woman, then a white woman, then an Asian woman, then two women together in Brazil, everything changes. With a black woman, you have to convince them that it's okay—that it will be confidential. I think that black women can be freaky. But they're not like the women in Brazil. You come back from Brazil knowing what you enjoy sexually.

A lot of black men that go there and come back start to expect something different sexually. If anything, my libido has increased. I might not have the physical prowess, but certainly I am stimulated to have sex at least once a day.

—Bill, 48, claims adjustor, Norfolk

This is perhaps the biggest one. On these trips, men don't just have sex; they also live out their sexual fantasies. As one man said matter-of-factly, "Everything you've seen on a video, I have done!"

What typically happens at first is that men just have rampant sex. However, on their subsequent trips they usually have made plans to do all the different things that they have only dreamed about or seen on videos. I talked with one man who was going for his second time, and I asked him what some of his expectations were for his upcoming trip.

He said, "This time I want to do a threesome, but with anal."

Invariably, this type of sexual adventurism leads them to have more varied sexual appetites and interests. A number of men come back from these trips going on about how sexually free Brazilian women are compared to their current or past partners.

3. His patience gets short.

Brazil gave me the confidence to leave a bad marriage.

—Todd, 34, tax accountant, Boston

Most of the men I interviewed talked about how these trips have been seminal events in their lives. They say things like "It was the best six days of my life" or "It was the greatest four days I have ever lived."

As a result, all the men talked about being changed in some way. One attorney told me, "You are really different when you come back. I can't explain it."

Often these men say that when they come back, they are not willing to put up with the same things that they did before. In their minds, they have a clearer idea of how a man should be treated, and they feel as though they should not have anything less.

One man told me, "It's hard to go from being the one chased to the traditional role of being the chaser. Once you have that experience of being treated like that, man, it's hard."

The end result is that many men come back with standards for their relationships that make them less willing to put up with what they think is nonsense from their significant other. In the back of their minds they have other choices. This is how one brother explained it to me: "After I went to Brazil, I knew I had options."

It is precisely because of these trips that brothers get a little more impatient and also a little cockier about themselves, because they know—or think—they have a trump card.

4. He suddenly has more friends than he used to.

The guys down there introduced themselves to each other. I met a couple of brothers [in Brazil] who I still talk to—some guys from Nebraska, some guys from Minnesota. I think because of the way we met each other there's a special bond. You're walking toward a brother and you don't know each other and it's nothing to say, "What's up?" Back in the States on the streets, the one who says, "What's up?" first is usually the weaker one. The one who says, "What's up?" first is probably afraid. Here, you meet a guy on the first day, run into him again on the third whole day, and you're telling him all of the fun stuff you did. You start telling him where you hang out and the women he needs to call. You've got an instant network, so much so that I'm going to go on my fifth trip down there, and I ended up on a plane with a brother I met on the first trip. A guy I didn't even know.

This brother lives in Atlanta, and I can still call him and talk to him, find out what's going on out in Atlanta. It's just like that. I did my best networking when I was in Brazil.

—Tank, 37, hospital salesman, Oakland

If your man suddenly starts to have a more active group of friends than he did before, and it's not connected to his job, then you may want to watch him more closely. This increase of friends tends to coincide with one of these trips. This is consistent with how the men I've talked to describe expanding their social networks and groups of friends while they were in Brazil.

A Florida entrepreneur said, "It was the best networking that I have ever done."

What happens in Brazil is that men become part of a community, and they have these experiences that only they can talk with each other about. Why? Because other brothers don't get it. Men develop friendships and often exchange numbers and, at times, travel back to Brazil with men they met there.

So your man or husband may start to have new male friends in Atlanta or Los Angeles when you live in New York or Philly. You may begin to wonder how he knows all these guys. The other thing that might happen is that he may start to have friends in other countries. Typically, these professional black men talk about meeting and hanging out with men from Europe, Australia, and South Africa. They may even be white men. Unlike in America, they can actually be viewed and treated as equals, so these black men take some pride in keeping these relationships.

5. He has a lot more inside jokes and dropped calls when talking with friends.

Here's why it has been such a secret. Most guys won't just pick up and go; they have to be mentored. Somebody that's already been there has to take them. They say, "Come go; come go with me to Rio," and kind of show them the ropes. That's what happened to me. My frat brother took me.

—Jimmy, 28, semipro athlete, Pittsburgh

When you walk in the room and he's either talking on the phone or hanging with his friends and the conversation stops or abruptly switches, know that your man is up to something. If you start to feel that there is a lot more being said between him and his friends that you just don't get, start to question him. Or if he gets calls, but because he is with you he can't take the call, then you know.

The mistake that sisters might make is in thinking that these are other women he is trying to hide, which is exactly how he is able to be manipulative or tricky. The fact is, these are not his girls but his boys, calling to help plan, plot, or just reminisce about the experience they had abroad.

If I had a dime for every time a brother told me he was with his girl and couldn't talk, I would be a rich man. There is a lot both to share and to hide about these trips. In other words, men want to talk to other men and share with other men what they do, but they don't want to share it with women. So this creates an interesting dynamic of men sharing things in the presence of other people who just don't know.

A woman I interviewed said that a neighbor used a veiled threat against her that confused her. He said, "I see I better take your husband to Brazil." She had no clue what that meant. She will now.

6. He suddenly starts learning or speaking another language.

Brothers have to learn how to communicate in Brazil. Most don't venture off Copacabana. Brothers have been there three or four times and have never seen Sugarloaf Mountain or the statue of Christ. The only way they know how to communicate is with money, and when their money runs out, they can't communicate.

They don't understand that the more adventurous you get, the better it is. You have to learn the language. Just like the sisters here don't want us going to Rio, the sisters on Copacabana don't want us going to Villa Mimosa. The girls at Villa Mimosa don't want us going up into the upper country, to Queen Victoria. There are beautiful women in Queen Victoria. If you learn how to speak Portuguese, you don't have to pay for pussy!

—Phillip, 45, graphic designer, St. Louis

This may sound weird, but if he is trying to learn Portuguese, chances are he is (a) trying to get letters translated that the women he has met are sending him or (b) going through a transition where he is getting more interested in Brazilian culture.

7. He spends way more time on the Internet than he used to.

We send pictures and keep in contact all the time. Guys are always sending me e-mails and pictures. You've got to understand that for so long, we never had many options. And all of the sudden, boom! You've got the whole world open to you. You go there, and any woman you see, you can have.

—Sam, 32, counselor, Newark, New Jersey

The thing about Brazil is, if he is not there physically, he is often there virtually. The Internet and particularly the chat rooms about Brazil are huge, and they become one of the primary ways for men to talk about women and share stories in anonymity. Again, the interesting thing about this phenomenon is that it requires both confidentiality and collectivity.

In other words, men have to do this in ways that promote their anonymity and confidentiality, but at the same time, they want and need to share their stories. Remember, poor black men can't afford to know about this, and black women are not allowed to know about it. So the Internet and specifically the chat rooms become one of the primary tools that men use to stay constantly connected. In addition, the pictures and even the X-rated Brazilian porn are easily accessible online, and there are the sites such as Latin Europe, which has literally thousands of women wanting to come to America.

8. He has problems with your looks.

Halle Berry would be average in Brazil, very average. Sisters in America can't compete with that. How do I say this? When I come back to Ohio and I land in the airport, and I know it's so cruel to say it but the black women just all look fat and ugly to me. I hate to say this, but there are some women—professional and nonprofessional—who will let themselves go. They have children as they've gotten older; they're not in the gym; they're not concerned about working out; they don't necessarily keep their hair and stuff up to par, where if you want to compare that to the Brazilian women, not all of them, but the ones that people have interacted with in that Copacabana triangle in that area, they're working out. They already had the natural wavy hair. They got the green eyes because of the melting pot of people there. They are fine.

—Michael, 36, operations manager, Cleveland

Much of this whole phenomenon is founded on the belief and idea that Brazilian women are the most beautiful women in the world. Invariably, professional black men come back with problems with the way black women look. But it's deeper than the physical looks, although that's the driving force. The way Brazilian women look and care for themselves make black men see other things in black women that they feel are lacking. The comparison becomes very strong. And the mind-set is, why sift through the large number of black women to find one who works out and looks good and isn't overbearing, when you can have a sea of "perfect" women in Brazil?

So if your man starts making frequent disparaging comments about your looks and starts to be uninterested in you physically, he more than likely is comparing you to someone else.

Chapter Two

"How My Dick Spent the Summer": Getting Their Groove Back

Guys talk about Brazil, and they talk about the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. Those are like training wheels for travel. It's like a starter kit. The Greek Isles, the South of France—that's where it's happening. It just costs a fortune. I go to destinations that are affordable, like Indochina, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia. These places are very nice, very picturesque, and affordable. But I love Europe, Greece, France, and Hong Kong is off the hook, just very expensive.

There are a whole bunch of guys who are globetrotters. Those brothers have a lot of cash, and they are always on a plane going someplace. There are also dudes who run to Rio and to Bangkok. They can go to Bangkok or to Rio for the price of some rims. It's not just a guy with money who's doing this. For five or six hundred dollars, you can have a nice time in Brazil. The truth is that a ticket to Cleveland is more expensive than a ticket to Rio. And the hotels in Cleveland may cost even more than a hotel in Rio.

All I'm saying is that if you can go visit your mama in Georgia, you can probably travel internationally. Maybe people are too poor to go visit their mama in Georgia, but if they can, they probably can go to Rio.

—David, 50, manager at a major chain, Chicago

Since day one, being a man of means has meant having sexual conquests—not just with women who look like you but all women. (From Solomon to now.) It's not enough to have sex with beautiful women in Miami; you have to have sex with beautiful women in Thailand. And if they have beautiful women in Iceland, you will go there, too. In general, men of means have been doing this for two thousand years. And today, African-American men do it because they can. For a little bit of extra money you can get on a plane and do that. For a week, ten days, or two weeks, you can experience the power that men of means experience every day. For some people, that week is like a lifetime.

—Jordan, 40, public relations, New York

My little clique, we do that. We get around. We've been to the Caribbean, to Colombia, and obviously to Brazil, to the Dominican Republic. There is talk now of [us going to] Southeast Asia. We live in a big city with a big airport, which is extremely international. Northwest has a relationship with KLM, so brothers can go to the Netherlands for six to seven hundred dollars. You get there, and marijuana is legal and white women love you.

—Mark, 42, systems analyst, Detroit

There is a scene in How Stella Got Her Groove Back when Stella meets Winston's parents and the mother asked Stella something to the effect, "Are things so bad in America that black women have to travel overseas to find a man?" Although there has been no movie made about black men who travel overseas to get their groove back, one can imagine a similar scene where an African-American man is asked, "Are things so bad in America that black men have to travel overseas to find other women?" Or depending on your perspective, the question could be, "Are things so good in America that black men can travel overseas to find other women?"

On one hand, black men have a long history of traveling overseas—a point that is not missed by David, who has been traveling to Brazil for more than two decades.

"Black men have been traveling the world since the twenties," he said. "There were big exoduses of black men during the twenties and thirties to Paris because they were treated better. Blacks were traveling when they were broke jazzmen and they didn't have any money."

In this sense, David doesn't see the history of black men traveling to Brazil as being any different from the history of black men traveling to other foreign destinations. On the other hand, the black men who travel overseas today have a much different context. David does notice a difference in the black men who travel to Brazil today:

I really hate to use the word "elite." They probably weren't broke; they seemed to be a little more knowledgeable class of people, people interested in seeing the world, people interested in world travel. As you know for yourself, the majority of people are born on their dot on this planet and don't leave it. Look at our president, George Bush. He never left the country until he became president, and he certainly had the means, but he wasn't interested in seeing the rest of the world. Here he was, a multimillionaire, and had never left the United States. So it isn't an issue of money; it's an issue of interest. Today you have a bunch of brothers dressed like thugs running around Brazil. I can't tell if they are professional or not.

According to David, the early black travelers to Brazil were more like explorers. They were seeking not just sexual frontiers but social frontiers. David wasn't alone in his assessment of the early black travelers to Brazil. However, over time this class of black men who traveled to Brazil and other places has changed. Today's men are a part of a newer group of middle-class and professional black men who have unprecedented access to resources and income. Consequently, the black men who travel to Brazil today aren't like the group of artists and intellectuals who traveled to France in the 1920s and 1930s, or the jazz musicians who traveled throughout Europe during the '50s, or the political exiles or expatriates who traveled to places like Ghana and Tanzania during the '60s and '70s.

Unlike the black expatriates of the past, the black men who travel overseas today are more what the literature on sex tourism refers to as sexpatriates, or, in the case of Brazil, mongers. They are a part of an elite group of men who travel around the world for R & R, and while they are on their vacations they participate in what is referred to as I & I—intercourse and intoxication. Others go specifically for the three Fs: Find them, Fuck them, Forget them.

The Real Globetrotters or the New OGs

If David was an OG (original globetrotter) then, he differs markedly from the new class of black men or the new OGs who travel overseas to destinations like Brazil and participate in some form of sex tourism. Aside from social or intellectual interests, the big difference between black men twenty or thirty years ago was their income. In 2005 the median earnings for black males with a bachelor's degree or better was $44,675. To put it in perspective, in 1964 9.4 percent of blacks held professional or managerial positions, whereas in 1997 20 percent of employed African-Americans held professional or managerial jobs.

Middle-class and professional black men are aware of their class status as explained by Ralph:

This is why [travel to Brazil has] become more prevalent—because brothers are starting to make a lot more money, because they're allowing us to have positions. We're able to go to school and get these good jobs, becoming professionals, doctors, attorneys—higher positions in business, and sales positions that make a good bit of money. I remember back in the seventies, if you made twenty thousand a year, you were doing well. Now everybody makes at least twenty thousand.

Not only Ralph knows it; there is enough recognition of the economic prowess of black men that services are developed to cater to this new group. Astute businesspeople know that the most recent data provided by International Travel Association, shows that the vast majority of individuals who travel outside the United States come from two white-collar occupational categories: professional/technical (38 percent) and managerial/executive (27 percent).

So approximately 65 percent of people who travel outside the United States come from the two highest economic categories. In comparison, 5 percent are in clerical/sales, and only 2 percent are from the craftsman/factory worker category. In addition, the median income for people who travel outside the United States puts them in the top 10 percent nationwide.

Astute businesspeople also know that you can have flights to Rio de Janeiro from virtually anywhere in the United States, with nonstop flights originating from Houston, Miami, and Atlanta. From New York, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most of the rest of the country, you have to make a stop in Miami or in São Paolo to get to Rio. Consequently, new services are being aimed specifically at middle-class and professional black men to meet their travel needs.

Besides the more established sex tourist message boards like World Sex Tour Guide, the International Sex Guide, and Vikings Exotic Resorts, you can now find tourism agencies that cater specifically to black men. One such agency has a Web site that starts off with "From a black man's perspective, for the traveling man with an eye for exotic beauty." It then goes on to describe itself:

This site is dedicated to discussion about beautiful, sexy women in Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia in Brazil and other exotic locations through the world (Dominican Republic, Cuba, Malaysia, etc.). The goal of members is to conversate, meet, and travel in search of phat asses, sexy women, with safety and protection. Most, if not all, information is from a black man's point of view!!

Like most good services, it even has a "Frequently Asked Questions" section, and one of the questions it addresses is, "Does the Club Only Travel to Brazil?"

The club travels to different places in the world (cities in Africa, Caribbean Islands, South America, Asia and the Philippines). Over 20 destinations. All the reports are on destinations where men are king and everything goes! Brazil is just one of the more favorite places the members like to go! [edited]

This highlights two important aspects about black men's experiences overseas. First, men who participate in sexual tourism might have their favorite places to frequent, but they are increasingly traveling all over the world to have these experiences with women. It might be Brazil today, the Dominican Republic tomorrow, but as long as black men are looking for places where they can experience R & R or I & I and be exposed to an experience that only a select group of men in the world will have access to, then the place does not matter. This is how another man described it:


On Sale
Apr 24, 2008
Page Count
320 pages

Jewel Woods

About the Author

Jewel Woods is a Ph.D. student at the Mandel School of Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is the founder of The Renaissance Male Project Inc. and a New Voices Fellow 2005. He has made appearances on both national and regional television and radio shows, and print publications such as Essence magazine, the Toledo Blade, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Karen Hunter, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, has teamed up to write six bestsellers including: I Make My Own Rules (1997) with LL Cool J, Ladies First (1999) with Queen Latifah, Wendy’s Got Heat (2003), The Wendy Williams Experience (2004) with Wendy Williams, and On the Down Low (2004) with JL King. In addition to her books, Karen is also an Assistant Professor in the Film & Media Department at Hunter College.

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