Originally published in the early 1990s, Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions quickly became a classic ethnographic study of the social, cultural and historical construction of sexuality and sexual diversity. Drawing on extensive field research and interviews, together with the analysis of historical and literary texts, anthropologist Richard Parker mapped out the multiple cultural systems that structure gender, sexuality, and erotic practices in Brazil, and helped to open up a new wave of social science research on sexuality.
Using ethnographic methods focusing on sexual meanings as an alternative to traditional surveys of sexual behavior, Parker argues that sexual life can only be fully understood through an analysis of the cultural logics that shape experience. Drawing on the tradition of interpretive anthropology, he focuses on the diverse sexual scripts that have been articulated in Brazilian culture and examines the often contradictory ways in which these scripts shape the sexual experience of different individuals. He highlights the sexual socialization of children and young people, and the changing sexual realities of adults living in a rapidly changing world. He underlines the ways in which complex cultural forms such as carnaval can be understood as stories that Brazilians tell themselves about themselves and about the meaning of sexuality in contemporary Brazilian life.
The 1991 book was the winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists.