World Cup 2018: Foreign Fan Influx Sparks Russian Ultra-nationalists' Sexual Paranoia

Media and social networks have been fanning a fiery debate about a major conflict at the foundation of Russian society: Chauvinism and patriarchy against sexual and intellectual liberation, and burning nationalism in the face of openness and curiosity

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Fans from Brazil and Serbia share a kiss during their national teams' World Cup game.
Fans from Brazil and Serbia share a kiss during their national teams' World Cup game. Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/ AFP

Soccer is in the air, with great hopes and shattering disappointments – along with inflated nationalistic feelings. The Russian World Cup team has already done the almost impossible and made the quarter-finals, but another topic is drawing at least as much interest from Russian citizens these past few weeks: Love.

Or more accurately: Sex. And to be even more precise: The image of Russian women around the world and the image of Russian men in the eyes of those same women.

For two weeks, the media and social networks in Russia have been fanning a fiery debate concerning one of the major conflicts at the foundation of Russian society today: Chauvinism and patriarchy against sexual and intellectual liberation, along with burning nationalism in the face of openness and curiosity. Mix all this up together with a big helping of hormones – and you will get a summer soup overflowing with sexual desire.

It all began even before the opening game of the World Cup with a severe warning given to Russian women from a Communist member of the Russian Duma, Tamara Pletnyova.

Even if Russian women marry their foreign partners, they could end up living abroad with their spouses and have no idea how to return home, said Pletnyova, chairwoman of the Family, Women, and Children Affairs Committee in the lower house of parliament.

A couple in a paddle boat on a river near Saransk. A page has been opened to shame Russian women who date foreign men.Credit: RICARDO MORAES/Reuters

In an interview with the Govorit Moskva radio station, she said that at the time of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when contraception was not widely available in the then-Soviet Union, many children – known as “Children of the Olympics” – were born to single mothers. 

“These [mixed race] kids suffer and have suffered since Soviet times,” Pletnyova told Govorit Moskva. “It’s one thing if they’re of the same race but quite another if they’re of a different race. I’m not a nationalist, but nevertheless I know that children suffer. They are abandoned.”

It seems Pletnyova’s desperate call had little effect. A week after the World Cup began, the Gazeta.Ru news website reported that the Tinder dating app company said the number of “likes” on its app in Russia had grown by 42 percent, and the number of matches by 66 percent. Russian newspapers and video clips on the internet gave further evidence that the arrival of so many soccer fans from all over the world had changed the local sex scene.

The reaction did not take long in coming. A video clip of Brazilian fans dancing around a Russian woman and shouting at her Buceta Rosa – which sounds like a Russian phrase for a bouquet of roses, but in Portuguese is a rather cruder expression (literally, pink pussy) – went viral.

The clip also aroused furious responses back in Brazil, including among those trying to eradicate the country’s traditional macho culture. A few days later the anger reached Russia too, but there it came with a clear nationalistic tint.

Credit: Toni Lula da Silva Bulhoes @ToniBulhoes

On the Russian social network VKontakte, which is similar to Facebook, a “Buceta Rosa” page was opened, whose goal was to shame Russian women who “went” with foreign men. One video clip showed a soccer fan, who was described as Polish, performing oral sex on a supposedly Russian woman in the middle of a street in Russia, while she was alternating between swigging from a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Coke.

Another video was filmed by a Russian-speaking man while he attacked a couple walking down the street – because the woman looked Russian and the man looked foreign.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that the followers of Buceta Rosa and similar pages are trying to find and post pictures of Russian women with foreign fans so they can torment and threaten them.

An article in the paper said the World Cup has led to a wave of cyber-bullying over this issue. The women are called “easy,” sluts,” “greedy” and accused of “dreaming of fleeing Russia for foreign lands.” A number of misogynist and insulting terms have been made up for such cases, such as calling women who sleep with black men “inkwells.”

The women who have relationships with foreign fans are the subject of ridicule and condemnation from provocative nationalistic journalists and media outlets. But the more liberal media and feminist activists have not given up.

The website of the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan published a militant opinion piece against the Buceta Rosa activists and their crowd. The article says Russian men were suddenly confronted with the discovery that Russian women’s bodies are not objects and sex is not a national resource, wrote Snezhana Gribatskaya.

Women are people too and they can have sex for pleasure and not just to satisfy a poor Russian man “just because he has a penis.” It turns out she does not have to “give out” to anyone. “Women will have sex and only with who they choose,” wrote Gribatskaya.