Home » ‘Acts of obscene exhibitionism’: Why this Spanish city banned bad behaviour from partygoers

‘Acts of obscene exhibitionism’: Why this Spanish city banned bad behaviour from partygoers

The Spanish city of Seville has long drawn tourists from around the world for its impressive Gothic architecture, romantic cobbled streets and famous flamenco shows.

But, increasingly, the Andalusian capital is gaining a reputation for something entirely different: raucous hens and bucks parties.

Partygoers visiting from within Spain or nearby European nations — drawn to late-night tapas and cheap sangria — have flooded in.

And their behaviour on the streets is raising eyebrows.

“They will quite often be dressed up with blow-up penises on their heads; they’ll carry inflatable dolls,” Fiona Flores Watson, a travel writer based in the city, tells ABC RN’s Religion and Ethics Report

“They might be dressed up in very revealing clothing, sometimes even naked.”

Seville is known as a cultural and historical hub, with a history dating back over 2,000 years.(Unsplash: Tânia Mousinho)

The risque outfits and rowdy partying run counter to the deeply held Catholic identity of many locals.

It’s led the town’s mayor, José Luis Sanz, to announce an amendment to public safety laws that would ban revealing outfits and “acts of obscene exhibitionism”.

This isn’t a first for the region.

In 2016, the picturesque mountain town of Mojácar, which also has a strong Catholic history, banned the wearing of “phallic tiaras”, along with “unbecoming behaviour with inflatable sex dolls”.

Then, last year, the coastal town of Málaga announced hefty fines for those adorning themselves with imitations of male genitalia.

Flores Watson says the influx of partygoers, who commonly hire loud brass bands called charangas to follow them around the town, typically comes around April or May, ahead of the European wedding season.

April is also when thousands of tourists visit Seville to celebrate Semana Santa — or Holy Week — with processions to honour Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

A line of people in a tunnel look up at a crucifix carried in a procession.

Semana Santa is celebrated with processions of elaborate floats depicting scenes of Christ’s life and death.(Reuters: Marcelo Del Pozo)

“Religion still runs through this country,” Flores Watson says.

“You’ve got all the churches, you’ve got the monasteries, you’ve got the convents. Everything is named after a saint, all the streets and the hospitals and bars.

“Religion is in the DNA.”

So, as Spain legislates around partygoers in some of its oldest cities, how is Australia dealing with its own clash of party culture and religious traditions?

Australia’s ‘religious complexity’

Party culture is well entrenched in Australia, which in 2021 won the dubious title of “drunkest country in the world”.

It’s unlikely that religious Australians helped achieve that designation, says Deakin University sociologist Anna Halafoff.

“[They] probably have views that prohibit them from drinking alcohol or partaking in drugs.”

A group of people raise champagne flutes in a toast.

Some religions prohibit drinking and drug use, whereas others denounce intoxication.(Unsplash: Quan Nguyen)

Professor Halafoff, who has researched the views and experiences of young Australians across a range of religions, says there’s a high degree of “religious complexity” in Australia.

She says 17 per cent of the Generation Z cohort is “either strongly religious or what we call religiously committed”.

But for a larger percentage of the generation, things are less clear-cut.

Eighteen per cent are “spiritual but not religious”, 8 per cent are “religious and spiritual” and 20 per cent are “nominally religious”, she says.

These cohorts are likely to have varied attitudes towards drugs and alcohol.

Professor Halafoff believes that in Australia, there’s probably a minority of religiously conservative people who would be against the type of partying culture that Seville and other Spanish cities are seeking to control.

But there’s another reason she believes religious factors probably wouldn’t impact Australian party culture.

Unlike in Europe, Australia’s dominant religion, Christianity, operates in a “much less public” way.