In 1983, elections in Argentina ended one of the bloodiest dictatorships in Latin America (1976–83), and once the elected president Raúl Alfonsín took office, Argentines rejoiced in a democratic spring. The destape was the most explosive cultural trend in the return to democracy, emerging timidly in 1981 as the military grew weaker but remained in power and gaining momentum between 1983 and 1987. Destapar means to take the lid off, uncover, expose, and the destape was, in fact, an avalanche of sexual images and narratives. This article considers the censorship and repression of sexual content in the media during the dictatorship and examines the destape as a large-scale media phenomenon that amplified sexual explicitness to a historically unrivaled degree. The essay demonstrates that for most Argentines the destape was a metaphor for democracy, freedom, modernity, national adulthood, self-expression, and the exuberant enjoyment of life. While the article focuses mostly on celebratory meanings, it also briefly examines the positions of ultra-Catholics and of feminists, who, from very different perspectives, raised the most critical voices against the destape.

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