Did he really do it? Did he ignore Kathryn Mayorga, who several times said “no” and “stop” while he penetrated her from behind? Yes, he did. ‘He’ being the Portuguese football (soccer) player Cristiano Ronaldo—one of the world’s most prominent athletes and, for the last three years, the world’s best football player.
Recently, the German news magazine Der Spiegel published a long, well-researched report dealing with what happened in a hotel room in Las Vegas in 2009.
I will not describe the whole evening for two reasons: because the article accusing Ronaldo is available at Der Spiegel and because the two parties disagree about some of the details. Yet, what is more crucial is what they do agree about. For example, both Mayorga and Ronaldo confirm that he took her brutally and that she asked him several times to stop: “No, no, no.”
Ronaldo confirms this to his own lawyers. Perhaps this is why he apologized to her afterward, claiming that he is a gentleman 99 percent of the time. As a bandage for her damage, he has paid her $375,000. Secrets are expensive, especially those that may ruin the public image of a football player.
Everyone supports Ronaldo
First, the story about Ronaldo has received little space in the media, although he is an athlete with a far greater market value than his current team, which is Italy’s biggest football club, Juventus. Furthermore, he is the best player in what is, at least in Europe, by far the most popular sport.
The game and Ronaldo are so big that even his sponsors are not extremely worried, just a bit concerned because they do not want their contracts with him to lose value. The national coach for Portugal and his coach from Juventus support him, claiming he is a professional, as if a professional athlete would not do such a bad thing. Even the Portuguese prime minister supports Ronaldo.
In general, readers’ overall impression of the report published by Der Spiegel is that Kathryn Mayorga is a tart just looking for money. On social media, home to an extreme cowboy mentality where people tend to shoot before thinking, you can read—including comments from many women—that Ronaldo doesn’t need to rape women because, allegedly, all women would love to have sex with him. Ergo, all women are willing if the man is rich and famous.
Some people claim, after watching a video clip of the two on the night when the possible rape happened, that she was being fresh and flirtatious toward him. Ergo, if a woman is seductive, she must accept being taken by force.
Some stress that she must be really stupid if she went up to his hotel room without wanting to have sex. Ergo, if a woman accepts an invitation, she must say yes to all that the man desires afterward. He apparently is the master in his house, although Sigmund Freud said that no one is the master of their own house.
In conclusion, a woman who looks attractive and dances flirtatiously must, should and ought to be at a man’s disposal. This patriarchal morale suggests that women have no rights because they can no longer say “no.” Women have no right to withdraw; they are just toys in a play acted out by men.
Respect, trust and equality are suffering
It is interesting to acknowledge that children become people or start maturing when they wriggle out of their parents’ arms and say “no.” Do we live in a world where someone is afraid that women will become independent human beings? Why treat women as children, regarding their “no” and “stop” as nothing but jaunty foreplay that only serves to test a man’s resolve?
Why treat women as children, regarding their “no” and “stop” as nothing but jaunty foreplay that only serves to test a man’s resolve?
Unfortunately, it does not stop here. Respect, trust and equality are still suffering when the majority of people tend to feel sorry for Ronaldo. She is smearing his heroic image, ruining his brand value. His fans are angry at her.
Why? Apparently, we live in a time, a celebrity culture, where people still need gods. Also, and perhaps more evidently, we live in a man’s world.
When so many people and media tend to ignore a young woman saying “no” and “stop” several times, it manifests what the philosopher Kate Manne, in her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, calls ‘himpathy’—the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy that powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, violence or other misogynistic behavior.
Now, some might intervene and say that a concept like ‘himpathy’ can make us see abuse everywhere so that we end up creating stereotypical images of men and women. Still, in the case of Ronaldo, the evidence of his wrongdoing is clear because he admits it was violent, according to Der Spiegel.
Furthermore, his handling of this episode doesn’t indicate a more mature and respectful man. Back in 2009, he was 25. Now, he is 33 and a father. On the contrary, his way of handling this doesn’t point towards maturity or anything related to acknowledging his actions, such as humility or remorse. No, he has a clear conscience, he says.
I mention the concept of ‘himpathy’ because it touches on some of the traits that are in great need today: empathy and compassion. Of course, we should all be able to empathize with and show compassion for both Mayorga and Ronaldo. However, I don’t wish to suggest that we should show sympathy for both of them. Personally, my sympathy is with her. I believe her story and his since he confirms the crucial part of her saying “no” and “stop.”
We need to look at the story neutrally
The challenge that we all face, that all caring citizens face, is how we can engage ourselves in today’s world full of abuse and violence (not only sexual, but also financial or racial) with empathy and compassion, and not just follow our latent desires to judge and blame and scream.
First, we may see if we can imagine the event that took place in Las Vegas as something between an unknown man and woman. If we look at it neutrally—for example, if I take away my passion for football and ignore the fact that my two boys are fans of Ronaldo—then I see something very inappropriate.
Second, to really cultivate our empathy and compassion, we have to listen to or read her story. Without judgment. To listen is an invitation for another person to speak. We have to try to understand her pain, insecurity and doubt. Understand why it often takes time for a victim to come forward; after all, she knows that she lives in a man’s world, where many people—not only men—see women as children who are not allowed to say “no” and “stop.”
But Mayorga is not a child; she is extremely courageous to come forward against the biggest icon in one of the biggest sports. It requires strength to live through it all again, to re-experience all the fear and pain. She is doing so not as a form of revenge, as I see it, but as a way of creating a more just and fair world where we all—men and women—can flirt, dance, and seduce and still decide whether we really want to have sex.
It’s now up to the police and judicial system to evaluate this case, which fights for the rights of all human beings to say both “yes” and “no.”
It’s that simple.