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Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil

On November 17th, I attended a lecture entitled “Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil” given by anthropologist Don Kulick. During the lecture, Mr. Kulick explained the situation surrounding the scandal involving the famous Real Madrid soccer player Christiano Ronaldo. Earlier this year, Ronaldo hired three prostitutes that were, as explained by Mr. Kulick, “travesties”.

Now, upon first hearing this term I was extremely confused and had no idea what this term could be referencing. However, Mr. Kulick continued to explain that “Travesties” are men who have chosen to dress like when and modify their appearances with plastic surgery to appear more feminine. However, these individuals have no desire to undergo surgery to remove their penises, nor do they wish to change their identification from that of a man to that of a woman. I found this to be an interesting difference from transgenders in the United States who commonly wish to make full transitions. However, after hearing Mr. Kulick speak I began to wonder if the only reason that this image of transgenders is so common is because it is perpetuated by pop culture and the media. Andrea Albertina, one of the hired prostitutes that was labeled as a travesty, was the individual who leaked the event to the media and triggered the entire scandal.

Sexuality in Brazil, as explained by Mr. Kulick, was an extremely odd idea to me and was unlike anything that I had ever heard of before. In Brazil, a man is considered “straight” so long as he is the “perpetrator” during sexual intercourse regardless of whether he is engaging in intercourse with a woman or another man. Ronaldo fell under scrutiny, not because he hired prostitutes, but because he hired travesties. Many individuals believed that Ronaldo’s actions called his sexuality into question, alongside his manhood, because he hired men dressed as women (travesties) as opposed to those deemed to be true women by Brazilian society. The only view on sexuality that I have ever been exposed to is that of American society in which an individual’s sexuality is based solely on the gender with whom they engage in sexual intercourse with. The fact that Brazil has such blurred lines dividing different sexualities was very strange to me.

In multiple interviews Ronaldo was under the impression that he had hired female prostitutes; however, Mr. Kulick explained that, in Brazil, travesties are most often highly identifiable by Brazilians in the way that they hold themselves. He also explained that these travesties advertise heavily in certain districts of Brazil. So, with this sentiment in mind, it is highly likely that Ronaldo was aware that he was hiring travesties. However, I do not believe that he should be defined by whom he chooses to have sexual relations with. To be quite honest, I have no problem with the fact that he elected chose to higher travesties over female prostitutes, rather that he hired prostitutes at all.

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