MEXICO CITY — Some of Mexico’s most popular influencers have been accused of sexual abuse in recent weeks as a wave of women revitalize a #MeToo movement that only briefly gained traction before fading away amid a backlash against those speaking up.
The allegations have renewed scrutiny on a culture of misogyny deeply rooted in the country’s media landscape. Even after a rise in accusations in 2019, well-known social media influencers continued to joke about having sex with blackout drunk people and enacting rape scenes.
Ricardo González, a YouTuber who goes by the name Rix, has been accused by several women of touching them while they slept. Gabriel Montiel, a gamer and blogger known as Werevertumorro, recently made a TikTok in which he pretends to be having sex with someone who is passed out and tied up. And last year, Luis Arturo Villar, an internet personality who calls himself Luisito Comunica, posted a photo jokingly warning a scantily clad woman, through the label of a mezcal bottle, that her “tiny ass” would be his.
Together, González, Montiel, and Villar, who are in their twenties and thirties, have 140 million followers across all social media platforms. Their outsize and skyrocketing influence made accusers shrink back — until now.
Last month, another YouTube star, Nath Campos, 26, said González assaulted her after a night out years ago, opening the floodgates once again. Since then, other women have shared similar accounts, including Marina Yers, who said in an Instagram story that González had touched her while she was asleep years ago. A YouTuber known as Ixpanea said singer Yayo Gutiérrez filmed intimate videos of her and other women without their consent and stored them in his laptop. Still others took to the streets to denounce a political candidate accused of rape.
Many are wondering if, this time, the women coming forward might break through the social backlash people face when reporting abuse — and spark a cultural transformation as Mexico combats a growing crisis of gender violence.
“That’s why they’re called influencers, because they wield influence,” said Arussi Unda, cofounder of the Mexican feminist collective Las Brujas del Mar. “How dangerous when this kind of message is reiterated over and over, in a country where gender violence is so pervasive.”
By early 2019, reports of abuse had grown from a trickle to a wave in Mexico, against writers, musicians, and filmmakers. The #MeToo movement, which had gained momentum in the US nearly two years earlier, had at last taken hold in the country.
New hashtags to denounce abusers went viral on Twitter: #MeTooEscritores (#MeTooWriters). #MeTooCine (#MeTooFilms). #MeTooAcademicosMexicanos (#MeTooMexicanAcademics).
With the courts offering little chance at justice — only 1.3% of all crimes committed in Mexico are solved, according to Impunidad Cero, a nonprofit research group specializing in reporting impunity — public accusations on social media are often a victim’s last, and only, recourse.
This is the case especially for women, who are often revictimized by police, hospital staff, and prosecutors when trying to report a crime. A culture of machismo — whether it’s the representation of women in telenovelas or the frequency of sexual harassment in the workplace — plays an ever-present role in shaping the widespread belief that women who are abused have done something to deserve it. Survivors who speak up often face harsh scrutiny while those they accuse draw public sympathy.
Rather than turn to the authorities, some have found social media to be a more effective path to attaining even a morsel of accountability, with perpetrators sometimes losing followers or jobs. In February 2018, Mexican actor Karla Souza said that she had been raped by a well-known director, without naming him. Televisa, one of the largest multimedia companies in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world, quickly worked out whom she meant, and severed ties with the director Gustavo Loza shortly after.
For a time, the country appeared to be reckoning with its misogynistic culture and the ease with which men subjected women to abuse. Lawmakers were forced to debate, and eventually approve, reforms intended to combat gender violence, such as a recently passed law that punishes online violence such as “revenge porn.”
But the movement was largely extinguished almost as quickly as it caught fire.
In early 2019, Armando Vega Gil, a member of the rock band Botellita de Jerez, was accused anonymously on Twitter by a woman who said he had assaulted her when she was 13 years old. The denunciation went viral. Several hours later, Vega Gil, who was 64, uploaded a short message to Twitter.
“It is a fact that I will lose all my work, for they all rest on my public credibility. My life has stopped,” he wrote, denying the accusation. “The only way out I see is suicide, and I have decided in favor of it.”
His decision was “voluntary, conscious, free and personal,” he added, and asked that no one be blamed for it.
Vega Gil died by suicide shortly after.
Hundreds of people did hold his accuser, and the largely anonymous movement, responsible for his death, posting angrily on social media and underscoring the backlash accusers face when they speak up.
“The conversation took a turn,” said Unda. The default became “he killed himself because the accusation was a lie. Let’s believe the aggressor.”
On social media, people started demanding that the survivor name herself and present evidence of the assault, and that she should pay a price for Vega Gil’s death.
The Twitter account where the accusation against Vega Gil had been made was shut down. The backlash seemed to silence survivors who had been getting ready to come forward. Meanwhile, the influencers continued to pump out their increasingly misogynistic content.
In the world of Mexican social media celebrities, sex sells. Erections, penis size, and infidelity are common themes in Instagram posts, TikTok memes, and YouTube videos.
Consent? Not so much.
In a TikTok uploaded in November, Montiel at first appears to be caught in the act of raping someone who is unconscious. As the video starts, a shirtless Montiel rocks back and forth, breathing heavily. Then, he looks over at the camera and, smiling sheepishly, admits to still being drunk.
“I was walking, I tripped and, shit, I fell on top of you,” he says, giggling. Montiel starts to walk toward the bathroom, wonders out loud why he has an erection, and then suddenly comes back. “I don’t know who tied you up!”
A few months earlier, Villar had posted a photo kneeling in front of a woman wearing jean shorts that revealed part of her butt. Grinning, Villar holds up a bottle of mezcal with a label that reads “Your tiny ass will be mine.”
Villar seemed unfazed by the controversy. Using sexually charged behavior as a punchline has been a staple of his career. In 2015, he filmed a video with his then-girlfriend, Cinthya Velázquez. During a drinking game, Villar fills their shot glasses with Baileys and adds a dash of whiskey, “because I’m a little more of a man,” he says.
“The purpose of this game is to get you really drunk,” Villar tells Velázquez a few minutes later, “so that I can abuse you later.”
It was Campos’s video — titled “My story of abuse” — in which she describes her assault by González that gave a second wind to the languishing #MeToo movement. In it, she talks about what began as a normal night out with friends at a nightclub and ended with González offering to take her home and then “doing things” to her while she drifted in and out of sleep in her own bed.
The following morning, Campos says, she ordered González to leave. He told her that he had also been drunk and asked her not to get mad at him, Campos recalls.
Campos says the management company that represented her and González at the time, DW Entertainment and Media, knew about the abuse but didn’t immediately fire González. “That’s when I started to understand a lot of things,” says Campos. “This was not something that surprised them. This was not something that they thought was very serious.”
During the following months, the company notified Campos whenever the two were scheduled for joint appearances in case she wanted to stay away. Other influencers who were friends with both González and Campos waved off and even mocked her distress after hearing her accusation.
Time passed and, afraid to lose friends and work, Campos tried to bury the incident — but then González crossed the line again, she says in the video. Campos says that during a work trip, González approached her mother, asked her to take him to his room, and then told her he would masturbate thinking of her. DW promised Campos they would talk to him, but she says they didn’t.
When she found out that González would host the company’s Christmas dinner, Campos says, she decided to quit. Only then, about a year and a half after the initial alleged abuse, did DW fire González.
Campos, González, and DW did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
As soon as she uploaded the video publicly accusing González, a campaign to victim-shame Campos began.
Luis Gallego Sánchez, a YouTuber known as Luisito Rey, said that González must “also be having a bad time” following Campos’s accusation. Gallego, who has more than 12 million followers, said that both González and Campos were to blame, the latter for having drunk too much.
Still others wondered if Campos brought the alleged attack upon herself.
The hosts of Hoy, a morning show produced by the telenovela giant Televisa, discussed Campos’s accusations, wondering if they were true and, if so, said she must be at least partly responsible.
Among the questions they asked: Why did she get blackout drunk? Why did she remain friendly with her alleged abuser? Will her accusation lead to a flood of accusations against other men?
The women on the show said they were baffled by Campos’s behavior following the assault. One of the male hosts, Arath de la Torre, gesticulated forcefully as he warned that any person could now accuse men of “having done something during a drunken episode 11, 12 years ago.”
The hosts faced criticism on social media, including a post by Mexico City legislator Alessandra Rojo de la Vega. “Women blaming us for being attacked are repeating the only thing they’ve learned from the outlet they represent,” she tweeted, referring to Televisa. “Submission, silence and violence to become successful. Apologize.”
The hosts later apologized to Campos, who recently filed a formal complaint against González with the Mexican authorities.
But while women are once again coming forward about sexual abuse, activists worry that this new wave will die down, just like the first one did two years ago.
“I’m afraid this will be just another anecdote,” said Unda. “Remember that time that the whole world spoke out because Nath Campos spoke up? And then what happened? Nothing.”