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Op-Ed

Debunking arguments against same-sex marriage

With many Filipinos still not supportive of extending the right to marry to LGBT people, Peter Jones Dela Cruz looks at the “reasons” many anti-marriage equality people raise and deconstruct them one by one.

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Majority of Filipinos don’t like two men or two women to get married for reasons we already know. The critics of marriage equality have come up with both religious and non-religious reasons for their objections. It’s important that we look at these reasons because they become important in discussions and debates that will affect the lives of same-gender couples.

Same-sex marriage is unnatural.

This is one of the most common arguments against same-sex marriage. It’s also one of the easiest to destroy. Supposing we say it is unnatural, so what? Is something necessarily or inherently wrong because it is unnatural? The inherent goodness of something is independent of whether it is natural or not. Typhoons, earthquakes, cancer, and gamma ray bursts are natural. Smartphones, batteries, air-conditioning systems, and computers are not.

Also, marriage is in itself unnatural. It’s a social, cultural, and legal construct. Animals don’t get married. They just mate. Heterosexual marriages are not necessarily natural. “Natural” is the wrong word. They are just common.

Nevertheless, this naturalistic fallacy just doesn’t die.

Marriage is for procreation.

If it were, why does the state allow sterile couples and seniors to get married, knowing they won’t be able to reproduce? This inconsistency destroys the argument, though. Clever marriage equality critics may then say: But sterile and senior couples are the exception to the procreation rule. Why, then, can we not extend this exception to same-sex couples?

Besides, there are many ways for same-sex couples to have children, such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. Many straight couples actually use these techniques, too.

It’s against God’s will.

It’s against our religion. It’s against our faith. It’s against our convictions. It’s against our concept of morality. These appeals to religion and bias do not hold water in a democratic country that upholds the doctrine of separation of Church and State. Marriage equality advocates are not asking the churches to wed same-sex Filipino couples. We are asking the State. Whether this form of marriage is against God’s will is debatable even within the domain of Christian belief and should not be taken as a statement of fact that should dictate legislation.

Section 6 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that the separation of Church and State is inviolable. Section 5 of Article III, on the other hand, states that no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

It’s also hypocrisy when we allow religion to interfere with something as private as marriage, considering there are many things religious texts admonish against but we do anyway. We do not make eating shellfish (Lev. 11:9-12) or wearing mixed fabric (Lev. 19:19) or eating pork (Lev. 11:7-8) illegal because God said these things are abominable just as sleeping with someone of your gender is.

You’re redefining marriage.

This is another argument that can be easily destroyed with this question: So what? Let’s redefine marriage to afford gay and lesbian couples the right to get married. Marriage was not always between one adult man and one adult woman throughout history and across cultures around the world. Marriage is an arbitrary concept. Christians do not have the monopoly over its definition. It’s not their concept alone to begin with. Marriage certainly did not originate as a Christian ceremony. And even if it did, it doesn’t mean it is for Christians or religious people to define and claim as solely theirs.

It threatens the sanctity of marriage.

This is another appeal to religion. Marriage is holy. Marriage is sacred. It is a union done under God’s grace, and because it’s done in the presence of God, it should only include a man and a woman because the Bible forbids homosexual partnerships.

So this is very much like the third argument that has been debunked.

First, we are not asking religious institutions. We are asking the State.

Second, that marriage is sacred is a matter of religious bias and is not a statement of fact. Again, we are a secular and democratic state, and such state does not adhere to religious dogma, especially when making and amending laws (Article III, Section 5).

Third, I personally do not think it threatens the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of heterosexual marriages for that matter. I don’t see how the marriage of two men or two women will affect the marriages of all heterosexual couples in the country. I don’t see how such marriages will suddenly make the other marriages unholy or unsacred. It doesn’t make any sense, especially considering same-sex marriages will not be shoved down the throats of churches or their followers. Again, we are asking the State, not the churches.

This will lead to people marrying kids, dogs, etc.

This slippery slope fallacy just does not die, too. All right, nowhere in marriage equality campaigns can you see advocacy for pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and polygamy. In addition, supposing same-sex marriage does encourage supporters of polygamy or pedophilia/ephebophilia or incest to lobby their own advocacy, then let them. They are free to do that. But their advocacy is not the marriage equality advocacy. Also, it does not mean we can stop same-sex marriage discussions dead in their tracks because we have this assumed slippery slope. My point is, same-sex marriage should be discussed in its own right. The other issues brought up are nowhere near related to same-sex marriage and are therefore irrelevant in the discussion and serve only as a distraction.

The logic behind this slippery slope goes like this: Straight unions are presumed to be superior to gay or lesbian unions, and we cannot move the limits of legal recognition of unions for the inferior minority because it may lead to moving the limits further down the scale. This slippery slope is composed of an asserted truth and an appeal to uncertain consequences.

Several decades ago, people did regard Black people and women inferior. But when African-Americans gained civil rights, were civil rights extended to monkeys? No! People understood that White and Black Americans are equal, and so the recognition of their civil rights was not a matter of moving the limits of such legal recognition to include an “inferior” race, because there was no inferior race. There was no moving down the ladder from White Americans to African-Americans down to monkeys and then dogs. When women gained voting rights, suffrage rights were not extended to cats.

More importantly, kids cannot give consent because they do not have well-developed cognitive faculties yet. Neither can dogs or monkeys give consent, let alone sign on a marriage certificate.

The genitals don’t fit.

First of all, genitals don’t get married. People do. Second, this argument assumes that marriage is done for purposes of sex only. Marriage is not defined as the union of genitals. It’s not all about sex. It’s also about commitment, togetherness, non-sexual intimacy, mutual respect, and so on.

Men are for women.

This is related to the argument above, minus the genital component. This argument assumes that because a man and a woman are needed for reproduction, thus follows that marriage should be only between a man and a woman. But we already have discussed that marriage is not solely for procreation. Besides, marriage is not necessary for procreation.

Another version of this argument asserts that men and women have complementary biological and psychological qualities that make them fitting for each other in a partnership and that same-sex couples do not possess this kind of complementary qualities. But partnerships do not require these complementary qualities between two people sharing mutual affection, because the only significant factors here are their mutual affection and their commitment. Asserting these supposed complementary differences only explain why heterosexual marriages are good and does not really say anything about same-sex partnerships, effectively rendering the assertion irrelevant in discussions about the latter. We know that despite such assumed complementary roles and qualities, heterosexual couples still break up and file for annulment. In other countries, they file for divorce. And we know many gay and lesbian couples who say strong despite the lack of such an assumed complementary biological and psychological components.

Same-sex partnerships and marriages may become a norm.

Let us look at the countries where gay couples can get married. Why haven’t gay unions become a norm in these places? Because gay marriage doesn’t change the percentage of gay people in the population. While legal recognition of such unions allow gay and lesbian people to get married, it doesn’t at all increase the number of gay and lesbian couples to a point wherein most marriages become same-gender marriages. In short, that argument is ridiculous.

Humans will go extinct.

This is like an extension of the previous argument. That humans will go extinct because of same-sex marriage assumes that too many people will get gay-married to a point wherein the population will decline. It’s absurd. At best, we can consider this argument a ridiculous digression or an exaggerated sarcasm. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t follow that when you legalize this type of marriage, everyone, including straight people, will start marrying members of the same sex or stop reproducing. Are people in Belgium or The Netherlands at the brink of extinction?

United Nations’ population projections show that there will be more than 11 billion people in the world in 2100. There is so much procreation going on despite the presence of same-sex unions in many countries.

Marriage is for the protection of children.

This is another asserted truth. Notice how its true message becomes preposterous — same-sex marriage is wrong because marriage is for the protection of children. See how it becomes a dishonest non sequitur? In other words, just because you think marriage is for the protection of children doesn’t mean two men or two women can’t get married.

Marriage is not parenting. Its primary purpose is to legally bind couples and afford them privileges and rights under such state-sanctioned unions. Marriage is not for procreation, let alone for the protection of children. People get married because they want to spend the rest of their lives with the people they love. Having kids is an option, not a requirement.

The other problem with this argument is it assumes gay and lesbian couples cannot protect children or uphold their welfare. Many studies have shown that there is no significant difference in the quality of lives or the psychological development between children raised by straight parents and those raised by gay parents. The parents’ ability to raise children and secure their welfare has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

A variation of this argument goes like this: Children of gay parents will only get bullied. Although this is more like an argument against joint adoption by a same-sex couple, it feigns as a compelling argument against gay marriage.

Bullying is wrong. No one wants their kids to be bullied. The problem is not same-sex couples raising children, but the bigotry within the society. We should be addressing this problem through educating people that same-sex unions are not inferior to opposite-sex unions. Stopping gay marriage in this case does not address bigotry; it only endorses it.

We should tell people to stop bullying anyone. Tell your kids to stop bullying other kids.

It will lead to more HIV/AIDS cases.

This argument can be translated like this: same-sex marriage is wrong because it leads to unsafe sexual practices that raise the married couple’s risk of HIV.

Gay sex is mistakenly identified as the culprit of HIV/AIDS. It seems logical. Cases are well and alive among men having sex with men. Because of that, same-sex marriage is wrong. Or so say the marriage equality critics. There’s one inconsistency, though. Lesbian women have the least cases of HIV or STIs for that matter.

The argument also assumes that same-sex marriage will encourage more promiscuity among gay men, but that is yet to be seen. One can argue that marriage creates a social and legal responsibility among homosexual couples to be together in fidelity and monogamy.

But the most important counterargument for this spurious claim is that gay sex doesn’t cause HIV. Nor does it lead to more cases on its own. The real culprit is unsafe sexual practices, such as engaging in casual sex with multiple partners without appropriate protection; and it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight. Two HIV-free men in a committed and monogamous relationship having sex will not get HIV no matter how many times they engage in sex. They will get tired, though, for sure. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get married because frequent sex causes fatigue.

There are more important issues.

This is a fallacy of relative privation. There are always more important issues. Poverty, territorial disputes, and peace and order problems were around when legislators debated and approved the then Anti-Cybercrime and RH bills. If they waited until all these important issues were resolved, would they have passed and approved new bills? Laws for relatively less important issues get passed every time, because legislators discuss bills in their own right without appealing to “more important” issues that have nothing to do with those bills.

As an analogy, do you skip dinner because there are hungry homeless children in your town?

It’s special rights.

Without a law that allows same-sex couples to get married, they simply do not have an alternative. They can only live together as cohabiting couples whose unions are not recognized by the state for illogical reasons. They do not enjoy the benefits that come with state-sanctioned unions. They do not have conjugal property rights, next-of-kin rights, joint adoption rights, etc. We are not talking about petty rights. These are major rights that have major implications on the lives of couples. Currently, there are no alternatives. Same-sex couples do not even have cohabitation rights, and that’s only because they are same-sex couples.

The right to get married is a basic right. Freedom from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation is a basic human right. Not recognizing same-sex unions is a form of discrimination and should not be exercised in a country that adheres to the principles of human rights.

Gay men can marry women.

This is an extension of the previous argument. Marriage equality critics consider same-sex marriage special rights because they argue that gay men can marry women or lesbian women can marry men, anyway. It sounds like a good argument until we dig deeper and find that most men and lesbian women do not want to marry women and men respectively. Gay men are not attracted to women and thus do not form romantic and intimate relationships with women, let alone want to marry them. So, telling them they can marry women does not make any sense.

We are a Christian country. It is against our culture.

Both statements sound valid except that they are both appeals to religion, tradition, and common belief, hence fallacious. Most of the people in the country are Christians, but it doesn’t mean that this country is theocratic. Legislators do not invoke the Bible or any religious scripture in drafting laws, and they should not. Laws are secular. They do not adhere to a common religion. Otherwise, we would have enacted laws against female non-virginity before marriage or banning of work on Sundays. The Philippine Constitution stipulates the separation between Church and State. Whereas the church can give its opinion regarding same-sex marriage, it cannot and should not interfere with or influence the legislative process of passing and approving of bills.

Regarding the Philippine culture, it has to be stressed that the culture is dynamic, not static, and that the culture and the law go hand-in-hand in shaping a nation. The culture shapes the law, but the law also shapes the culture. Neither is above the other. Laws can be established to uphold the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people to promote a culture of equality regardless of sexuality or gender. In other words, laws for marriage equality and non-discrimination based on SOGI can change our culture into something that is truly LGBT-inclusive.

Majority are not in favor of it.

This is very much similar to the previous argument. Just because the majority share the same opinion regarding something doesn’t necessarily follow they’re right. The reasons why eight in 10 Filipinos do not like gay marriage are laid out in this article, and we are debunking them.

When the Supreme Court of the Unites States ruled in favor of marriage equality, it ruled in favor of the rights of same-sex couples and considered their rights and dignity to be above popular opinion, culture, or religion. The SCOTUS operated under the principle of equality, reminding people that the law serves to protect the minority and that it serves to keep the majority from oppressing the minority.

It’s against the Family Code.

Of course. That’s why we’re discussing it.

Laws are not static and can be amended. This is why marriage equality advocates are lobbying for same-sex marriage. The Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code discriminate against two-men or two-women partnerships. Changing the legal definition of marriage to remove its heterosexist veil would be a crucial step in ensuring any two adults in a committed and monogamous relationship can get married regardless of their sexes or genders.

I don’t think that the marriage equality proponents in the country are so optimistic that they see their advocacy being signed into law anytime soon. It’s going to be a long walk towards marriage equality, but we’ll walk the long path anyway.

Peter Jones Dela Cruz is a gay demiguy, a heretic, and someone who believes popular opinion and norms should be challenged if they are devoid of reason. He yearns for a future wherein everyone is treated equally regardless of who they love or what they wear ― a future where labels no longer matter. Apart from ranting for LGBTQ rights, he also likes to snap pictures and sing covers.

Op-Ed

I may be HIV+ but that still doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with you

This is something every PLHIV needs to learn. That we are still “worth it”. Forget these notions of you being a “damaged good” or a “dirty person” or banalities given us along those lines. Because my HIV status is just one facet of my outrageous (and fabulous) personality; it does not define me.

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“I’m HIV-positive.”

That was the short sentence I remember telling this guy I used to date.

Okay – to backtrack – I met a guy while I was in Northern Mindanao. We dated for a while, and – at least I thought – things between us went smoothly for a while. I’d say he wasn’t bad-looking even if he looked somewhat common. He had one of those “if you stay long enough, I can teach myself to maybe even like you” face.

And then one night, we became more intimate than the usual. So I had to stop what we were doing (before we progressed further). And then – after prepping him up by first discussing with him his views about HIV and people living with HIV – I told him I had something important to tell him (if we were to advance what we had).

Thus that short sentence.

His face immediately changed; from what I saw was longing to… shocked. He couldn’t even say a word. And when he was finally able to utter a word, it was just to tell me that “I forgot I had to be elsewhere.”

The alibi was lame. But what made it more insulting was that I wasn’t even that into him to begin with; he was just a possible lay (if it came to that).

But that moment taught me two important things.

On one hand, how the sexuality of so many PLHIVs are tempered by their status.

I have frequently heard of medical practitioners who tell PLHIVs to “already stop having sex now that you’re HIV-positive; dadami pa kayo (you’d abet in increasing the number of PLHIVs)” – all too obviously unaware of safer sexual practices and U=U, among others. Worse, this sentiment is shared by a lot of PLHIVs themselves, who see their status as a “punishment”, and the only “cure” is to stop having sex altogether. Oh, please!

On the other hand, recognizing that being sexual doesn’t disappear (and doesn’t need to vanish) with being HIV-positive, there seems to be this supposition of PLHIVs being “desperate”.

That guy I dated, for instance, had every right NOT to have sex with me (it’s called power over one’s body); but that he had to lie just to get away from me was – to admit the truth – not only discourteous but even insulting. I suppose particularly because… I wasn’t even that into him.

Here’s the thing: Me living with HIV means just that – that I have HIV. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my (yes!) sexual appetite and (for that matter) taste/preferences/standards on who to do it with.

And I believe this is something every PLHIV needs to learn. That we are still “worth it”. Forget these notions of you being a “damaged good” or a “dirty person” or banalities given us along those lines. Because my HIV status is just one facet of my outrageous (and fabulous) personality; it does not define me. And if (some) guys can’t see that, well…

Because remember dearie, just because I am HIV-positive still doesn’t mean I’ll sleep with you.

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From the Editor

Women are not ‘disgusting’; gay men are just not into them…

Why the need to demean women, or express disgust over their body parts, when we can just say, “No, we’re not into women”; or “I’m a man; but I’m (also) into men”?

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Time to unlearn sub-/unconscious misogyny.

Here’s the thing: With the demise of Christine Dacera, and with predominantly gay (and perhaps bi) men considered as suspects by the error-filled PNP (Philippine National Police), many members of the LGBTQIA community surfaced to defend members of the rainbow family.

Background info: Christine Dacera, a flight attendant, celebrated her New Year’s Eve with gay/bi friends in a hotel in Makati City. On New Year’s Day, her body was found lifeless. The PNP (pre-empting everything) pushed for questionable narratives – e.g. that she was “raped” (even if the autopsy report couldn’t validate this), and then committed inept acts – e.g. announcing the case to be “solved” when it really wasn’t, jailing three of the people who claimed to have helped Christine that night (with a judge ordering them to release the three; and then basically telling them to, yes, do their job properly), embalming the body before another (independent) autopsy can be done, etc.

It didn’t help PNP at all when one of its top brass stated that “gay men are still men” (Yes, sir, they are; DUH!) and insinuated that gayness can, basically, be cured by alcohol (that is, they’d start having sex with, or even rape women when they’re drunk).

Going online, among the statements of “support” for the gay/bi suspects, however, you’d find statements like “yuck”, gross ang vagina”, “babae, yuck”, “kadiri“, and so on. All these supposedly refer to what gay men “feel” when with women.

And let’s stop spewing these misogynistic statements.

Misogyny – that hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women (Merriam-Webster, 2021) – can be blatant. But it can also be “invisible”. And get this, even members of minority sectors – such as those from the LGBTQIA community – can be misogynistic.

This seeming disdain for women – or their body parts – is actually misogynistic.

If you think this I am making a big “leap” with this claim, consider that in Psychology Today, Dr. Berit Brogaard wrote that “in most cases, misogynists do not even know that they hate women.”

After all, why the need to demean women, or express disgust over their body parts, when we can just say, “No, we’re not into women”; or “I’m a man; but I’m (also) into men”?

The antiquated – and, well, fatuous – macho culture in PNP has been harming members of the LGBTQIA community. Let’s not become part of the problem by becoming just as antiquated and, yes, just as fatuous.

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From the Editor

To stand united, we also need to watch our tongues…

Our bigger enemy here is injustice… to everyone involved (i.e. Christine; her loved ones; and her friends, many of them treated – even without proof – with prejudice). And how this injustice can be perpetuated even by those in positions of power. But just as important is for us to stay… united against these abuses. And part of this is not to become sources of, well, discrimination ourselves.

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I was 28 the first time I was told I’m old. We were in a bar in Malate (the former gay capital of the City of Manila); and then – while partying with friends – this 21-year-old gay guy who was with a friend said: “You’re too old to be in a bar; yuck!”.

Ageism – which refers to prejudice or discrimination on the basis of age – is an issue in the LGBTQIA community. It is an issue that has been tackled repeatedly in the past; though, admittedly, perhaps not as much in the Philippines.

In 2009, for instance, Malcolm Sargeant published “Age discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity: UK/US perspectives” in Equal Opportunities International”, which noted that LGBTQIA elders suffer from particular discrimination when compared to that suffered by elders in general, and heterosexual elders in particular.

It is, therefore, not surprising that elders have been calling for inclusion; something that Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE (an American organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ elders), said that should be tackled. “Over and over what we hear again from our elders is that they feel invisible and forgotten by the rest of the community, and that includes our younger people… And what we’ve seen is that it’s so powerful when older and younger people come together and engage as activists,” Adams was quoted as saying by Out.com.

These two points – ageism, and the need to dump it if we want to move forward TOGETHER – was re-emphasized to me after hearing from some of PNP’s suspects in the demise of Christine Dacera.

As FYI: Christine, a flight attendant, partied with mostly gay/bi friends during New Year’s Eve. She passed away on New Year’s Day; and the PNP has been “forcing” a narrative that she was “raped”, with a high-ranking policeman even claiming that when gay men get drunk, they “also become men”.

This one’s not to talk about PNP messing everything up; PNP’s assertion that “gay men are still men” (based on this antiquated misconception that “gay men are not ‘real’ men”); PNP’s erroneous belief that alcohol is a “cure” to being LGBTQIA (Hello, CBCP, send some my way!); and PNP’s insinuation that, yes, all men are rapists.

Instead, this is to focus on how “damage” can come from within the LGBTQIA community. And we really need to be aware of this; and even take steps to deal with this.

Now back to ageism and how this happens from within.

When ABS-CBN News interviewed some of the initial suspects (who were released when the court told PNP it, basically, didn’t do its job properly to pin these people down), one of them stated (off-handedly, if I may add; proceed to 56:25 in the YT video below) that they mingled with “mga bakla” in a separate room, but that this room had “matatanda/bakla na may mga edad na” so they may as well move to their room/a different room since “wala namang pogi dito eh“.

Discriminating may have been unintentional (ageism, and yes, lookism); but it’s still there.

The suspects’ names have been unnecessarily dragged by the PNP which committed errors after errors after errors when it dealt with this case – e.g. it prematurely declared the case “solved”; it claimed there was “rape” when the initial autopsy report did not back this claim; its key people even threatened that if the suspects did not willingly surrender, then they should expect the worse (and yes, we all know what THAT meant); and it basically prevented another autopsy from being done to the body when it had the body embalmed sans informing the family, etc.

Our bigger enemy here is injustice… to everyone involved (i.e. Christine; her loved ones; and her friends and acquaintances, many of them treated – even without proof – with prejudice). And how this injustice can be perpetuated even by those in positions of power.

But just as important is for us to stay… united against these abuses.

And part of this is not to become sources of, well, discrimination ourselves. Because how can we stand united if we discriminate against people we hope will actually support us (e.g. the LGBTQIA community as a whole, including the elders and, yes, the “not pogi“)?

So let’s be more self-aware as we start dealing with this…

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From the Editor

About sex work (and prostitution) among Filipinos at the time of Covid-19

Various Facebook GCs (group chats) highlight how Covid-19 may have pushed many Filipinos into the sex industry. And yet – except in these GCs – this is largely ignored.

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Facebook just prompted me to “join” three GCs (group chats) related to sex work (and even prostitution). One is for “mga lalaking bayaran“, another for masseurs with ES (extra service; the extra being the sexual favor), and another for “for hire daks Pinoys”.

These aren’t exclusive GCs, actually; and they aren’t new, either. Many others like them abound in Facebook (among other social networking sites).

But upon checking, what struck me with these GCs this time around is Covid-19’s effect/s on the (current) memberships. So many are in this because of desperation. For instance, it is not uncommon to see comments like: “Nawalan lang ng trabaho; sino gusto tumulong para may ipa-Pasko kaming mag-aama“; or “Para tulong lang sa online classes.”

This is another facet of the sex industry (and even prostitution) as exacerbated by the pandemic.

And this face – while at least tackled overseas – isn’t really openly discussed in the Philippines…

IN THE SHADOWS

Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, this is worth stressing. Penalties vary, up to life imprisonment for those involved in trafficking (covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003).

No, the country doesn’t distinguish between sex work and prostitution; here, those in the sex industry are largely considered as in need of being “saved”. Not just the body, too; but also the “soul”.

But – get this – prostitution is actually openly tolerated – e.g. let’s stop pretending we don’t know what many GROs actually do; what masseurs offer when they say “E.S.”; and that there are local government units that give workers (of bars, spas, massage parlors, KTV bars, and so on) “pink cards” to guarantee that they are STI-free and are “sexually clean/safe”.

And really, except for the occasional “saving” of trafficked people (who are then turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development) we see in TV, the deafening silence on this is what’s remarkable.

TRANSACTIONAL SEX

This silence is… worrisome.

Particularly because this continues to happen; and yes (yet again), exacerbated by Covid-19.

What the GC members I’ve come across in Facebook are doing aren’t new, actually. The Philippines – dearies – isn’t excluded from the “oldest profession in the world.” This, obviously, includes male sex workers (befitting the handling of this topic here).

Consider that in 2003, the University of the Philippines’ Population Institute and Demographic Research and Development Foundation released the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS3) that noted that about 11% of sexually active young people aged 15-24 did it with someone of the same sex. Of this figure, 87% are men who have sex with men (MSM; meaning they may not self-identify as gay or bi, but have sex with other men).

Here’s what’s worth stressing in UP’s study: Almost half of those who had same-sex encounters also engaged in commercial sex. Approximately 19% paid for sex, while 11% received payment for sexual favors.

At that time, Dr. Corazon Raymundo, project coordinator of YAFS3, stated that it appears that in a fast changing world, the “usual norms and expectations do not hold true anymore.”

REVISIT… EVERYTHING

There are too many interconnected issues that should be considered here…

There’s poverty; and how this forces people to do things they may not otherwise do.

There’s the continuing lack of government support for its people; otherwise, those who do not want to sell themselves wouldn’t be forced to do so – e.g. selling oneself for “online classes”; because of loss of employment; etc.

There’s the pervasive ignorance re the sex industry; this is what leads to the abuse of those involved in it because – since they are considered illegal to begin with – they can’t even access State support if they are abused, etc.

There’s the impact of tech on the industry.

There’s the ongoing hypocrisy re this – e.g. church people want to “save” sex workers; but ask them to give these same people job in the church, and start counting how many reasons they can come up with just to (basically) say “No way!”.

There’s the continuing “punishment” of those in the sex industry; and yet… look at how the patrons get away with “buying” (e.g. the GCs in Facebook blatantly haggle with the service providers, demanding for the absurd while asking to lower the prices).

There’s the continuing ignoring of the sexual and reproductive health concerns of Filipinos.

There’s the silence re this; it’s staring us in the face, and we don’t even talk about this.

And on, and on, and on we go…

In the end, this needs to be tackled. No matter your angle” – e.g. because it inadvertently signifies the adverse effects of Covid-19 on poorer sectors of society; because it highlights government inaction/misaction; because it needs to be monitored as a health issue; because you’re self-righteous and you want to “save” them all; etc. – this shouldn’t, couldn’t be ignored. Covid-19 is re-emphasizing what was already there; and so please… just address this already…

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Editor's Picks

Enter the alter world

Welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual engagements. Though often maligned, it actually also highlights formation of friendships, info sharing, emotional support, and even provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality.

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Some time back, Kurt (a.k.a. @MoanerBottom) opened a Twitter account as a form of revenge. “I found out that my ex had an ‘alter’ account and he was fooling around with different people,” he recalled. And so “I wanted to prove to him that I can also do the same thing.”

Little did Kurt know at that time that he would become a mainstay in the alter world/community. A few months since opening his own alter account, he garnered over 130,000 followers, all of them craving – and even waiting – for what he would post, usually dominated by sexual encounters (“kalat videos,” he calls them) with mostly students, including a basketball varsitarian “who likes to penetrate deeply”, a Blue Eagle who allowed for his orgasm to be videoed, a Tamaraw who also allowed himself to be videoed as he orgasmed, and bending for a Red Lion.

“I must admit that I am a shy person in real life,” Kurt said. But “here in Twitter, it is like I have less shame and more courage to do kalat (contextually: shameless) posts and videos.”

Kurt is, obviously, only one of the people – not just Filipinos – with alter accounts, which many like him, say is similar to a “pseudonym — like Batman to Bruce Wayne, or Superman to Clark Kent; where people can have a separate account from their primary accounts, usually used to express themselves more ‘wildly’ yet more ‘discreetly’/anonymously.”

And so welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual “collaborations”, hookups, fetishes, fantasies and social engagements, with the audiences often never really knowing the content generators/producers/distributors.

Getting noticed

That the alter world is often dominated by sexual content is a given.

Onin (a.k.a. @Onin_NuezPH), for example, sees his alter account “as an avenue for me to express myself and my sexuality. I am able to let everyone know within the community about my sexual desires without the fear of being judged.”

Looking back, it was actually “a friend who is an alter too introduced me in this alter community,” Onin said.

One of the early instances Onin trended was when some of his nude photos circulated on Twitter. Many got curious, asking the person who previously reacted or shared the photos if there were more.

It whetted Onin’s interest; and so he started posting more photos and short videos. His followers quickly increased, reaching more than 145,000.

Taking pride that he is one of the more talked about alters out there, Onin has produced content that may seem trivial… but these have been keeping the alter community and lurkers interested, from balancing a shampoo bottle on top of his erect penis, sharing a photo of his endowment while asking his followers if they want to kneel in front him, a comparison of the length of a deodorant spray with his penis, wearing a see-through underwear, and teasing his latest sexual collaboration.

Standing out

Standing out in a platform where hundreds (even thousands) of alters saturate news feeds is a challenge. After all, it is not an easy feat to attract someone’s attention — what more to make them like, share, or follow an account.

For FUCKER Daddy (a.k.a. @ako_daddy), therefore, it all comes down to the type of content being posted, not just being well-endowed, willing to perform bareback sex, or how often the face is shown.

A licensed professional who has a son, FUCKER Daddy started as a “lurker’ (i.e. one who lurks, or just consumes content/views profiles) on Twitter. At that time, he wrote “my real-life sex stories, hoping it will pick up from there,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, alter peeps seem to be more into live action.”

And so FUCKER Daddy met someone from Telegram, without realizing that the person was “sort of (a) big (personality) on Twitter.” This guy discretely took a short clip of their sexual encounter, and then posted it on his alter account. “It was hit. (And) the rest is history.”

By August 2019, FUCKER Daddy said his inbox started receiving direct messages from different users – e.g. asking for more, congratulating him, wanting to collaborate, and so on.

He actually now has several sex videos in his cam. But he still doesn’t make recording the primary thing when engaging in sex “as my goal is to have hookups; videos are only secondary.”

Besides, he said that “I do not want to spoil the moment for sex and think only of it as merely for Twitter.”

But every time FUCKER Daddy posts a video, he said his over 95,000 followers respond to them “with enthusiasm, getting more curious and intrigued.”

Making a living

The concept of alter, however, isn’t set in stone.

For one, there are actually alter accounts whose owners prefer to use their real names and show their faces (like Onin), mixing their personal and private lives along the way. Following the Batman/Bruce Wayne and Superman/Clark Kent analogy, there are also people who follow the Tony Stark/Iron Man mantra, i.e. openly announcing that they are one and the same.

Secondly, monetizing is actually possible.

Also, one may be part of the alter community without knowing it – i.e. one engages in alter activities without recognizing it as such.

The likes of John (a.k.a. @johnnephelim on Twitter and Instagram), who has over 130,000 followers, comes to mind, using Twitter as a platform “to promote a job.”

“I do not even know that I am involved in the world of alter,” John said, adding that he did not even know what the term meant until it was presented to him. Instead, his account is used to “promote my RentMen and OnlyFans accounts”, just as he also promotes his availability for “personal appointment to people.”

John actually used to work as a brand ambassador, but because of this change in his work, he “can no longer work (in) that (field) because I am doing porn.”

He admitted that “this type of thing is double-edged.” On the one hand, “you can earn a great amount of money,” he said, “but there will be sacrifices.”

He noted, for instance, that the perception of people about me changed; most people judge you right away because of what you do, and not because of who you are as a person.”

But he ignores the naysayers; “I do not mind because this job gives more than what I expected!”

Like John, Onin also promotes his JustFor.Fans (JFF) account on Twitter to respond to the requests of his followers.

“They (my followers) want to see me in action and they are willing to subscribe too,” Onin said, with his exclusive content including: he and his partner having sex, and collaborations with other alters. “You will not earn that much, but pretty enough to compensate for the contents that we are posting.”

Not all alters think alike, obviously. FUCKER Daddy, for instance, won’t monetize his content, saying: “I value sex as it was created. I never sell any (videos) because I think it is something that is worth free. I simply treated it as making memories while those (who) watch put up the numbers.”

Behind the handles

The world of alter has actually already caught the attention of researchers.

For instance, in a study by Samuel Piamonte of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Mark Quintos of De La Salle University Manila, and Minami Iwayama of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, it was found that the alter community may seem overtly sexual, but there is more to it than that.
“The sexual aspect of alter is the core of alter, but it has been enriched by more complex social benefits to users such as including formation of new friendships, sharing of information and advocacies, reciprocations of emotional support, and provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality but find that doing so outside of the alter community could be met with stigma from their peers and family.”

Kurt sees his alter account as an avenue for him to tap his inner self and show the Twitter universe his kalat. Onin uses his alter account to broadcast his sexual side (together with his partner). And FUCKER Daddy uses his alter account as “a constant source of info, hookups, convo… and to learn social demographics as well.”

The evolution, indeed, continues.

Hate from within the community

Yes, yes, yes… with increasing numbers of followers, multiple likes and shares, and the creation of alter “celebrities”, this has not been spared from criticisms.

And sadly, said Kurt, at least in the Philippine setting, the prejudice against alters comes from within the community. “Kapuwa LGBT ang nagsisiraan at nagpapataasan sa isa’t-isa,” he said. “I know… that I cannot please everyone (but) for me it is okay, as long as I know that I am not doing anything wrong.”

Perhaps a “surprise” is the audience’s inability to “appreciate” the free content given them, with Kurt noting that there are times when “they are also pissed off with the things I post.”

This seems to contradict the findings of Piamonte, Quintos and Iwayama, since – here – the alter community can become a fearful place, too.

John, like Kurt, noted how people resort to demeaning others when they do not fit preconceived notions. But he just laughs this off, saying: “Do not hate me because I look good and make money (from) it. Life is too short to be a bitter person. If you do not like what we do, then shut the fuck up.”

The Pandora’s box, so to speak has been opened; and lessons learned along the way can just “make you stronger and bring out the best in you,” said Onin, who like many alters, “just focus on my goals.” And it is exactly because of the existence of this interchange – the content creation, and the love-hate reaction to what’s created – that alter is not going to disappear anytime soon (or at all).

Details and photos of sexual encounters were lifted from the Twitter accounts of the interviewees.

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Op-Ed

Simple but effective tips on how you can better protect trans women

Given that our lives are considered less than a lot of people, it’s easy for trans women to become victims of violence and for the perpetrator to get away with it. So our best defense against any untoward incident is to always think of our security and the security of our friends.

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These are simple but effective tips on how you can better protect the trans women in your lives in the context of a night that could go wrong. Given that our lives are considered less than a lot of people, it’s easy for trans women to become victims of violence and for the perpetrator to get away with it.

So our best defense against any untoward incident is to always think of our security and the security of our friends.

1. PICTURE.

If you are hooking up with someone, ALWAYS send a picture of the person you are hooking up with to people you trust with your life. If you are hooking up with someone from a club, bar, or any public place, ask your friend to take your picture with the person you’d be with. This can be de done discreetly or with the permission of the other person. When asking permission, tell the person that you’re taking his/her picture for security purposes.

2. ADDRESS.

If you are going to someone else’s house for a booty call, send your GPS location via Whatsapp OR text the address of your location to people you trust.

3. WAIT.

If you are walking someone home or dropping them off, do not leave until the person is already inside his/her house. Do not let your drunk or high friend go home alone, either invite your friend to your house or accompany them home.

4. “I’M SAFE” CALL/TEXT.

Always demand an “I’m safe” call/text from your friend as soon as they’re home.

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