A few years back, me and some cousins around my age were talking about sex when an auntie who overheard us told us to keep our voices low, if we can’t stop talking about sex at all.
“Your younger cousins are around,” she said, “and they could hear you.”
These “younger” cousins, by the way, were aged over 14 – in reality, already binata and dalaga, though the grown-ups continue treating them as “kids”.
And here, for me, lies a big, BIG problem.
We need to talk about sex.
Otherwise people get their information elsewhere; and often, when they do, they get the wrong kinds of information that prove detrimental to them.
Here’s the thing: (Consensual) sex – when done with someone you like/love – is not at all a bad thing. Sex can be beautiful.
The sooner people realize this, the better.
Because if not, people continue having sex, anyway, and it is when people are involved in uninformed sexual contacts that problems arise.
We make people avoid sex – AS IF WE CAN; when what we should be doing is provide information so that the sexual contacts that happen do not turn out bad.
Because – AGAIN – sex is going to take place; and – AGAIN – it might as well be an informed act when it is done (or not done) at all.
As early as 2010, in an interview with ABS-CBN, magazine editor Wanggo Gallaga, a Filipino living with HIV, warned the youth against having sex with strangers they meet through the Internet. Gallaga has (rightly) not been shy in discussing about HIV, but he also warned others about engaging in casual sex with random strangers met through the Internet.
Fast forward three years later, in 2013, and the same message (or at least the emphasis) is given, when Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the DOH’s National Epidemeology Center (NEC), was quoted for noting the link between the rising number of tech-users (such as smartphones) and the rise in the number of people getting infected with HIV. This is supposedly a cause of concern with the availability of apps (think Grindr and PlanetRomeo) that enable users to cruise/pick-up sans the need to be in specific locations.
In both instances, one lesson needs to be pointed out: NO, technology did not spread HIV; but the lack of proper information did.
Truth is, if you want to have casual sex with someone you met through the Internet, that is YOUR choice.
And if you pick up guys through smartphone apps, that, too, is YOUR choice.
But worth stressing here is that NEITHER will mean you will already get infected with HIV.
We are missing the lesson here again with the emphasis (particularly when these stories are reported) on the seeming necessity to prevent people from having sex at all.
The lesson we need to teach is the PRACTICE of SAFER SEX.
Because – let’s be completely honest, and I can’t stress enough – we can’t stop people from having sex. Sooner or later, with or without your consent, people will have (good or bad) sex. But the least we can do is provide correct information about sex.
Only a few months after me and my cousins had our sex talk, I was informed that a few of the “children” that my auntie said could hear us ended up either getting pregnant or impregnating their girlfriends. And so now they belong to the estimated 16.5 million Filipinos in the 15-24 year old age group who get pregnant even if they, themselves, are supposedly still kids.
We failed, and we continue failing them because we refuse to openly talk about sex.
Because sex is not at fault here.
And we can fix this with education, not by scaring people away.