[Dash of SAS] ‘Ginagamit for sex’

Ana P. Santos
May no woman ever have to say 'gamitin' to mean sex when she speaks about her body and right to choose, her right to love

ANA P. SANTOSThe first time I heard the word “gamit” to mean sex was on a TV show, the now defunct “Mel and Jay” hosted by Jay Sonza and Mel Tiangco.  

I vaguely recall the topic, but I think it was about marriage and relationships. When it was time to take questions from the audience, a woman shyly took the microphone and asked, “Ano po ang puwede sabihin sa mister ko pag umuwi siya nang gabi at gusto niya gumamit? Minsan po kasi pagod lang talaga ako.” [What can I tell my husband when he comes home late at night and wants to use me? Sometimes, I’m just really too tired.]

I was maybe 14 or 15 at the time, but had already been exposed to a variety of vernacular euphemisms for sex from “sumiping (to lay beside)” to “yung ginagawa ng mag asawa (what married people do),” but had not yet come across “gamitin (use).”

I thought it was odd that this woman’s term was gamit, which, as a verb means “to use” and as a noun, means a thing.”

One of the guests, Winnie Monsod, picked up on the semantics right away and set two things straight by saying, It should never be an obligation. It should be a joy. At bakit gamitin? Ano, siya lang ba ang mag-eenjoy?” (Why is your term “to use?” Is he the only one who gets to enjoy?)

The audience broke out into laughter and if the woman didn’t put her head down to hide her own giggling, I’m sure you could see her blushing profusely.

Safe and satisfying sex life

The long forgotten memory came to mind when last week, at the Senate hearings on the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, some legislators — all men — expressed their discomfort about the inclusion of the phrase “safe and satisfying sex life” in the RH Bill.

The reasons for their opposition included:

“If we don’t put it there, will it mean that people will no longer have a satisfying sex life?”

“Well, when I make love to my wife, she’s always satisfied.”

Another man, Sen Alan Cayetano (brother of Sen Pia Cayetano, one of the principal authors of the RH Bill) explained, “Before, and even now, there is a belief in some men that it is their right to ‘use’ their wife. So we don’t need to be shy in admitting that we also need to give enjoyment to women. Are men supposed to be the only ones to enjoy?”

The inclusion of the phrase in “a safe, satisfying sex life” is not an addition to the RH Bill made on a whim by advocates and pro-RH legislators.

UN standards

It is actually part of the global definition used in the programme action plans that were devised during the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD or the Cairo Convention) in 1994 and later reaffirmed in the UN World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing.

Sexual satisfaction, which some may equate to performance and other topics related to it (like an orgasm, for example) is not the only basis for a safe satisfying sex life.

It is based on the holistic definition of reproductive health which includes the “freedom to choose to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

It is premised on the fact that “women have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Time and time again, the discussion on reproductive health has been reduced and overly simplified into one about sex: who gets it to have it, who gets to enjoy it, who to have it with.

The often viciously circular discussion reduces sex to an act of fornication and ignores our basic human right to show love, give love, and make love.

Isn’t that one of the major reasons why people the world over have sex in the first place? To make the emotion of love tangible, to physically express love. It goes back to our basic human need to strengthen connections and to nurture intimacy.  When defined in those terms, doesn’t it become clear why a sex life that is both safe and satisfying is a human right?

As I wrote this, the vote from the House of Representatives (HOR) had been finalized. The HOR passed the RH Bill on second reading with a final vote tally of affirmative: 113, negative: 104 and abstention: 3.

It was a long 5-hour voting, but nothing compared to the close to 14 years that RH activists and legislators have been lobbying for this bill to pass.

There will be another third and final reading in the HOR and quite a bit of work to be done to get the bill finally passed, but it is one giant leap in the direction of a progressive RH legislation and a small step for Filipino womanity.

May no woman ever have to say “gamitin” to mean sex when she speaks about her body and right to choose, her right to love. – Rappler.com


Before she became a public health journalist, Ana was a banker. To this day, she considers her greatest achievement telling her mother that she has made a bit of a career writing by talking and writing about sex without having to engage in porn. She blogs at www.sexandsensibilities.com and states her opinionsas unabridged as they can get—on Twitter @iamAnaSantos.