Male senators uneasy with ‘safe, satisfying sex’

Enrile, Sotto, Estrada, Escudero and Osmeña are uncomfortable with the phrase 'safe and satisfying sex life' in the RH definition

'UNCOMFORTABLE WITH PHRASE.'Five male senators question the inclusion of "safe and satisfying sex life" in the definition of Reproductive Health. Screenshots from Senate livestream

MANILA, Philippines – Five words sparked a lengthy and loaded debate in the Senate, leaving male senators ill at ease. The phrase? Safe and satisfying sex life.

Five male senators were indignant, curious and at times laughing as they questioned the inclusion of the phrase in the definition of Reproductive Health (RH). 

The debate was rooted in an amendment that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile introduced in the controversial RH bill, removing the phrase from the definition of RH. (Read the other amendments here.

The entire line that Enrile wanted removed was, “This (RH) implies that people are able to have a safe and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide, if, when and how often to do so.”

Sen Pia Cayetano, the bill’s principal sponsor, rejected the amendment, triggering the debate.

Enrile ally Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III stood up to defend the amendment.

“May I ask, wala ba tayo ngayon niyan? It’s present. We should have safe and satisfying sex life and we can decide when and where to do so. So bakit kailangan pang ilagay sa batas iyon? Ang sagwang tingnan sa batas eh,” Sotto said. (May I ask, don’t we have that now? That’s present. So why do we need to put that in the law? It does not look pleasant to have that in the law.)

Sen Jinggoy Estrada turned comical when he rose to question the phrase. “’Di ba pagka magsesex ang isang babae’t lalaki, we assume we will be satisfied?” (Don’t we assume that when a man and a woman have sex, we will be satisfied?)

“Because I’m quite disturbed because if I for example have sex with my wife, I assume that I will be satisfied and I assume my wife will also be satisfied and we will always be satisfied,” Estrada said.

For Sen Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III, the question was, “Does the deletion of that phrase mean we won’t have a happy and healthy sex life?”

The RH bill aims to provide access to both natural and modern family planning methods, and to promote sex education and family planning. The House of Representatives has its own version of the billl, which President Benigno Aquino III wants members to approve this week.

One of the most contentious measures in Congress, it has been pending for about 17 years. The Catholic Church is staunchly against the bill, saying it promotes a contraceptive mentality and promiscuity. 

President Aquino has expressed support for it, saying he would vote for the measure if he were still a lawmaker. 

PERSONAL MATTER. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile says having a safe, satisfying sex life is the business of a couple and not of the state. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

‘Chiz currently in love’

Yet it was Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s question that drew the most laughs. Escudero said he was “not too comfortable” with the phrase, prompting Cayetano to ask, “Is your problem with the safe or is your problem with the satisfying?”

Escudero said “I like both,” adding it was the phrase being used in the law that was his problem.

Cayetano in turn asked him what he wants his daughter and wife to have: a safe or satisfying sex life?

Escudero replied “safe” for his daughter and for his wife, “I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know anymore. You should have asked me before.” The senator is already separated from his wife.

Cayetano then alluded to his relationship with actress Heart Evangelista, “I’m speaking [hypothetically]. I assume you will have a wife again because I know that you are currently in love.”

Escudero said it was another matter but later on laughed out loud.

‘Not a laughing matter’

The mood turned serious when Cayetano addressed the questions, especially that of Estrada.

“I just want all the gentlemen laughing here now to know that in conferences all around the world, having a safe, satisfying sex life is not a laughing matter. It’s serious business,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano explained that the phrase was lifted from the International Conference on Population and Development, which the Philippines acceded to.

“Many times a woman’s satisfaction is inhibited or she is not satisfied because she’s afraid of getting pregnant. A lot of women will accede to the desire of their husband to have sex because they want to make their husband happy and they want to have sex too but without protection, they know they will bear the burden of another child.”

“So I hope I convince his honor that contraceptives is necessary to have a satisfying sex life for many people,” Cayetano added.

Her brother, Sen Alan Peter Cayetano sided with her. He said, “What is the discomfort with the phrase? Is it because we are prude or we just don’t like the language because they might say we are vulgar or is there something inherently wrong with safe, satisfying sex life?” 

The younger Cayetano added, “I am in favor of having it there if we have a better word but to remove if because we’re uncomfortable, we weren’t elected to be comfortable. We were elected to do the right thing here.”

‘Why so aghast?’

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago also stood to defend the phrase. “Why are we so aghast with use of ‘safe, satisfying sex life?’ It’s been used for 20 years or more.”

Santiago said the phrase is already part of legislative vocabulary worldwide.

She was snarky. “Some may find the phrase strange … because we don’t always deal with international law in this chamber.”

The issue eventually came to a vote, with the Senate voting 6-11 to reject Enrile’s move to remove the phrase.

The Senate also voted 6-11 against another similar Enrile amendment to remove the word “pleasurable” in the phrase “pleasurable and safe sexual experience” under the definition of sexual health. – Rappler.com 

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