There are many and varied reasons why people fuck. These reasons, despite the preachings of the pure and the just, are not limited to procreation. The reasons may be immoral to some moralities, depraved to other sensibilities, but for as long as both parties – or all parties, however many are involved – are of legal age and actively consent, the law considers sexual activity a personal choice.
I always believed that my democratic government supported that choice. My bedroom is my bedroom, but unlike the generations before me, my bedroom is not limited to the 12 by 12 foot space my P6,000 a month rental affords me. My bedroom spans the depth and breadth of the universe; my bedroom is as large or as small as I choose. My bedroom is cyberspace.
It is difficult to understand why cybersex is such a terrifying concept to so many. Cybersex is sex on the Internet. It’s virtual sex. It’s private among consenting adults. It’s cybersex when you’re an overseas worker stripping over Skype in front of your Filipino wife. It’s cybersex when you use SnapChat and exchange nude pictures with your girlfriend. It’s cybersex when you jack off after creating avatars with oversized dicks on Second Life.
Unless you belong to some sect espousing celibacy, sex is basic to human expression. It is true there are many dangers involved in the sweaty reality of sexual intercourse. Online sex in fact limits those dangers, affording anyone with a DSL connection sex that doesn’t deal with unwanted pregnancies, awkward mornings after, stained bed sheets and a slew of deadly diseases.
There are as many apps for cybersex and dating as there are available motel rooms in the back streets of Pasig. It’s an alphabet soup of possibilities for every mobile preference – Alikewise, Badoo, Cloud Girlfriend, Cupid, EHarmony, Kik, Grindr, Tinder – as well as the whole range of messaging platforms like FaceTime, Yahoo! Messenger, Viber, Line, What’s App and the old reliable of Facebook private messaging. As long as you’re of legal age and consenting, your pursuit of happiness is only a matter of logging in.
You get aroused, you get your kicks, you get your orgasm, you call it cybersex. Cybersex is sex. It is not pornography. It is not public. It is a choice.
The criminalization of sex
All of these make it difficult to understand why the Supreme Court upheld Congress’ declaration that the act of cybersex is a criminal act deserving of 6 years in jail or P200,000 in penalties.
Section 4 (c) (1) of the Cybecrime Act of 2012 lists cybersex along with child pornography, cyber libel and identity theft as a criminal offense. It is a blanket declaration whose absoluteness would have been funny had it not been so dangerous. Cybersex with a minor should be illegal. Cybersex with a prostitute should be illegal. Cybersex using someone else’s identity should be illegal. But cybersex as a criminal act among consenting adults is as ridiculous as handcuffing a married couple indulging in a Valentine’s Day celebration.
Even setting aside the wholesale criminalization of cybersex as an act, it is crucial to understand what the honorable gentlemen of Congress mean when they say cybersex. They may claim to only target certain and specific acts, but their definition carelessly covers all acts.
Congress calls cybersex “the willful engagement, maintenance, control or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.”
This is not a definition of cybersex. This is a definition of all sexual acts, illegal or otherwise, written by people who do not know what cybersex is, who lump free and consensual sex with child trafficking and prostitution, who in the process of attempting to punish criminals are now punishing the rest of the country. It’s a treatise of what cyber experts call the fear of the mythical dark web: the imaginary underbelly of a virtual world for drug dealers and human traffickers where virtue is for sale and laws have no power.
This could mean the creation of an online police. This could mean an official ban on pornography. This could mean your Tumblr account where you collect naked art shots is illegal. This could mean you could be sanctioned for the half-naked photos on your Instagram account because you demand favor in the form of likes. This could mean that every time you Google words like cock, vagina, blowjob, cum and sex, an error 404 will greet your stunned face. This could mean a new dark age.
Welcome to the dark ages
I may have less faith in a congress that spends most of its time battling back corruption charges and proclaiming adobo as the national food, but forgive me if I expected more from the High Court.
Only two justices struck down the cybersex clause as unconstitutional for its vagaries, two of fifteen in a recent decision. The rest upheld the criminalization of cybersex, claiming that it is clear from congressional deliberations that the clause is only against “illegal cybersex.” The point is to “punish cyber prostitution, white slave trade and pornography for favor and consideration.” (READ: Cybersex, media, privacy and the cybercrime law)
Nowhere in the law is it clear. Nowhere does it say “illegal cybersex.” The one clear thought in the clause is that the law says cybersex is a crime. Certainly it would have been possible to directly criminalize cyber prostitution, but Congress was careless and the High Court appeared willing to cover the government’s collective asses.
The law “invites us to go beyond the plain and ordinary text of the law and replace it with deliberations in committees that prepared the provision,” as Justice Marvic Leonen writes in his dissent. The provision, he says, is “too sweeping in its scope.”
“The majority is not clear why the tighter language defining the crimes of prostitution and white slavery was not referred to clearly in the provision.” He argues that the law fails to justify “the state’s interest in prohibiting intimate private exhibition.”
This is not a philosophical argument arguing semantics and paranoia. The law is as it is, and any limitations should be in the law itself, not in some presumed intention a policeman holding a copy of the law will see.
The public may be free to fight criminal prosecution, but they shouldn’t be compelled to fight at all, shouldn’t be chilled by fear and made to live in dread when they choose to jack off with a partner online.
The court majority appears to be satisfied applying archaic values to sex. It presents a dilemma between generations. The rules are different today from they were twenty years ago. There are no bars here or romantic dinners. Sex online by virtue of its nature is both limited and expanded by its virtuality—a date can be an imaginary picnic under tangerine trees and marmalade skies just as well as it can be a naked exhibition over Yahoo! Messenger. The Internet is not to blame here, any more than motels charging P599 for three hours can be penalized for being the site of sexual encounters.
The burden of proof
The Internet has created a new language, a new social order, one that is still private, still free, still driven by personal choice. Adding the word cyber to sex doesn’t make sex pornographic, much less, criminal. All over the world all things cyber will become as conventional as smart phones are today, from Google glass to Ocular Rift’s virtual reality, and many of these will be platforms for cyber sex. Virtual will be social and teenagers will lose their virginities online.
“We think that everything must be so much worse because of technology," says Danah Boyd, the leading authority on teenage interaction with technology. "The funny thing is that we’ve had these moral panics for every generation. Comics were ruining everybody, rock and roll was ruining everybody, MTV was ruining everybody we’ve had this in many different iterations.”
It appears that the defenders of the new law are insisting on immortalizing their single moral code. It would be easy to blame it on age, but perhaps it is simply the arrogance of the technologically ignorant imposing puritanical norms on what they perceive are incomprehensible evils. Values are changing. Homosexuality is protected, marijuana is gaining acceptance, the Church is taking responsibility for its crimes, and even Amnesty International is supporting the legalization of prostitution. You may not agree with these values, it means there are a multiplicity of beliefs, and that multiplicity is where freedom lies.
The truth is that it is not necessary to justify cyber sex. It is necessary to justify to us why it is wrong.
I do not know which is more dangerous: the legal imposition of an older generation’s morals on a new generation, or that my lawmakers do not know the difference between cybersex and cyber prostitution.
Between righteousness and idiocy, the result is clear—the next generation will be breaking a law every time they want to fuck. – Rappler.com
Paolo Villaluna is an Urian award-winning filmmaker whose full-length films have gained international acclaim. He is the co-creator the documentary show Storyline, and also makes television commercials. He claims his half-naked photos in his Instagram account are not lascivious. Instagram @pvillaluna, Twitter @paolovillaluna