2022 Philippine Elections

[Dash of SAS] Sex videos and sexism: Just another day in Philippine politics

Ana P. Santos
[Dash of SAS] Sex videos and sexism: Just another day in Philippine politics
'As long as it is consensual sex between two adults, sex and expressions of it should be treated as an individual prerogative – not a public spectacle'

Just when we did not need another display of misogyny and sexism, we were treated to a week of the debasement of women. 

First, there was the sex video or allegations of one. Detractors used an alleged sex video to go after the Vice President’s daughter in a desperate attempt to shame the Vice President. 

Comments to defend the Vice President’s daughter included that she was a nice girl and would never have sex video. These comments are problematic because it implies that expressions of sexuality are limited to certain types of women and people. It diminishes the agency of women in expressing their sexuality and demonizes the women that do. 

Let’s just put this out there: Every person has the right to enjoy sex and explore their sexuality. Some people like to have sex on video. As long as it is consensual sex between two adults, sex and expressions of it should be treated as an individual prerogative – not a public spectacle.  

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In the realm of politics, rumors of a sex videos are the most obvious display of the weaponization of a woman’s sexuality or the various components of a person that include biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, and preferences.

Less obvious but just as insidious are the attack on a woman’s sexuality that run from her physical appearance to her private life. 

In the case of Vice President Robredo, whispers about a boyfriend, about a pregnancy, about being a wife ring louder than her achievements as a public official, her political platform, and a critical assessment of her ability to lead.

Meanwhile, male politicians are unscathed by attacks on their sexuality. 

President Duterte tried to shame Isko Moreno by surfacing his beginnings in showbiz and calling him names. Moreno simply shook it off. We only need to look at the case of Senator Leila de Lima to see how shaming using sexuality has far more serious consequences for women. 

De Lima’s sexuality was used to discredit and humiliate her. Using the tired trope of an alleged sex video, male legislators feasted on the details of the senator’s private life. Their antics drew the much deserved disgust of the public, but still, Senator de Lima remains in detention. 

While VP Robredo has to field attacks on her personal life, her closest contender Bongbong Marcos has enjoyed most of his life living off the ill-gotten wealth his family amassed during their years in power. Owing also to a mass disinformation and historical revisionist campaign, Marcos Jr. has been able to evade not only questions about his private life but also questions about the years of dictatorship under his father. 

[Dash of SAS] Sex videos and sexism: Just another day in Philippine politics
Fragile egos and machismo

Easter weekend’s disastrous press conference was a blatant display of machismo mixed with sexism and political individualism. This headline accurately sums it up: Male survey laggards hit lone female presidential bet.

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Male survey laggards hit lone female presidential bet Robredo

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In less than 15 days, we are going to decide if we are going to elect the son of a deposed dictator to the highest office. The same dictator who treated the nation’s treasury as his bank account and hunted down activists and dissidents. The dictator’s son has not engaged in public debates and has not explained his political platform outside of a call for “unity.” He has no evident political platform apart from again attaching the Marcos name to the presidency and rewriting history. 

And yet, the male candidates who have no chance of winning the presidential race asked the one other person who stands a chance to, as Isko Moreno put it, “be a hero and withdraw.”

Statistically and mathematically, this makes no sense. It will only take about 20% of the votes to win the presidency. The more candidates there are, the more votes are going to be distributed among them. It would make more sense for these men who have no chance at all of winning in the election to withdraw their bets and consolidate their voting base under Robredo, who has a chance at winning.

But no, they still view next month’s trip to the ballot boxes as a popularity contest that will launch their showbiz career rather than a presidential election where the stakes are the lives of 100 million people. 

It took the tidal wave of backlash from netizens to make the men snap out of it. Well, some of them seem to be perfectly happy swimming around in their self-inflated egos.

People watching that train wreck of a press conference saw grown men banding together to whine about how little attention they are getting in the poll surveys. Men with fragile egos exposed a side of machismo and toxic masculinity. The side that crumbles from the extreme discomfort of having a woman lead. The side that gnashes their teeth through a two-hour press conference just to reiterate that they will not relinquish power to a woman. The side that disregards the plight of citizens still reeling from yet another typhoon and calls reporters to a posh hotel.

On May 9, we will need to decide which side we are on. We will need to choose well. The destiny of a 100 million people over the next six years depend on it. – Rappler.com

Ana P. Santos writes about gender and sexuality and its intersections with migrant labor, intimacy, and the politics of equality. She has a postgraduate degree in Gender (Sexuality) from the London School of Economics and Political Science as a Chevening scholar. Follow her on Twitter @iamAnaSantos and Facebook.