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Tag Archive | "sex"

“Bishops agree sex abuse rules”


Despite being a silly headline, this is good news coming from the Roman Catholic church’s sex abuse cases in Ireland. Because of the rampant abuse in Ireland and the church’s utter failure to address the issue, they are coming up with standard rules for how diocese’ should handle sex abuse cases.

Under [previous] rules, a bishop or the head of a religious order effectively has the power of deciding whether a cleric should be forced to take priestly leave, when accused of a sex offence. In practice, this has meant that different bishops and heads of orders have applied widely different standards and interpretations when dealing with abuse accusations.

In some cases, bishops have forced priests to stand aside after relatively questionable accusations while, in other cases, bishops have allowed priests to remain in full ministry for long periods after a number of complaints had been made against them.

The bishops are understood to have accepted a set of new proposals made by Ian Elliott, the chief executive of the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC).

This is a step up from the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s usual move of sweeping sexual offenses of their clergy under the rug. A whole lot better than getting priests shuffled around with no punishment brought upon them, leaving them free to sexually prey on more people.

Hopefully these reforms will continue internationally so that less lives are destroyed by sexual abuse.

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Sex, Slavery, and the Pro-Life Movement


With seven Bataan village councils issuing unlawful copycat ordinances of the infamous Ayala Alabang one, it is time to call a spade a spade. This is not about unborn children. This is not about the RH Bill. What we are seeing is a war of attrition against sex, fought one village at a time.

Recently, Congressman and pugilist Manny Pacquiao was quoted as saying that if his parents had used contraceptives, he wouldn’t be here. Many RH opponents like him and Manoling Morato seem to be under the impression that contraceptives are depriving human society of celebrities like Pacquiao. The fact is, the odds against anyone’s birth are astronomical. Having contraceptives in the equation is a drop in the ocean of prerequisites necessary for anyone existing. Your exact set of ancestors going all the way back to the first sexual organism had to meet in the exact set of circumstances that led to your being. The millions in the batch of sperms in which you developed had to lose to you. For men, by choosing not to be procreating right at this moment, the next Einstein is now being reabsorbed into the male genitourinary tract. For women, by not being pregnant right now, the next Shakespeare is now being thrown out on a used tampon. And this is not even the half of it. Successful conceptions prevent the birth of other potential Newtons and Joyces. And these lost geniuses go unnoticed because they don’t exist and probably never will. If you weren’t here to exist, someone else will be.

Contraceptives do not make it any less likely in any significant way that any specific person will be born. The failure to understand this simple fact is what makes anti-choice superstars like former Chief Justice Davide embarrass themselves by disgustingly decrying contraceptives as worse than the tsunami that drowned thousands in their houses and cars in Japan.

The unborn aren’t a set of prefabricated people you draw out from heaven and into a vagina. They’re hypothetical permutations outnumbering the stars in the sky. Pacquiao’s line of reasoning was not only fallacious, it was unfairly self-deprecating for him. He was arguing that the only reason he has achieved what he has as an athlete was because he was born. It is a shame for someone like him who’s worked his fists to the bone to fall prey to manipulative quacks using his fame to impose their frumpy puritanism on the nation’s free citizens.

This has always been about sex. They want to dictate how it can be done. They want to dictate when it can be done. This is what keeps them up at night in cold sweats: someone at that exact moment may be enjoying themselves in a way they do not approve of.

The true intentions of the pro-life movement are betrayed by their obsession about an issue as innocuous and as private as the intimate relations of their neighbors. It is not just that they are anti-choice and against women having the right to do what they want with their bodies. What the conservatives of the Holy Roman Catholic Church want is to regulate sex. This is why even condoms, a mere physical barrier between an ejaculating penis and the womb, have to be lumped with contraceptive drugs. This is why former public officials like Lito Atienza compose hateful tirades about how gay marriage will destroy the Filipino family. This is why the pro-life movement of the Roman Catholic Church has always been about situations that involve sex and not about ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or the sectarian violence in Egypt.

Those who fashion themselves as more sophisticated than the rank and file opponents of the bill may use supposedly secular distractions such as “population collapse” in an attempt to mask their religious motives, but why is the burden of propping up an obviously flawed economy on our descendants who never chose such a fate? Since when has it again been acceptable to treat people as commodities and before they’re even born? Since when has it been honorable to deprive people of the informed choice to decide whether or not they want to have children? RH opponents have to resort to such shameful and despotic economic arguments just to hide their prejudiced belief that sex must be controlled at all costs.

At this point, if those disagreeing with me are even still reading, I have to address the old canard that sex is a gift from God and that liberals are trampling on it with their sex positive attitudes and their promiscuous lifestyles. Even if we were to allow this absurd and flawed premise, since when has a gift meant that the giver has total control over the use of said gift? Apparently, God’s gifts to man include the not insignificant requirement of human enslavement. Thanks, but, no thanks.

“Pro-life” is a misnomer. It is marketing speak for the larger culture war the social conservative movement is waging. It is a ruse to hide the desire at the core of the anti-choice anti-sex movement to become serfs ruled in absolute tyranny by an invisible thought police. In a bout of resentment against the freemen who reject such nonsense, conservative Catholics twist the arm of the national government to appease their sexual neuroses.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (358)

Sex: Control and Consequences


“It’s good if the man agrees with you—then he controls himself.” (Maganda pag ok ang lalaki—siya na ang nagkokontrol.) Were the men controlling their sex drives? Or controlling their orgasms so as not to come inside their wives? I was struck by the language used by a group of urban poor women as our team of community researchers analyzed a video of a focus group discussion last week. The women were all non-users of modern contraception despite their desire to stop childbearing altogether.

pregnant bishopI think they meant both types of control. About half were doing rhythm, and the rest were on the withdrawal method. Almost all were keenly aware that their methods were not so reliable (hindi safe). One woman narrated how a severe hypertensive disorder (eclampsia) during her last pregnancy forced her to stay a month at a hospital to recover.

Men are in control. Women bear the consequences.

Will our society ever put an end to this glaring inequity? I think there is hope. When the group was asked if they thought it was a woman’s right to use contraceptives, all said “Yes!” in unison. None fingered the husband as the reason for non-use.

Gender equity and equality in the bedroom or banig are still far-off, but there are signs of progress. The 1987 Constitution vowed for the first time to “ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.” Forcing sex on one’s spouse became an offence in the Anti-Rape Law of 1997. Women with college education have narrowed the gap between the number of children they want (average of 1.9) and the number they end up with (2.3), according to a 2008 survey. The 2009 Magna Carta of Women has mandated the State to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.” Reproductive Health bills based on the principles of human rights and reproductive rights have won broad public support in recent years.

There is hope. Except perhaps for the Catholic Church.

Popes, bishops and priests still lord over Catholic sexual moralities with strange antiquated rules. A man may spill his seed anytime with his wife, but not anywhere: rhythm method is moral, withdrawal is not.

The scientific stance about rhythm and withdrawal methods are way easier to comprehend and judge for truthfulness: both are more effective in preventing pregnancy than no method at all, but are less effective than modern methods like condoms, pills, injectables, IUDs, vasectomy and tubal ligation.

If women could become priests, bishops and popes, or if women could participate at the highest level of policymaking, would the Church remain so harsh and dogmatic about contraceptive methods? I suspect the answer is no, but I figure changes like these would take generations or centuries to occur.

Secular structures move faster. Filipino men approved women’s right to vote in a plebiscite in 1937. Less than eight decades later, we have had two women presidents. There are women in the Senate and House of Representatives; women justices of the Supreme Court; women governors and mayors; women managers of enterprises; women in practically all professions. Heck, even elementary pupils elect girls as classroom presidents! In this great social tide of building more egalitarian institutions, the Catholic Church stands firm resisting change.

In matters of sex, the Filipino family and the Church are quite similar. Men are in control. Women bear the consequences. But unlike the Church, each of us can change the family we belong to, or the one we plan to build and nurture.

The Church may be hopeless, but there is hope.

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The operations research of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health is ongoing at a large urban poor community in Letre, Malabon. Why some women like those in the focus group discussion (FGD) are not using contraceptives, and what can be done to help them are the key questions we hope to answer and share with you by year’s end. Nene facilitated the FGD I narrated above. Eric, Lina, Iday, Miriam and I are part of the team. Thanks to Monk for the idea on blurring the lines. Any and all errors in this article are of course mine.

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (8)

BEING SEXUAL…AND SPIRITUAL AT THE SAME TIME


How does one accept that as it is you are a sexual being, but also a spiritual being? Is there hope for both identities, important parts that make up the human psyche to co-exist comfortably at the same time without there being any discordance within? I have many friends who are gay, & as it is oftentimes they lament that the Catholic Church, or even most religions for that matter, are too limiting when it comes to accepting who they are. I’m saying this because most of my friends who are gay are quite sexually liberated, although I’m not necessarily saying that being gay immediately connotes that one is sexually active. Still, I’m not gay, but even I find myself wondering at times if I should go to Sunday Mass, after a Saturday evening spent carousing & hooking up with someone for a, well, much needed amorous treat.

Which brings this specific, personal dilemma to mind, is there room for the practice of one’s sexuality and spirituality in one’s life? How can one make heads and tails of such seemingly discordant messages? Much of the hullabaloo in this site awhile back had to do with the use of contraceptives, or that whole mess over the Reproductive Bill. I’m going to muddle the issue a little bit more by talking about sex. Can one be both sexual and spiritual at the same time?

The Bible certainly teaches us to shun fornication. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). A Christian friend of mine wisely had this to say, that rather than focusing on the dire warnings against sexual depravity, the Bible counsels against premarital sex for our own good. “Sexual immorality is so blinding and persuasive that we cannot linger around and “play with fire”. The pragmatic reason we are to flee sexual immorality is that it is a sin against our own bodies. The medical toll from promiscuity is high – abortion, infertility, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract and bowel infections, emotional and psychiatric disorders plus the side-effects from various contraceptives are just part of the cost that our bodies are paying for a sexually liberated lifestyle. Our body does not like being sinned against.” (From a Christian counseling text advising against sexual promiscuity).

Much as the case for sexual purity as pointed out above makes sense, it’s still not very realistic, given today’s loosening of sexual mores. I also find the case of relegating sex to within the bounds of marriage too constricting & altogether impractical. Kudos goes out to those practicing celibacy. It’s admirable how there is even resurgence nowadays of people wearing chastity rings and the rise of celibacy clubs. Still, I find Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:8 for those unable to control themselves to marry than to burn with passion – just too much! Certainly sex is a very intimate act with deep spiritual and emotional consequences, where oftentimes a “bond” is established. Sex is serious – and that is what I think Paul is trying to state here. He is saying “there is no such thing as harmless casual sex”.

Perhaps, as in the case with the use of contraceptives and the matter on reproductive health, it all boils down to the same issues: to choice and acting responsibly. We all must deal with our own sexual dilemmas and come to terms with one’s sexuality in light of our religious beliefs. Easier said than done, especially for one who still professes to believe in Christianity. The only writing I came thus far in my research on the sexual/spiritual dilemma that was a bit more lenient on this matter is surprisingly that of a report on the Jewish Law and Standard in April 1994 by the Commission on Human Sexuality: Essentially the reports says, “Committed, loving relationships between mature people who strive to conduct their sexual lives according to the concepts and values described can embody a measure of holiness, even of not the full portion available in marriage”. The Conservative movement’s rabbinic organization is NOT giving carte blanche to non-marital relationships. The report still upholds the importance of marriage but does not condemn more, uh, modern practices. Ah, in this case, I wish I was born a Jew!

So how do you reconcile your religion with your sex life? The truth of the matter is, you cannot. Looking at it from the vantage point of religion is downright impossible. Ultimately, I think this is a personal decision. You have to listen to your own conscience, or since conscience is still a touchy reference point, maybe a better gauge would be how at peace you can be with yourself, hence the slant on spirituality versus religiosity. Whilst being sexually active doesn’t make it evil, it doesn’t necessarily make it right to be promiscuous either for any people of any religion. So look at your life and see how you are adding value to it and to your body by having sex with many different people. Sex is a powerful thing so as long as you respect it and respect yourself, as well as who you do it with.

Not that I’m making a case for premarital sex here, or advocating sexual depravity. It’s just that one’s sexuality is an important part of one’s identity. How you as a person experience the erotic and express yourself as a sexual being is a natural and beautiful part of being human. What is deplorable about religion is that it often paints a very constricting picture and limits the expression of one’s sexuality. Putting aside standards of morality and ideas as to what is wrong and what is right, sex by itself, has biological, physical and emotional aspects. Biologically, sex is as important as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep as shown in Abraham’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Emotionally, sex is a natural progression in any relationship. After all, aside from physical intimacy, there are a lot of things you can get to know about a person when engaging in sex. From intentions (if he/she disappears after sex then you know he/she is just after the physical – poor you!), to knowing if he/she is a pervert (I mean really! From uh, bedside manners to unusual sexual acrobatics or fetishes!), to his/her sensitivity as a lover (does he/she put a premium on your pleasure and happiness in having a genuine willingness to assess the lover’s state of well-being and plan on doing something about it by asking the three most important words: “Did you come?”). Hilarity aside, after all, sex between two consenting adults can prove to be not just a highly pleasurable physical experience, but it can prove to be, a spiritually riveting experience as well.

So yes, in my opinion, it is possible, to be both sexual and spiritual, all at the same time.

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A Cynical View on Attraction


attractionI remember a Darwinian article in Time (Asia) Magazine’s special issue, The New Age of Discovery (January, 1998) because it tried to answer questions like why do we find certain human body figures sexy. It said that most men find a specific waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of women sexy (now I won’t tell the exact figure to avoid causing unnecessary insecurities) because that ratio signals fertility. Men don’t consciously know this, but evolution somehow programmed it in our instincts to ensure the perpetuation of our genes.

In another article, I read about an experiment on human scent. It involved a certain number of men and an equal number of women. The men were made to shower using only unscented soap (no cologne or deodorant either) and sleep with a white shirt on. They would shower again on the second night but would wear the same shirt to bed. Then the shirts would be sniffed by the women, who would each try to determine which shirt smells the “sexiest”. After their genes were tested, it was found out that the sexiest scents for most of the women belonged to the men whose genes were very much dissimilar from theirs. Parents with diverse genes often bear stronger offspring, and once again evolution has hardwired this into our physiology to help us find a suitable mate – and perpetuate our genes.

But in this overpopulated modern society of ours, procreation is no longer the primary purpose of sex. In one of our joint articles, a fellow freethinker wrote:

Sex may lead to pro-creation but the two are still two totally distinct acts, no matter how much some belief systems may insist that they’re one and the same. When you start a fire, you aren’t obligated to go cook something. Sometimes, it’s enough just to enjoy the warmth of a blazing fire on a cold night. The same goes for sex. It’s a social activity and a recreational sport as well. From a liberal point of view, it’s not even that different from a couple going dancing (that’s why it’s also called the horizontal tango).

Still, our instincts kick in when a genetically suitable specimen from the opposite gender walks by even if having kids is the last thing on our minds. But as we get to know a person, after a while we get attracted to non-physical traits like kindness and a sense of humor. Perhaps we instinctively know that certain personal attributes are preferable for long-term companionship, especially when it comes to the point when procreation and even sex are no longer possible.

But the beauty of these personal qualities is that they can be enjoyed now as much as in the future. Being the most highly evolved among all creatures, humans interact in ways beyond touching and smelling. A nice conversation connects us more profoundly than two chimps grooming each other. Although touching is nice, it is often meaningless unless coupled with an emotional bond. And so while evolution already dictated what we should find physically attractive, it is our longing for a deeper connection that needs to be satisfied if we are to truly enjoy being human.

Happy Valentines everyone!

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