The Filipino’s penchant for giving monikers to the sexual organs and acts has long been a source of amusement for me. This state of being politically correct sometimes borders on the verge of ridiculousness. I mean, shouldn’t the words titi, puke, and kantot be equally valid for usage as with the words pagkalalaki, pagkababae, and pagtatalik? The first three terms, when uttered, seems outright coarse and vulgar to most Filipinos. On the other hand, the last three terms are so downright sugar coated that whenever I hear it used, I can’t help but snicker politely, roll my eyes, and promptly go into a diabetic fit. A lot of Filipinos can’t seem, or are unwilling to discuss sex without feeling the slightest hint of discomfiture along with the requisite squirming in their seats. It’s as if we’d rather discuss the state of the weather rather than face the fact that people have sexual organs, and that yes, Virginia, they do use those organs to do sexual acts.
It’s so easy to point a finger at the restrictive Spanish friar brand of Catholicism as the source of the subjugated Filipino sexual psyche. For three hundred years, this particular school of stuffy and straight-laced religiosity was rammed down our throats that the repression is so well-ingrained in our ways and minds. Take for example, that exquisite moment when sex is brought up as a topic at a family dinner (or for that matter, any social gathering.) Chances are, it will either be contextualized as a humorous anecdote (read: a dirty joke), or be oughtright glossed-over and ignored (with the requisite embarrassed silence – subtext: next topic, please.) Embarrassment amidst humor, and humor amidst embarrassment: the perfect coping device when one isn’t really prepared to accept some realities in life.
Another glaring example of the Filipinos’ long-standing repression with sexual matters is the euphemisms used to address the sexual organs. Our formative years are peppered with experiences with how our elders awkwardly referred to the penis and vagina. I’m willing to bet on the fact that while growing up, Filipinos have been told by their parents to make pagpag his birdie after peeing or wash her flower before sleeping at least once in his or her life. It is this prudish (not to mention absurd) adult behavior that germinates the idea in children that the penis and the vagina is something that is impolite and improper to talk about. Worse even is the birds-and-the-bees talk at the onset of puberty. Filipino parents rarely educate their children about sexual concerns at home. If it is done at all, it is mostly conducted in an atmosphere filled with unease and discomfort (with matching euphemistic terminologies). This in turn, communicates to the soon-to-be teenager that sex is something to be ashamed about, and thus further perpetuates that cycle of repression that is passed on from one Filipino generation to another.
So what’s the whole point about my raving? Well, let’s face it folks, it is the 21st century. Maria Clara has been dead since the 1800’s and Padre Damaso and his cohorts are enjoying their well-deserved roasting in the pits of perdition. For crissake’s, blame-it-all-on Spain is even more modern and liberal with their attitudes towards sex compared to Filipinos nowadays. We really have to get over our anal-retentiveness with sex. While I don’t really suggest that we throw morality out of the window and engage in raunchy debauchery day in, day out (a tempting thought), we do have to start accepting that sex is a fact of life. Whether we like it or not (and I’m willing to bet again on the like part), sex happens. No amount of hush-hush or monikers can change that. So what’s the missing ingredient? I say: out with being politically correct, and just call a spade a spade. That should help in fostering the message that sex, in a healthy and positive context, is the key to striking out a yin-and-yang balance between being frigidly uptight and wantonly irresponsible.