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At Large

Not a funny condom joke

/ 05:08 AM February 18, 2018

Very rarely, almost never, do we hear presidents talk about sex and related matters — family planning, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, same-sex marriage, violence against women and children — that when they do, we sit up and listen. No matter how ridiculous or stupid the remarks are, we take notice.

So when President Duterte dissed condom use and said he wasn’t in favor of it because it was “hindi masarap” (not enjoyable), we didn’t know whether he was dead serious or indulging, as his spokespersons insist, in a bit of humor and sarcasm.

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Advising overseas Filipino workers last week to plan their families so they wouldn’t be forced to seek work abroad, President Digong told them to seek free family planning advice and services from government health centers. But, he said, he wouldn’t advise condom use, eliciting laughter from his audience. “It’s true. I’m not joking,” he added, thereby settling the issue of his intent. He then demonstrated the reason for his opposition to the condom, taking out a piece of candy from his pocket and proceeding to bite into it even with the wrapper on. Making a face, he implied that sex while using a rubber was no treat at all.

“I know you don’t like the condom,” the President said in Filipino. “So either have an [contraceptive] injection that is good for six months so that you can have unlimited … sex. It’s up to you.”

I can just see the faces of condom manufacturers and marketers falling in dismay, chagrin and rage. P-Duts’ remarks may just have ruined their years of marketing efforts.

Aside from vasectomy, condom use is the only form of family planning available to men. (Abstinence and natural family planning require the cooperation of the female partner, while withdrawal is iffy at best.)

But it seems that Filipino men are unwilling or unable to take up their rightful share of the work that goes into ensuring a small family size. Of all the safe, effective, accessible and legal family planning methods available here, condom use and vasectomy (even with the introduction of the relatively painless nonscalpel vasectomy) are the methods used least by Filipinos. Which means that the overwhelming burden of family planning falls on Filipino women.

Still on condom use, the President’s remarks also imperil his own administration’s efforts to bring down the rates of HIV infection in the country, which have been rising in recent years despite a global trend of falling incidence. UNAIDS, the United Nations agency chiefly concerned with addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis, is all for promoting the use of condoms because they are “cost-effective tools for preventing [HIV and] other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.”

But in the Philippines, the rate of condom use has risen very slowly, which may explain in part why the number of new HIV infections has been rising, and why the ages of those newly infected have been falling.

Condoms, being relatively cheap, available and accessible, and easy to use are actually a most effective form of protection against unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

For the overseas workers, most of them women, whom P-Duts addressed during their homecoming from Kuwait, condoms are particularly useful and should be a preferred family planning method. A condom provides temporary protection, useful for unplanned, temporary sexual relations, as when overseas workers, men or women, come home for a brief visit before returning to their places of employment.

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But when the President of your country tells you that condoms are not “pleasurable,” and when your husband takes his word for it and refuses to cooperate to protect against a next pregnancy, what is a woman to do?

Why a senior citizen who confesses to physical limitations these days would be so obsessed over sexual pleasure is not so difficult to fathom. But why he would foist his antediluvian views on the rest of his countryfolk is ignorance at its basest.

Not funny, P-Duts, not funny at all.

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TAGS: AIDS, At Large, birth control, condom joke, family planning, HIV, ofws, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte
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