Slut (and stud) shaming | Inquirer Opinion
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Slut (and stud) shaming

They call it “slut shaming.” That is, using a woman’s sexuality as an indicator of her—what?—morality (or lack of it), maturity, physicality, or even her choice of men (or women).

It used to work because the double standard on men’s and women’s sexual choices and behavior once kept women repressed and defensive about who they were having sex with, how often, why, and maybe even what time of day. This was because society’s views on a woman’s fitness for wifehood or motherhood very often turned on her “reputation,” on her public identity as a sexual creature.

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In contrast, we don’t hear so often (if ever) of “stud shaming.” If at all, a man’s promiscuity was and still is considered an asset, something to brag about, behavior that enhances his manhood and his image before his barkada and the world. How many among the men now getting on Sen. Leila de Lima’s case, I wonder, would pass the standards to which women are expected to measure up?

President Do-dirty has in fact made much of the contrast between him and his nemesis in the Senate. He has made no bones about his own checkered sexual history, and sees no need to apologize for his failed marriage, his many liaisons, and his wandering eye—not to say his dirty mouth. If he focuses on De Lima’s bedroom behavior, he has said, it’s to expose her vulnerability to drug lords who use her sexual cravings to fuel her complicity and greed.

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But the use of the “sex card” against De Lima is also, I suppose, a tactic (they hope) to keep her quiet and complicit. In their antediluvian view of the world, no woman would allow her sexuality, not to mention an actual sex video of doubtful authenticity, to be paraded about. Thus, the mere threat of spreading the video through social media and even during a House committee hearing would be enough to silence her, to cow her, to stave off any attempt to investigate the extrajudicial killings employed in the course of the war on drugs.

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But women and men of conscience and dignity seem to have awakened from a stupor and have declared their support for the senator.

As a front-page news story puts it, a “trending” post on social media platforms these days is the statement: “I would like to testify in the HOR. It was me (or all of us) in the sex video. #Everywoman.”

Far from being shamed or intimidated, women and men of goodwill are coming out and giving voice to their indignation, their alarm, their anger, that women’s sexuality is still, in this day and age, being used as a weapon to denigrate and demean. And this, at a time when our President has  his own eyebrow-raising sexual and relationship history. This includes, during his campaign for the presidency, an uncouth reference to wanting to be first in line in the gang rape of a slain Australian missionary who had the misfortune of reminding him of a Hollywood actress.

His rally audience—many women among them—laughed when he expressed this from-the-gut reaction (though he recently made clear that he was angry and not making a joke when he mentioned it). But more and more women are not just not laughing, they are making a loud and angry noise.

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Women’s groups across political, ideological and even social strata have come out with formal statements decrying the seemingly orchestrated “slut shaming” of the senator that is, by extension, also targeted against all other women.

Says one statement (still in draft form, so I can’t cite the group yet): “Whether guilty or not, no woman should be slut-shamed like what the government and its allies are doing to De Lima. We have mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. What if the patriarch treats one of the womenfolk the way President Duterte is treating De Lima? How would we feel?”

A broad coalition of feminist and civil society groups asks pertinent questions: “Why is the President tossing due process aside? Why is he railroading the investigations?” In using his position as the most powerful man in the country, the groups say, and while enjoying the immunity that comes with the office he occupies, “the President is violating Sen. De Lima. And it is a violation no less brutal than rape.”

The statement traces the vicious attacks and sly innuendo against the senator to the investigation launched by De Lima, who was then chair of the Commission on Human Rights, into the Davao Death Squad. These wandering assassins were being blamed for a wave of killings of suspected criminals in Davao, many of whom turned out to be innocent. It is no accident that Mr. Duterte at that time was Davao mayor and, by his own admission, complicit in the activities of the DDS.

“Is the Lower House’s resolve to show [the] sex video part of the plan to destroy Senator De Lima—to discredit, shame, humiliate and punish her? Or is the exhibition of said sex video another desperate attempt of the President’s men to silence the senator and carry out a personal vendetta?”

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It also happens that as this sex video scandal—the attempt to air it during a House hearing, not the video itself—gathers steam, the nation also marks the passing of former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. Many have paid tribute to this woman, for whom the adjective “feisty” seemed to be created, and she deserves all the encomiums coming her way. But I wonder what she would have said—what salty terms she would have used beyond “fungus faced”—about the men and their allied women supporting the public shaming of the senator.

Senator Miriam, what would you have said and done?

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TAGS: Double standard, drug war, Leila de Lima, Rodrigo Duterte, sex video, slut shaming, women’s rights
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