Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sex, school and videotapes

August 10, 2005 12:00am

Philippine Daily Inquirer

NOT a few have seen, or at least been offered, VCD/DVD copies of amateur sex tapes proliferating in the side streets, back streets and bangketas of Manila. While there is no novelty to speak of with regard to pornography, the idea of university students caught performing sexual acts on tape has largely been ignored by authorities.

The controversy over these sex tapes involving university students can be attributed to societys propensity to categorize and label. The seeming unlikelihood of young students from name schools participating in the pornographic trade prompts instant judgments: There are those who do this for a living, and there are those who dont.

Prior to the labeling, however, one has to ask: Is it the content of the sex tapes or their exploitative distribution that is offensive to general societys sensibilities?

Consensual?

Professor Filomin Gutierrez of the Department of Sociology in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, says, The crucial thing to look into is whether it was consensual or not. And consent has many complex sides to it: The participants consent to engage in these sexual acts, the consent to have them taped and, finally, the consent to have the tapes distributed by pirates who inevitably profit from them.

If there was consent in the first two counts, what could have driven these students to perform sexual acts for a camera?

Gutierrez says, We can look at it as an experiment. Some youth not all might be curious to experiment. When its there already, some of them might appear to be hesitant about it because of the novelty of the situation, but before they realize it, theyre already knee-deep into the situation. There is definitely some form of curiosity, experimentation and discovering the far edges of sexuality.

Professor Gerry Lanuza, also of the UP Department of Sociology, offers another view. One, [they do it] maybe to preserve the memory. No. 2 is the thrill, and No. 3, there could be an ulterior motive [on the part] of the one who taped. Either gusto niyang ipagyabang, ipakita sa iba o nangongoleksyon siya.

Still, he emphasizes the element of consent.

The caution here is that there should be an agreement between the participants. Dapat may kasunduan. Sa atin lang ito, pag lumabas man, pwede kang kasuhan for damages, et cetera. Those cases na hindi niya alam na kinukunan na siya... Its exploitation, and at the same time, intrusion and invasion of privacy. What you do in private should not be seen by other people.

Deviant?

So are these so-called sex scandals a deviant form of behavior? Its very relative, Gutierrez explains. If we look at what deviance is, deviances are acts or behaviors that are deemed to veer away from the norm and, as a consequence, are sanctioned, punished, apprehended by society. [The idea of videotaping] is not typical, so from that point of view, its deviant.

She adds that the definition of deviance can be stretched. Without the participants knowledge of the tapes being available for public consumption, the videos may only be meant for sexual experimentation and nothing else. The definition (of deviance) may be a little blurred there because, for some people, even pornography isnt deviant, [but rather] a means of expressing ones sexuality, she says.

On Lanuzas part, Hindi ako naniniwala sa deviance. What is the motive of the person who distributed these tapes? But I would not go so far as to say this is a pathological problem. As a sociologist, my question is how these people interpret the ongoing process of their sexuality."

Exploitation

What is truly deviant for Gutierrez is the idea of distributing the tapes. If the assumption was, this is just for us, it will not be distributed, then what is deviant there is the breaching of the trust, and, of course, the exploitation by the pirates and the ones who profited [from the tapes].

The victimization of young people in this picture now stands as a fair warning to their peers and a testament to how the continuous advancement of technology is abused.

As Lanuza puts it, It has a lot to do with the availability of technology for recording and for reproduction of these videos. Madali nang makakuha ng video cam at mga surveillance camera. In a society where these are affordable and easily accessible, these things are hard to control... If you could wiretap the President, [what more everyday citizens]...

Gutierrez concurs. So [the students in the videos] who were originally willing participants and were enjoying themselves have now become victims. When the videos are circulated, the dynamics of the situation change.

It all boils down to profit-oriented motives (by the pirates). Unang-una, gusto nila makabenta. Unfortunately, the market is saturated (with sex tapes). So for these tapes to be eye-catching, they have to come up with these (university sex scandals), says Lanuza.

Many others, however, dont see it this way. Rather, they are more likely to question why the participants agreed to be videotaped in the first place, and why they shouldnt share part of the blame for the ensuing scandal. Are young people today really more sexually active, often in risky ways?

It is only now that these things are coming out, says Lanuza. Dahil dati, tago. Nangyayari na yun, yun nga lang, walang technology. But it has always been there, and the statistics are rising. According to the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) Study, a nationwide survey conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute, in 1994, 17.8 percent of surveyed youth had had premarital sex. In 2002, that number had risen to 31.3 percent.

For Gutierrez, publicizing the tapes represented (a) more extreme (breaching of the premarital sex norm)... its exhibitionism. In the same context, the accepted notion of sexuality in our society is that it must be done in the context of love, of marriage and of course, of privacy.

Lanuza notes that, (In one of the tapes) maaawa ka talaga sa babae, because she seemed confident that she was doing it for love. You have no right to publicize that because its private.

Societys expectations on the woman and her unconditional love for a man are also problematic. Nasa losing end siya kapag naghiwalay sila, he adds. Kaya nawawalan ng control ang babae. They were trained to believe that when they have a boyfriend, it is for life and they will be married. Ibibigay nila ang lahat sa lalaki dahil sa expectation na, after all, kami naman ang magkakatuluyan nito.

Shock value

The shock that stems from these tapes helps explain why these tapes are deemed scandalous in the first place.

[Even] as society reprehends or controls deviance, sometimes, it allows deviance to exist so that those in the norm can vicariously live through it or can see how far things would go, Gutierrez explains. Some deviances are allowed to test the dangerous waters for the rest of us who are more conservative. People are always curious about, or maybe even titillated by, the idea that these things happen, whether they derive pleasure or moral indignation from these things.

She also highlights the role of media in the fracas. You have to remember that in the media, unfortunately, sex and violence really sell.

And of course, sexual norms are changing, aided in no small part by technology. What might have been taboo then may be commonplace now. Gutierrez is the first to admit this. On the basis of (these) incidents, I think the sexual norms among Filipinos are gradually changing. Its changing, though not as abruptly as the tabloids would have us believe.

But she has words of caution to share with young people who engage in risky sexual behavior. The youth may not be as prepared as they think they are for the emotional ramifications of sexuality. There is emotional trauma in being improperly exposed to it.

Hello, is anyone listening?

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