Mind out of the gutter

“Sex or chocolates?”

This question has been a mainstay in the interviews of entertainment icon Boy Abunda. Many snicker, giggle, or simply let out a faint smile for every instance this is asked. The host asks it with such nonchalance that reinforces the allure of talking about sex. However, the sad reality is that, despite how playful and simple the question may be, many lack the knowledge to properly talk about sex.

Teenage pregnancies persist, with a rate of 5.4 percent of women ages 15 to 19. While this was a decline from past years, the rate is still among the highest in the Southeast Asian region, only trailing behind Laos. As with all crises affecting the country, the issue disproportionally affects poorer and marginalized communities. Their lack of access to both proper sex education and medication continues to be a stumbling block to minimizing unwanted pregnancies.

To be fair, the government passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act a little over a decade ago. This integrated sexuality education into the curriculum of students from kindergarten to Grade 12. In 2018, the Department of Education (DepEd) formalized the Policy Guidelines on the Implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), which aimed to reduce teen pregnancy, sexual assault, and STIs such as HIV among young Filipinos. 

Noble as the intentions and provisions of CSE may be, its implementation paints an entirely different picture. Because of our society’s collective reluctance to talk about sex, teachers of CSE tend to walk on eggshells. They are pressured to focus more on appeasing the whims of conservative parents rather than providing relevant information and thorough analyses for their students. This results in half-baked discussions that are too watered down for children to truly understand and appreciate.

It doesn’t help that the Catholic Church has the Philippine government in a chokehold. Separation of Church and State be damned, as the former imposes its beliefs on the latter’s affairs and prospective laws, including CSE. Their philosophy promotes abstinence and preventing sex before marriage at all costs. The imposition of this ideology only hinders bodily autonomy—a tactic straight out of the dystopian handbook. 

What many fail to understand is that CSE does not promote or encourage teens to perform sexual activities. Instead, it is meant to empower the youth to make informed decisions about their bodies and their lives. What CSE introduces is a way to be able to have an honest discussion about sex and finally demystify how we talk about it. Who are we to take away from young minds the chance to explore and figure out who they are?

A key aspect of CSE that often gets overlooked is that it also talks about one’s relationship with their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The proper implementation of CSE provides the youth with the tools to express themselves in a responsible and informed manner. As the general public increasingly imposes their holier-than-thou attitude as they raise their torches against a queer couple eating cake on live television and a drag performance of The Lord’s Prayer, being able to drown out all the noise and persevere in one’s journey to self-discovery becomes more and more important. Budding teens should have the capacity to understand and liberate themselves from societal constraints that hinder them from figuring out who they are.

Ultimately, CSE invites us to look into and celebrate ourselves. Bodies are beautiful and we should never lose sight of that. Sex and everything that comes with it are natural parts of our lives, and it is extremely antithetical to taint it with malice and pearl-clutching from conservative minds. We should be able to appreciate it without any judgment.

The implementation of CSE may have a spotty track record, but its underlying intent remains significant. We must innovate then and find ways to make it more accessible and comprehensible for students, especially those who would benefit from learning about it. This in turn would help us combat and unlearn outdated and conservative ideals passed on by older generations who should have known better.
We have long been victims of pervasive ignorance and a false sense of moral superiority—let us work hard to combat these notions and finally get our minds out of the gutter.

Andy Jaluague

By Andy Jaluague

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