Working in reproductive health in the Philippines, I’m used to people reacting in conservative ways to different aspects of sexuality.
When we discuss young people being sexually active, people say they should not be doing this and should only have sex in the confines of marriage, as God intended.
When the discussion turns to issues relating to lesbian, gay and transgender people, those who believe LGBT individuals as immoral quote multiple different bible verses from Leviticus 18 and 20, make references to Sodom and Gomorrah, and give various new testament references to that fact that God did not intend for men to lie with men and women to lie with women.
Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. No exceptions. Some of the strongest reasons for why people are opposed to it are also biblical – God formed all people and has plans for us so we should not take a life God has made. (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, among others).
Then there is Divorce. The Philippines is the only country in the world, in addition to the Vatican, where divorce is prohibited. Many Filipinos are raised by single mothers, so this issue has more traction than others. But still, opponents point to the bible, to God’s commandment that “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mark 10:9).
Filipinos are conservative about all the above issues but are so tolerant of something that the bible is also very clearly against: Adultery.
Infidelity. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there are many verses that clearly instruct people not to commit adultery. It is even one of the 10 Commandments. Yet it is so accepted in our society. From Presidents to pedicab drivers, from business tycoons to bakers — it is often common knowledge that many men are not faithful to their wives, and in many instances, these extramarital affairs are discussed openly as perfectly normal.
In an earlier version of this article, I stated that Philippine law also protects men more than women. Since publishing the article, I was alerted by a lawyer that in fact the laws relating to infidelity that was prejudiced for men had already been changed. I was informed that the legal framework on marital infidelity had long been corrected and was no longer biased against women. Republic Act No. 9262 made sure of this. Section 3(c) of the law specifically defines marital infidelity as a form of violence against women. Section 5(i) even goes further, that acts of infidelity that cause mental and emotional anguish or suffering, public ridicule or humiliation, is also defined as spousal abuse. It goes further by defining infidelity as psychological abuse. This crime is punishable by 6 years and 1 day to 12 years. The remedies in this law also include protection orders, and support. It is important to note that this law is designed to protect women and their children against men. There is no similar law protecting men from abusive women.
I was very glad to learn that Philippines law now includes these protections for women, at least in theory. Whether these mean much in practice I am not sure.
I remember when I moved to the US in 1998 for college. Then President Bill Clinton was under investigation and under the threat of impeachment because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. At the time I was so surprised this would be a big deal because our President was Erap and it was common knowledge that he had multiple mistresses and many children out of wedlock. I had always believed the Philippines was way more conservative than the US and thinking about this made me realize how strange it was that such conservative people would be ok with Erap’s behavior.
I know several women whose spouses cheat on them with regularity, and the women seem resigned to it. One woman I know whose husband travels long periods for work has even given her husband permission to pay for sex or have casual sex with strangers. She believes allowing him to have sex when he’s not with her will give him the physical release she thinks he needs, and since it will just be sex, she feels their relationship will be protected since there won’t be any emotions involved with the other women. When she told me this, I was pretty surprised with her ability not to feel jealous and to be ok with this system. I asked her if she is also allowed to have casual, no-feelings sex with other guys while he is away, and she looked shocked and said, “Of course not!” So it is ok behavior for him to engage in, but not her.
Why in our culture do we believe that it’s ok for men to engage in infidelity? And why do we have different standards for men than women??
I recently read an article about actress Anne Curtis and her husband Erwan Heussaff. Anne’s fans were criticizing her on social media for continuing to take acting jobs that involve love scenes. They believe that since she’s now married, she should refuse to perform love scenes with other actors. Erwan spoke out in an interview and said, ““Let’s not be sexist people, if this was a married guy actor doing love scenes, no one would have any issue with it.”
I think he’s right. Men are held to a different standard than women, and quite frankly it is disappointing that bad behavior is tolerated, as if men can do no better or can’t control themselves. Many Christians and Catholics believe that it’s okay to be gay, but a sin to act on it. Self control is what they preach. Shouldn’t all men then also be expected to control their urges?
We need to truly examine our beliefs and the standards we hold ourselves to. We should also look at our separation of Church and State. If we are going to use the Bible as the basis for some of our laws, and as justification for how we think about societal issues, then we should be using it for all. Not just quoting the Bible when it is convenient, and ignoring it when it is not.
I also believe that commitments should be taken seriously. If you commit to be monogamous with your partner, I believe you should uphold that commitment and protect it and guard it fiercely. I do not believe that anyone should have a pass for infidelity. What do you think?