Rape and the hook-up culture

my Trade Tripper column in this weekend issue of BusinessWorld:

An offshoot of one celebrity’s misadventures is the increased public debate on rape. This was followed by a celebrity/model “breaking her silence and started to talk about the things that people don’t want to hear.” The gender studies crowd and feminists were quick to join the fray, blaming rape on the “patriarchal” mindset and Filipino men’s lack of gender sensitivity training. The truth, however and as usual, is more subtle and complicated.

Rape is a detestable crime and one instance is one too many. Unfortunately, the numbers for rape in the Philippines are harrowing. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, 4% of women ages 15 to 49 experienced forced first sexual intercourse and 10% of women ages 15 to 49 experienced sexual violence.

The Center for Women’s Resource reported that cases of rape “have reached an alarming level. For the year 2010, a total of 4,572 cases of rape were documented by the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police (WCPC-PNP), 19 of which were incestuous or perpetrated by a victim’s blood relative. This was equivalent to a 13% increase in reported cases of rape and incest from 4,048 in 2009.” The true figures, however, could be much higher.

Incidentally, one consequence of increased rape cases is that moves to amend the Constitution and legalize abortions of rape-related pregnancies could gain traction, as pro-lifers will have a difficult time defending against such a powerfully emotional argument.

In any event, as disturbing as the above numbers are, tragically it could get worse. Philadelphia Magazine (“Rape happens here,” April 24) describes one incidence of alleged “rape” this way:

“[Lisa] Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey ... in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided -- mutually, she thought -- just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything -- I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”

The foregoing illustrates the dangers (and confusions) that a sexually permissive or “hook-up” culture brings. Surely, “no means NO.” And yet, taking all particular factual context and the absence of witnesses, one would be very hard put to determine the truth in what happened and act judiciously to all concerned.

Although with social media’s habitual thinking-is-for-losers lynch mob mentality, another consequence might be for men and women to start demanding signed affidavits of consent from each other before engaging in anything sexual.

And that a hook-up culture has taken root in the Philippines is palpable. The 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study reveals that almost 30% (or 6.2 million) of Filipinos 15- to 24-years-old engaged in premarital sex, an increase of 14% from two decades ago; 7.3% of our young engaged in casual sex, with 3.5% (or around 800,000) regularly having sex in what is now popularly known as a “friends with benefits” arrangement.

The foregoing’s connection to the sharp rise in Philippine teenage pregnancies and marriages, as well as the increase in the dissolution of marriages, are evident.

Now, our government and media’s solution to the foregoing is to throw more condoms around. Which doesn’t really solve anything. As Mona Charen insightfully wrote (“Who really created the rape culture,” May 9), what such leftist secular progressive thinking does is merely to encourage a “sexual free-for-all.”

And ironically, as Ms. Charen points out, this sexual liberalism, while supposedly empowering women, resulted in the opposite: “If men and women were just the same in their sexual needs, desires, and behaviors, then the hook-up culture would yield an equal number of unhappy males and females complaining of rape and assault. What could be the reason that the overwhelming number of those who feel victimized -- who are victimized -- are women?”

Again, Mona Charen: “Smart women didn’t rely only on a man’s conscience, though. They didn’t get blind drunk and go to a stranger’s room. It was once considered foolish to take off your clothes with someone who didn’t love you -- far less someone who hardly knows your name. That’s not ‘slut shaming,’ it’s simple prudence.”

Indeed. It’s a given that society “must teach men not to rape.” But society needs to do more: it should teach and demand from both men and women, young and old, better judgment, personal accountability, self-restraint, and prudence.