Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sex, lies and videotape

This was my column on the date indicated above.This post is antedated.


We live in a world and at a time when everyone, it seems, thinks he or she is entitled to information; when the concept of privacy has become incomprehensible to many.

I guess this is to be expected given advances in technology. We have at our disposal all these gadgets supposedly designed to keep us abreast of everything that is happening around us, and elsewhere in the world, 24/7, and on demand. It doesn’t help that we’ve been conditioned to expect nothing less by the influential people in this country. Why, if Kris Aquino has no qualms about revealing to the whole world the most intimate details about her life including the indiscretions of her partners, then we should expect nothing less from others of lesser social stature.

We’re so used to people readily spilling the beans on whatever controversy they happen to be embroiled in that we seem to resent it when other people who figure in controversies choose to withhold information and ask everyone else to respect their right to privacy. As a consequence thereof, certain media people hound those involved in controversies citing “public interest,” “responsibility to the people” and “the need to uphold the truth” as compelling reasons for them to come out and brave public condemnation and judgment. It’s as if everyone owes the world an explanation.

And so, the woman who is at the center of the current controversy involving allegations of, well, sex, lies and videotape has been forced to come out publicly to defend her dignity and honor, or at least that seems to be what she is intent on doing. Sadly, there’s only so much one can do to defend one’s self if one is unprepared, unwilling, and unable to tell the truth yet. And then there is the matter of her choice of media channel—which so far have been celebrity gossip shows—which unfortunately, have not been known for being the benchmark in intelligent and fair dissection of public issues.

She has been vilified in various tabloids and in various Internet sites for reasons nobody has been able to figure out yet. And worse, for reasons no one seems to care about. She certainly didn’t call a press conference to accuse others of any crime. In fact, all the sordid details about the supposed incident that she figured in didn’t come from her or her lawyer—they all emanated from someone who also heard the story from someone else. She had been trying to keep the story under wraps for quite sometime until someone went to town with the salacious details.

Unfortunately, all the ingredients that make a controversy were present: The possible involvement of celebrities, sex, crime and videotape.

She said she didn’t really want to be controversial; that she precisely chose to keep her peace because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. She refused to provide details about what really happened on that fateful day of June 2, 2011 when sexual violence supposedly happened although it has not been disputed that something did happen. She refused to confirm or deny the rumor that she was sexually violated. But in the same breath, she and her lawyer, quite tellingly, have repeatedly made it known that they continue to study their options. Of course cynics construe the deliberate attempts at ambiguity as validation of their worst suspicions.

It gets complicated. Some reports indicated that she was willing to accept an apology although no one has been able to clarify what the apology would be for. The more riveting piece of information that has been the focus of intense guesswork is: From whom does she want the apology to come? The names of four individuals, some of the most popular and idolized figures in the local athletic world have been mentioned in various reports. She has refused to confirm or deny the identities of the supposed perpetrators or witnesses to what actually happened in June 2, 2011.

That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from working overdrive, churning out non-stop all kinds of stories about what allegedly, supposedly really happened. It is alleged that a video exists somewhere, supposedly taken by one of the four people identified as having been present at the incident.

The word that is being tossed around so casually, the proverbial elephant in the room that is being obliquely referred to but never really acknowledged publicly, is rape.

It’s a big word that lots of people in this country try to discuss dispassionately but never really comprehend fully.

This is frustrating, but there are indeed people in this country who talk seem to think that rape is simply one of those unfortunate things that happen to “certain kinds of people” who are best advised to just cast it aside as one of those learning experience that they should simply learn from. There are those who seem to think that rape is not plausible if the alleged perpetrators are good looking celebrities who, theoretically, would not be wanting of sexual partners. Yes, unbelievably enough, there are people who actually think victims should offer thanksgiving masses for having been the victim of rape. I was aghast to read commentaries in certain blogs (supposedly made by women) that being raped by the celebrity athletes in question would have been dream come true for them.

And then there are those, people like me, who think that rape is rape regardless of who did it to whom, regardless of the stature of the people involved in the story. Rape is a crime, no buts or ifs about it.

I am not saying the woman at the eye of the current controversy has been raped. Nor am I saying that the people who have been identified as the perpetrators of the deed are guilty. I think that we can take the statements of the parties at face value—something happened and they are in the process of weighing the various consequences of whatever action they choose to take.

But if indeed rape was committed, then they parties would have to answer for the consequences regardless of who and what they are.

But there is no doubt that the whole issue could have been handled with a little more objectivity, maturity and wisdom rather than just as fodder for the gossip mill. There is very little doubt that the intense interest in the case has been fanned and driven by nothing more than sensationalism. It is also clear that politics within the football association was the impetus that turned the whole thing into a scandal.

As can be expected in cases involving sexual crimes, the victims—in this case, the woman and the alleged perpetrators —has been victimized over and over again in many ways. Their integrity and character have been put to question. A lot of unsavory descriptions have been appended to their public personas.

I empathize with the situation of the people involved in this latest controversy. I wish I can parrot what others say is the only refuge in situations like these, which is that the truth will set all of them free. Sometimes the truth is something we cannot nor want to handle. In situations like these, we can only hope that the people involved find the wisdom to know the course of action that would bring the most acceptable closure for themselves. And hopefully, we can all find the grace to respect their decisions.

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