Sunday, February 16, 2014

V is for

SHE certainly was not the only naïve creature in fairy tales. But I think Little Red Riding Hood, who mistook a wolf for her grandmother and got eaten alive for her troubles, was a victim who got off lightly.

In one version, a hunter slays the wolf and slits its stomach to release grandmother and grandchild, a little slimy but intact.

No bath. No lectures. Not even a rent in the red hood. When I was a child, hers was one of the happiest endings.

Today, I wouldn’t tell her story without adding spoilers: Don’t go alone, get a buddy. Look before you leap. Stranger danger! Don’t let anyone touch your privates. Trust no one, not even a priest. Or your grandmother.

In the good old days, when parents told stories at bedtime, the only sad endings happened when the storyteller fell asleep and didn’t finish the tale to the listener’s extreme frustration.

Today, I can imagine the extreme parental challenge is not just to stay awake for bedtime stories but to also inject some realism and pragmatism without setting these classics on fire with one’s darkest, deepest fears.

Ours just happens to be the age when the unspeakable are crawling out into the open. I doubt it if Cordova is the only place where children commit explicit acts before a webcam, following the directions of their parents or elders.

To those who are smug enough to crow their home is disaster-proof, I ask: do you know what your family members are looking at on their tablets or smartphones?

A recent survey found that last year, an increasing number of Filipinos turned to the Internet for sexual encounters. Researchers of the University of the Philippines (UP) Population Institute and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc. found that among these respondents, the Catholic Church’s hold was waning. Also noted was an increase in premarital sex, online finding of partners and swapping of sexually explicit material.

Released last Feb. 6, the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study was not referring to pedophiles and dysfunctional couples but a nationwide sampling of Filipinos aged 15-24.

Are we better off in the age of Facebook? The young are not only still restless; they also seem to be clueless. The UP study found teen pregnancy on the rise, with last year’s young moms twice the number in 2002.

It is a sign of the times that Feb. 14, traditionally a day for lovers, was the date chosen by women’s groups in 207 countries for celebrating One Billion Rising (OBR). Gabriela issued a statement that the groups are “rising” to call for justice for victims of violence and abuse. OBR participants claim a “femicide” is claiming more women and girls as victims.

Yet, what is a victim? A recruiter arrested for human trafficking said that her 11 “recruits” (including four minors) knew they were going to be sold for sex. “They’re fine with it,” the mother of two was quoted by Sun.Star Cebu’s Gerome M. Dalipe last Feb. 11.

Some victims may not have been tricked; they may even be “fine” about a transaction that’s “mutually beneficial” to all parties. For inflicting harm on themselves—whether it be a revolving door of strange men to service or sexually transmitted infection from unprotected sex—some demand that society should not waste time and resources for their rescue.

But victimhood also refers to the harm done on a person, whether willing or not, naïve or not. OBR focuses on justice denied of victims by government, police, the courts and other institutions.

The greater challenge is to change the mentality that creates victims by beginning, not with institutions, but with the victim.

In an age of too few happy endings, the Little Red Hood rides on. The online writer who doesn’t walk out even when she’s ordered by her employer to upload naked photos or make sex chats. Chat room regulars trawling for virtual or eyeball partners for the “uncomplicated fuck”. Recruits who watch while their recruiters and strangers exchange envelopes over dinner.

V is for victim. V can also be for victor. How do we change this?

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 16, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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