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HRW’s Filipino flap flops

How things work: the well-known group that calls itself Human Rights Watch doesn’t like conservative sexual attitudes. One result of those attitudes in the Philippines is a low HIV rate (in a nation of 80,000,000 people, a total of 2,000 known and an additional 4,000 estimated infections). Another is that the Filipino government accommodates cultural and Catholic sensibilities by abstaining from a wholly technological and therefore libertine attitude toward sex, and focuses its prevention efforts on high-risk groups like prostitutes and homosexuals.

So what does HRW do? It issues a report accusing the Filipino government of “pandering” to the Catholic Church. The report complains that failure to promote condoms is a human rights violation, because it’s unhealthy, and health is a human right. There’s not much AIDS in the Philippines now, but maybe there will be more in the future unless everyone has condoms.

The complaint is an odd one. On similar grounds any policy with which one disagrees would be a human rights violation, since any policy that doesn’t promote the common good violates the human right to a government that works for the common good. Be that as it may, it’s extremely obscure why viewing sex as basically a matter of technology would make it better, from a health or any other point of view. Aren’t things really more complicated than that? Nonetheless, it’s an attitude toward which our governing elites are uniformly committed. Perhaps by chance, it’s also one that helps well-placed people get their own way, in sexual as in other matters, and indeed strengthens their position generally by disordering the family, local cultural standards, and other informal and traditional authorities that simply by existing compete with formal institutions and limit their power..

Meanwhile, on other fronts having to do with sex, the San Francisco Chronicle is in a snit because the founder of Curves (the chain of ordinary-user-friendly women’s exercise clubs) has been giving money to pregnancy crisis centers that a somewhat radical pro-life group says it likes, the chief of Selective Service wants to draft women, and my college alumni mag concluded its most recent issue with a heartwarming human-interest interview with an alumnus who’s in the pornographic video biz out in LA.

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Mark Shea’s blog provides the following reality check on HRW:

AIDS victims in 1987: Philippines 135 / Thailand 112

“In 1991 the WHO predicted the Philippines would have 80,000 to 90,000 cases and Thailand 60,000 to 80,000 AIDS victims.

“Thailand promoted the use of condoms in massive campaigns where Catholic Philippines promoted ‘Abstinence’ and ‘Be faithful’.

“The prognosis of the WHO was wrong for both countries:

“1999: Philippines 1,005 / Thailand 755,000 AIDS victims”

(http://markshea.blogspot.com/2004_05_01_markshea_archive.html#108386378771320752)

All I, for one, can say in response to this log entry and Seamus’ comment underneath it is that these words, together with these astounding, jaw-dropping statistics, are among the most damning indictments of left-liberalism I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

While I no longer live in the Philippines, like all good Filipinos, I keep in close touch with relatives over there and visit regularly. Cardinal Jaime Sin is a family friend.

The official message is on abstinence and faithfulness, and that’s all well and good, but there’s a classic Catholic nudge-nudge wink-wink aspect to it.

In my home city, Manila, with nearly 15% of the entire country’s population, it’s relatively easy to find a brothel, it’s not uncommon for men to have mistresses, we’ve coined the phrases “short-time” for hotels that rent out rooms for a couple of hours and “mamasan” for the brothel madam, all the best clubs are frequented by call girls and the night life (both straight and gay) could give most North American cities a run for their money. We generally party hard Saturday night and go to church (if a little bleary-eyed) on Sunday morning.

Still, the numbers are intriguing. Maybe it’s the going to church.

My interpretation of the figures was that AIDS doesn’t transmit easily, so every kind of restraint helps—2 sexual contacts is better than 20, normal contact is better than more imaginative practices, fewer girls doing things they shouldn’t is better than more, and so on. I remember the guy who used to live across the street (and had his 19-year-old mistress swipe the half-bottle of Chateau d’Yquem ‘68 we were saving for the birth of our next child) complaining that Filipino women were “lousy ****s” because they “had no imagination.” Even limited restraint doesn’t come from nowhere though.

The sexual underworld of the Philippines is bad, certainly. But think about it for a minute: prostitution and such can only flourish in a culture that otherwise values virtue. The more openly decadent a society, the more redundant becomes “the oldest profession”.

Interesting.
Sexual Hypocrisy 1, Sexual “Freedom” 0

“The sexual underworld of the Philippines is bad, certainly. But think about it for a minute: prostitution and such can only flourish in a culture that otherwise values virtue. The more openly decadent a society, the more redundant becomes “the oldest profession”.”

Oh really? In the Netherlands, prostitution is not only legal, but thrives in big cities like Amsterdam, where prostitutes openly display their wares in store windows. This, in a country that also openly tolerates pot and hash sales in cafes… Where the late anti-immigrant activist Pim Fortuyn took his stance because of his homosexuality and pedophilic proclivities, and his concern that Muslim immigrants would shut down the ultra-liberal Holland he so loved. “Otherwise values virtue”? I think not. And I’m sure Dutch boyfriends and girlfriends shack up just as much as North Americans do, and generally fornicate as casually as us, too, if not more so, as Europeans usually do.

And it’s not just the Netherlands; here in western Canada, in our urban centres, we have lots of “massage parlours” which we all know sell something other than massages - and also we have lots of people shacking up instead of marrying. No, I think when a culture gets truly decadent, even LaRochefoucauld’s maxim that “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice renders to virtue” stops applying altogether, as the hypocrisy ends completely, while anything whatsoever goes, completely openly and unashamedly - and no-one is virtuous at all, any more… Increased prostitution and increased fornication, chemical abuse, homosexuality, etc. can all go together quite nicely, alas…

I really have to agree with Will on this issue. In my opinion, the world is generally fucked (literally AND figuratively)

Will, thanks for the spirited rejoinder. I’ve always perceived the Netherland’s sex industry as catering primarily to foreigners. My points of reference are the Scandinavian countries, where (adult) prostitution doesn’t seem to be a huge problem but promiscuity certainly is; the Asian nations, which suffer from prostitution but also have higher public standards of sexual morality; and the Western nations until recent times, which had the same characteristics.

This inverse relationship between prostitution and a nation’s sexual mores seems intuitive as well as empirically true. But I could be completely mistaken: it wouldn’t be the first time.

Mr. Culbreath: I don’t actually know about the Netherlands firsthand, only what I’ve read and heard, and you may well be right about the prostitution industry there catering mostly to foreign tourists - which is also true to a large extent in the Asian countries, as you know. But I can comment with firsthand knowledge on my own country, Canada, and in particular the portion in which I live, in western Canada, and while I wouldn’t say there’s lots of prostitution, there’s more than I’d expect, for what is supposedly the most socially conservative and religiously-observant part of the country - and it’s all pretty open and above board - they masquerade as “massage parlours”, “escort services” and the like, and even advertise in the telephone Yellow Pages, not to mention in the backs of major newspapers, and we all know what they’re really selling (and their clientele would be mostly locals, not foreigners). But alas, this doesn’t mean that Western Canadian young boyfriend-girlfriend couples aren’t cohabiting prior to (or rather instead of) marriage, as this is the pattern here amongst the irreligious.

I should qualify my remarks in the above paragraph by pointing out that this is particularly the pattern in the urban centres; I’m certain that people are a lot more conservative in many regards in the more rural parts, and prostitution wouldn’t be so open there, and I imagine “living in sin” is less common in the country than in the city - but still happens - I know when I lived in a rural part of central Canada that that happened a fair bit out there.

Your thesis does seem to be what one might intuitively expect - and would hope - yet, sadly, I think when a society is far enough gone down the toilet, all manner of sexual immorality thrives - BOTH publicly visible vices (cohabitation) AND more traditionally private vices (prostitution, pornography) thrive, alas…