For general patronage

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - October 4, 2015 - 10:00am

Twerking became a household word in 2013 after Miley Cyrus, in a flesh-colored, body-hugging outfit, performed “Blurred Lines” onstage with fellow US pop star Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards in New York. Twerking is leaning over and shaking your butt – preferably scantily clad or in a tight outfit – at a dancing partner who’s thrusting his hips at you.

She got a lot of flak – for surprising Thicke with the naughty segment (she said recently that he was fully aware it would happen and they in fact practiced the act) and for (critics said) not being sufficiently physically endowed to twerk.

For those of you who haven’t seen the full video of the public entertainment fare on stage at a Liberal Party (LP) gathering last Thursday in Laguna, the Miley Cyrus wannabes called the Playgirls did not sing “Blurred Lines.” They danced a bit while clothed, and then they got down to their underwear and kept dancing.

Then one of them twerked with a male guest in a yellow LP shirt. The performance was far raunchier than “Blurred Lines.” Miley brushed against Robin but it didn’t look like they really touched. The LP guy – no Robin Thicke lookalike there, but he seemed thrilled by his younger, sexy dance partner – leaned over and put his arms around the waist of the woman shaking her derriere at his crotch.

Probably encouraged by the crowd, we then see a guy – I’m not sure if it’s the same one – lying on stage on his back. A Playgirl in lacy black underwear lowers herself onto him and begins dry humping. That’s moving as if having sexual intercourse while clothed. First she straddles the guy while they’re facing each other. Then she turns around and humps again.

That’s not twerking, that’s bordering on porn, and I have very liberalized ideas about sexual mores and what constitutes porn. My mother, who sent me to Catholic school from kindergarten to high school, has often lamented, after seeing the results, where she went wrong.

People can dry hump in private, it’s nobody’s business. Such performances may be common (and even mild) in stag parties and fraternity gatherings. Thanks to the incident, the Playgirls are probably fully booked till New Year’s Day 2016.

But if you present it to the public for general patronage, then you have to be prepared to see the people make it their business.

Which is what netizens have done after seeing the video that was uploaded on YouTube.

* * *

The LP, whose leaders are notorious for slow appreciation of the public pulse, has tried to brush off the incident as a case of boys and Playgirls just wanting to have fun.

President Aquino, as LP chairman, could have shown genuine irritation and openly scolded his partymates with something like, “What were you thinking?” He could have quickly apologized to the public – without waiting for netizens to demand it – for having in the party of daang matuwid members suffering from arrested development who like gross entertainment.

Instead Malacañang has tried to distance P-Noy from the fray, and, not unexpectedly, has sniffed that he need not apologize since he wasn’t even there.

Other LP members have done the same, saying they had left when the performance was staged, among them standard bearer Mar Roxas and acting president Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Left holding the bag is Chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority – the guy who reportedly brought the Playgirls as “gifts” to Laguna 4th District Rep. Benjamin Agarao Jr. for his 58th birthday and 40th anniversary in government service.

The birthday celebration was reportedly in another part of Agarao’s compound where the LP oath-taking was held, so most of the same people were there.

Because of the recent attention, we have been reminded that Agarao was among the congressmen implicated in the pork barrel scam in May last year by accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Agarao has denied Napoles’ claim that he diverted P5 million of his pork barrel to ghost projects.

Tolentino, supported by Agarao, has denied being the giver of the Playgirls as gift, as announced by the emcee. But since no other name has been mentioned (or if anyone is named, the person might be traced to the MMDA), Tolentino remains the principal suspect.

Going by the LP’s reaction to the furor, however, Tolentino will probably keep his slot in the party’s Senate slate.

* * *

Some quarters have dismissed this as a tempest in a teapot, stressing that such entertainment is common nationwide. Working as a reporter for many years, I have in fact seen similar and even raunchier stuff – but never in a large birthday bash for a politician, and never before, during or after a political gathering.

The Playgirls themselves have defended their performance, describing it as wild but not lewd.  In an online post, the group also proudly congratulates LP members they have campaigned for (“all winners!” the group proclaims.) Now we are reminded that the group also figured in a controversy in Malabon for performing the Harlem Shake at another LP rally during the 2013 campaign.

The women’s movement is about the freedom to make choices. This includes choosing to be a twerking, dry humping sexy Playgirl. Or a full-time, cookie-baking homemaker rather than an office-working mom. Or, for fans of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the freedom to be the “submissive” in a sexual relationship.

In certain cultures, women have even earned the right – and consequent protection under the law – to work as prostitutes.

But you need a certain level of education and discernment to go into the flesh trade willingly. In many parts of our country, most women and girls are forced into it, usually by impoverished circumstances. Presenting soft porn as public entertainment, anchored on the belief that women are objects to be given away as gifts, can encourage such abuse.

Under our tough laws, women and girls are supposed to enjoy protection from trafficking and sexual exploitation, including being forced to perform nearly naked and dry humping a corpulent stranger in public.

Problems arise when lewd performance is passed off as public entertainment for general patronage, especially at a gathering of a political party that claims to hold the moral high ground.

It says a lot about the sordid state of Philippine politics that we are being told that dry humping in public is ordinary, inoffensive entertainment.

If this is a political party’s public entertainment fare, think of what its members do with women for amusement behind closed doors.

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