by Stefan R. Saldon | March 14, 2023
I have always enjoyed reading Filipino romance books. When you read, you also can’t help but notice that apart from the other factors that influence a book—or any form of entertainment for that matter—there are cultural identities that linger. When I read Filipino romance novels, I notice that apart from Filipino jokes and references, there are also Filipino-based social constructs present in the text. I believe this is necessary, especially when targeting a certain audience, as it allows them to feel a sense of familiarity.
Filipinos, both culturally and socially, have been “conservative” people. Virginity, for example, is valued heavily. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if one values his or her virginity. But what makes this concept a flaw among Filipinos (and perhaps even in other parts of the world) is the double standard present and the misogynistic and patriarchal tendency in the perception of this value that shoves this notion only towards women.
Let’s go back to the romance book statement and associate it with valuing virginity based on my personal experience as a reader.
Exhibit A: A sexually active male lead and an innocent virgin female lead as a common pair in Filipino romance books
Now let’s move on and see the lack of the audience’s familiarity when reading a romance book because it doesn’t line up with what they were taught about valuing virginity.
Exhibit B: Readers who refuse to read a particular book because the female lead is a sexually active woman, and yet these are the same readers who are hyping another romance book despite the male lead also being a sexually active person.
Exhibit C: Readers in the comment section voicing out their disappointment because the male lead isn’t the female lead’s “first,” without any questions asked whether the female lead is also the male lead’s “first.”
In a 2018 study of the “Valuation of Women’s Virginity in the Philippines,” results show that 60 percent of respondents said that a woman being a virgin until she gets married is very important. On a qualitative account of this study, male participants reasoned the importance of women’s virginity as a gift offered to men. Meanwhile, female participants expressed concern about their husband’s opinions when one is not a virgin anymore.
The problem with these statements is the words “gift” and “husband,” because the highlighted idea is basically “to please their husband,” a statement we don’t often hear said the other way around.
Around 66 percent of women disapprove of men having sex before marriage, and only less than half of men (45 percent) also feel the same. With the interviews conducted, results show that men being virgins are ridiculed and considered shameful in contrast to a woman’s virginity, which is highly valued.
When we hear about men who are sexually driven and active, one of the overused excuses for their behavior is that they are: “Lalake man gud [It’s because he’s a man],” or “Natural ra na kay lalake man [It’s natural because he’s a man].” It seems that society itself is obliged to adjust to a man’s “natural” behavior. Whereas when it is a sexually driven woman, the idea becomes unacceptable, and society expects the woman to be taught and reminded of the essence of protecting her “pagkababae [femininity].“
This flawed idea is heavily spread in the country, and even up to this day, where the present is in a continuous shift to modernization, this perception is still alive—in real-life settings, in television shows, and even in romance books.
This biased concept frustrates me because of how completely idiotic and baffling it is. A woman shouldn’t be confined within a ridiculous societal expectation when the other gender is free and isn’t heavily guarded with the same notion. If you expect a woman to value her virginity, why can’t the same assumption be made about men?
More importantly, degradation is another factor associated when a woman does break this “value.” It seems that a woman’s worth is questioned and even looked down on, whereas a man who breaks the same value remains unaffected.
To end this, I must say again that I don’t have any problem whatsoever with both men and women who do value their virginity, and I completely respect if one does wait until marriage. My rants and opinions are only aimed at the unbiased and visible double standard of valuing virginity. I say, if you let a man roam around breaking this value without any consequences, I believe women should be allowed to do the same. And I say, when women are expected to value their virginity, I assume this applies to men as well. Degrading a woman just because she failed to value her virginity or shaming a man just because he is still a virgin is not the kind of society that I want to live in, and it is surely not the type of community I expect to progress.