SEX & WOMEN OF POWER
Manila, October 17 2002 (PilipinoSTAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - Sex indeed sells and sizzles anytime and almost anywhere, as shown by the recent headline-grabbing one-word reply of President Gloria M. Arroyo to a question about her sex life. Can discussing the sex life of a female politician in Philippine society be positive or negative to her public image and mass popularity? In Oriental societies like Korea, China or even Japan, despite their stunning economic progress and modernity, the sex lives of women seem to still be a taboo subject for public discussions, with the sexually adventurous or liberated women looked upon as disreputable. What about a Western-influenced society like the Philippines, where the hypocritical conservatism of Iberian Catholicism from Spain mixes with Hollywood cultural mores from America? Are men intimidated or overwhelmed by sexually aggressive women, especially those who wield power like politicians and lady presidents?
If former movie actor Joseph Estrada can win big election victories by parlaying his womanizing vice to buttress his swaggering macho image among the masses, can President Gloria Arroyo’s unprecedented and unscripted candidness about her sex life at age 55 be used to soften and humanize her "mataray" and boring public image? For a brief moment, it was obvious that President Gloria Arroyo had her defenses down, and her startled one-liner "Plenty" in response to a disrespectful question has possibly done more good for her than her 1,001 other trite and contrived public relations antics over the past months. She is not hopeless pala, it is possible for her to overcome her public image as nasty or haughty. Another possible consequence of her inimitable "plenty" line is that she has again broken another unwritten barrier for Filipino women, to openly "discuss" (through her response is hardly a discussion, as people point out) their sexuality in a traditionally male chauvinist society where boys of all ages love to brag about their sexual fantasies.
Sex Talk of GMA Draws Diverse, Feverish Reactions
An otherwise dreary, uninspiring and unimaginative speech of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on October 8 unexpectedly came to life when journalist Raissa Robles of the South China Morning Post asked in the open forum: "Do you still have sex?" Perhaps startled out of the afternoon stupor and after coyly parrying a series of provocative questions asking her not-so-secret 2004 political ambitions, the 55-year-old lady President retorted: "Plenty." The shocking question and the candid reply elicited raucous laughter and chatter in a big and formally-dressed crowd composed of foreign and local journalists, Speaker Joe de Venecia (whose serious face and big ears visibly flushed to a reddish hue), Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Hermogenes "Jun" Ebdane, Jr. (whose face expressed his shock and laughter) and his fellow police officials all in full uniform at one table, foreign diplomats and foreign corporate executives.
At my table, there were numerous reactions, including an exasperated Westerner who exclaimed: "Why did that journalist ask such an impertinent question? Is she a Chinese journalist from Hong Kong? How could such a question be asked of a national leader?" When I recounted the incident to Justice Undersecretary Calida the devout Protestant seemed flustered but did not make any comment. Peter Wallace of the Wallace Business Forum told me: "I would prefer it if the President would be as candid in her population policy, you know of all Catholic countries in the world, I can show you statistics that the Philippines has the worst record in overpopulation or fast population growth which will have a great negative impact on economic and social development. The Catholic Church is against condoms, what is the difference between condoms and the Church-sanctioned rhythm and withdrawal methods?"
Later in the afternoon, a top economic official of the administration and strongly pro-GMA technocrat half-jokingly told The Philippine Star: "You should have gone to the microphone to ask a follow-up question to the President–if you are having plenty of sex, how about the First Gentleman?" An undersecretary of an important department said to me in jest: "I do not believe her (laughs). Actually, I do not know what she meant when she said that (laughs)." When asked to give his own reaction to this unprecedented discussion of the President’s sex life, a respected Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court replied with a very stern look in his eyes and warned me not to print his name: "I am not interested... in the topic (laughs out loud)." Even this jurist was not immune from the national malaise of tsismis, with his libelous, unprintable and unsubstantiated tales on alleged sexual pecadillos of certain political personalities which.
Most powerful women in Philippine society are more circumspect, proper and discreet in their sexual affairs, if indeed they have had any outside of their marriage, unlike the mostly emotionally immature male politicos who are more reckless. Former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos excelled in her physical beauty and charisma, but she was most likely a faithful woman. Nevertheless, the public was titillated by stories about her close friendship with male celebrities like the pianist Van Cliburn, the world-famous heart surgeon Christian Barnard, Hollywood actor George Hamilton, and even lately a US lawyer on her defense team. Almost like Cleopatra, she also charmed dictators such as Moammar Khadaffy of Libya and Fidel Castro of Cuba. Ex-President Corazon C. Aquino was prim and proper (as a widow, she’s free to marry anytime), with only a few whispers about some powerful men who supposedly sent her roses and wanted to court her. The only loudest whisper of any possible romance was that created by rumor mongers who wanted to see her paired off with General Alfredo Lim, just before Lim was to launch his failed 1992 presidential bid.
Loren, "L Na L" And Imee
Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imee Marcos, a woman of power well-known for her good looks and sensuous image, commented on national TV: "Buti pa siya (referring to GMA), plenty (laughs)."
On the same night after GMA’s sex talk before FOCAP, this writer was seated between Senate Majority Floor Leader Loren Legarda and her husband Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority (PLRA) chairman Tony Leviste at a birthday dinner of a businessman in Ayala Alabang. I recounted the incident to the amused 41-year-old lady senator and asked what would have been her reply to the query: "Do you still have sex?"
Without losing her poise Senator Loren Legarda replied: "Why not?" After a few seconds passed, she added that another good answer would have been: "What do you think?" Turning to her husband Tony Leviste, who was busy impressing other people at our table with his magic tricks, I commented: "I was born when my late mother was 41 years old, and my younger sister Marilou was born when my mother was age 42, so you and the Senator can still have more children." When various business people and politicos approached Loren to greet her and to suggest her becoming the runningmate of certain presidentiables like GMA, Roco, FPJ or Angara, a tycoon commented for all to hear: "If you ever end up as runningmate to Senator Ping Lacson, your campaign slogan can be L na L. What I mean is Lacson and Loren. You can even sell the team-up as the new loveteam of Philippine politics."
Sonia Garcia, the Assumption Convent classmate of Senator Loren Legarda and Tourism Director for Region XI, said during the visit of the legislator to Davao City during the colorful Kadayawan Festival: "You had already written about powerful men who womanize, for a change, why don’t you write about women of power who keep men (laughs)?"
Catherine The Great, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I
The Virgin Queen How did history judge sexually adventurous or candid women of power, especially political leaders? What is the effect of their sex life on the public perception to their effectiveness in commanding the respect of society? Bill Clinton was the first US President to have ever been investigated for his sexual affairs, what about his exceptionally talented and assertive wife, now Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? What about her sex life and how is it affected by Bill’s philandering ways? Hillary might possibly become the first woman to be US President, and there are rumors about her supposed sexual liaisons with other men. How then will these affect her political future?
The English writer W. Somerset Maugham said: "My own belief is that there is hardly anyone, whose sexual life, if it were broadcast would not fill the whole world at large with surprise and horror." The English playwright Caryl Churchill wrote in 1987 on sex scandals: "The more you don’t do it, the more it’s fun to read about." The American actor John Barrymore said in 1951: "The thing that takes the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble is sex.
Catherine the Great (1729 to 1796) was one of the best leaders of Russia, although she was born a German princess with a French education and notorious for her not-so-secret sexual pecadillos. She said: "I was attractive. That was the halfway house to temptation, and in such cases, human nature does the rest. To tempt and be tempted are much the same thing." Her favorite toast was: "God, grant us our desires, and grant them quickly."
Catherine the Great had 16 different lovers, some of whom she appointed to high political positions. One of her lovers was calvary officer Grigori Potemkin who was 35 years old, when the Empress was age 43. Her other lovers included Polish Count Stanislas Poniatowski, whom Catherine made king of Poland as Stanislas II in 1764. Another lover was Grigori Orlov. There were many others, including the 22-year-old Platon Zubov who was officer of the Horse Guards when he became lover of the then 60-year-old Empress Catherine.
A Macedonian Greek descended from Alexander the Great’s able general Ptolemy, Cleopatra of Egypt (69 to 30 BC) was one of the most sensuous and powerful women in history. Not especially beautiful, but she reputedly had a slender and well-proportioned body and had her sensuous charms that overwhelmed Roman Emperor Julius Caesar and also the Roman leader Mark Anthony. Although Julius Caesar was a notorious womanizer, he was 52 years old and at the height of power when the 21-year-old Cleopatra was smuggled past guards in a carpet and captivated the conqueror. She was the last queen of Egypt. Perhaps due to the fact that most historians were male and feared powerful women who were so confident about their sexuality, history recorded her as having been an epitome of decadence, cunning, exotic beauty and for using her personal attractiveness to boost her political ambitions.
A well-crafted movie recently depicted the incredible life of Queen Elizabeth I, also known as the Virgin Queen who never married. She claimed that she remained a virgin all her life, although there are rumors of her supposed love affairs. She was a great leader, the last Tudor monarch, and well-loved during her 44-year reign which witnessed unprecedented peace and prosperity.
The sex life of Elizabeth I was a favorite topic for gossip throughout the nation. Even foreign ambassadors spied on her alleged romantic affairs, but could not produce any evidence. Unlike our president who said she has plenty of sex at age 55, Elizabeth I maintained that if she "had ever found pleasure in such a dishonorable life – she did not know of anyone who could forbid her; but she trusted in God that nobody would ever live to see her so commit herself." She said she wished her epitaph on her tomb to "declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin."
Why did she never marry? Elizabeth I said: "I hate the idea of marriage for reasons that I would not divulge to a twin soul – I am already married to a husband, which is the people of England. I will have here but one mistress and no master."
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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