© 2015 Lindsay Cope

Teaching Safe Sex in the Philippines

Discussions of sex, albeit safe sex practices, in the Philippines are taboo.  This is the case in many conservative countries, even in the United States there are battles over what is appropriate and important in sex education.  I am comfortable with the topic, as many college graduates are.  The conversations of sex, sexuality, consent, safe sex, and reproductive rights are common on college campuses around America.  So when I was asked to participate in a camp here in the Philippines on the theme of safe sex I had no reservations about the discussions ahead.  The Philippines is a conservative country, more so in the provinces.  During the opening remarks portion of the program, even a town council member had a hard time saying the word “sex” in front of a crowd at first.

The camp covered myths about sex, teen pregnancy, methods of communication, and STDs/STIs.  It was a lot to cram into two days, but there were some important take aways about sexual health and protection.  The most effective workshop was the one on myths about sexual behaviors.  Common myths about pregnancy and transmission of STD/STIs were covered and many misconceptions were cleared up.  I was asked to give a condom demonstration on day one.  Fortunately, the groups were segregated by gender.  This was hugely important, and allowed for privacy for the girls and boys to ask questions and not feel embarrassed.  When I first introduced a condom, many of the girls admitted they had never seen one.  As I proceeded with the demonstration the girls were mostly curious, but also nervous about using and acquiring condoms.  The response was exactly what I would expect for a group of teenagers just about anywhere.  We completed the condom demonstration and transitioned into communication and negotiation strategies for ensuring sexual health and safety.  The girls surprised me with their empowered responses to excuses men may make to avoid using condoms.  The girls were strong and confident in that small classroom in Barbaza, Antique where we discussed condoms, and I hope they can take that into their future sexual encounters.  The most exciting part of the workshop was when the girls asked for condoms.  I had some unexpired ones left over from the presentation and gave them all away, taking a sex positive tone and praising them for being proactive enough to ask so that they are prepared should they need it.

The flow of the camp was consistent with expectations I would maintain on this topic with teens just about anywhere.  However, we did take some things for granted as educators, or simply failed to contextualize our discussions of sex appropriately.  For example, one of the most common questions found in the SAFE box (for questions about anything that comes up throughout the camp) was, “What is oral sex and what is the point?”  We had discussed so many facets of safe sex practices without covering the basics, without explaining the different sexual activities that can put them at risk.  It is so easy to assume a foundation of knowledge is present when these conversations have become, for many of the volunteers participating, common knowledge among our peers (other volunteers and friends at home).

I want to close this post by pointing out just how remarkable it was that this camp even happened.  Lena, the volunteer who organized the camp, made incredible progress throughout the planning process, gaining more and more freedom to discuss important topics and even to have a condom demonstration.  Barbaza is remarkably liberal compared to many towns in the Philippines.  As I said at the start, sex is a taboo.  This was the first safe sex camp, as far as we were told, in all of Antique.  That is an incredible accomplishment and I am proud of the volunteers who put it together, who kept it fun, who professionally approached the topics of the camp, and who empowered young people to take care of their bodies and to have some agency regarding their sexual activities.  In a country where 1 in 10 women ages 15-19 is already a mother or pregnant with their first child and where the risk of HIV infection is on the rise, education on safe sexual practices and sexual health is imperative.


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    Posted October 27, 2019 at 7:57 pm | #
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  4. Angela
    Posted June 11, 2019 at 11:39 am | #

    You’re doing great work hats off everyone should know about that safe s*x teaching method Now my aim is to search how to make a Wikipedia page for these type organization to learn some few tips to make wiki page for you and give reference it’s really appreciated.

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    Posted March 3, 2019 at 7:20 pm | #

    not sure if my comment was posted well here… good like with your important and kinda sensitive teaching

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    Posted March 3, 2019 at 7:19 pm | #

    It would be interesting to read more about this kinda sensitive topic.

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    Posted August 7, 2018 at 9:13 am | #

    The response was exactly what I would expect for a group of teenagers just about anywhere. Read manga online for free in high quality and most full at mangafox.

  9. tricia
    Posted March 22, 2018 at 6:06 am | #

    I am a student of Mapúa University and currently working on my thesis study
    regarding safe sex. As I am writing my paper, I stumbled upon your site.
    I would like to ask what camp was this? When was this held? Was the camp part of the government’s RH law? Hoping for your response soon! Thank you!

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