Notes & Essays

Why Can Filipinos Talk About Guns But Not Penises?

Why do most of us feel comfortable enough having, say, murder discussed in front of our children, but not sex?

I think we should all talk about sex a whole lot more. Our national—if not global—taboo against sexually explicit speech has always struck me as perplexing.

Okay, maybe not “always.” When I was 14 years old and living in Alabama, I used to babysit this adorable eight-year-old boy named Kevin. Now Kevin had progressive sorts of parents, who, when their child inevitably asked them where babies come from, pretty much straight out told him. The result of this enlightenment was that, the next day, when I took Kevin down to the neighborhood playground, he asked me, “Guess what I have that you don’t? A penis!”

Thereafter, despite my best efforts, he went around repeating this wondrous epiphany to his playmates, other babysitters, other kids’ parents, the ice cream vendor, and basically anyone who would listen. They were shocked. I was mortified.

Nowadays, though, I’m kind of mortified that I was mortified—since I’m no longer 14 and embarrassed by every little thing, like the way my breasts bounce up and down when I run. It’s something breasts do, the way sex is a thing adult people do.

A gun is made to take a man down, whereas a penis—in more ways than one, God bless it—stands and delivers.

I mean, consider this: guns only do one thing, really, which is hurt people. Sure, you might argue with me that they can also protect people, but a gun’s ability to protect pretty much stems from its aforementioned ability to hurt, yeah? In contrast, a penis performs a plethora of wonderful functions, such as engendering pleasure, making babies, and, yes, expelling waste to keep the male body healthy. In other words, although it is widely considered to be a phallic representation, a gun, in fact, is made to take a man down, whereas a penis—in more ways than one, God bless it—stands and delivers.

Why, then, is it perfectly all right for us to talk about guns in polite company, but not penises? Why do most of us feel comfortable enough having, say, murder discussed in front of our children, but not sex?


Instead, we come up with the most arcane, linguistic convolutions to refer to—or avoid actually referring to—sex and our sex organs. The penis is called a number of, in my opinion, libido-sapping euphemisms, including ‘manhood,’ ‘member,’ and—I kid you not—‘love wand,’ while the vagina is coyly named stuff like ‘lady parts,’ a ‘flower,’ and the whole-body-shudder-inducing ‘vajayjay.’ Organs of both genders are commonly indicated as ‘down there,’ which one would think might be potentially confusing, given that (a) there are really quite a lot of body parts lower “down there” than your groin, and (b) it’s always vaguely possible that you are, in fact, discussing Australia.

Sex itself is referred to as ‘doing the nasty,’ ‘bumping uglies,’ and ‘making the beast with two backs,’ all of which are particularly illuminating, with their implication that we tend to think of sex as nasty, ugly, and bestial. So many of our worst epithets, after all, are based on sexual activities, which is possibly the most befuddling part of the whole deal—why do we call an objectionable person, for instance, a ‘cocksucker,’ when I have yet to meet a man who has had any objection whatsoever to cocksucking? Ditto ‘cunt.’ And isn’t it peculiar, when you think about it, that ‘motherfucker’ is a dreadful thing to call someone, when every man who has sired more than one non-simultaneous child is, by definition, a motherfucker?

Why do most of us feel comfortable enough having, say, murder discussed in front of our children, but not sex?

Now, I might be the last person to say ‘let’s take the dirty out of sex’—I rather like that saying that goes, “If it ain’t good and dirty, then you ain’t doin’ it right”—but just because it’s dirty, does that mean we have to be ashamed of it? Because when we don’t say anything about sex, that’s exactly what we are, by omission, saying about it: that it’s a thing not to be discussed, a thing to be kept hidden, a thing that, because of its shameful and oh-so-hush-hush nature, cannot be openly asked about and evaluated in terms of what’s smart and healthy and good.

It’s because I do talk about sex, and most other people don’t, that I have had the dichotomous privilege and dismay of experiencing the following conversation in my life.

Girl: I have to break up with my boyfriend, because we can’t—alam mo na.

Me: Why can’t you have sex?

Girl: Because of his bilbil. His you-know won’t go in far enough.

Me: But that doesn’t have to be a problem if you’re on top, right?

Girl: Me, on top? Puwede ba ’yun?


Oh, my God, sugar, yes! On top, on all fours, doubled up, against the wall, and so very, marvelously, much more! But as for you, Twentysomething-Year-Old Man who once told me you don’t use condoms because “all you need to do is withdraw”: no, that is far from sufficient, because pre-ejaculative emission can result in impregnation, and you’re left vulnerable to STDs anyway. And you, Boy Who Thankfully Did Use Condoms, but then used petroleum jelly for lubrication: no, no, no! Agh! (Oil-based products like Vaseline degrade latex, which is what condoms are made of, which is why you should use a water-based lubricant like KY jelly, spit, or the rather delightfully-named KittyKat Kreme—yes, really. If you didn’t know, then now you do, and you can thank me later.)

Sex is awesome—and if you agree with that statement, then you ought to talk like you do.

So here’s the upshot—I would call it the ‘cum shot,’ except that is a joyous thing and this is not—since we don’t like to talk about sex, many more people than you think don’t know fuck-all about fucking. And of course this leads to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and all sorts of serious stuff like that, but also—less seriously, but with much more widespread impact—it leads to bad sex!

Way too many people think that sex is something you just either are or are not good at, when, in point of fact, it’s like any other learnable skill—practice makes perfect, and, more to the point, knowledge is power. You wouldn’t go to the gym, hoist just any old dumbbell, and expect to get your desired result, would you? Neither should you simply wrench a woman’s legs open, stick your ‘manhood’ in her ‘flower,’ and expect ecstasy.

Now I’m not saying that, for the sake of a sexually happier world, we should all start reading our kids the Kama Sutra along with their Dr. Seuss. But the truth of the matter is, knowing next to nothing about sex prevents next to no one from going ahead and having it anyway, information age be damned.

So what’s to be done, then? In my opinion, this is a rare instance when ‘more talk, less action’ may actually be the right way to go. I don’t think anyone should consider themselves ready and able to have sex until they can bring themselves to call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina—or at least ‘cock,’ ‘pussy,’ ‘dick,’ ‘cunt,’ or any of the multitude of available words that do not sound like we’re trying to hush sex and our sexuality down to a whisper, or even a whimper.

Sex is awesome—and if you agree with that statement, then you ought to talk like you do. And then, maybe, we can start thinking of cunts as lovely instead of ugly, and cocks as naughty instead of nasty, and, with a good clean conscience, start practicing some loud, well-in-formed, unashamed, good, dirty fun.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the editors.


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Nikki Alfar
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