Kho-Halili scandal: a lesson in sex ethics

Posted at 05/29/2009 10:52 PM | Updated as of 05/29/2009 11:01 PM

While scrutiny into the scandal between Dr. Hayden Kho and Katrina Halili has focused on sex, drugs, and the videos, a women's rights advocate said that people are losing sight of bigger issues.

"I'm a little worried over how the media is mishandling the issue on sexuality and pornography. The deeper discussion should be how we are looking at sexuality, how we are portraying it, what we are saying about people's sexual rights," said Dr. Sylvia Claudio of the UP-based Center for Women's Studies on ABS-CBN's "Media In Focus."

She said that the issue has prompted many misconceptions about sex, including the idea that sexy stars waive their rights to human dignity. The need to respect intimate aspects of people's lives has also been overlooked.

"There is 'vanilla sex' (conservative sex), and there is kinky sex. And I think we should just talk about adult consent and be sure that if it comes out, we should stay out of it," Claudio said.

On the issue of taping sex acts, however, Claudio said the deeper issue should be getting consent from both parties. Otherwise, this would constitute an offense against women's rights.

"The problem with new technology is that it still tends to go along the lines of old problems. A lot of women are being hurt, in the same way a boyfriend will tape a girlfriend having sex, and using technology to debase somebody. The point is, we should educate ourselves about what are the sexual ethics that are important," she said.

Media frenzy

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, lamented the media's penchant for giving blow-by-blow accounts of the sex video scandal. He said the issue may have made "peeping toms out of the public."

Cayetano, who heads the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, cited recent reports which chose to highlight the emotional outbursts of Halili during the Senate probe as well as an incident when an angry spectator doused Kho with water. These incidents, he said, were given live coverage and were replayed again and again.

"There's a difference between live coverage [and] not live. So in live coverage, the Senate has a bigger role on which issues to raise. With the media, the problem is they focus on what is saleable.  I didn't want them (Kho and Halili) to be invited, but I wanted to invite the institutions involved instead. So if the two personalities [Kho and Halili] were not there, it would not be as lively. But the media should have prudence and handle [the issue] with care," he said.

Butch Dalisay, an award-winning writer and columnist, agreed that extensive media coverage of the event tended to fuddle more than clarify certain issues.

"The media hasn't been discussing these broader issues as it should and hasn't put this episode in proper context. We have a circus around this episode, and what worries me is how it's turned into a frenzy into all kinds of things that no longer have to do with the [basic issue] of the violation of Ms. Halili's rights and the lack of her informed consent [in taping the sex video]," he said.

Deeper issues

Cayetano said that although some media organizations have treated the issue fairly, many have given the affair sensational coverage.

"When you have so much publicity like this, it's like putting gasoline on a fire. I think the media should move on, along with a profile for reform, change, and mature discussion of all these issues. They should focus on substantial issues," he said.

Cayetano said the Senate should not focus on the sordid details of Kho's affair with Halili, but on the role of investigators in making culprits accountable.

"We should not pry into what happened between Hayden and Katrina. Why do we have to include it in political investigations? [Some] Senators were starstruck, so rather than asking the right questions, you're just satisfying curiosity," he said.

"I wanted a strong message from the police and wanted them to go after these guys who put the sex videos on the internet. The police should show that they're above celebrities and they can show who really released the videos," he added.

He also reminded his peers that there are other women who were featured in sex videos, all of whom could suffer trauma, extortion, or ruined reputations.

Claudio also said that the Senate should consider crafting a law which would address the rights of women (or men) who are victims of sex scandals, without resorting to censorship of all erotic material, like art films or erotic literature. "We should be very careful that people's rights are maintained," she said.