September 02, 2018

Duterte’s rape jokes speaks volumes of who we are as a nation


This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.

If misogyny had a mascot, it would be Rodrigo Duterte.  

Time and time again, he never fails to disappoint his base—and we’re not talking about only the uneducated, unwashed, and blindly devotional who thinks Duterte is an action movie hero come to life defending the downtrodden. Wait a minute, wasn’t that Erap? Look what a glorious presidency that turned out to be. 

Yes, even the educated and well-to-do among us make up the base that guffaw along to Duterte’s rape jokes, the latest one being about the proliferation of beautiful women in Davao as the reason behind the high incidence of rape in his home turf.  

“They said that Davao had many rape cases. For as long as there are many beautiful women, there are plenty of rape cases as well,” he said while in Mandaue City the other day.  

Cue laughter.

“Who agrees to do it on the first request anyway? Will the woman allow it? No. ‘Don’t, no, ahhh.’ Nobody agrees to do it on the first try. That is rape.”

More laughter.

“Even when they’re inside the cinema, she will push him away. ‘No, don’t.’ There are so many beautiful women. But if you happen to sit beside someone toothless, would you still want to do that?” 

Oh my God, Comedy Central, give this guy a show, please!

We all know this is Duterte’s carrot and shtick: comedy and fear. He’s the Entertainer-in-Chief, after all. Candid comedy, that’s his forte. Crack the jokes but crack the whip, too. Keep them laughing at his obscenities, he figures, while keeping his critics outraged about a couple of “harmless” rape jokes in the hope that they’ll ignore the real and pernicious obscenities his administration commits daily with increasing unapologetic vulgarity—the brutalization of the population, the extrajudicial killings, the continuing drug trade, the bullying of perceived opponents, the erosion of the justice system, the rampant corruption, the prevalence of rape culture and sexual violence, etc. The list is long and horrifying, but who cares, really, except for a disgruntled few. Let the good times roll, we’re all having fun.  

Here’s the frightening truth about what Duterte’s rape comedy routine reveals about us. It appeals to his base inasmuch as it appeals to our own base instincts in us. We laugh at his jokes because deep down, we admire the crass, unsophisticated kanto boy in him; it allows us to shed the veneer of sophistication, analytical acuity and intellectualism we have had to put on for international—i.e., Western—acceptance, and be who we really are at heart: kanto boys with an Eat Bulaga mentality. It’s no coincidence that shows like Eat Bulaga, the insipid diet of entertainment that provides zero calories to the Filipino brain, capitalize and propagate this same sense of humor that Duterte swears gets him laughs every time, while simultaneously “connecting with the people.”

If namaste means the divine in me honors the divine in you, the subtext in every greeting—Kumusta, Maayong hapon—Duterte extends to his fans must be “the base in me celebrates the baseness in you.” F*ck self-actualization and instead revel in our collective id. Stop pretending to be what we’re not, he taunts: At the end of the day, we are lewd, we are vulgar, we are crass. We are the nation that laughs at the President’s rape jokes, and belittle those who chose to cringe at these jokes for not having a sense of humor. We are the nation that adores the President for being the manly man his predecessor and closest rival were not (and if that’s our idea of peak masculinity, we are seriously f*cked). We are the nation that agrees with the President’s lack of regard for women; all that activism against rape culture is useless bullsh*t, for women are sexual objects who exist for the pleasure of men. No does not mean no, no simply means keep trying until you wear her down, or you can always force yourself on her. If she’s beautiful, oh my god, all the more reason to rape her, but let the the president go first. Being in power has its perks, after all. If she’s a rebel, just f*cking shoot her in the vagina. And if she’s ugly, leave her alone.

“There are so many beautiful women. But if you happen to sit beside someone toothless, would you still want to do that?” 

I’m surprised he didn’t get a standing ovation for his zingy one-liners right then and there.

It’s a privilege for a woman to be beautiful, his id-addled mind asserts, a privilege for men because they would have to rape you to show they desire you. God forbid a woman turns out to be ugly as f*ck because she won’t even deserve the privilege of being raped, much less f*cked, even with her consent.

So it’s a woman’s fault that she’s beautiful, because it is an invitation to rape. It’s a woman’s fault that she might drink or wear short shorts, because it is an appeal to the baser instincts of men to whip their penises out and force themselves on her. It’s a woman’s fault she’s desirable, because her mere existence justifies any kind of sexual violence a man might commit against her.

Yeah, the Entertainer-in-Chief may have just been joking. And yeah, his shtick is getting old and tiresome. And yet we laugh. Is it perhaps because we’ve become the joke?

And it’s the kind of joke that’s not funny at all.

B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant. 

For comments and questions, e-mail

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Art by Marian Hukom

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Unpacking Pres. Duterte’s rape joke: Why it reeks of more than just misogyny
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Pres. Duterte says Davao has most number of rape cases due to their beautiful women
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Filed Under:

B. Wiser, culture, misogyny, rape, rape culture, rape joke, Rodrigo Duterte, Sex and Sensibility, Tolerance, women

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