In late November, a sociology student from the University of the Philippines talked about her experiences of sexual misconduct in the local indie music scene. After her initial statements, she posted callouts from several individuals, many of whom were granted anonymity despite having their stories and allegations made known through the same social media platform. She also said that she felt the need to distance herself from the indie music scene because she found that continuing to support it felt hypocritical and unethical.
It would be easy to dismiss such behavior as part of the norms and values that characterize the indie music subculture. After all, the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” has been used to describe the rock music lifestyle over the past few decades, and certain musical genres such as rap and R&B are also often associated with a certain degree of sexualized behavior.
Multiple studies (primarily prevalence studies) done by several scholars and sports politicians on sexual harassment and abuse show that it is a concern in sport subcultures in Norway and Canada. However, the link between musical preference and sexual norms and values in the local setting is inconclusive at best. At this point, it would be irresponsible to attribute such behavior to the scene or subculture especially since only a few individuals have owned up to their actions.
The gravity of the accusations varies widely.
Some allegations indicated clear abuse of power relations between musician-influencers and their victims while others depended on one’s perception of what constitutes sexual harassment. As with any social construct, sexual harassment is defined both culturally and contextually, and reaching a consensus for every possible situation is a daunting challenge if at all possible. Despite this, it is important to distinguish between acts of sexual harassment and sexually liberal expressions.
For instance, is it now more socially acceptable for women to be expressive in a sexually liberal manner than it is for men? How important is familiarity, affinity, or camaraderie in determining what constitutes sexual misconduct? And are men no longer allowed to be maginoo pero medyo bastos in this day and age? Perhaps such matters should be clarified through media-supported public discourse and even legislation.
Victim shaming or victim blaming as an initial response to allegations of sexual misconduct has never been more socially unacceptable than it is today.
However, we should never take for granted that the accused is still innocent until proven guilty. Even in cases of equal innocence, the supposed victim seizes the position of power or control upon making an allegation.
In his work “Rethinking ‘Don’t Blame the Victim’: The Psychology of Victimhood,” Dr. Ofer Zur explains that “(i)n claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others, a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one’s behavior and its outcome. The victims ‘merely’ seek justice and fairness. If they become violent, it is only as a last resort, in self-defense. The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.” Of course, victims of less degrees of sexual misconduct (if any at all) would probably find it easier to seize power in this way than victims of more serious acts would. In any case, we must react to such allegations carefully by considering the degree of misconduct, the presence or absence of power relations, the certainty of guilt, and all other contextual factors that constitute the truth without putting blame on or shaming the accuser.
Rafael Gerardo S. Tensuan is a lecturer at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University and at the Export Management Program of De La Salle College of St. Benilde.