In the very conservative, kyeme-filled Philippines, literary works don’t skim the hem of sexual propriety—or, to be more exact, the hem of non-sexual propriety. We live in a country where so many people live to pretend that sex does not happen at all—amid rising STD and AIDS infection rates (the fastest-growing in Asia! Not good.) and amid the steady growth of our population (so many Immaculate Concepcions happening, I am sure).
For all the outward prudishness of our society, this is the place where sex in the tabloids—shielded pictorially only by strategically-placed dark stars on various “titillating” parts of the nude, usually female, form of the photo subject. This is a country where the column of Xerex Xaviera was a guilty pleasure for decades and where sex advice columnist and sex therapist Margie Holmes wrote extensively about life, love and lust.
We pretend, but pretense is all that is. Filipinos live, love, and yes, enjoy their fair share of lust under the buttoned-down propriety of our collective barong or the private tent of our baro’t saya.
Conservative on the streets, wild in the sheets—and other parts both declared and unknown—that’s what we really are, because all that passion our mixed-race blood holds has to find expression.
So I spent weeks looking for smut of the literary variety—the book “Don’t Tell Anyone”, literary smut by Ian Rosales Casocot and Shakira Andrea Sison. This naughty little anthology is strictly for people aged 18 and up because of the sexual innuendo and straight-up, unapologetic rendering of sex acts between consenting and homosexual adults. It is NSFW (not safe for work) unless you are the literary editor of a magazine like the Graphic (sorry people, I already have the job and am keeping it for a good long while yet).
The line that distinguishes artful smut from outright porn is artistry—something that Casocot and Sison have and have put in between the covers of “Don’t Tell Anyone” in aces and spades (and hearts and diamonds). The stories sans the sex would still stand as strong tales, beautiful in both concept and execution. With the graphic sexual narrative and frank dialogue with uncensored profanity, the stories gain an added dimension of realism and candor that serve to make the plot and characters shine even more incandescently in the darkness of our collective kyeme.
Both authors exhibit their skill, control and artistic flair for storytelling that make the reader forget that she is reading fiction. “Don’t Tell Anyone” also doesn’t fall into that trap of being “mommy porn” that the authors of so many romance or erotic stories cannot avoid. To be honest, I don’t read romance stories because I find the formulaic boy-meets-girl framework boring—and because I know for a fact that the emotions in a good love story are not all wine and roses or all thorn and thistle.
What Casocot and Sison manage to put on the table is a very good exploration of naked emotions as well as naked bodies—the whole range and breadth of them, in many varying intensities.
Many people tend to think that erotica is porn and, on the surface, they are right. But that view is so limited. There is more to erotica than merely the descriptive narrative of sexual urges and acts. Really good erotica lays bodies bare, then moves on to stripping the emotions bare, setting all nerves on fire and, in the end, making the reader feel well and truly ravished. In a very good way.
That, to my reader’s eye, catches my interest, holds it and makes me want to go back for more. So, yeah, I don‘t read erotica solely for the porny stuff. This book delivers all those things—the wantonness and vulnerability of its characters, the context in which the stories happen, and the insights and emotions that run like tributaries throughout the text—and it delivers all of these things beautifully, with an honesty I wish more works by Filipino authors would carry, with such trust in the reader’s capacity for understanding and acceptance that I felt humbled by it.
Besides being a unique and wonderful outlet for my insatiable lust for the written word, “Don’t Tell Anyone” also opens up many windows and doors into the psyche of the Filipino in a world where sexual kyeme is no longer a good thing—a world where love even between people of the same gender is no longer a bad thing.
This book offers you a look at a changing society and insights into the way these changes are happening on a more intimate level—at the level of the individual soul and that soul’s mate.
Are you still reading me? Why? Go out and get yourself a copy of “Don’t Tell Anyone.” Trust me when I tell you this book flies off the shelves really fast, so don’t be a silly goose and wait until you can’t find it. G