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Its Penis, not a 'Birdie': Let's talk about Young Boys Sexuality and Reproductive Health

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

By Kevin de Vera

May 1, 2019


Merriam-Webster dictionary tells the tale of a penis this way – it’s a male erectile organ of copulation by which urine and semen are discharged from the body and that develops from the same embryonic mass of tissue as the clitoris. While to some, the penis stories would vary from its size, how long can it do its job, and how well it would perform. I have a different story. Its story of a penis rarely being talked about.



Just call me Potpot: cultural barrier towards open discussion on male sexuality


“It’s a boy” – when you are born with a penis, but baby ‘penis’ for sure will be called with different many names. And yes, this baby penis is called, ‘Potpot’. It is a norm in Bicolano culture that words like pisot, boto, pitoy, etc. if spoken out loud are associated to perversion or being rude and nasty. For this reason, Potpot was even called names to shy away from being distorting and disturbing – so this baby penis has many other names: birdie, pototoy, junjun. Such norms are being passed down to the younger generation. This however creates a culture that talking about ‘penis’ and anything linked to it, such as sex, taboo.


‘Potpot’ like most other young Bicolanos would learn about stuffs regarding sexuality from their friends, family members, internet, and other reading materials. In a workshop participated by college students held in Guinobatan, Albay last October 2017, participants shared how and what they learned about sex: “I learned from my uncle that I have to try getting laid during my 18th birthday”, says a male student who tried to explain it as a rite of passage of becoming a binata; “I learned about sex in school, from my classmates who share sex videos on their phones”, from another male student who could have learned more about it if a teacher or a guidance counselor taught him about it, and; “I got information about it in the internet, you can just google it”, from one more male student who cited few porn sites as a source of information when it comes to sex.


It is so ironic that young people, that young boys like our main character in the story ‘Potpot’ learn about sex from people who probably does not know any better than them or from the internet which does not guarantee that it’s a reliable and informative source. The cultural barrier about talking about sex and sexuality implicates young people, both boys and girls, depriving them from correct information about sex and sexuality. Like how can ‘Potpot’ protect himself from acquiring sexually transmitted infection or preventing getting someone pregnant.



Potpot ang Taguro oh, Binata na! When puberty hits you – you were left unprepared


Puberty among boys usually occurs between the ages 12 to 16. So, what’s the big deal about puberty? In this period of human life, boys undergo changes in their bodies. At this point, ‘Potpot’ is hit with puberty, a period of sexual maturation and when fertility starts to develop. From birdie, his penis is now a boto – a.k.a. otob, taguro, lapit, lamuto… Still, during adolescent stage of young boys, even they entered their reproductive age, sex is not that easy to talk about. To be able to talk about it openly they refer to penis as kargada, batuta, and nota (nota as popularized by the gay community).


‘Potpot’ and other young boys like him seriously need to know more about their body, sexuality, and have the skills to prevent getting STIs or getting someone pregnant (unwanted pregnancy). According to the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality study in 2013, 35.8% of young boys 15-24 years old are already engaging in sexual activity. However, most of the first sexual encounter of young people was unprotected from risk of conception and acquiring STIs including HIV. While according to HIV/AIDS ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) in 2018, one out of three newly diagnosed of HIV infection are young people, and an approximate of nine out of 10 are males.



Penis Talks and We should be Talking about it Seriously


‘Potpot’ and the rest of young Bicolano boys have the right to sexual and reproductive health information. According to Center for Reproductive Rights (The Human Right to Information on Sexual and Reproductive Health), individuals have a right to comprehensive information about sexual and reproductive health. This right, like all reproductive rights, is firmly rooted in the most basic international human rights standards, including protections of the rights to life, health, education and non-discrimination. The Philippines constitution also directs that reproductive health is a basic right of every Filipinos. The R.A. 10354 also known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law explicitly states the right of young people to reproductive health services and information.



Getting to know more about your penis is power! Sex education for example, especially to young boys like ‘Potpot’, can give them power to make responsible decision in matters of his sexual and reproductive health. There is a school of thought that sex education promotes promiscuity. However, several literatures and studies explain that correct knowledge and information through sex education deter early sex and delays coital debut among young people, reduces risks of unwanted conception and STIs, and promotes health. Like in a review of 68 studies from around the world commissioned by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS determined that providing children with sex education does not promote promiscuity. Rather, the most effective prevention education programs are those that foster open communication regarding sex, negotiation skills, social and media influences, and safer sex methods.



Keeping ‘Potpot’ in the dark, does not stop him from learning and talking about penis. The regressive culture of talking about boto, lapit, lusi, pisot, and so on should change. Typing ‘how to have sex’ in google and hitting enter would give you over 2 Billion hits in less than a second. It could be better if young boys learn about penis and sex from trusted sources who can introduce values while learning about them. No birdie, just penis… no junjun, just pisot… no malice, just the value of learning the right stuffs. Hence, if we want to make sure that young boys become more responsible in talking about topics such as penis and sex, it is important that we help them know the importance of it. This is just one story about a penis who probably did not get to know more about himself and did not get the chance to acquire skills to protect himself. 'Potpot' in this story could be sharing same story among hundreds or even thousands of other young Bicolano boys out there. Informed and educated youth become a more responsible and better decision-maker, hence, looking forward to a better future. Notes: The 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study in the Philippines https://www.drdf.org.ph/sites/default/files/YAFS4%20Key%20Findings/YAFS4%20Key%20Findings.pdf The Human Right to Information on Sexual and Reproductive Health (Briefing Paper) https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/BRB_SexEd.pdf Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11364883

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