Paramour politics: Kabit, kerida, kalaguyo

THE “kabit,’ “kerida” and “kalaguyo” terms that we use to refer to the other party in illicit relationships, have a long history. Their influence on politics is also evident.

It is a fact that the history of the English Reformation was enabled by the sheer lust of King Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn, his mistress. Denied an annulment of his first marriage by the Pope, he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and unilaterally declared his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon as void ab initio. This enabled the Reformation that was consuming many parts of Europe at the time to take root in England.

Biblically, the very first account of the “other woman” was when Abraham took to his bed the slave girl Hagar because of the barrenness of his wife Sarah. However, in this biblical account, the mistress got the raw end of the deal when she, together with her son Ismael, was banished by Abraham to wander in the desert when Sarah later bore a child.

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

The story of Hagar is just one of the many instances where women became the pawns and victims in the pursuit by powerful patriarchs or monarchs of earthly pleasures. Anne Boleyn, who became Queen after the death of Catherine, was executed by beheading on false charges of incest, adultery and conspiracy against the king as Henry VIII prepared to marry Jane Seymour.

Indeed, history is replete with examples of the power of the mistress as a reason for the schisms, ruptures and seismic jolts that changed the course of national, and even international politics. Whispers in bed, an alluring pout, a seductive pose of the other woman have caused heads to roll in scaffolds, wars being waged, legal wives being abandoned, or even killed, and legitimate heirs being declared bastards.

But history also saw powerful women who used their sexuality to procure political power, if not influence over men. For example, Cleopatra seduced powerful men to advance the interests of her kingdom. Agnes Sorel was vested the official title of the first royal mistress of France and held enormous political power and influence over the reign of King Charles VII. And we had the likes of Argentina’s Eva Peron who served as an inspiration and influence to her Juan, while Gabrielle d’Estrees, King Henry IV’s mistress, influenced him to renounce Protestantism and return to his Catholic faith. And lest we forget the case of Wallis Simpson who seduced Edward VIII and caused him to abdicate, thereby paving the way for the eventual ascension to the English throne of his niece Elizabeth, the longest-reigning female monarch, who became Queen after the death of her father and Edward III’s brother, King George VI.

On the other hand, some women used their bodies to advance their personal interests. Agrippina seduced her uncle Emperor Claudius into marriage and convinced him to name her son Nero as his successor. Harriette Wilson, a courtesan in Georgian England blackmailed her ex-lovers composed of prime ministers, war heroes, and even members of the royal family, to generate income during hard times. Similarly, Mary Anne Clarke secured income in being a mistress of the Duke of York, while Diane de Poitiers acquired land as a devoted mistress of King Henry II of France.

Women’s power as mistresses emanated from a broad spectrum of talents, from brothels to the arts. Empress Theodora started her career at the brothels of Constantinople, even as Lola Montez used her dancing prowess to seduce King Ludwig of Bavaria. Aspasia, who served as mistress to Pericles, contributed to the growth of Athenian culture and politics even as she was seen as a whore by many.

It is a fact that the presence of concubines and mistresses in the political lives of public figures persists until today. President Clinton was impeached, though not convicted, due to the Lewinsky affair, while President Trump is now hounded by his illicit affairs, some of which appear to be allegedly forced without consent. The Philippines has our own experience of having presidents and politicians who had paramours.

Ideally, illicit affairs are embedded in the unsaid and the invisible that is effectively undisclosed from public view, as part of the hidden transcripts of political power. But as history has proven, the potential power of the mistress to redirect the flow of politics is very much present, some of which occur as back stories, or remain undisclosed, yet still manage to influence the decision of politicians and public officials, even as others are bold enough to come out into the open and audaciously claim a seat for themselves in politics, either on behalf of their lovers, or independent from them. Some public figures proudly present their mistresses to the public, even as others would prefer that they just be held as secrets that can be denied. We have legislators who have had paramours but who are in fact against divorce, either out of false piety, or public remorse, or perhaps sincere atonement, or simply pure hypocrisy.

There are also instances where the mistress is the one with political power. The much talked about admission by Sen. Leila de Lima of her illicit relationship with her married driver-bodyguard would be one example of this. Here, the reversal of roles was evident in how the male lover was the one who allegedly used De Lima, the mistress, to acquire power and influence.

At the end of the day, while it is not the intent to normalize and make legal acts that under our laws amount to the punishable crimes of concubinage or adultery, most people are willing to ignore these as public concerns and would rather see these as the private accountabilities of the men and women committing such offenses in relation to their spouses and children, and to God. Having a “kabit,” or “kalaguyo” is not a potent election issue. Being a “kerida” is even now presented by feminists as simply evidence of the “frailties” of a woman.

It becomes a problem, however, when these illicit relationships end up influencing the outcome of political decisions, and consuming public resources. It is here when the issue is no longer just a matter of unbridled private lust and libido, but of public corruption. As such, it becomes a valid issue to which the public can inquire into and ask the question “Is it true?” and demand and answer.

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