It was raining hard last Friday (Feb. 13) afternoon, but it did not keep students from filling up the auditorium of the Cultural Sciences Faculty of the University of Indonesia (UI), where a talk on freedom and sexuality was being held.
The seminar* was conducted by UI Liberalism & Democracy Study Club (UILDSC) and the newly established Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies UI (SGRC UI), two organizations concerned with the issues of sexuality and liberalism.
Entitled “Who Owns Your Body? Analyzing the Stigma Against the Body”, it featured philosopher/lecturer Rocky Gerung and sexologist Zoya Amirin.
Gerung pointed out the main problem in the Indonesian society, that sex is heavily moralized.
“There are cultural necessity in talking about these issues. There is no space for having sexual intercourse freely without being worried the white-robed troops will come maurauding,” he said, referring to Islamic militant groups that often vandalize places they deem “immoral.”
“The youth is repressed in the name of morality. It is absurd and contra-productive,” he said, adding there is no discourse on sexuality in Indonesia.
Our bodies are controlled by external factors, instead by individual selves. He cited a study of contrast of two women getting hymen surgery. The one in Paris gets hers to show her family that she’s still a virgin on her wedding day in Sudan. Her motive is based on the demands of her community. The woman in LA, on the other hand, gets the surgery done to treat her husband and as a kind of Valentine’s joke.
“It is a fact that our body – especially a woman’s body – belongs to a phallocentric society,” he said.
“Liberalism in the Indonesian public sphere exists in small groups, where members can express their sexuality openly, but it’s an like exclusive toilet. When she/he gets out of that ‘liberal’ toilet, they are stigmatized by the society,” he said.
We have to expand our liberal public sphere, so that we can say that we are free individuals who are responsible for our own body and sexuality, he said He said the body and sexuality are natural apparatus, but they are controlled by social tools such as political and moral values, which puts a strain on our freedom.
“Independence is the highest sharia in sexuality issues,” he added.
Zoya Amirin, meanwhile, said that expressing sexuality doesn’t necessarily means doing sexual intercourse. Wearing a veil is an example of how women express their sexuality, she said. She expressed her disappointment in sexual abuse cases, in which the women get blamed for provoking the assaults, adding that woman in Indonesia are treated as second class citizens.
“There are many times when we lose control of our own body. Like that time in a family gathering and when we are asked by elder people, ‘When will you get married?’ or ‘When will you have a child?’ or ‘Don’t marry that kind of man, you should marry this kind of man.’ Without even realizing it, we let other people control our body and sexuality. So it is important to take ownership of our own body,” she said.
Both Rocky and Zoya agreed that sexual intercourse is not just merely an encounter of genitals, but an experience of pleasure for the mind.
“Genital contact may give pleasure, but the highest feeling of love is the satisfaction. An example of satisfaction is brain orgasm,“ Zoya said.
A participant expressed her amazement that the speakers spoke so boldly about sexuality and asked how to deal with a society that is full of judgment.
Zoya said the key is to have faith in oneself that one’s good intentions.
“There will be no easy way, but your life will be happier,” she said.
A follower of SGRC’s social media channel, a man from London, told the panelists about his occasional habit of watching porn and how to convince his girlfriend, who didn’t like it, that it was no reflection of his feelings towards her.
Zoya said that men are usually not good at expressing their feelings directly. When a man ejaculated, they lose control of themselves, she said, but when it comes to a real sexual intercourse with a woman, a man needs to be vulnerable to her partner. Men tend to be afraid that they’ll lose control in front of his girlfriend, she added.
The seminar drew such a big crowd that there were not enough seats for everyone. This was SGRC UI’s first seminar, and its chairperson Ferena Debineva said many more people showed up than the 120 participants expected.
She said SGRC UI has a strong social media presence, particularly on ask.fm. It is also affiliated with 20 other campuses and media organizations such as Suara Kita and Jurnal Perempuan.
Mulki Salam is a social media officer and a reporter for Magdalene.
*Magdalene was a media partner of this event.