With the recent uproar over judge M. Daming Sunusi’s controversial rape joke, it is highlighted once again how little Indonesia’s society is educated about sex and its implications. Once the immediate subsides, it is an easy thing to point fingers and blame “men like him” for the way women are treated in Indonesian society, but we must also realize that it is the society itself — whether male or female — that instils taboo when it comes to the subject of sex.
The problem is not that sex education is not being taught in schools, the problem is how sex education is treated. Elements of sex education can be seen from elementary school to university in biology and religious subjects — sometimes it is mentioned in physical education subjects — but even with exposure, it is never talked about explicitly.
Thus, this creates confusion in the young minds and when they do face the concept of sex in their own lives — whether it is with puberty, the exploration of one’s own sexuality or even marriage — it is with uncertainty; almost as if what they are discovering is dirty and should not be exposed in public.
This is especially prominent when it comes to women and sex in Indonesia; “decent” women should not be exposed to it and whether she has any knowledge about it in either a social or academic sense, she is eventually stigmatized by the community. It is contrasted by the woman who is seen to know nothing about sex and is put on a pedestal and is prized because of it.
I am not promoting free sex and promiscuity — for that is a personal choice of each person — but I’m saying that there is a lack of communication within the education system and often within families about sex and how gender plays a role in it. In saying that, if we do not have communication within either community, how are we supposed to fight against the rising numbers of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia?
First and foremost, formal sex education is important in order to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS as many people have misinformation about the methods of spreading. As a young person studying abroad, I have had conversations with both male and female friends about the lack of sex education in Indonesia and though there were many conflicting opinions about it, there was one thing that struck me as odd; many of them did not know the proper methods of using birth control, and their knowledge of contraception was mostly limited to condoms and birth control pills.
I was appalled with what I was hearing, especially since I had spent many years living abroad throughout my childhood and had received formal sex education; in these classes, not only did I learn about the biological aspects of sex but also about contraception and either how to use it or where to find information about how to use it.
This kind of open education not only prevented me from feeling ashamed to talk to others if I had any problems with my sexuality but it also made me more comfortable about my own body and to realize that no one had power over my body except me.
Second, sex is more complicated than the act of sexual intercourse; it is a concept that involves power structures and gender roles that may seem confusing and confining to some. This is why the concept of rape is such a dangerous one; rape is very rarely about sexual gratification and more so about having power — both physical and mental — over another person. This is why rape is such a fearful notion; rape can be used as a powerful tool to break a person, and was often used — and still used — in warfare to break down and defeat opposing communities.
It is also simplistic to think that by dressing or looking a certain way, they are inviting sexual advances in the way that the person being invited doesn’t have a brain that doesn’t involve their genitals and sexual desires. It can be said to be insulting to say that men cannot control themselves if a woman dresses or acts a certain way; implying that men have no intelligent thought other than how to catch their next sexual prey.
By giving formal sex education in schools, we may be able to teach young people that sex is not a means to objectify anyone no matter what age, gender or race and that the only person who has any right over your body is you. This may help young children identify sexual harassment and may also teach them how to refuse unwanted sexual advances and be more confident in oneself.
With the increasing media exposure to sex in the fast growing world of globalization, sex education is an important concept that we simply cannot ignore. Not only do we need to educate the next generation on how to defeat certain sexually transmitted diseases, but we must also make them realize that sex is not a shameful act and that having questions about it is not taboo or else we may find ourselves in a backward society of unequal gender roles and justified sexual abuse.