The three-letter dilemma: read it or have it?

A ripped page reposted inside a vehicle in London, taken during my trip to England as I arrived on Aug. 16, 2008.

Like it was decades, or even centuries ago, Indonesia is still a country where babies are born, but never made. Sexuality and sensuality are butchered and fed to hungry dogs with genitalia dragged above the ground. And like it was with me years ago, the dilemma is still the same: should I have some or read some?

A ripped page reposted inside a vehicle in London, taken during my trip to England as I arrived on Aug. 16, 2008.

My mother was utterly shocked when she discovered two boxes of condoms inside my bathroom just during the night I was packing for my journey to cover the 25th Beatle Week Festival in Liverpool a couple of weeks back. I understand why she was shocked, but I honestly didn’t understand her first comment, “Don’t carry condoms, dear. It’s a sin.” Naturally, it was then my turn to be utterly shocked. How is it that carrying the protection that has the potential to reduce the possibility of you being infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV/AIDS, and not to mention the long-lasting Hepatitis C, qualifies as a sin? What was the real logic behind her point of view? These questions bombarded my head in the following few hours I spent packing. I always carry condom when I travel out of town, or well at least I used to, before that night I had a small exchange of ideas with mommy dearest. The reason is quite simple (and complex) in the same time, depending on your standing point of the matter: I read a lot.

I believe that there are many others like me, young women in their productive years who read a lot for the information that would prepare them for that right time when she chooses to do it (read: sex). We don’t know much about the birds and the bees and the moment they copulated to create a new life form, but we read a lot of cases of abortion, knew people who had to abort because the father of the baby decided that he didn’t want to become a father, and read even more cases about babies floating on gutters, slumped inside a trash bin, and other gory stories that were the result of unsafe or unprepared sex.

It would probably do nobody any good to know how old I am, but to continue with my story I need you to understand the generation gap between this future mother and her own mother. I was born 27 years ago, and, without any doubt, I am quite sure that before delivering me my parents had an intercourse, maybe several of it. It comes to me as common knowledge, although they never talked to me about copulation or ovulation. I had to learn about a lot of the things I know today from various sources that I had to screen and choose for myself. These sources include porn videos, adult magazines like Hustler and its colleagues, informative websites like and books about sex and sexuality. Even from an early age I was quite certain that sex is a mandatory part of life.

Because I am one of the product of this nation that doesn’t discuss about sex, but frets continuously about the negative consequences, without thinking even once that sexual pleasure is a person’s right, it makes me a part of the silent majority. Although I can testify that even as early as my junior high school years, children were already practicing their rights with their girlfriends and boyfriends, through pleasurable acts of oral sex, petting or fingering. (Sari did it with Gambit in the theatre seats. What do you mean you don’t understand? You know, the thing that gives you the jitters.) These are common knowledge, and most of the time, we talked about them in the cafeteria, without any negative connotations on the side of our partners. We did sort of boast a little bit, but hey, don’t all of us, when forced to practice our rights in secrecy, are endorsed to develop a sense of higher achievement when we got away with it? And those with less or no experience on the topics can catch up by reading foreign magazines like Girlfriend or Cleo. If you can’t buy them, you can always borrow them from your girlfriends.

And so me and a lot of my friends became a generation of readers, who are now quite familiar with a lot of the topics involved in sex, sexuality and reproductive rights. In fact, in 2007, I was lucky to be given a chance to work for the Center for Health Research University of Indonesia at a program aimed at generating information and securing resources on sex, sexuality and reproductive rights. But did I get some? I certainly read a lot about the topics. I have become one of those who are always in the dilemma of whether I am going to do it, or continue reading about it. And if you are reading this entry, you are probably one of us too. And like me, perhaps, you have become pressured to know more about sex, only to realize that the society wants you to know more to avoid it. Sex has become equal to the Sexually Transmitted Infections it may bring about, the diseases and psychological drawbacks it could potentially bring you through unwanted pregnancies.

So I didn’t bring my condoms to England, but it really didn’t matter because apparently almost all the major toilets in the country sell condoms in pieces. But as to why I carry these protective rubbers inside my personal medication kit would make another long article, which I intend on sharing with you the coming week. Let me give you a hint: sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, or rather safe sex, no drugs, and still rock ‘n roll.


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5 Responses to “The three-letter dilemma: read it or have it?”

  1. nyscha Says:

    “Indonesia is still a country where babies are born, but never made…”

    So precise, and such great writing.
    This country is like a giant-sized suburbia: let’s do it but not talk about it.

    I remember my senior high school years when I was labeled as ‘the slutty lil sexpert’ because I could always answer any question my friends asked me about sex. It was not because I was actively having it (because I was still a virgin then), but I read about it a lot, and my parents are very open-minded people who gave me the bird-and-the-bees lecture in 6th grade, and I wasn’t afraid of spewing my mouth off about it.
    So apparently, in Indonesia, talking about it is a definite sign that you’re doing it. And even if you ARE doing it, it’s better not to talk about it because then everyone’ll know you’re doing it (which for some reason is a bad thing).

    I’m patiently waiting for your next entry where you will divulge the reason you were carrying those rubbers of sin.
    Interesting post 🙂

  2. Prihatini Says:

    Oy! Let’s say that people are doing it and are talking freely about it, would that make us a better society than we are?

    Just a thought, though, put yourself in your mother’s shoes. Would YOU encourage the baby, whom you gave birth to but didn’t make (alone), to carry those little bundles of protection–knowing what a society ours is?

    Honestly, I’d go for something like, say, abstinence.

  3. bellesbits Says:

    Of course you wouldn’t encourage your baby… Ideally you’d hope your baby stayed a baby forever, right? Mothers everywhere have struggled with the reality that their ‘little babies’ are now 27-year-old grown and educated women living their own lives.

    Think ‘doing it freely’ can make things worse, of course. And abstinence is absolutely a pretty clear-cut, guaranteed way of not getting an STD for those who choose it. But there needs to be a distinction made between basic education about contraception options and freewheeling promiscuity where everyone sleeps with everything that moves. One does not lead to the other, as some would have you believe.

    A catholic school education (in Australia, at least) is pretty much like a microcosm of Indonesia in this respect. Condoms don’t exist in the catholic education universe. At all. But it’s been repeatedly proven that keeping people ignorant doesn’t stop them from having sex. Or from catching STDs, or having unwanted pregnancies.

    Guess it depends on whether you want to instruct people in a Utopian vision of how you think people should behave, or give them advice so that they’re educated about the world we live in. Then they can make their choice- free-wheeling, or practicing abstinence, or somewhere in between, but making an informed decision either way.

  4. Cameron Says:

    The Catholic school I went to in Australia taught condoms. I would agree, though, that sex as taught in the classroom was generally indistinguishable from the STIs and pregnancies it could (it almost seemed would always) cause.
    Out of class, the problem was the opposite to yours; everyone was talking about it, everyone wanted to be doing it, everyone thought they should be doing it. Few people actually were. The expectation is a more general thing in our (Australian/Western?) culture, not just with kids in high school. It’s hard to say what I don’t like about that. Perhaps that much expectation limits choice too, in a way? Perhaps it cheapens, or sterilises sex? (Sterile sex?)
    Informed choice all the way, I say. I just wouldn’t be that sure that information about STIs and pregnancy is all the information you need.

    Have I ever mentioned how much I’m enjoying all this blogging?

  5. The ABC’s of JKT (part one) « Om’bak Says:

    […] the right to free speech, I understand the taboo of sex as a subject here. But on a personal level, as others would agree, it bites being a non-conservative woman with a moderately liberal point of view in Jakarta. […]

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