I believe that talking about sex should be empowering, instead of embarrassing, because knowledge enables us to take informed actions that will benefit ourselves, or even others.
Ha. I know, some potential readers might think that this post was going to be dirty. Sorry to disappoint, but not today.
I remember being younger and unwiser and naive and awkward and constantly embarrassed about sex. Back then, at least in the environment that I was in, speaking of sex was like speaking of Lord Voldemort where everything was like you-know-who did you-know-what in you-know-where.
I feel more comfortable now talking about sex like it’s no big deal, thanks to self-obtained knowledge and experience. But, looking back, I think it shouldn’t have been that way. I wish someone had told me sooner that sex was not something taboo and that it’s okay to talk about it out in the open, so that I didn’t have to go through that awkward phase with my own body–so that I could have learned to respect and love my body the way I would have wanted it, rather than to conform to society’s unhealthy dictation of what’s good or not good for my body. And I wish all
teenagers and young adults people in Indonesia could have been told the same thing too, so that they could be empowered to take care of their bodies, become the best version of themselves, and contribute positively to the society. Unfortunately, the reality couldn’t be further than that.
People, in general, feel uncomfortable talking about sex, because it is indeed an intimate thing and it can make us feel vulnerable and exposed. I think we all can agree that sex is the one thing that is great when we’re doing it, but gross when it’s done by other people. (Imagine your parents, your boss, or your friends doing it, playing in your head. Ughh.) In my culture, there is that and many other ridiculously illogical reasons such as: one, it’s a sin; two, you’ll get pregnant; three, it’s a sin–did I mention “it’s a sin” twice? Exactly. A country with a strong religious influence–all kinds of religions–such as Indonesia always finds a religious justification–although totally irrelevant to context–for everything, including the topic surrounding our genitals. I am so over the “thinking is doing” argument just as I am with the “getting yourself sexually educated will promote pre-marital sex” argument and “condoms promote adultery” argument. Basically, the overarching argument is that sex is a sin when it is not done by married couple. These are just among the contributing factors that make a taboo out of sex. It’s hard to not be judged when people want to start a conversation about it, even though it is supposed to be an innocent conversation that has a potential to be enriching and empowering. Don’t even mention the conversation between children and parents on “where do I come from, mom and dad?”. To this day, I still feel reaaally awkward when I am trapped watching a sex scene with my parents.
All uncomfortableness aside, low awareness of sex education fuels the increase of STDs, unwanted pregnancy, early marriage, and unsafe abortion (source). This knowledge deficit hinders people from learning how to take care of their reproductive health. How could they, when they don’t understand the biology of it in the first place
When we take reproductive health education away from people, we also take away the knowledge to prevent those unwanted things from happening to them.
There’s too many cases where teenage girls in Indonesia get pregnant because they don’t have access to contraception–either because they don’t know that such thing exists or because they know but too ashamed to get it. Many opt for illegal abortion, which is very unsafe. In 2012, there are 2,4 million abortions in Indonesia, 800,000 of them are conducted on teen girls (source). Many others opt to become mothers and fathers in an age that is far too young, leading them to abandon their education and putting them in a situation where they are economically struggling. And then there’s the struggle of parenthood. It’s already hard enough being parents, even when you plan the parenthood itself, how are you supposed to be a parent when you are still a kid? Even married couples are not out of the woods. Husbands/wives could get infected with HIV/AIDS from their own spouses, because there was low awareness in people to have protected sex and get tested regularly.
Every single thing elaborated above are preventable and manageable, if we have the know-how. Reproductive health knowledge can help people avoid STDs, unwanted pregnancy, early marriage, and unsafe abortion. Understanding that certain diseases can be contracted by having unprotected sex would allow people to take precautionary measures, such as using a condom or getting medication. Couples doing consensual sex but are not ready to have kids can pick among an array of contraception methods to plan when they want to reproduce. People will not have to get married for the wrong reason! Women don’t have to go through life-threatening situation of having unsafe abortion! This knowledge, obtained through formal education or casual conversation, can empower people to make the best choices for their health based on their own circumstances.
When people are healthy, society will be resilient. This is a prerequisite of developing a strong nation.
Benefits of getting sexual education seems legit. But now, how do we obtain it, when it’s not yet in our country’s formal education curriculum? Well, it seems like it’s going to be long before we see children learning about the “birds and bees” in school, but we definitely should continue advocating for it until it happens. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for parents to have professionals explaining to your kids about sex, so that you don’t have to go through one of the most awkward moments in your life?
However, for now, we have to be autodidactic. Start with hitting the books. There’s plenty of good books out there to get you started. I was lucky enough to have been given a book about sex from my parents when I was a teenager (probably because my folks were too uncomfortable to deal with me in person, hence, the book). If this is not your case, take the initiative to grab one from the shelf.
And then there’s Google. Have you heard of it? Probably. So, google away. There’s tons of information in the internet, be it articles, images, videos–everything is in your disposal to use, use it wisely.
Finally, talk with people who have been there and done that. Friends would be a good place to start. The reason is because with friends you can handle the level of grossness since people tend to be more open with friends than with parents
In brief, the knowledge is out there for you to find.
Not talking about sex brings more harm than good. Putting a taboo on sex stops conversations and closes the door to understanding, and not understanding leads to fear, and fear may cause poorly made decisions such as having unprotected sex which leads to unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases–just to name a few. The point is, knowledge is power. Don’t be afraid to empower yourself with knowledge.
I am writing this to let people know that they have options, and they have the power to decide over what happens to their body. I laid out all the ways based on what I know and experience. It worked for me, it may or may not work for others. The point is to take the initiative to try. If all else fail, just call me and I’ll hook you up with a condom. Or two.