Sexual psychologist, Zoya Amirin. The first Indonesian sexual psychologist who launches her sexual education website. Check out her website www.zoyaamirin.com. Pity the site is still in Bahasa Indonesia. Then again, the target of the audience may just be limited to Indonesians. Oh well...
As a young girl, Zoya Amirin was very close to her mother, sharing everything with her. But as she matured and started to develop a curiosity about sexuality, Zoya found herself desperately seeking some answers.
There was barely any dialogue about sex education in Indonesia at that time and certainly no professional female sex therapists to turn to.
As an adult, Zoya earned a degree in clinical psychology from the University of Indonesia, where she is now a lecturer. She is the only woman certified as a sexual psychologist in the country.
Earlier this month, Zoya launched a new Web site — zoyaamirin.com — where she hopes to reach a wider audience, using the site to spread information about sex and give advice on how to lead a healthy sexual lifestyle.
In starting the first sex education Web site in Indonesia, Zoya feels a huge responsibility resting on her shoulders.
“According to [psychologist] Abraham Maslow’s theory, sex is a human physiological need, the same as air, water or food,” Zoya said. “Of course, a person can still survive without having sex, but they can develop an imbalance or even mental disorders if they don’t find sexual fulfillment.”
The Web site will feature a regularly updated video podcast called “In Bed With Zoya.” For the 15-minute video clips, Zoya recruited the help and expertise of her friend, television personality Chantal Della Concetta.
“We met in 2009 when we were chosen as two of Indonesia’s ‘Most Inspiring Women’ at an event organized by Yves Saint Laurent,” Chantal said. “We have been good friends ever since.”
Chantal was excited to be a part of Zoya’s new project. “Since I’m a TV presenter, we thought it would be good to team up,” she said.
The format will be simple: Each week on the podcast, Zoya and Chantal will discuss a topic related to human sexuality — the first episode, dealing with myths and facts about sex, will be shown on Sept. 29.
“Zoya is the star, because she is the expert,” Chantal said. And by having Chantal on board, Zoya hopes to make the video less formal, helping the viewers feel closer to the hosts.
“It’s not just the usual question-and-answer talk show, but more like a conversation between friends,” Zoya explained. “We want to keep it casual, but at the same time informative, with scientific facts. Since we only have 15 minutes, everything must be compact and insightful. But everything I say during the show is based on science.”
In addition to the responsibility of making the videos, Zoya is excited about the challenge and the potential impact she can have on Indonesia’s young generation. She says the videos are targeted at anyone over the age of 18.
But in Indonesia, it’s still considered taboo to talk openly about sex — something Zoya hopes to change, along with the general perception of Indonesian women.
“It’s ridiculous,” Chantal said. “Some men in this country want to see women totally covered up, but at the same time they watch porn and are drawn to women who dress sexy.”
In addition to the video podcast, Zoya’s Web site also features a blog, and will include a free online chat service, which is still a while from being ready.
“I am working together with the Ministry of Health for the chat,” Zoya said. “We want to give sex and porn addicts the chance to talk about their problems.”
Zoya said there are actually a number of sex and porn addicts in Indonesia, but most of them would never consider seeing a psychologist, out of shame. “I hope that the online chat and my free counseling will get them to be more open,” she said. (The criminalization of pornography in Indonesia is another factor, but one she can do little about.)
Zoya and Chantal are aware that a topic as sensitive as sex is likely to evoke some negative reactions — but they are no strangers to controversy.
Last May, Chantal appeared in a photo spread for FHM magazine, causing some heated discussion because of her provocative poses in lingerie. But the TV presenter brushed the criticism aside.
“What, I am not allowed to be sensual? I don’t see anything wrong about that,” she said. Zoya has also heard her share of hateful remarks.
Zoya was an expert witness in the highly controversial pornography case against Nazril “Ariel” Irham, the lead singer of pop band Peterpan whose private sex videos were uploaded to the Internet. Convicted of breaching the pornography law, Ariel was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Zoya defended the singer, who was accused of distributing the material because of a sexual disorder.
“But if that was really the case, he would not wait for a couple of years to express his exhibitionism,” Zoya explained.
“And by that time, [as an exhibitionist] he would have felt euphoria or have had several orgasms because everybody was watching his tapes. But Ariel was very depressed and stressed and there was no sign of him suffering from exhibitionism.”
Though her intention was to present her professional opinion on the Ariel matter, Zoya said some people misunderstood her intentions and accused her of defending, or even promoting, pornography.
“People immediately judged me and my family,” she said.
“It was pretty bad when the whole story happened. They said bad things to my parents, which was really upsetting — it’s quite ridiculous, since porn is not the way things are in real life. Nobody is always horny and no woman starts to moan or feels aroused when a man has been touching her for one second. Women need time!”
In addition, Zoya regularly receives crude e-mails treating her as if she were a porn star. “I can’t tell you how many times I get e-mails from random men sending me a picture of their penis,” she said.
In situations like these, Zoya tries to maintain her professionalism and sense of humor rather than take offence: “Normally I reply with something like ‘if you’d like to have your penis checked, you should consult a urologist, not a psychologist.’ ”
Zoya says she’s very close to her family, and has their support.
“I always tell them in advance what I am planning, so there won’t be any surprises,” she said. “My father really believes in what I do and for me, that’s all that matters. Having the support of my family makes me calmer.”
Three years ago, Zoya went through a divorce, a difficult time in anyone’s life, especially for an expert on human interaction.
“In Indonesia, being a psychologist is a little like being like a priest,” she said. “People expect you to always be right — they were so quick to point the finger and ask, ‘How come your marriage failed? You’re a sex psychologist.’ ”
Zoya said she considered giving up her job. But in the end, not only did she continue her job but she also found love again.
She felt as if she owed it to herself and to the discussion of sexuality at large, given there are no other outspoken sex psychologists in Indonesia.
“Sometimes people tend to be quite intimidated when they meet me,” she said, laughing. “Because I talk about a penis and a vagina the same way I talk about a pair of new shoes. It’s my job. I don’t mean it in a vulgar way.”
Zoya has students and clients who rely on her and believe she’s doing something very important and useful for the nation.
“Some of my students call me in the middle of the night, asking for help,” Zoya said.
“For example, a girl might want to have sex with her boyfriend, even though they’re not married yet. She’ll call wanting my opinion about it.”
But Zoya said that it was crucial for her to stay as neutral as possible.
“I’m not encouraging anybody to have sex before marriage,” she said. “But I am also not telling them not to. The only thing I can say is, ‘OK, if you really want to do this, then at least be safe and use a condom.’ ”
“Because in the end, it’s everybody’s own decision.
“I can give advice, but I’m not going to tell anybody how to run their own life.”
From Jakarta Globe, "A Frank Talk About Sex -- Online".
Zoya Amirin has come across every myth imaginable in her job as sex psychologist in Indonesia: An uncircumcised girl will become sex-crazed. Clove cigarettes increase virility. A gecko's saliva can cure AIDS.
Knowing such misinformation can ruin relationships and even lives, Amirin — the only woman certified in her field in the world's most populous Muslim nation — has decided to launch a weekly podcast to provide some frank, accurate talk about the bedroom.
Her 15-minute, debut episode of "In Bed with Zoya" will air on her website Thursday.
"People here really believe in myths ... that's my biggest challenge," said Amirin, adding she wants to make her show as cool as possible so people will tune in without feeling they're being talked down to.
"It's time to embrace our sexuality in a healthy way," she said, "and to be mature in our understanding."
Her job illustrates some of the changes taking place in Indonesia, which toppled its longtime dictator Gen. Suharto in a wave of pro-democracy street protests just over a decade ago.
The nation of 240 million remains socially conservative in most areas, including relationships, something old-style politicians are desperate to maintain. Yet these customs are coming under pressure from a more freewheeling approach to sex, in part due to increased wealth and more females living and working alone before marriage.
Nearly 40 percent of teens have had sex, a new survey shows, and the Internet has opened the gates to a subject long considered off-limits in public schools.
Bringing up the word "condom" could cost a teacher his job.
"The taboo is not against sex, but against making it public and formal," said Julia Suryakusuma, an Indonesian sociologist who often writes about human sexuality.
That point was hammered home by Education Minister Muhammad Nuh himself, after a video of a much-loved pop star having sex with two girlfriends made its way to YouTube, putting the country of the verge of sexual hysteria.
Asked whether it might be time to add sex ed to the curriculum, he said "No! ... I may be obsolete .... but I think this is something you should learn about naturally."
Young people have even less luck at home.
For most, bringing up the subject of sex with their parents is inconceivable.
"That would just be too embarrassing," said Dianita Permani, an 18-year-old high school student in the capital, Jakarta.
"I'd rather talk about it with my close friends ... look things up on the Internet, read vulgar novels," she says with a giggle. "Personally, I don't want to have sex until I get married. But it is everywhere. I'll just have to follow my instincts, I guess, and figure out for myself what's good or bad."
Amirin hopes people like Permani will turn to her as a credible and easily accessible source of information.
Her podcast, which will be co-hosted by television personality Chantal Della Concetta, who has drawn some controversy herself for racy lingerie pictures in a popular magazine, will at first be a frank conversation between two friends.
The first subject: Debunking sexual myths.
They include that putting a bead beneath a boy's foreskin will enhance his sexual pleasure, and that girls will be nymphomaniacs if they don't get circumcisions, which continue despite a 2006 ban. Folklore that gecko saliva could cure AIDS, in a country grappling with the fastest growing endemic in Asia, unleashed a wave of gecko hunting and a surge in prices for the reptiles a couple of years ago.
Eventually, the website will include a free online chat service.
Both women are ready for criticism.
Though most of Indonesia's 210 million Muslims are moderate, a hard-liner fringe has become more vocal and violent in recent years, attacking bars, transvestites and anything else deemed "blasphemous."
The hard-liners also have succeeded in influencing politicians who — afraid of being labeled unIslamic — pushed through a controversial anti-porn law, used to imprison Nazril "Ariel" Irham, the pop star, even though it appears his sexcapades were never intended for public viewing.
Amirin defended him at his trial, saying he did not show any signs of being an exhibitionist.
More recently, Jakarta Gov. Fauzi Bowo captured the conservative mood of the country's leaders when he responded to the gang-rape of two young women on a public minibus by blaming the victim. Wear a miniskirt, he said earlier this month, and you're practically asking for it.
Aside from a small protest in the capital, Bowo's comments barely made any waves.
Though Amirin's website marks the latest attempt at online sex education, it's certainly not the first.
Last year the National AIDS Commission launched an interactive Web page aimed at teens and young adults. Others have come and gone during the past decade.
Amirin hopes hers is here to stay,
"I want to change mindsets," she said. "It's about time everybody in Indonesia be more open-minded about sex."
From Yahoo! News, "Indonesia's only female sex therapist goes online".