Zoya Amirin believes that empowering women in patriarchal Indonesia may start from the bedroom.
Dubbed as the country’s first certified female sex therapist, Zoya highlights the importance of women showing initiative in their sex lives as initial step to their own empowerment.
“They [women] must feel comfortable with their own sexuality, so that they can take charge. We are not talking about them being feminists but how they can be happy in their womanhood,” the 36-year old said in an interview with The Jakarta Post recently.
A lecturer at the University of Indonesia, Zoya also knows that this is easier said than done.
It is still hard for the majority of Indonesian women to get what they want as they live in a country that is home to a strong patriarchal system, which continues to undermine women’s rights.
The passing of the 2008 Pornography Law is an example how females are being sidelined in this country.
In short, it is difficult for Indonesian women to be happy both in and out of the bedroom.
But that doesn’t stop Zoya from trying to empower Indonesian women sexually.
“Indonesian women must enjoy their sexual lives. They have to be comfortable with themselves,” said Zoya, referring to the fact that more than 60 per cent of Indonesian women can’t reach an orgasm.
Apart from helping clients to reach “the big O,” Zoya, who has set up a website for sex counseling (www.zoyaamirin.com), also tries to inform her female counterparts about having healthy sex lives.
The therapist added that one of her missions was to encourage better sex lives for Indonesian people, especially women, helping them to make wise decisions in the bedroom that are not based on myths.
The first child and the only daughter in the family, Zoya had always wanted to become a psychologist in the hope of making a positive contribution to other people’s lives.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that would help people. It fulfills me,” said Zoya.
From all majors that she could have chosen, Zoya picked sexology as her specialty, realizing that people’s knowledge about sex was still limited.
Zoya received basic information about sex from her mother and was shocked upon finding out that very few people knew the truth about sex.
Talking about sex in public is still considered to be taboo in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.
Zoya is lucky to have a mother who is very open when it comes to sex.
“We [mother and I] like to talk about everything: my first kiss, my married life and my sex life,” Zoya said, recalling her past.
But not everyone is as fortunate as Zoya.
“A lot of people still don’t know about sex and if they want to find out, they don’t know where to go,” Zoya continued, sharing her concerns about the abundance of sexual myths prevalent in society, which people take seriously due to there being a lack of alternative information.
And that is where Zoya comes to rescue, teaching sex education to debunk these myths.
Working as a sex psychologist in a conservative society is indeed challenging. But Zoya admits that the real struggle is being a female in her profession because she has to deal not only with close-minded people but with misogynistic attitudes.
Zoya says she must bear the brunt of inappropriate jokes and expressions, and harassment from men every time they hear about her work.
“They treat me as if I am a porn star,” Zoya explained.
Fortunately, things became better after Zoya made international headlines with a podcast from her website last month.
International media outlets from the Middle East, Europe and America built a positive image of Zoya’s work.
Doubts and fears had haunted Zoya before making the brave decision to launch the current website.
Such a bold attitude seems to be Zoya’s trademark. She is known as a tough lady who does not fear anything.
She proved this when she challenged her father’s opposition to her becoming a psychologist or when she kept on progressing with her studies and career despite facing a divorce process in 2008.
Given her strong mentality, it is no wonder that the sex therapist has survived despite being on the receiving end of criticism and resistance from conservatives, fanatics as well as misogynists.
Zoya confessed that she had reached the point where she was immune to people’s negative comments, treating them as jokes.
But sometimes, Zoya says that she feels tired of this type of attention.
She says she remains an ordinary woman, who still longs for a partner who doesn’t feel intimidated by her profession.
“Men who don’t know me will already be worried about my image as sex psychologist,” said Zoya, who loves to eat, go shopping and is fond of the color pink.
Zoya says she is not perfect, confessing that she is also an insecure girl who is not comfortable with her height, which forces her to wear high heels all the time.
“People tend to consider psychologists to be saints, but I’m not. I also have flaws,” Zoya said, referring to the separation with her former husband.
The divorce led Zoya to seek counseling, a move rarely taken by a psychologist.
“People always say don’t go to psychologists because of the fear that others may think they are crazy. But I say people need to go to psychologists in order to keep themselves sane,” she said.
Taking her advice into account, the Post asked Zoya for tips on developing a healthy sex life.
“The key is customer satisfaction. You must treat your partner as your customer, as a king or a queen. Then you will receive more in return,” she said.
That sounds like a good advice from an expert in the field. – Asia One