Discussion / Event

Published: 24/03/2011

This week’s Thursday Discussion (or “Kamisan”) brought the theme of “Sex and Morality”. The discussion, which was held on 23 March 2011, featured Rocky Gerung, lecturer of Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia, as the speaker. “Kamisan” was attended by regular participants who have been actively involved since the beginning of the discussion series as well as newcomers that consisted of observers of woman and gender issues, NGOs concerned in Human Rights and women’s rights, media, academicians, other woman activists and the general public.

The diversity of sex and gender identity always remains controversial in the community and is yet to be seen as human rights. Sex and gender identity are even used to measure one’s merits. History of sexuality is a history of game of power over the rules and behavior. Women’s sexuality is regulated, restricted and subjugated by patriarchal hegemony. By preserving patriarchy through religion, law, social institutions and culture, men set the indictors of good and bad (morality) for a person or group of people. Furthermore, morality is constantly reproduced in line with the interests of patriarchal domination. It later becomes a space where people develop. Sex should have been explored and discussed in depth as rights of privacy of thought and body. However, how could we explore sex as human rights and personal autonomy if it is always imprisoned by moral standards? Are those related to morality and sexuality? How may we be able to read the terms of clarity? Why do sexuality moral tend to be forced right-wrong and good-bad? How could we build a perspective towards the virtues of fair sex?


1. Conscious or not, we have been a subject to the compulsion to explain and interpret sexuality through the perspective of morality. It is seen by the choices of words “and” between sex –morality. In fact, the position of sex and morality are always being made head-to-head. Morality has always wanted to control the freedom of space to move and interpretation of sex.

2. If we see sexuality through the perspective of morality, the implication is that sex becomes the object of single interpretation by the mainstream groups (religious institutions or political institutions). That way, it is a taboo to discuss sex in public. Sex and sexuality are not understood as a source of happiness and energy. Civilization grows by the energy of sexuality, has been paralyzed by morality to measure whether a person is good or bad. Sex is a peephole to civilization. Civilization grows by the energy of sexuality, but it is always under control of morality.

3. With the lack of space and interpretation of freedom of sex, the most genuine private sexuality that cannot be contested lay on the 2 meter by 2 meter room or toilet.

4. Sex has always been considered an erotic reality and become the object of moral regulation. Sex has been finalized by morality although its basic value is always “in the making” or “on going” that the institution of sex should be “changeable”. The institution of morality has been very strong to standardize sexuality.


Presentation Summary

1. So far, there are fears in the minds of each person to interpret sex that has always been made “opposing” to morality, as if there is a constitutional package that obliges us to pronounce the world “and” between the words sex-morality. In other words, there is a tendency of morality to co-opt sex thoroughly in order to Asses a person’s merits (good-bad).

2. Each individual has no autonomy right of his/her bodyespecially in relation to sex because human sexuality preference has been limited and restrained in the name of religion and politics rather than to maintain one’s moral decency in society.

3. Intimacy of sex can not be made freely as part of the right to privacy because there is a discourse that is always reproduced on an on-going basis that when someone’s “sex” is low, his/her value to morality and honor will be high and vice versa.

4. Value or value to the interpretation or action has always been “in the making” process, it has never static and final. Morality as a value will minimize the chances of humanity to develop genuinely when we finalize the morality value in a particular level.

5. When we accept that sex is an institution created by human’s mind and action, the institution of sex should not be steady and can always chance in line with its era just like that in other institution. Why do the opportunity to chance the institution of sex become very minimal and appear to be impossible? Because we have an idea living in our mind about modesty that is very subjective. The chance of sex as an institution then becomes less likely.

6. Conversely, if we accept morality as “the existence of the act” as something existential, morality should change and grow from the sexual experience.

7. Sex and sexuality is a part of human rights and experience of citizenship that should be supported by democracy.

8. Virtuous and just democracy is the “democracy of intimacy” that respects political pluralism, diversity of life perspectives and diversity of sexual orientations.


Question & Answer

(Q) Can we build a framework of sex and sexuality that dose not position sex and morality head-to-head?
(A) We can, if we apply morality not in the level of assessing good or bad but a “new kind of morality” that in philosophy is known as virtue. Virtue contains justice, ethics of care and respect to authentic things. Such a moral philosophical though allow us to talk about morality that does not oppress and do violence to the thoughts of freedom and autonomy rights of sex and sexuality. We must be able to construct a building of sex that is a result of virtue that can provide gender justice and equality for any person.

(Q) How can we discuss about sexuality without linking it to morality, such as sex is said to link to ethics?
(A) Ethics is a space where a virtue and justice democracy, or “democracy of intimacy” is progressing well. If we are able to respect the diversity of politics, the diversity of life perspectives, the diversity of sexual orientation, it is a part of ethics that is based on “the democracy of intimacy”.

(Q) What is the concept of ethics of care?
(A) The concept of “ethics of care” has the ability of divisibility, which is a double in a single. “Ethics of care” is not just a lip service that “I do speak feminism” and mere rhetoric but is capable of making a deal of a more perfect justice. Using morality with a small m is more humane that enables other people to involve, to give opinion and also respect others for their interpretation of morality itself.

(Q) Is a 2 meter by 2 meter room is the only most private and genuine “to interpret and practice sex” freely, is there chances of the presence of other space?
(A) Another available space is the world of theory (academics). This space should be able to enable us to think critically to fight for a humane justice. However, often the theorization space becomes “impotent” when we (Indonesian people) no longer renew the existing theories in the global world and are unable to understand theories that enter Indonesia. Further, scholars must be brave to deconstruct the mainstream by reading more references and discuss sex and sexuality more openly and in greater intensity. Academics are also expected to make a sort of academic daft for a policy based on human values and gender justice.

(Q) Have sex and sexuality ever experienced a shift related to morality?
(A) Yes, the chance has been clearly appear in 1960s, 1980s and at present. In 1960s, there was no policy to make uniformity the identity that carries elements of privacy rights, such as filling in the column of religion in identity cards. At that time, sex and sexuality were not matters of religious institutions, and their presences were not dominated by Al-Qur’an verses and discriminatory Regional Regulations. However, the existing political power through democracy that we adopt no longer find its essence to appreciate humanity, no longer provide space for living together in diversity and no longer consider that any privacy should be respected and be an individual rights when the individual enjoys it and does not face violence or discrimination.

(Q) What kind of negotiation can we do to change all parts of society to accept the discussion of sex and sexuality
(A) The negotiations could be in the form of continuously conducting room for discussion about sex and sexuality. It aims at the issues of sex and sexuality is known to anyone, open to interpretation by anyone and produces a better order of justice for anyone. One significant practice is gender justice-based sex education for anyone that starts from an early age. Sex education is a forum to re-discuss values and meanings of sex and sexuality.



Sex and sexuality are born from the experience of humanity. Human experience is a constantly moving and changing thing to adapt to human interests and desires in order to obtain comprehensive justice. By acknowledging multiculturalism, we provide an opportunity for ourselves and others to communicate, appreciate opinion, and respect difference in understanding and interpreting sex and sexuality.