For many foreigners who are yet to visit or read about Indonesia, an image of strong morals and Islamic values reigns. Images of conservative religious dress and punctual mosque visits dominates perspectives of the people populating the vast archipelago.
However, upon scratching the surface a little, an underground culture exists. A culture new to some, and normal to others. A culture of free-sex and a sense of pride in extra-marital affairs is often ingrained into the psyche of Jakarta's young. Far from being a haven of conservative attitudes, Jakarta, is in my opinion, the home of promiscuity.
Nothing exemplifies this sentiment as much as the popularity of Tinder. Tinder, as started in 2011, is a smartphone "dating" app, which allows users to be introduced to other nearby users. Basically, users are provided an array of pictures of other users, and are then required to anonymously decide whether they like, or dislike that person. Should two users mutually like each other, they then "match" and are able to converse. Users are able to specify the gender and age brackets of the people they desire, and can write a short, one paragraph bio.
Tinder is used for two purposes, firstly to find friends, and secondly to find casual sex. The former I condemn as shallow, as how can one decide the appropriateness of a friendship based on a few photos? However, the later — casual sex — I embrace. As a foreigner who is in Jakarta for a short time only, spending time, and doing some seriously kinky stuff with a bunch of different beautiful people — of course without any monetary transaction — is awesome.
So the question which must then be asked is whether I am seeing my "friends with benefits" as sex objects? And the answer most definitely is yes. While I do enjoy the meals we share and the conversation we engage in, the free sex is the motivating factor in the relationship.
However, the key difference with prostitution is that, just as I see my connections as sex objects, I know they view me in the same light. They freely come to my apartment to "scratch their itch," leaving their inhibitions at the door. The ones I regularly meet know exactly what they’re coming over for, and revel in the ability to indulge their naughty side, often without the knowledge of their family or friends.
Speaking of my often scantily clad companions, their backgrounds are as varied as their desires. From the outwardly religious to the passionate atheists, and from 18-year-old students of Indonesia’s most prestigious universities to middle-aged mothers, Indonesia’s Tinder users cannot be stereotyped.
Traditionally — well for 20-something-year-olds — nightclubs have been the domain for hook-up and one-night-stand hunting. However, with Tinder in one’s palm, future sexual partners can be arranged in advance, their desires known, then met at the club, bar or restaurant. In a sense, it’s an expedited method of achieving the same end: passionate sex with a smoking-hot babe; repeatable if desired.
I have experimented with Tinder in a variety of locations globally including South Korea, Singapore and Australia before coming to Jakarta. There is no doubt in my mind that the Tinder users of Jakarta are the most sexually hungry and open-minded I’ve met. When asked whether they are looking for “ttm: teman tapi mesra” loosely translated as “friends with benefits,” the amount that write “hehehe… yes,” or something to that effect is startling.
Indonesia, like many societies, has such a rampant culture of prostitution, complete with people-trafficking and underage child abuse. I find Tinder a refreshing example of sexual freedom, enjoyed by consenting adults, where mutual gratification reigns supreme.
While Tinder will only ever be used by a small sector of society — in a nation where religious sensibilities often lead to sexual abstinence before marriage — it provides an unbridled outlet to explore and experiment with one’s own sexual tolerances.
The only real problem with Tinder is that there are only seven nights in a week.
The writer of this blog has withheld his name. The views of this blog are his own and do not reflect the views of the Jakarta Globe.