The On­line Vir­gin­ity Auc­tion­eer

A man who auc­tioned vir­gins on­line claims he merely wanted to fund a sex­ual revo­lu­tion to free In­done­sia from cor­rup­tion, poverty and vi­o­lence. Few peo­ple are buy­ing it.

Indonesia Expat - - Scams In The City - BY KEN­NETH YE­UNG

Aris Wahyudi (49) was ar­rested on Septem­ber 24 for run­ning a short- lived pros­ti­tu­tion web­site called nikah­sirri.com that auc­tioned vir­gins, wid­ows and sin­gle peo­ple of ei­ther gen­der for un­reg­is­tered mar­riage ( nikah sirri).

The site was launched on Septem­ber 19 and within five days had at­tracted about 5,670 mem­bers and 300 “part­ners” con­sist­ing of po­ten­tial brides and grooms, as well as wed­ding of­fi­ciants and wit­nesses. Mem­bers paid Rp.100,000 (US$ 7.40) to join and could then pur­chase vir­tual coins for Rp.100,000 apiece for bid­ding. Auc­tioned part­ners would re­ceive 80 per­cent of the pro­ceeds, while Aris would pocket the re­main­ing amount. Due to the un­of­fi­cial na­ture of the mar­riages, cou­ples could di­vorce within a day.

Aris as­serts that vir­gin auctions are not only ha­lal, but also an ef­fort to pre­serve In­done­sian cul­ture and show greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for women. He said vir­gin­ity would have been proven ei­ther via a med­i­cal test or by the sumpah

pocong – an oath made while wrapped in a burial shroud. He was ask­ing for trou­ble, not least by in­clud­ing porno­graphic photos on the site.

He now faces charges un­der the Elec­tronic and In­for­ma­tion Trans­ac­tions and Pornog­ra­phy laws. He could also be charged un­der the Child Pro­tec­tion and the Anti- Hu­man Traf­fick­ing laws, if po­lice find ev­i­dence he of­fered chil­dren for auc­tion. How did Aris end up run­ning an on­line pros­ti­tu­tion busi­ness? A look at his un­usual en­tre­pre­neur­ial ca­reer can shed some light.

Rocket Science

Born in Ma­je­nang district of Ci­la­cap re­gency in Cen­tral Java province on May 12, 1968, Aris com­pleted high school in Yo­gyakarta. He was suf­fi­ciently gifted to study chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at the pres­ti­gious Ban­dung Institute of Tech­nol­ogy. Mid­way through the course in 1986, he re­ceived a schol­ar­ship from then-tech­nol­ogy min­is­ter B. J. Habi­bie to study at Eng­land’s Es­sex Univer­sity, where he grad­u­ated in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing. He also chaired the lo­cal chap­ter of the In­done­sian Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion.

Upon his re­turn to In­done­sia, he worked in radar re­search for the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Agency (LAPAN), but after two years he left with­out no­tice. His su­pe­ri­ors felt he should have ded­i­cated his ca­reer to LAPAN. Aris then worked as a pro­gram­mer and man­age­ment con­sul­tant, and later wrote two books cri­tiquing the com­modi­ti­za­tion of re­li­gion: Tuhan Tiri ( Step- God, 2003) and Perz­i­na­han Suci ( Holy Adul­tery,

2005).

Like many af­flu­ent In­done­sians as­pir­ing to greater for­tune, he tried his hand at pol­i­tics. In 2008, at the age of 39, he ran for re­gent of Banyu­mas in Cen­tral Java, as a re­place­ment can­di­date for Megawati Sukarnop­u­tri’s In­done­sian Demo­cratic Party of Strug­gle (PDIP). The party’s pre­ferred can­di­date had jumped ship at the last minute to the Demo­crat Party and two Is­lam-based par­ties. PDIP then tried to nom­i­nate a pop­u­lar lo­cal politi­cian but he was al­ready on a ticket for the Na­tional Awak­en­ing Party (PKB), leav­ing Aris as the only eli­gi­ble pre-regis­tered can­di­date.

Ac­cord­ing to his manda­tory wealth re­port, Aris had to­tal as­sets of

Rp.4.4 bil­lion (then equiv­a­lent to

US$ 475,000) ahead of the elec­tion. He ran on the hack­neyed plat­form of “cre­at­ing eco­nomic growth and pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment”. He tried to at­tract at­ten­tion by fly­ing from Jakarta to Pur­wok­erto in a he­li­copter and also spon­sored a lo­cal TV tal­ent show. It wasn’t enough. Al­though PDIP had pre­vi­ously been the strong­est party in Banyu­mas, Aris came in last with only 10.92 per­cent of the vote. The elec­tion drained much of his wealth. He then bus­ied him­self by writ­ing more books. One of them, Robohnya NKRI Kami ( The Col­lapse of Our Uni­tary State of In­done­sia, 2012), claims that In­done­sia op­er­ates like the 51st state of the United States of Amer­ica in or­der to raise pub­lic pros­per­ity. He also wrote a novel, Von Braun Van

Java (2011), “based on a true story” of 12 In­done­sian high school stu­dents who re­ceived schol­ar­ships from Habi­bie to study abroad to master space rocket tech­nol­ogy.

Armpit Sniff­ing

In July 2015, Aris jumped on the trans­port app band­wagon with a busi­ness called UberJEK, which he ran from rented premises in Pe­jaten, South Jakarta. His un­usual re­cruit­ment process re­quired a body odour test, which in­volved sniff­ing the armpits of po­ten­tial driv­ers. Ap­pli­cants had to pay a Rp.100,000 ad­min­is­tra­tion fee. In three months, about 2,000 driv­ers were re­cruited but the of­fice was then aban­doned. UberJEK was re­launched in May 2016 with the aim of serv­ing ar­eas not cov­ered by Go- Jek, Grab and Uber. Aris had a pol­icy of no uni­forms or iden­ti­fy­ing hel­mets, pur­port­edly to spare driv­ers from oc­cu­pa­tional em­bar­rass­ment. He told the press his aim was to have the word ojek (mo­tor­cy­cle taxi) in­cluded in the

Ox­ford English Dic­tio­nary. He also promised a lucky prize draw of mil­lions of mo­bile phones for new cus­tomers. The busi­ness failed, prompt­ing al­le­ga­tions it was just a scam to get reg­is­tra­tion money from driv­ers.

In­done­sian Cin­derella Story

Ear­lier this year, Aris read about Jan Zako­biel­ski, a young Ger­man man who op­er­ates Cin­derella Es­corts, a pros­ti­tu­tion web­site that in­fa­mously auc­tioned an 18-year- old Ro­ma­nian woman's vir­gin­ity to a Hong Kong busi­ness­man for US$2.4 mil­lion.

Ea­ger to em­u­late and achieve fi­nan­cial suc­cess, Aris re­alised he could not op­er­ate an on­line pros­ti­tu­tion busi­ness in In­done­sia so he gave it a ve­neer of re­li­gious re­spectabil­ity by pre­sent­ing it as a match­mak­ing ser­vice based on Is­lamic law. He also thought it would be more ac­cept­able if pack­aged as part of a po­lit­i­cal party’s ef­fort to com­bat poverty and adul­tery.

Obe­sity Slimming Sex Party

On the same day that nikah­sirri.com went on­line, Aris launched his own po­lit­i­cal party, Par­tai Pon­sel (Cel­lu­lar Phone Party) at his rented house at an Air Force com­pound in Bekasi. Some jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the event thought it was a joke when the party’s name was re­vealed to be an acro­nym for Par­tai Pe­langsin­gan Obe­si­tas Ne­gara, Startup Ekonomi Luar Bi­asa (State Obe­sity Slimming Party, Ex­tra­or­di­nary Startup Econ­omy). It soon be­came clear the party was just a means of pro­mot­ing on­line pros­ti­tu­tion.

The party claims it would com­bat “ex­ces­sively obese gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy” by re­duc­ing the num­ber of civil ser­vants, in­sti­tu­tions and reg­u­la­tions that waste peo­ple’s time and tax money. Other as­pects of its man­i­festo are more un­usual. “While other par­ties tackle the na­tion’s com­pli­cated prob­lems us­ing in­tu­ition, Par­tai Pon­sel ap­plies chaos the­ory and quan­tum me­chan­ics,” de­clares its web­site, which also con­tains ref­er­ences to Star Trek.

Aris said Par­tai Pon­sel was openly do­ing busi­ness through nikah­sirri.com to fund its ac­tiv­i­ties with­out hav­ing to re­sort to cor­rup­tion. The party pro­motes polygamy, vir­gin auctions and “sex­ual jus­tice” as ways of nar­row­ing the gap be­tween In­done­sia’s rich and poor. Aris equated monogamy to com­mu­nism be­cause both are grounded in the prin­ci­ple of equal­ity, whereas polygamy is closer to hu­man na­ture and per­mit­ted by Al­lah.

He said a vir­gin­ity auc­tion would pro­vide a “dowry” of at least Rp. 20 mil­lion, giv­ing a poor fam­ily suf­fi­cient cap­i­tal to set up a food stall or buy a rice field, thereby re­duc­ing un­em­ploy­ment and in­creas­ing so­cial jus­tice. “At the mo­ment, vir­gin­ity in In­done­sia is priced too cheaply,” he wrote. “Vir­gin­ity is a valu­able as­set of a girl … but it is given freely to a boyfriend who is skilled in se­duc­tion or has plied her with al­co­hol. The girl's fam­ily gets noth­ing, ex­cept shame, be­cause their child has com­mit­ted adul­tery, and ob­scene photos of­ten go vi­ral on the in­ter­net.”

Such views out­raged women’s and chil­dren’s rights groups, but Aris said In­done­sia is weak be­cause its peo­ple have “em­braced a hyp­o­crit­i­cal, pu­ri­tan­i­cal form of Is­lam to­wards sex­u­al­ity”. He claimed “the hege­mony of pu­ri­tanism” has made In­done­sians too hyp­o­crit­i­cal to ac­knowl­edge that the na­tion’s red-and-white flag sym­bol­izes the blood of new­born ba­bies and the sperm of their fathers.

Par­tai Pon­sel even states that racism and re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance would cease if all In­done­sians were more will­ing to prac­tice mixed-race and in­ter­faith mar­riages. The party calls for a “bonobo revo­lu­tion” – the bonobo be­ing a rare pri­mate in the Congo that uses sex to re­solve con­flict – be­cause peo­ple will not be in­ter­ested in fight­ing if they have enough sex.

Pon­sel’s web­site says the party does not care if it is la­belled as bru­tal, vul­gar or dis­re­spect­ful, as it is bet­ter to swal­low the bit­ter­ness of hon­esty, rather than the sweet­ness of hypocrisy.

In­san­ity Plea

Aris’s wife Rani told re­porters her hus­band had be­come about 10 per­cent in­sane as a re­sult of los­ing his money in the 2008 elec­tion, lead­ing to his con­tro­ver­sial ac­tiv­i­ties. She pub­licly apol­o­gized for his er­rors and said she would be un­able to sup­port her chil­dren if he re­mains in­car­cer­ated. Po­lice said Aris showed no signs of in­san­ity dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Off­line, nikah sirri has long been part of In­done­sian cul­ture, of­ten as a means of al­low­ing phi­lan­der­ing men to take ex­tra wives. It has noth­ing to do with wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion or pros­per­ity. En­cour­ag­ing poor fam­i­lies to sell their daugh­ters for short-term fi­nan­cial gain usu­ally back­fires when mar­riages end in di­vorce and the money runs out.

ARIS WAHYUDI (COUR­TESY OF DETIKCOM)

PO­LICE WITH CON­FIS­CATED ITEMS AT METRO JAYA PO­LICE STA­TION (COUR­TESY OF KOMPAS.COM)

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