Dora Djamila Mester
director of Ars Erotica Foundation
I am a Hungarian sex educator, social scientist and sex positive activist.
I am the founder and leader of a Budapest based non-profit civil organization, Ars Erotica Foundation for sexuality education and for the acceptance of sexual cultures.
As part of my comprehensive sex-positive activist and professional duties, I work at various fields including:
September 2008 –
I’ve been working as an independent sex educator and activist (Budapest – Hungary)
Sexuality education for youth (age 14-18):
- Comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education in municipal high schools (Budapest, 7. district, Kertész u. , Dob u.), in co-operation with Cseresznye Youth Center. The two-year long pilot project is funded by TAMOP (EU);
- Sex educational workshops for Roma youth in co-operation with Pince Youth Center, Budapest, 20. district;
- Sex educational workshops for youth and counselling at József Attila Orphanage, Budapest, 19. district;
- Sex educational workshops at ELTE – Apáczai Csere János High School and Dormitory, Budapest, 5. district;
- Sex educational workshops at Deák Ferenc High School Dormitory, Budapest, 11. district;
- Comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education Waldorf Alternative School and Kindergarden in Fót, HU;
- Sex educational workshops for mentally disabled youth for the Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability;
Sexuality education and awarness raising for adults and youth:
Teaching a course about the social construction of sexuality in the Western World – at Budapest University of ELTE; (see syllabus)
- Writing articles as sex columnist at popular women magazines (HVG pszichológia, NLC, Meglepetés, MOHA);
- Organizing sex workshops and educational events for adults on various topics such as Sex and Motherhood, Sextoys, Sexuality in long-term relationships, Sex and aging etc.
- Writing a book on motherhood and sexuality which is based on a quantitative research of in-depth interviews with Hungarian mothers and fathers. The book is a Foucauldian analysis on the norms and beliefs surrounding the mother as a sexual object, womanhood in our Western culture. The “Woman, mother, lover” book was published in Hungarian, in March 2013.
- Holding private sexuality consultations for women, men and couples;
- Participating and lectures on conferences, round table discussions on sexuality and topics such as “Children, porn and the Internet” (organized by the International Children’s Safety Service).
- Have a weekly talk-show on sex, sexuality in TILOS community radio.
Training for professionals, trainers and teachers:
- Regular case-discussion for social workers involved in the „Only for Women” needle exchange program at KÉK Pont Foundation;
- Workshops, Budapest based local trainings and international training for trainers involved in adult education, in particular working with multicultural groups or teachers, trainers of body-related activities, social workers, health professionals performing educational activities students of adult education (BODY LLP Grundtvig project, funded by the European Commission). (http://bodyproject.eu/);
- Organizing a two-day long conference and workshop for teachers involved or interested in sex-education with the TEIS Youth Foundation. (financed by the Ministry of National Resources – IFJ-GY-11);
- From June 2013 participating in the The Pestalozzi Programme – Sex/sexuality education – Personal development, prevention of discrimination and violence (In cooperation with the Council of Europe Programme “Building a Europe for and with children”)
November 2006- June 2007
volunteer sex educator
on the switchoard at San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI), San Francisco (US), free information and referral switchboard providing anonymous, accurate, non-judgmental information about sex and for Centre for Sex and Culture, SF based non-profit organization for sexual cultures.
May 2011 „In Between Us” – Sexuality in Europe – participating at „Using art as a pedagogical tool” international Grundtvig workshop. 20 participants were involved from 11 countries: Slovakia, Turkey, Belgium, Spain, Latvia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary. Organizer: CESIE – Palermo.
August 2006- As a sex educator got my diploma at the San Francisco Sex Information ((SFSI – www.sfsi.org)) which is a free information and referral switchboard providing anonymous, accurate, non-judgmental information about sexuality in the US. In 2006 I was an independent visitor scholar at the Centre for Sex and Culture, San Francisco, CA; and I made a fieldwork on SF based sexuality adult education and communication.
2006 Fall Certified Sex Educator, Sex Educator Training, San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI – www.sfsi.org) (US).
2001- Ph.D. Candidate on Sociology at Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary.
Dissertation theme: Future Prospects of Sexuality Education in Hungary.
2004 Fall NYC (US), Visiting Researcher at Rutgers University.
1996-2000 Széchenyi István College of Social Sciences; courses listened to: social sciences, anthropology, gender studies.
1994-2000 MA in International Relations (major) and Marketing communication (minor) at Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration, Hungary.
Introduction to the intercultural approach of sexuality; article for professionals in the BODY project anthology (www.bodyproject.eu), Amsterdam, 2013.
Woman, Mother, Lover- Motherhood and Sex, Jaffa Kiadó, Budapest, 2013.
Where is happiness nowadays? (Hol a boldogság mostanában?), book chapter in Párkapcsolat Klinika psychological series, Kulcslyuk Kiadó, Budapest, 2011.
Lovers (Szeretők), book chapter in Szeretők, titkos viszonyok lélektana, Jaffa Kiadó, Budapest, 2009.
Father, what is orgasm? (Apa, mi az az orgazmus?), book chapter in Igazi vagy?, Jaffa Kiadó, Budapest, 2008.
Writing articles as sex columnist at popular magazines (HVG pszichológia, NLC, Elle, Meglepetés, MOHA).
Being a mother, Gardening, Photography (flickrID: djamila at http://www.flickr.com/photos/87595978@N00/), Traveling, Reading, Cookery
About my mission
“…too often sex education does not address the full picture of respect and human dignity, sexual orientation and gender identity, autonomy, self-reliance, consent, social relations, friendship and love. Sex or sexuality education currently offered in many school curricula is often limited to learning about health issues including reproduction, protection from sexually transmitted infections and prevention of early pregnancy. Evidence seems to suggest that providing children solely with scientific accounts of sex, with specific focus on health risks, can fail to prepare them for the challenges involved in having an emotional and eventually a sexual relationship. Comprehensive sex education should be perceived as a basic human right which has a strong role notably in preventing children from being victims of sexual abuse by providing them with practical definition of sexual violence, including rape. A fully-fledged sex education and respective training of teachers should include the notions and increase understanding of healthy relationship building, healthy affirmative attitudes to the sexual aspects of our lives as well as all forms of sexual discrimination and violence and abuse including pornography accessible through the internet. ” (Pestalozzi program) – Comprehensive sex education therefore can only be effective if it goes in an interactive way, with non-formal pedagogical methods, with face-to-face personal communication, open group discussions guided by well prepared teachers where we also need to deal with the person’s psychological development.
Unfortunately this is not the reality yet, and as in many other countries, in Hungary to reach an ideal sex education in schools would require broad scale social support, thorough, clever and sensitive social policy, institutional background and infrastructure, nonetheless comprehensive education (specialization) for teachers as also regular case discussions provided for them. After my US training, arriving back to Hungary, this fact was leading me to work for these purposes parallel at various fields and levels in Budapest. It was obvious that I need to work with adults first, parents, care-givers, teachers and educators, and also decision makers. I needed to work with and through the media (broadcast and published) and the Internet, which has a strong influence on our sexual attitude/behavior. In the meanwhile I wanted to understand that under the current educational policy what kind of sex-education can be feasible and realistic. What kind of values, norms, information can be conveyed in the frame of sex education? How can we talk about our social relations, emotions, cultural tradition? What can we teach about the family, about our body, body consciousness and how it can help to educate our children to become responsible, conscious and independent adults? And last but not least it was also important to experiment how sex educational classes can be integrated into the quite rigid and old fashioned timetable of Hungarian public schools. How American sexual education curricula – emerged in a completely different cultural environment can be adapted in Hungary? How those topics would respond to real Hungarian teenagers’ real needs and expectations? This fieldwork brought me also the experience on the institutional level: what kind of professional, civil and institutional networks and resources are available for an NGO involved in sex education?
Beyond these professional experiences two of my projects are more specifically connected to the aims of sexuality education in schools. One of them is a conference and series of workshops (“Do you want to talk about it?” – conference and workshop for teachers) we organized with a civil youth organization called TEIS Foundation for teachers and educators. The program was financed by a grant provided by the Ministry of National Resources. One of the purposes of the conference and workshops were to initiate a dialogue among professionals involved in sex education. We invited decision makers, social scientists, school teachers, school counselors, nurses, psychologists, educators, activists, youth facilitators and also youth activists, volunteers from youth organizations. Our aim was to gather all the representatives of the referred state institutions, civil and religious organizations and also individuals working actively with youth. With this event we wanted to urge a public debate on the importance of sexuality education and raise awareness in teachers and learners, in their families and communities of the need of sexuality education in schools where children spend most of their time, where they belong to peers groups, where they have their friends, first loves but also the place where they are discriminated or face violence. In the workshops participants learned new pedagogical methods and shared their practical experience. Using exercises, open discussions, non-formal pedagogical methods we helped them to develop new teaching practices and methods to be able to manage the challenges of communication on sexuality with teenagers on a regular basis. The workshops’ basic objective was to equip teachers with the competencies necessary to adapt sexuality educational programs to the school environment. This included:
– To get acquainted with the theoretical background of sexuality education.
– Learn to construct and adapt detailed curricula on sexuality for 14-18 olds.
– Develop communication techniques/skills and attitudes necessary to work the theme of sexuality with youth 14-18.
– Develop non-formal pedagogical tools which are capable to transmit information, values and attitude on sexuality to this age group.
Based on this experience the last project application of Ars Erotica Foundation entitled ’Sexuality education for teenagers’ received funding for 2013 from the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources (NEA-UN-13-M-0124). In these sexuality education program we focus on strengthening the need and skills for open, tolerant, non-violent communication, on developing knowledge about the self and social relations, on responsible, informed, respectful sexuality and family life. We involve volunteers with diverse ethnic, sociocultural and sexual identity backgrounds, and with physical and mental disabilities.
The other project I am currently involved in is the BODY (www.bodyproject.eu) a two-year Grundtvig project, which is funded by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme. The BODY project has the overall aim to explore how our perception of the body and body-related themes such as health, disease, gender, age, sexuality and disability is influenced by cultural differences and on the same affects our intercultural communication. Furthermore, the goal is to provide exemplary knowledge and experience on how professionals can handle cultural differences linked to the body in an appreciative and respectful way. It may apply to adult teachers and trainers as well as counselors, integration workers, health workers, social workers, job consultants, sexual supervisors, disability consultants and other frontline staff all over Europe. Based on the specific method of critical Incidents proposed by Margalit Cohen-Emerique, the partners in the BODY project have collected and analysed a large number of concrete examples of how professionals in many different contexts have experienced and handled “culture shock” in reference to cultural perceptions of the body and body-related themes such as disability and sexuality etc. We also identified a wide range of examples that illustrate how people around Europe through professional cultural encounters have developed best practices to accommodate cultural differences in body language and body image. The best practices all operate in the intersection between culture and body where intercultural empathy and respect have overcome the communication challenges and barriers that traditionally are known to be linked to the specific communication of the body.
Within the project two pilot trainings were held in Budapest and the final international training will be held in July 2013. On that training adult trainers will be able to construct more inclusive and efficient trainings on issues related to the human body, health, sexuality, interculturality, thereby offering pathways for developing civic, social and intercultural competences and developing attitudes and skills concerning health, body and sexuality. Innovations of the training: application of scientific theories and approaches, training construction based on participation of target group.
As far as I see, most of the European countries – even if they have different cultural pathways – share many similarities in the public and private discourses about sexuality and sexual education as well as the institutional environment of education. This is probably the most important in this joint project: we understand each other, we have things to share, many times we face very similar problems and challenges. In 2011 I participated a week-long international Grundtwig workshop (“In Between Us” – sexuality in Europe) where I realized that these experiences are so much familiar for many other professionals working in this field coming from Eastern-Central Europe.
I have recently finished my book entitled Woman, mother, lover – motherhood and sexuality – which book is also based on a thorough social analysis of the Western cultural tradition of sexual education in the family. Through the in-depth interviews I gained a unique insight how our children’s education about emotions, social relations, body issues and eroticism is developing from the very early childhood in the family. Based on a very practical experience the theoretical background is a very useful device in the understanding how our Western cultural tradition influences even the most progressive and open initiatives when it comes to talk about sexuality. That is the reason I put an extra importance on the understanding of the social and cultural environment which enables us to develop sustainable educational strategies.
Most of my sex-education related work gave me a lot of theoretical and practical experience so far, but I am still open and enthusiastic to learn, to gain new experiences and offer my expertise to people who need it. I’ve recently moved to live in Amsterdam and both as a leader of an internationally capable civil organization or an independent sex educator I am open to join to an international network with which we share similar interests and values. As my son is just about to start a Montessori school in the Netherlands, as a mother, I am still very much interested in sex education in schools but my professional interest is more and more about to get deeper into the training of teachers, trainers, sex educators.