The Sexual Misery of the Arab World

Mar 14, 2016

Photo credit: Eiko Ojala

By Kamel Daoud

After Tahrir came Cologne. After the square came sex. The Arab revolutions of 2011 aroused enthusiasm at first, but passions have since waned. Those movements have come to look imperfect, even ugly: For one thing, they have failed to touch ideas, culture, religion or social norms, especially the norms relating to sex. Revolution doesn’t mean modernity.

The attacks on Western women by Arab migrants in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve evoked the harassment of women in Tahrir Square itself during the heady days of the Egyptian revolution. The reminder has led people in the West to realize that one of the great miseries plaguing much of the so-called Arab world, and the Muslim world more generally, is its sick relationship with women. In some places, women are veiled, stoned and killed; at a minimum, they are blamed for sowing disorder in the ideal society. In response, some European countries have taken to producing guides of good conduct to refugees and migrants.

Sex is a complex taboo, arising, in places like Algeria, Tunisia, Syria or Yemen, out of the ambient conservatism’s patriarchal culture, the Islamists’ new, rigorist codes and the discreet puritanism of the region’s various socialisms. That makes a good combination for obstructing desire or guilt-tripping and marginalizing those who feel any. And it’s a far cry from the delicious licentiousness of the writings of the Muslim golden age, like Sheikh Nafzawi’s “The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight,” which tackled eroticism and the Kama Sutra without any hang-ups.

Today sex is a great paradox in many countries of the Arab world: One acts as though it doesn’t exist, and yet it determines everything that’s unspoken. Denied, it weighs on the mind by its very concealment. Although women are veiled, they are at the center of our connections, exchanges and concerns.

Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great. In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization — short skirts trigger earthquakes, some say — and are respected only when defined by a property relationship, as the wife of X or the daughter of Y.


Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/the-sexual-misery-of-the-arab-world.html

15 comments on “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World

  • Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/the-sexual-misery-of-the-arab-world.html?_r=0

    http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/03/07/arab-feminist-defends-writer-accused-of-fueling-islamophobia-with-sexual-misery-op-ed/

    [Bonnie, this was delayed by the spam detection system, which had put it aside pending moderator approval because it contained links. That happens quite frequently, so if it happens to you again, no need to repost (as that will simply convince the system even more that you’re spamming!). A moderator will approve the comment as soon as one of us is online. Thanks. The mods]



    Report abuse

  • @blue-bird-2

    bonnie

    Thanks for posting the article by Symons. Good follow up. I like this paragraph from that article:

    Feminists in France are so ‘‘panicked and afraid’’ of Islamists but also of other progressives, they do not dare attack the wearing of the veil or sexist practices, according to Zouari. A fear of being accused of racism relegates them to silence and stops them from denouncing women’s oppression in their country. ‘‘We have feminists who have become so unscrupulous they sometimes rush to defend the veil in the name of women’s rights and virginity in the name of cultural relativism,’’ she said.‘‘I think the West has not understood the meaning of such symbols and it is a kind of guilt that pushes it to make concessions on some of its liberties in the name of principle …”



    Report abuse

  • @OP – they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization

    Perhaps this will shake up some attitudes, but I note that even heads commanding large aircraft, need to be covered with head scarves!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35816887

    Three Royal Brunei Airlines pilots have made history by being the company’s first all-female flight crew, making their first journey to Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive.

    The women flew the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brunei to Jeddah.



    Report abuse

  • The women flew the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brunei to Jeddah.

    It’s just one more example of great accomplishment accompanied by solid indoctrination and all in the same brain. This puts the Western feminists into a conflict. I want to crow about their victory but then I want to reprimand them for wearing an article of clothing that marks them as reproductive and domestic slaves while doing it. So now I just sit here shrugging. If three American women flew that 787 while wearing clown suits and garish make-up with fluorescent pink curly wigs I’d be saying the same thing to them. Get some dignity for christ’s sake! You’re not helping at all!

    Maybe this is the second waver feminist response. I suppose the third wavers will disappoint me now with their explanation of how that effing hejab is just their culture! Don’t tell them how to dress! That’s you and your American imperialism again!



    Report abuse

  • 6
    Cairsley says:

    To LaurieB at #5

    If the hijab is not just an item of women’s clothing that may be more modest and conservative than any current comparable item in Western women’s clothing but is actually a symbol of the reproductive and domestic slavery of women in North African, Middle Eastern and West Asian societies, then this must not be confused with the entirely separate matter of geopolitics and Western imperialism. If the culture of a society is denying to some of its members their human rights, then the culture must be changed to accord them their rights. We can insist on this and at the same time deplore American imperialism, along with the bungling irresponsibility and stupidity that have unfortunately come with it. There is really no reason why Western feminists cannot call out the abuse of women’s human rights in Muslim countries, except their own inability to distinguish one issue from another or to recognize the falsehood of accusations of their being “racist” if they criticize the treatment of women in those countries. Have feminists become such wimps now that they withhold their just criticisms for fear of being called names?



    Report abuse

  • It seems that religion is the problem, when it comes to treating people equally under the law!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35820970

    Nigeria’s Senate has been condemned for rejecting a proposed bill aimed at eliminating “all forms of discrimination” against women.

    The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill was thrown out on Tuesday after some lawmakers voiced their opposition.

    Rights activists say the bill would promote women’s equality in marriage, inheritance and education.

    Those opposed to the Equality Bill say it is not compatible with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs.

    In Islam, women get half of men’s share in inheritance and it is unacceptable for anyone to change that, a Muslim senator told the BBC.

    One Christian lawmaker also quoted some sections of the bible to condemn the bill.

    But the decision has been widely condemned.

    Human rights activist Bukky Shonibare says it was a sad day for Nigerian women.

    It shows how backward we are and how much we want to hold on to our lopsided religious and cultural beliefs,” she told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

    It is unfortunate that some men who see the emancipation of women as a threat are the ones being trusted with making laws and order, she added.



    Report abuse

  • @Cairsley

    6

    Mar 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Have feminists become such wimps now that they withhold their just criticisms for fear of being called names?

    That sounds about right to me. But it’s not the whole picture. The feminists who support cultural relativism over human rights have done serious damage here. The Muslim women who are so brainwashed and/or ignorant that they argue against us over their right to wear this degrading symbol have done much damage against Muslim women in general. They are gender traitors who CHOOSE to wear a symbol of slavery while their Muslim sisters who don’t want to wear it are FORCED to wear it or threatened with death. Western feminists who support hejab have been confused by this and thrown off the track. We did not fight back hard against this insidious tactic and now it’s too little too late.

    Shame on those pious bitches who sabotage the rest of us.



    Report abuse

  • In the 1970s the cry from feminists was often “Ban the Bra”

    When will we hear the likes of Anita Sarkesian or Rebecca Watson shouting “Ban the Burka” ? Probably never, there’s just such a successful career to be had attacking the “Patriarchy” in the west.



    Report abuse

  • While the patriarchy in the West is an annoyance at this point, the patriarchy in the East wants to kill me and many others painfully. Their holy books and weak civil law encourages them to do so.

    Big difference!



    Report abuse

  • 13
    Cairsley says:

    @laurieb #8

    Thank you, LaurieB. I have found it hard to be sure just what has been going on with the more recent waves and generations of feminists. More generally, I have long appreciated your comments because of the perspectives you are able to bring to issues.



    Report abuse

  • Thank you Cairsley. As a second waver I must admit that the actions and the statements of some of our third wavers have taken me by surprise too. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Now that I think about it, the first wavers might be rolling in their graves over some of our second waver tactics and statements as well. We have all had different priorities and divisions within the waves as well. Moving equality ahead for all women may be the only thing we can all agree on – and may men benefit from that as well I hope – but how we will get there is sure to be a never ending source of friction I’m sad to say.

    I wonder what the priorities of the fourth wave will be. Maybe I’ll be a hundred years old crone by then and waving my dented cane at the fourth wavers as they accuse me of being a patriarchy accomodationist or some such stupid insult. haha. What a long strange trip it’s been! (J. Garcia)

    I’m so lucky to have seen all the changes that have been won in my lifetime. So lucky.



    Report abuse

  • @OP – Today sex is a great paradox in many countries of the Arab world: One acts as though it doesn’t exist, and yet it determines everything that’s unspoken. Denied, it weighs on the mind by its very concealment.

    Meanwhile in Somalia, some token gestures are moving in better directions – but not very quickly!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35882404
    Somalia’s prime minister has publicly backed a campaign to ban female genital mutilation (FGM) in his country.

    It is currently against the constitution but parliament has not yet passed a bill outlawing the practice.

    It says that it is mainly performed on four to 11-year-olds and can have a long-lasting impact on the girls’ physical and mental health.

    Somali anti-FGM campaigner Ifrah Ahmed told the BBC that she had persuaded Mr Sharmarke to sign the petition organised by online campaign group Avaaz.

    She said that it was a significant move as many people in Somalia do not openly speak about the issue.

    Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke has joined more than a million others by signing an online petition calling for a comprehensive ban.

    The UN children’s agency, Unicef, estimates that more than 90% of Somali girls undergo FGM.

    But campaigners acknowledge that it will take more than a law to end the practice.

    Ms Ahmed said that an education campaign, as well as a willingness to enforce the legislation, will be necessary.

    She said that it is widely practised in Somalia as people believe it is a religious requirement and girls who have not undergone it are taunted for not being cut.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.