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In Canada, Roosh V's Crackpot Critics Have Got It All Wrong
A couple of days ago, a petition to the mayor of Toronto, signed by over 40,000 people and boosted by CBC, tried to keep “neomasculinist” speaker and author Roosh V out of Canada. Thankfully, it failed.
Roosh, a pen name of Daryush Valizadeh, was already in North America, and his speech went off just fine. The quality of Canadian defence has been off lately, which is probably why the Stanley Cup was between Chicago and Tampa Bay. Male Canucks are so henpecked that even their hockey is suffering.
Obviously, both the petition and this daft assault were illiberal and dumb. Everyone who added their signature should be quarantined in the one place that is worse than purgatory: Quebec. Finally, the city would have a purpose, keeping feminists and the French from contaminating the wider continent.
But wait, no, now I’m thinking like a progressive, aren’t I. If there’s a Canadian secession, perhaps it should be free-thinking classical liberals breaking off from loony social justice bloggers. Admittedly, such a schism in Canada would create a new country of about 12 people.
In any case, this failed feminist fox hunt is a good excuse to remind those retarded pseudo-French losers what freedom of speech is, and how avoiding and banning speech we dislike is a really, really bad idea, like almost as bad as Avril Lavigne, Rufus Wainwright, Michael Cera, Nia Vardalos or for the love of fucking Christ Shania Twain.
“The past week I received heavy resistance from the Canadian left to shut down my planned Montreal speech,” Valizadeh told me via email yesterday from the land of poutine and transgender four-year-olds. “A petition to ban me from the country topped 35,000 people and the booking to my original hotel venue was cancelled after it was leaked online, putting the entire event in jeopardy.
“The mayor of Montreal, the Canadian state-owned media (CBC), and many thousands of locals combed the entire city trying to find the event venue in order to sabotage it. I stuck to my guns, found another venue, and I successfully held the event. ”
Internet searches for Roosh V have never been higher, so if Canadian liberals were attempting to silence him or drive him into obscurity, well. Lame job guys. If there’s one thing we ordinary folk enjoy it’s something forbidden. And we don’t mind telling you so.
After the talk, Valizadeh had a beer thrown in his face. Regular readers of this column will know the high regard in which I hold feminists, and Canadians, but even by the pathetic standards of #KillAllWhiteMen or #BlackLivesMatter, this was a cowardly stunt of the highest order, and only served to gild Roosh’s victory.
“After the event, I was attacked on the street by a mob who shouted talking points that I remembered reading from CBC articles published a couple days earlier,” explained Valizadeh. “I believe this attack against me approaches a fine line of state-supported violence. I filed a police report against the perpetrators, but those in the CBC should be held responsible for inciting the naive youth of Montreal.”
Truth be told, my research team is divided on the subject of Roosh, which is why I found it interesting that my most liberal colleague was the one who stepped up to do the work on this article. He didn’t say why, but I suspect he did it for the same reason I’m writing this article: because he’s more worried about a world where ideas cannot get their day in court than anything Roosh V writes on his blog.
Veteran Reason and TIME journalist Cathy Young, who has little time for Valizadeh’s opinions on women, was nonetheless forthright on his right to speak unmolested when I asked her yesterday whether his event ought to have been shut down and whether threats of violence against speakers are ever justified.
“Threats of violence are usually more about venting than about actual intent to carry out violent acts,” said Young. “That said, given that feminists have made such a big issue of violent threats to women – and specifically to feminist activists and speakers – making or condoning threats toward Roosh and his guests certainly seems hypocritical.
“As for actual violence, I would say that it’s never justified in response to speech, though there are probably times when I would be inclined to sympathize with the perpetrator, for example. if it was a Holocaust survivor punching a Holocaust denier.”
“I will also add that, to the extent that Roosh has a following, it’s largely thanks to the toxic atmosphere radical feminists have helped create,” added Young, who has reported extensively on the excesses of the modern third-wave feminist movement.
“When preaching hatred toward men is normalized and demonising male behaviour becomes part of normal discourse, it’s not surprising that frankly misogynistic rhetoric in the ‘manosphere’ will gain more appeal. Feminists should worry less about Roosh and more about their own failure to offer a positive vision of male-female relationships.”
In other words, revolutionaries will always breed counter-revolutions.
No-platforming, a favourite tactic of the progressive left, denies us, the public, the ability to interrogate a speaker ourselves. It’s not only illiberal and profoundly anti-intellectual but it can create a halo of martyrdom around people who are already pushing at an open door – such as men’s rights activists, who rightly point to dozens of structural inequalities in the way men are spoken about and treated in today’s uber-progressive societies.
And when one person refuses to talk to another, the only remaining option is violence. By and large, it’s the political left doing the violence these days, and it’s not just directed at men’s rights activists or conservative speakers: even Bernie Sanders is getting shoved around.
With some justification, Roosh views his experience as, “one of the biggest free speech victories that Canada has ever seen, where a small group of intelligent and masculine men stood up the entire establishment and won decisively. I’m still on cloud nine from it.”
I say “with some justification” because liberals really shot themselves in the foot on this one. Valizadeh will be thanking his lucky stars for the notoriety these authoritarian pearl-clutchers just handed him. I imagine his book sales are through the roof. (He was too discreet to comment.)
As for the claim that Valizadeh is a “rape apologist,” he says this: “It’s absolutely false. My ‘How To Stop Rape’ article, a big source of the outrage in Canada, was a mere thought experiment to show how a woman who takes personal responsibility of herself will experience less sexual assault. The sad fact that they didn’t even read the article, where I clearly state the importance of consent, shows their lack of comprehension and reason.”
Feminism is about the domestication of men. Feminism wants to force men into being docile, so women have all sexual rights, at no risk. That will be all the less feasible the more violence there is in a society.
This man advertises suicide in Cambodia. I lost my sister to him
Distraught and depressed after the break-up of a relationship, Kim Walton surfed the internet until she found euthanasiaincambodia.com.
"In Cambodia anything is possible," it read. "For those of you who prefer to take charge of your own destiny, come to Cambodia! Live your life the way you want and end it when you are ready."
Mrs Walton, 46, a mortgage adviser, who was divorced more than 20 years ago, sent an e-mail to the site operator with the simple subject heading "Death". A brief correspondence ensued.
Within a fortnight she had left her home in Penn, Bucks, and was travelling 6,000 miles to Kampot, a quiet, dilapidated riverside town.
There, several days later, she wrote a five-page suicide note and overdosed on medicines and alcohol in a £5-a-night guesthouse.
Her sister is convinced that had it not been for the website she would still be alive. "We were very close," said Sally Spring, 46. "She couldn't have done it to me in this country. She would never have put us in a situation where we might find her body."
The relationship that had so upset her had lasted only two months, she added. "If she had been here I would have got her through it," she said. "There's nothing we can do to bring Kim back but I just want the website closed down.
"Any vulnerable person could see it and I don't want any other family to suffer. It's just got to be stopped. It's disgusting and it beggars belief."
The site contains a detailed description of an elasticated plastic bag, available through it for £55, and helium gas to ensure a "peaceful and painless death".
It is operated by Roger Graham, a 57-year-old American former arts and antiques dealer from Paradise, California, where he founded an assisted euthanasia society.
He moved to Cambodia two and a half years ago in response, he says, to the US invasion of Iraq. He adopted the name "Tola", bestowed on him by a bar girl.
According to a legal opinion he obtained from a law firm in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, the country has no law against assisted suicide.
On the site, which he has taken off-line after provincial authorities filed a defamation action against him, he said: "I am not going to pull any switches. I will do whatever it is that is necessary, within the law and my own comfort level, for you to have a satisfying end-of-life experience. I let you make all of your own choices. It is your life."
He asked for £14,000 in charitable donations from potential users of his service.
At his cafe on the bank of the Kampot river, he said: "I don't put the stigma on death that most people have. Death is simply the end point of life. To deny it exists is to be afraid of it, is to be ridiculous. Cambodia is a good country. If you are going to die, come here, leave some money.
"I will do whatever I can to make their experience enjoyable but it remains up to them what they want to do, when they want to do it, how they want to do it."
When his time comes, he added, he will kill himself.
"I'm not going to go plugged into some machine. I don't intend to do it tomorrow, but I might. It's my choice."
He does not differentiate between the terminally ill and those who want to die for other reasons.
"I don't care if you have a problem or not, that's not for me to decide, it's your life."
He declined to answer when asked if he had ever helped anyone to die in America. But he insisted that even though Mrs Walton went to his cafe when she arrived in Kampot, she never broached suicide, or revealed herself as the e-mail sender, and he never saw her again. No witnesses have contradicted him.
"It may sound implausible, but it's true," said Mr Graham. "The inference is I was involved, and I was not."
She did not give him any money or ask him to make any charitable donations for her, he said, and independent witnesses say that all the money she had with her was returned to her family.
No other foreigner is known to have committed suicide in Kampot since Mr Graham arrived and, while he receives e-mails on the subject "all the time", he is not aware of anyone else coming to the town due to the site. He suggested that euthanasia tourism could be "positive" for Cambodia.
Others are revolted by the concept. When the website became public knowledge after Mrs Walton's death in September a third of Kampot's expatriate population signed a petition calling on the authorities to take action.
Prosecution authorities say they will question Mr Graham over alleged defamation soon. But Kampot's vice-commissioner of police, Lt-Col In Chiva, admitted that they had been unable to find any law against the website itself.
Puth Chandarith, the governor of Kampot, said his legal action was for defamation and "false statements that Cambodia is the best place to commit suicide".
If the action failed, he could revoke Mr Graham's business licence.
Khmer Rouge terror in Cambodia
Childhood Sexuality: Normal Sexual Behavior and Development
What is normal sexual behavior in a child?Childhood sexuality is an often neglected field in sex research. There is very little literature about what one might call normal child sexual behavior. The existing literature on child sexuality gives the impression that the only way in which children figure in sexological research is as objects of sexual abuse. The child, as a subject learning about sexuality and capable of experiencing sexual pleasures, doesn't seem to exist in scholarly papers.Childhood Sexuality: Normal Behavior and Development does not focus on sexual abuse but instead deals with what can be described as normal sexual behavior and development in children under age 12. This valuable book offers information about the relationship between age and sexual development, both mental and physical, in both males and females. Childhood Sexuality: Normal Behavior and Development explores several issues, including: what children ages two to six think or know about sexuality the ways that children learn about sexuality and procreation the process of body discovery among children what normal sexual behaviors to expect in children of various ages the importance of growing up in a positive environment the differences in sexual development between children of the same age and gender ways to get honest answers from children and parents about sexualityComprehensive and enlightening, Childhood Sexuality examines the difficulties of gathering this information from children and gives insight into questions that need to be answered in the future. This guide delivers a diverse look at the complex and intriguing topic of normal child sexuality and the progress that is being made in this area of research. "
Why is sex so important? Because sex builds an immortal individual soul.
The 10 Most Gruesome Torture Techniques From Medieval Europe
During the Middle Ages, torture was considered a legitimate way to extract confessions, punish offenders, and perform executions. Some methods were considerably crueler than others — these 10 being among the most barbaric and brutal.
Europe's Medieval period lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. During this time, torture was often used to extract confessions, or obtain the names of accomplices or other information about crimes. Laws and local customs did not impose limits on the treatment of prisoners or the extent to which torture could be inflicted. In fact, confessions were not considered genuine or sincere when so-called "light torture" was used (such as toe wedging and strappado).
Different types of torture were used depending on the victim's crime, gender, and social status. Skilled torturers would use methods, devices, and instruments to prolong life as long as possible while inflicting agonizing pain. Many prisoners were tortured prior to execution in order to obtain additional information; in many of these cases, the execution method was part of the torture endured by prisoners.
There are dozens upon dozens of different torture techniques and devices. I recently visited the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments in Prague where these 10 caught my eye. But before you read any further, be warned that they are very graphic and disturbing.
1. The Judas Cradle
Also called the Judas Chair, this Italian invention was particularly cruel.
Using ropes, a prisoner would be lowered above the pyramid-shaped "seat" with the point inserted into the anus or vagina. Victims would be tortured by intense pressure and stretching of the orifice, resulting in permanent damage. In many cases, the victim would succumb to rips in the muscle tissue that would later become infected. Weights would be added to facilitate the effect, often resulting in death by impalement.
A similar device, called the Spanish Donkey (or wooden horse), achieved a similar effect. Victims straddled the triangular "horse" and were forced to place their full body weight on their crotch, which rested on the point of the angle.
2. Saw Torture
This was a form of execution in which a living person was sawed in half, either longitudinally or transversely, through the central body mass.
This was done either by sawing the individual in half across or along the body length.
3. Pear of Anguish
This heinous contraption was used during the Middle Ages as a way to torture women who were accused of facilitating a miscarriage. It was also used to punish liars, blasphemers, and homosexuals. The device was inserted into one of the prisoner's orifices — the vagina for women, the anus for homosexuals, and the mouth for liars and blasphemers (which is why it's also known as the Choke Pear).
The device featured four metal leaves that slowly separated from each other as the torturer turned the screw at the top. The torturer could use it to tear the skin, or expand it to its maximal size to mutilate the victim. It rarely caused death, but was often followed by other torture methods.
4. Breaking Wheel
Also known as the Catherine wheel, this torture device was used to torture and kill prisoners for public executions.
The device was typically a large wagon wheel with radial spokes. Offenders were were lashed to the wheel and their limbs beaten with a club or iron cudgel. The gaps in the wheel allowed the limbs to give way and break. Disturbingly, the survival time after being "broken" could be extensive, with some accounts of victims living for several days prior to succumbing to their mortal injuries.
5. Iron Chair
This torture device was used extensively during the Middle Ages. Victims would be placed onto the chair — which featured hundreds of sharp spikes — followed by the progressive tightening of iron restraints, forcing the spikes deep into the
This could go on for hours, sometimes days. The spikes did not penetrate vital organs and blood loss was minimized — at least until the person was released from the chair. Death often followed. The Iron Chair was often used as a psychological instrument of torture; victims would often confess after being forced to watch other prisoners being tortured by the device.
6. Head Crusher
The device, which is basically a vise for the head, slowly crushes the skull and facial bones. Even if the torturer stopped before death, permanent damage to the facial muscles and structure would occur.
7. Rat Torture
Rats have also been employed to perform torture. There were many variants, but a common technique was to force a starving rat through a victim's body (usually the intestines) as a way to escape.
To make it work, prisoners were completely restrained and tied to the ground or any horizontal surface. A rat was then placed on the stomach covered by a metallic container, which was gradually heated. The rat began to look for a way out, which inevitably meant through the victim's body. Digging through the body usually took a few hours, resulting in a painful and gruesome death.
8. Coffin Torture
This was one of the most dreaded forms of torture during the Medieval Period.
The accused were placed inside a caged coffin, rendering them completely immobile. The period of time was determined by the crime, with some infractions, like blasphemy, punishable by death. Victims were often put on public display, where they would be mocked and abused by angry locals.
9. Breast Ripper
This one's particularly nasty — not that the other items on this list aren't. Also known as the Iron Spider, it was mainly used on women who were accused of adultery, self-abortion, heresy, blasphemy, or accused of being witches. It was also used for interrogations.
The device, which was often heated during torture, contained four "claws" which were used to slowly and painfully rip off the breasts. The instrument would be latched onto a single breast of the woman. Blood sometimes splattered onto her children. If the woman did not die, she would be disfigured for the rest of her life. Image credit: Flominator.
Other variations of this torture also existed.
10. Knee Splitter
Popular during the Inquisition, this device consisted of two spiked wood blocks which were placed in front of and behind the knee.
The blocks, which were connected by two large screws, would be turned and made to close towards each other, destroying the knee underneath. The technique would render the knees useless. The number of spikes on the blocks varied from three to twenty, often depending on the nature of the crime and the status of the prisoner.
The Spanish masturbation expert Fran Sanchez Oria argues: "Masturbating for great sexual health… can increase your testosterone levels, specially when combined with ejaculation edging. I could probably make another post just on this, but in a nutshell if you masturbate until you are close to climax then stop, and repeat several times, your testosterone levels will build up significantly." Caught with his pants down, Fran Sanchez Oria (subsequently removed the page, but a printscreen is here and here.
Indian woman cuts off penis of Hindu holy man who allegedly tried to rape her
An Indian woman cut off the penis of a Hindu holy man who tried to rape her and who she accused of sexually assaulting her for the past eight years, police said.
The 24-year-old law student was at home in the Kerala state capital of Thiruvananthapuram when she was allegedly attacked by Gangeshananda Theerthapada, who claims to be a spiritual healer.
The 54-year-old was reported to be in a stable condition after reconstructive surgery.
Police officer G Sparjan Kumar said the woman fled her home after the attack on Friday night and called police.
When he again visited her home on Friday night and tried to force himself on her, she got hold of a knife and attacked him, Mr Kumar said.
The New Delhi Television news channel said the woman's family knew Theerthapada, who used to visit their home to cure her bed-ridden father.
She told police he would rape her whenever he had an opportunity.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the state's chief minister, told reporters it was brave of the woman to take such action.
"It's a courageous and strong act by the woman," he said.
Violent crimes against women have been on the rise in India despite tough laws enacted by the government.
It is the secret dream of every Swedish or German woman to marry a black men, or at least have sex with a black man. Every smart young African man should migrate to Europe. Free money, nice house, good sex!
'I had to have botox in my vagina so I could lose my virginity'
"I always knew losing my virginity was going to be hard – nobody ever says it’s the best sexual experience of your life - but I never imagined it would take six years for me to manage to have sex.
I suffer from vaginismus - a term even I’d never even heard of until a friend saw it featured on TV - which means the muscles in my vagina would involuntarily contract whenever anything came near my genitals, making sex impossible and causing me to lose my self-esteem entirely.
I’d always been a bit squeamish when it came to anything to do with sex or periods when I was younger; I would faint when they started talking about sex education in high school, and would have to be taken out of class. But when I started thinking about having sex at the age of 18 with my high school boyfriend, it became obvious there was a deeper problem.
No matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t have sex. Everyone says it’s difficult, they advise you to relax and have some wine, so I did - I had plenty of wine – but still, it never worked. There’s no other way to describe it than that it feels like a brick wall; my pelvic muscles would clench shut to the point it felt like there was a complete block.
I couldn’t use tampons, either. I almost fainted after my first attempt at putting one in; I just couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t go in and I got more and more stressed until I nearly passed out.
Although I never used sex toys on myself (if I couldn’t get a tampon up there I was hardly going to succeed with a dildo) I did try things on my own, like fingering myself, but it was just as bad. It wasn’t as painful as it felt when I tried to have sex, but it was just as bad.
I was lucky that my first boyfriend was incredibly supportive; he kept telling me to relax and was insistent we’d just keep trying. But however calm he was about the situation, it didn’t stop me feeling stressed out about it. Everyone around me was having their first times and I felt like I was missing out. I felt like I was holding my boyfriend back from experiences because it should have been his first time, too.
We were together for three years in total, and we never managed to have sex in that time. We eventually broke up, not because of the sex issue, but I stayed in the relationship longer than I should have because I believed no-one else would want me.
After a while of trying and failing to have sex, a friend told me to look up vaginismus online. She’d seen it covered on Embarrassing Bodies and as soon as I started researching the condition I knew it was what I had.
I went to my doctor and when she touched me with her little finger on the outside wall of my vagina, she took a look, I almost kicked her. I felt terrible about it but it was the first time I’d ever been inspected and the pain was unreal.
Bizarrely, she had never heard of vaginismus, so all she could do was give be the number of local sexual health clinic, where they referred on to their physiotherapist which didn't help at all.
Doctors quizzed me on whether there was anything that had happened in my past that might have caused such an extreme, subconscious reaction, but there wasn’t. It tends to be one of the first things medical experts ask, because it would make sense that someone who had been abused might suffer this kind of trauma later in life, but there’s nothing I can pinpoint that would have triggered it for me.
The more time went on, the more I struggled. While I was happy to open up to my mum and my friends about the issue, no-one could really understand what it was like, and when the doctors even seemed baffled about my condition I felt even more alone. I was trying all sorts of treatments – yoga, meditation, a dilator - and nothing was making any difference. I’d been checked medically to see if there was anything physically wrong, too, which there wasn’t; I just couldn’t have sex.
It’s hard being ‘the only virgin’ among your friends, and although I started owning it the older I got, being happy to tell people I’d never had sex, my confidence was very low. I felt like I hated myself and would break down all the time.
So when I came across a book called When Sex Seems Impossible, written by a doctor in America, it was almost life-changing. In it were stories of other women going through the same experiences, and it brought me to tears with how similar the scenarios were to mine. Knowing I wasn’t the only person in the world going through this kind of thing was such a comfort.
As well as the first-hand experiences, the book described a botox treatment the doctor practiced on vaginismus sufferers which had a success rate of about 80-90%. I instantly knew I needed to try it if I wanted any hope of having sex, but it wasn’t on the NHS and I couldn’t find anywhere in the UK that practiced it.
My mum was cynical about the treatment, too. She wanted to know why it wasn’t on the NHS, and whether it had been tested properly or not. Plus, it was expensive – around £1,200 for a treatment – and I’d been warned by doctors that these kind of clinics only want your money and that they don’t care about your wellbeing. But I persevered anyway, and when I eventually found a private clinic in London, I secretly travelled down from Scotland to have a consultation.
I didn’t tell my mum at first what I’d really been doing in London, but I eventually told the truth and she said she wanted me to try one more treatment before the botox. So I went for cognitive therapy and - just as I’d thought – it didn’t work, which left botox as the only option.
Finally, in April 2014, Mum and I travelled down to London for me to have the procedure. I was heavily sedated when they inserted six needles into my pelvic muscles (we’ve got three, so two needles in each), and two weeks later I was having penetrative sex with my boyfriend, who I’d been with for a few months. I couldn’t believe it.
It works so effectively as a one-off treatment because it breaks the cycle of vaginismus. The condition makes your mind believe penetration is going to hurt, so your body reacts protectively by involuntarily clenching your muscles. With the botox relaxing my muscles, I was able to insert dilators graduating up in size until I could take a penis, and that tricks the brain into no longer being scared of sex.
The first time I had sex at the age of 24, it felt incredible. I was so excited I texted everyone I knew, and it didn’t hurt or feel awkward at all because with the botox relaxing my muscles there was none of the discomfort you’d normally get when you’re having sex for the first time.
It took me a while to come around to being fingered; in fact I’ve only just been okay with that this year. That’s because of the support and trust I have with my boyfriend, he’s been so good with me, knowing when to push me a little bit further and what I’m comfortable with. Nowadays I quite often orgasm through penetration, and it’s hard to imagine how I was before.
When I felt at my lowest, I used to tell my boyfriend he should leave me because I couldn’t give him what he wanted, and I really meant it. I even offered for him to have sex with other people and just not to tell me about it. I genuinely meant that, too. Now, my confidence has skyrocketed because I don’t have this issue dragging me down anymore. I don’t have to worry that I might never have sex or that I’d never be able to have my own children. I’m so much happier."
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What We Don’t Know about Sex in the Middle East
Zocalo Public Square
After ten years writing and traveling through the Middle East, John R. Bradley decided to tackle the subject that everyone talks about without saying much: sex. In Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East, Bradley reveals the many different ways countries across the region talk about and regulate sex. Below, he chats with Zócalo about legal prostitution in Tunisia, hour-long marriages in Saudi Arabia, and what West and East have in common when it comes to sex.
Q. What are some of the assumptions those in the West have about sex and the Middle East?
A. For me, what is most striking is that in the space of a century these assumptions – or what I would call misconceptions or fantasies – about the Middle East have changed so radically.
Until the early 20th century the Middle East, in the eyes of the West, was an exotic place of intriguing decadence, of secret harems and lecherous pederasts, a sensual region where Westerners could indulge in sexual behavior, or at least report on it, in perhaps the only way that was unlikely to cause consternation at home. Now the opposite idea prevails: the Middle East is sexually barren, horribly repressive, and anti-sex in a way that contrasts with the supposed licentious and libertarian West.
Both of these narratives, I think, tell us as much about the preoccupations of the West, and the West’s projection of its anxieties on other peoples and cultures, as the reality of how sexuality has played out in the Middle East historically or continues to do so in the present. But what most intrigues me, and is the main theme of Behind the Veil of Vice, is the remarkable resilience of competing cultural identities and attitudes toward sex in the countries I explore, which include Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen.
A vibrant underground continues to flourish in private, and sometimes even in the open, in the local, strongly rooted communities I have lived and worked in, despite the strange, faceless, sexless rules the minority fundamentalists want to put over public life. Essentially, we’re talking about the vast gulf that exists between private and public morality, which is normal in any culture during any period of time you care to mention.
Q. Can you discuss broadly the status of sex and sexuality in the Middle East, particularly through the status of institutions like prostitution and marriage?
A. I think it is defined pretty much in the same way that it is the West, by what I call in the book a kind of higher hypocrisy. However, it is very difficult to make broad generalizations about the whole region, and that is precisely what the book tries to show.
For example, in Tunisia prostitution is legal and regulated, and every main city has a red-light district. Because the staunchly secular Tunisian regime thankfully does not allow the radical Islamists any opportunity to participate in the political or social life of the country, and because Tunisia has a deeply entrenched feminist tradition, the issue of legalized prostitution is of little concern to the average Tunisian man or woman. At the same time, the Tunisian regime takes a very dim view of unregulated prostitution, and has introduced laws that have successfully helped to restrict its practice. In contrast, in Egypt prostitution is officially illegal, despite the fact that the country is still ruled by an essentially secular regime. However, prostitution is everywhere in Egypt, involving both male and female sex workers. This fact is often highlighted by the Islamists, who are afforded a role in Egyptian political and social life, as a sign that the country has lost its moral way.
Elsewhere, the status of prostitution in the Middle East varies greatly. In Syria, it is quietly tolerated. In Bahrain, there is a thriving sex industry catering mostly to Saudi sex tourists, and the issue has become central to the Islamists’ campaign to rid the island of so-called Western influence. Having said that, in Saudi Arabia itself there is also a thriving sex industry, albeit in a less brazen way than exists in Bahrain, something attested to by the frequent raids of brothels by the Saudi religious police, even in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Where Saudi Arabia – and Iran and Egypt – really come into their own is with what are called “temporary marriages.” The rules vary, because of the different Shia and Sunni traditions, but they can last for anything from an hour to a year or two, and are perfectly legal in these three countries. Moralizers of various stripes argue that temporary marriages are basically a cover for prostitution, and often they are; but in some ways it does not matter what you call them. That 70 percent of all marriages in Saudi Arabia these days are reportedly of the temporary variety is a wonderfully uplifting statistic. The country’s religion has found a back door permitting what it ostensibly forbids, which is what every functioning religion, or for that matter ideology, needs to do, if ordinary people are to live sane and healthy lives.
Here, as in many other aspects of life that often baffle Western observers with their inconsistency; Middle Eastern sexuality has once again proven itself solidly resistant to restrictive and oppressive dogma.
Q. We in the West seem sometimes obsessed with the idea of sex and sexuality in the Middle East, as some of the commentary you highlight about suicide bombers and the veil illustrates. Why do we take this attitude, and how does it thwart our understanding of and interactions with the Middle East?
A. In any civilized culture, anyone arguing that suicide bombings by Islamists are the result of sexual repression among males in the Middle East would achieve little more than making himself an object of scorn and ridicule. Alas, the West has long since ceased to be civilized when it comes to discussions of sexuality, and the fact that there are pundits who actually make a living spouting such nonsense should be a source of eternal shame for us all.
It isn’t surprising that such pundits are often avowed Zionists. For them, focusing on the alleged sexual hang-ups of the September 11 suicide bombers is a very useful way to deflect attention from complex foreign policy issues, including America’s role in the Middle East and specifically its unconditional support for Israel.
Q. What was the impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on the sexual mores of the Middle East? What about the “family values” revolution in the West? Where does that leave us today?
A. Numerous events during 1979 in the Middle East, and in particular the Iranian revolution and the siege of Mecca by radical Islamists, ushered in a wave of Islamic fundamentalism that fed into and changed the region’s political and religious discourse surrounding personal choices, including the most fundamental ones involving sex.
But we should remember, too, that in 1979 and 1980 elections also brought to power Ronald Reagan in the United States, with the support of Christian evangelicals, and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, whose “family values” rhetoric was no less extreme for not being explicitly couched in religious rhetoric. As a result, we all find ourselves in the midst not of a clash of civilizations, as is popularly thought, but a convergence of religious fundamentalisms.
With this intermixing of sex, politics, and religion, hypocrisy has inevitably grown in the West, as it has in the Middle East. Deviation in both regions is increasingly defined as disorderly, dirty, and sinful by puritans of various stripes. My book draws attention to the central paradox that, as intolerance has increased, so has vice, because as the range of acceptable behavior decreases so the definition of vice broadens, and more people therefore are by default engaging in unacceptable behavior.
Once we recognize that exchange between consenting people is the foundation of any liberal society, then we realize that accepting sexual variety is a sign of a healthy, not a corrupt, society. When sex outside of controlled channels is defined as deviance, it is the most exposed, the least powerful, who suffer. Behind the veil of vice lies the sanctimony of those who would impose their way – be it sharia or evangelicalism of a Christian or so-called feminist hue – on people who are defined as sinners, the fallen, and so requiring protection and salvation. The vice lies in the exploitation, in the coercion, that results from forcing natural human drives and needs into the shadows.
That is the ultimate perversity, and it is what the West today has most in common with the Middle East.
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