Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Sexual Misery of the Arab World

After the appalling events in Brussels, perhaps this piece from The New York Times is worth revisiting. Guns, bombs, religion and politics hold centre stage, but in the end human drives and motives determine where we go from here.

The Sexual Misery of the Arab World
...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.

These contradictions create unbearable tensions. Desire has no outlet, no outcome; the couple is no longer a space of intimacy, but a concern of the whole group. The sexual misery that results can descend into absurdity and hysteria. Here, too, one hopes to experience love, but the mechanisms of love — encounters, seduction, flirting — are prevented: Women are watched, we obsess over their virginity, the morality police patrols. Some even pay surgeons to repair broken hymens...


Sam Vega said...

All true, but at least it means that their bridges remain undefaced by cheap padlocks.

Sackerson said...

Elizabethan England too. Daughters to marry at their father's behest.

James Higham said...

And none of it protects the women anyway - they're just as raped and abused.

A K Haart said...

Sam - that's right, their padlocks probably have more private uses.

Sackers - more recently too.

James - the furtive nature of it suggests so.