Archive | January 2014

Let’s talk about Sex, baby.

Some of you may recall the famous 90’s song by the rap group Salt N’ Peppa. While Salt N’ Peppa’s song did a wonderful job conveying their desire to talk about sex they didn’t really convey why it would be important to discuss such a topic (that might have gone slightly over the three minutes pop songs are limited too).
So, this post will attempt to explore briefly why talking about sex matters.

Taken from "Libido", a short documentary by  Youssef Alimam

Taken from “Libido”, a short documentary by Youssef Alimam

Recently Youssef Alimam, a film student, decided to make a short documentary on the topic of sex.The documentary (found here) interviews several young Egyptians about their experiences with sex and sex communication. While some say their parents talked about it indirectly or confirm they gained something from a teacher or friends; others say that their parents or sex education teacher refused to talk about the subject.

Libido  also follows the progress of a fictitious Egyptian meant to represent Egyptian youth, Mazen. Mazen, like many youth in Egypt, is unable to educate himself on sex and sexuality through the means of his parents or educators. Instead, the video says, he learns in more “unconventional” ways. That is to say: porn.

While Mazen learned about sex through porn, I do have to wonder how and if internet access is changing youth’s understanding of sex. There are truly some great educational resources on the internet that can help young people lead healthy sexual relationships; however, that’s a topic for another post.

So why is Libido so important…

According to a UN report, around 99% of women in Egypt have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Those are some pretty heady statistics. A recent study revealed Egypt to be the “worst Arab country for women”. The study, which interviewed 330 gender experts from 22 countries a series of questions related to women’s rights and women’s advancement and highlighted Egypt’s high rates of sexual violence against women.

Is this a result of the taboo of sex in Egypt? Are certain sexual acts and not others? One friend scoffingly replied “No, I don’t care about that.”, another’s face became quite red when describing the word “a7hi”. A third looked visibly uncomfortable with the notion of a homosexual relationship.  Furthermore, many women of Egypt criticized the survey which assessed their country to be the worst. Still, many of my friends and women’s rights activists in Egypt acknowledge the importance of preventing this violence– and, I would argue, Mr. Alimam’s video on how the taboo of sex negatively impacts Egyptian youth is part of that prevention.  Though Mr. Alimam’s documentary could best be described as a case study, the reactions to the video on the internet and via recognition through awards suggests that this is an important topic to Egyptian youth and one worth exploring.

As it happens, it seems those who posted about the film agree.  Though at times I had trouble connecting with the humor behind Adham’s character (much preferring the real life interviews), others laughed and responded with phrases like “so true”.
Next post: We will delve a bit more into sexual violence in Egypt and continue  the talk on problems in sex education.

Author’s Note: Being that this blog is aimed primarily at Egypt, I would like to remind the audience that my lack of content on other nations’ sexual culture is not because I think they lack such problems.


Criticism of Last Post

I do need to do better in coming “full circle” so to speak. I don’t think I did a very good job of conveying the concept that a word that can be used so irreverently does not allow for talk about it’s origin myth. A word that is used to anger governments, that is spray painted on walls contains a more powerful meaning. 

It would have been interesting to connect it better with the graffiti art and the era of defiance that seems to surround it in that context. AT the same time, the word is very versatile: someone uses it when they stub their toe, or when they’re surprised, etc. so the urbandictionary translation may be limiting. 

It also could very much change from city to city. I remember my professor mentioning  the differences in slang between cities, so it is possible that A7a is more local than I realize.

Finally, I wonder if they would like some comparison between U.S. culture, sexuality and swear words to the last post. Too many time I feel there is a juxtaposition when we could also highlight similarities in the disconnect between words used in a sexual context or otherwise– some swear words can be used in both context and there is an unspoken acceptance of the division between the two.