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My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror. 

–W. Somerset Maugham

I’m reading this post for the second time, laughing again. The eloquent, the loquacious, the sublimely crazy Ali Eteraz has written what must be feted, a brilliant post. And given the reaction he’s generated it looks like its genius has been recognized by the vox populi. So it should be; brilliant writing ought to be lauded. Yanking people’s chains while engaged in brilliant writing – well now that approaches perfection.

Since Mr. E linked to another blog, I thought I’d best go and read that post as well, so that I might appreciate the full glory of his majestic satire. That post was a more sober look at a simple problem. Teenagers and sex. Specifically teenagers having sex. That hoary old chestnut. And how good Muslims and Muslimas in the US of A are probably feeling each other up and putting tab A into slot B at about the same rates as the rest of the population. Good I say. Get rid of that annoying Islamic Exceptionalism bullshit. People are always people first; categories such as Muslim, Christian, Black or White second.

What it reminded me of was this news article. Which reminded me in turn of this one. And from another AE link I arrived at this article, in the paragon of left wing magazines, The Atlantic Monthly. Unfortunately the link is an abstract of the main piece, but the full text is available from most academic search engines, or all good newsstands. It’s worth your while to read the Atlantic Monthly. It’ll make you smarter. To save time and effort I’ll give you a brief summary of the links.

The first link is about how 70% of the content saved on mobile phones in Saudi Arabia is pornographic in nature, and that 3G networks are being used to rapidly distribute this content. Of course its illegal in the Kingdom, but like many stupid laws that try to get in the way of human nature, it’s not preventing anything.

The second link from the LA Times, although I can’t find the original article. It describes rampant homosexuality in Taliban ruled Afghanistan, even amongst men who don’t identify themselves as gay. Yes, the hyper orthodox country, ruled by Islamic fundamentalists was a nancy boy paradise,  because when the women are all hidden, when even their eyes are hidden away, people turn to the only gender they can have a relationship with without being hounded – their own.

The final piece, the one in the Atlantic, tries to make sense of this phenomenon. How she explains it is that in Super Straight but Secretly Bent Saudi Arabia, where its impossible for a man and a women to spend anytime together, or to date, court or develop even friendships with the opposite gender, people do what they have to do to meet their urges before being married off to a stranger.

This has led to a unique conception of gay sex as an act and sodomy as an act, but has not generated what we would call a gay identity. There is no set of individual characteristics that manifest as public homosexual behavior. What it comes down to is that the society is hetero-flexible. What a fantastic word that is. People are gay in terms of action until something better comes along (women), and then they turn straight, which was always their preferred orientation.

All you women sitting smug there reading this, thinking how atrocious, depraved and irreligious the Kingdom’s men are, how damn determined they are in putting their penises inside things, should take a cold hard look in the mirror. You’re gender is up to the same shenanigans:

Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story), told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as a lesbian enclave. The building has large bathroom stalls, which provide privacy, and walls covered with graffiti offering romantic and religious advice; tips include “she doesn’t really love you no matter what she tells you” and “before you engage in anything with [her] remember: God is watching you.” In Saudi Arabia, “It’s easier to be a lesbian [than a heterosexual]. There’s an overwhelming number of people who turn to lesbianism,” Yasmin said…

For me, having pulled all this together, I think what stands out so clearly is the utter ridiculousness of a fundamentalist approach to Islam, and a rigid over interpretation of the hijab. It shows how this kind of radical gender seclusion backfires by promoting behavior that is clearly as unislamic as what they’re trying to prevent. It speaks loudly how delicate proper gender balance is to maintain, and how blatantly off kilter the fundies have it.

It says to me that if you claim to have a perfect and preeminent revelation, and that you’re putting it into perfect effect with the utmost purity of purpose, and yet you’re still getting such an entirely messed up result, that perhaps you’ve not got things right. Maybe you need to find out why your gender roles and gender relationships are so flexible and ill-defined.

And maybe, just maybe, you need to understand why your children are rebelling against your crazy rules.


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  1. […] first time was with the link to Ali Eteraz’s personal blog, that was contained in the Fundie Muslim Style post. The trackback carried a flurry of readers on its slender wings. The second, combined […]

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