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26 October 2006

Public Masturbation in a Hybrid Society

I don't know if you've read the article published in Malek's blog lately about sexual harassment. It's in brief about what he saw in Cairo down town a couple of days ago, where dozens of men in the streets were chasing any female in the street, trying to touch an inch or two of her body.

As, you know, in the holy month of Ramadan, people are devoted to God/Allah, they try to pray more and prevent themselves from doing anything wrong during it. So, it became very common here to see people trying to be as good as they can till the month ends, then then as soon as the final day of it ends, they start to do all kinds of bad stuff, such as taking drugs, drinking, watching pornographic materials, and lately sexual harassment. However, from what I read in female owned blogs, it seems that harassment is becoming more common here everyday and everywhere. It's seen in public transportation, streets, schools, and even mosques

But, let me ask, why such thing was not common here twenty years ago. I think one of the main reasons for this is the Hybrid society we live in now. I am going to explain the meaning of hybrid society later on, but let me now do a quick comparison between the western society and the middle-eastern one.

In the western society, people can have girlfriends/boyfriends, they can have sex before marriage, pornographic materials such as magazines and videos are available, people have their independent life and most of them live away from their parents when they get older, and finally, there are laws against sexual harassment.

In a typical middle-eastern society, may be twenty years ago. By the way, I prefer to call it middle-eastern society instead of an Islamic one as these characteristics were common here in our society for Muslims, as well as non-Muslims. So, in the middle-eastern society the term of a girlfriend where not even defined, sex is not allowed before marriage, porn was really hard to get (remember, there was no internet then), people live with their parents till they get married, and so there was no need for anti harassment laws.

Now, with the presence of the advanced communication methods, such as satellite channels, and the internet, the middle eastern society is changing into a hybrid society, with a mix and match characteristics of each of the two models mentioned earlier. the idea of having a girlfriend is becoming more common here, however having sex before marriage is not allowed. So you can have a girlfriend, but you cannot kiss her. Porn is available, from the internet, and even video clips are more into semi-nude models, and on the other hand the western any-harassment laws are not available.

One more thing to take into consideration is that although sex is not allowed before marriage as I said earlier, marriage is not simple. When someone proposes to a girl he has to pay her Mahr - about L.E.20,000 to L.E.50,000 - and bring her Shabka - A diamond ring that costs much too. Some parents put extra financial, sectarian, and many other obstacles.

Sure there are many other reasons for such issue, such as the bad education system we have here, where students don't go to school, and as you know one of the main tasks of a school beside education, is discipline. People don't trust the religious system here - such as Al Azhar - any more, and they now get their religious knowledge from uneducated and untrusted sources. And what I mean by uneducated sources are those underground Sheiks who suffer from financial and may be sexual frustration, and they keep on talking about women as the main source of evil, and focus more on them as an object of amusement instead of a human being. Drugs and alcohol are becoming more common as well. Even the media here, including movies and music, which are supposed to build people's taste and mind are degrading.

Finally, I tried to put here what can be the reason for such shameful acts according to my point of view, however I think bloggeresses comments can help in building a more complete image here.

Update 3:20 AM:
It came out that Zeinobia wrote a great article about the same issue, you'd better read it too.
Egyptian chronicles, Searching for reason
You may also see Mechanical Crowds' "When The Crowds Are Gone".

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  1. Great post Tarek and I agree with everything you say!
    I think that this phenomenon of harassament is a result of living between 2 worlds: on the one hand being over exposed to western media and perhaps feeling pressure to conform to a westernised ideal (in the name of progress) and then being pulled in the other direction to be a good muslim. This co-existance creates big problems and massive sexual frustration!
    Whether these two elements in middle eastern society can ever co-exist peacefully is another question but until then women of Egypt suffer.

  2. mr.tarek I am honoured to read your blog for the first time ...I find you moderate and sincere..on the opposite of many other bloggers...and I just wanna say your words are so true we're in a transitional phase just about in everything in our life on the economic,political and social level that's why one has got to have his very own special dear persona cause you'll find a lot of extremists (on both sides ) who think you are not normal...actually nobody seems to be normal in this country anymore ..I beleive my brother was right when he migrated to the states ..I wish I could join him there long
    el masry affendi

  3. Incomplete freedoms is what you're saying.

  4. great one Tarek and thanks for mentioning my post, now about what you mentioned I guess I mentioned it by another way yet you named it better as hybrid society , you know it is also shizophonic society , really being a shizophonic is something old added to it this hybrid stuff than you got an atomic bomb
    for example I know a lady that always watch Iqra,Rasla all religious programs from Amr Khaled to El-Genndy to the end of this list ,yet it is ok for her that her son , who is a young man to download pornographic materials from the internet

  5. Things used to be different here in the U.S. People lived with their parents until they were married, married women didn't work outside the home, any woman who did work outside the home had to put up with a certain amount of disrespect, pornography was not available, etc. Change happened for us very slowly and the culture and laws had time to grow together. You're getting hit with all the change at once and you'll have to find an equilibrium a lot quicker.

  6. excellent debate.I also believe that the drastic differences in social classes contibutes as well to the chaos in the society.Its not like they are separate either,they intermingle on a daily basis and the fire is fed more fuel everyday.More rage, more frustration in all aspects from either party.The problem with our society in particular is as u have very meticulously clarified,the source of our religious education.We no longer teach ethics and the core of our faith.Instead, we compete in repulsive animosity dwelling over trivial details just to create more enemies and confuse more people in need.We are poor, we are frustrated, we are striving for guidance and we dont have to follow the wests' footsteps to find the answer to our problems.The fact is,we wont like being the west even if we were.So pursuing a mirage didnt get us any further, on the contrary, we vandalized the once "theoretical" ethics,globalized our way to a jungle of consumption i.e.ended up with the worst of two worlds.However,theres still time..

  7. Tarek, great post, great analysis, and while I may agree with the reasons and the dramatic changes Egypt is going through it is entirely unacceptable for men to think that they have the right to demean women like this. This was not about sexual frustration. It is about the total disrespect for women's bodies, their right to exist in the public space, and men's desires to assert their macho behavior. "I am man, hear me roar". If these culprits are not rotting somewhere, if the police did nothing then this is one of the saddest days in Egyptian history.

  8. nice stuff...but notice that sexual harassment is also a problem in the west too...not only here..especially at work areas...child name it...there are even legal prostitution there...having premartial sex allowed didn't solve the problem...just wanted to point that out

  9. Well, I am not surprised reading this. We all know this has been always happening in Egypt. Don’t tell me you are living in Cairo and you just don’t! Egyptian men are perverts. Horny perverts, that’s what they are. They masturbate in garages, in front of schools, while they are driving theirs cabs, in stores and even in public transportation. Some bully their cousins and sisters to sleep with them and threaten to tell everyone if they utter a word. They harass women while driving they may even reach to get them killed in a car accident they do not give a damn as long as they are having fun! Police even assault women when they stop them claiming to ask for driving license day or night and treat them as whores! Bosses molest women in offices! They do not cease a chance to molest a female in every street in this corrupt piece of Earth called the F**ked up Republic of Egypt. I am telling you this out of me personal experience. I am not paranoid, but I am assuring you that there is NOT ONE woman in Cairo who has not been visually or physically harassed before in her entire life. Ask any of your girlfriends in Cairo yourself! Ask them if they have not been touched by a moron in the street before! I dare any woman who would say I HAVE NOT been abused in the streets in Cairo! I dare any of them to say they have been left alone in this filthy country. Egyptian men just make me want to puke!

    In Cairo, women do not try to avoid being just violated, they try to avoid getting raped. I am sorry for this comment, but this is the ugly truth.

  10. Quoting "nights":

    nice stuff...but notice that sexual harassment is also a problem in the west too...not only here..especially at work areas...child name it...there are even legal prostitution there...having premartial sex allowed didn't solve the problem...just wanted to point that out

    Yeah, but do you know what? Young men from North Africa and the Middle East increasingly dominate the rape and harassment statistics here in North Western Europe. For instance, here's some stats from a few years ago (and things are hardly better now):

    While 65 percent of those charged with rape are classed as coming from a non-western background, this segment makes up only 14.3 percent of Oslo's population. Norwegian women were the victims in 80 percent of the cases, with 20 percent being women of foreign background. Source: Aftenposten

    In Sweden a study from last year corroborates a decade-old pattern: it is four times more likely that a confirmed rapist is foreign-born. Men from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya dominate this group (there are few Egyptians in Scandinavia). Source: Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish)

    Political correctness used to make it hard to talk in public about these very well-known facts, but that is fortunately changing now.

  11. Tarek touched on a great point which is sexual frustation and poverty. I work as a manager in a large Egyptian interntional company, and even though there is an unemployment problem, but ee have real trouble recruiting calibers, among college graduates even. The education system is a sham, people cannot get decent jobs, people cannot afford marriage, yet sex is out of wedlock is prohibited, so things boil up.

  12. What you say makes a lot of sense but does not explain why women have to pay for it, why women are blamed and attacked. The factors you have mentioned theoretically should affect both men and women. So why the frustration has to explode this way?
    Sorry for Anonymous. Can't work out how to post in another way.

  13. Well, sexual harrasment is everywhere. The difference is how much stigma is attached to it in different societies and/or social circles.

    For example in the west, generally, it is socially unacceptable. Explicit sexual advances towards non-consenting adults is not only frowned upon, but prosecuted. In the traditional middle eastern society it is the same, even for similar reasons.

    The problems come from misunderstood/misguided attempts to be cool, free or whatever. Probably not8 only young men indulge in that. It is a general attitude towards women - they are first objects of sexual desire and then come the human being part. Unfortunately this world view has parallels, as far as I understand, in both religious and tribal traditions in the middle east (and elsewhere).

    If you guys want to get rid of this, encourage and support feminism. Help women get a bigger role in society and for them to be socially acceptable to stand for themselves.

  14. I wonder if it's true in Egypt as it is in the U.S. that most sexual assault happens in the home, from men that are friends and family, to women and children.

    I would also point out that prostitution and porn aren't new in the Middle East. Even when illegal they both exist.

  15. I also was thinking that from Malek's description, the only women not attacked were the ones who stayed next to the people with cameras and videocameras. So, maybe doing something like Hollaback would be helpful - carry your cameras and then post photos of the harrassers on blogs. Not just to protect yourself, but to protect the people around you.

    In facing an angry mob, I think I would rather have a camera than a gun.

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  22. Good luck for you finding the balance middle easterns. Hope it´s better than ours, because ours don´t work that good.
    Men are felling intimidated iin the actual western society, but i´ve never thought on men of the middle east having to deal with sexual frustration.
    but in the end western societys give better treatment to women. Sometimes a more human treatment.
    I think the path must have this direction

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