The Controversy of “La misère sexuelle”


“What long seemed like the foreign spectacles of faraway places now feels like a clash of cultures playing out on the West’s very soil. Differences once defused by distance and a sense of superiority have become an imminent threat. People in the West are discovering, with anxiety and fear, that sex in the Muslim world is sick, and that the disease is spreading to their own lands.”

Kamel Daoud a eu raison.

The Algerian journalist’s explosive piece for The New York Times, “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World,” comes at a time when Germany is putting out instruction posters on how not to touch a woman (complete with cartoons) and “sourire n’est pas draguer.” Belgium and Norway have introduced mandatory “women’s classes” to teach immigrant men how to interact and respect women. Daoud has incensed said Arab world of which he speaks–and, rightfully so, those who make sex in the Middle East so miserable. It addresses a taboo topic (sex) and the even-more taboo violence (rape and sexual assault) surrounding it, which is now “spreading” to Europe with the mass migration of refugees.
To me, Daoud’s article seemed pretty spot-on. Sex is a source of frustration for unmarried people in the Arab world, as well as for Arabs living abroad whose families remain entrenched in the traditional mindset. It is the taboo of all taboos, resulting in what he calls porno-Islam. (Could you imagine the prophet, PBUH, making a fatwa over the handling of cucumbers? Or bananas?) Sexual harassment is a huge issue, at least in places like Cairo. Women bear the brunt of it all. And now with more Arabs than ever living in the West, particularly Europe, these sexual tensions are provoking even more tension in the West.

“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.”


If you are an Arab male or female who very much wants to date and possibly have sex before marriage, you are probably not angry and upset with Daoud’s article. You most likely  agree with him.

In response, Daniel Haqiqatou, a Muslim, wrote a  piece for which very neatly mimicked Daoud’s framework,  this time lampooning the “Sexual Misery of the Western World.” As a young, liberal woman who was born and lives in the Western world and who converted to Islam, I read both pieces with great interest. I agreed with the arguments of both articles. There is no doubt about it that sex in the Arab world is sick, and there is also no doubt that women are very much pulled and tugged by capitalism and sexism (not the same as the act of sex, by the way) to be the perfect woman.
But this is where I took issue with Daniel’s article. Daniel doesn’t just talk about sex. Although Daoud certainly touches upon the status of women in the Middle East vis-a-vis their sexuality and role in sex,  Daniel’s main focus is on the status of women in general: how we have to spend billions of dollars to look good, how western women can’t have it all (OK, I kind of agree with that, but not the point). He’s right, of course, that women in the West are seized by sexism. But sexism isn’t exactly sex–or is it? Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about control. Despite our rotten economy, men in the West generally have more control over their own lives, and certainly their own sexual lives, and thus even if they can’t get married it’s no big deal, because they have plenty of outlets to, ahem, release.
Daniel states “Other than India and Zimbabwe, the rest of the top 10 countries with the highest incidence of rape in the world are Western.” One of the problems with rape statistics is that women are extremely reluctant to come forward, for a variety of reasons, but shame is a big one–and being raped in the Middle East, where virginity is so dear, is a big shame. Marital rape is reported even less than rape by a stranger. It is difficult to quantify the number of rapes in any country, but especially in the Arab world.
He also misses the point that both women AND men in the Arab world are miserable, both are constricted by the act of sex. In the West, well….I find it extremely difficult to say that sex makes life difficult for men in the West. Perhaps porn makes sex “difficult” for men because they feel the need to mimic it, but who created porn? Men. They don’t have to watch it.
Furthermore, Daoud speaks about Arab society as a whole, not just the maltreatment of women. Secondly, acts such as pedophilia and zoophilis (both which happen everywhere in the world) are one, not common and two, probably happen just as frequently in the Arab world, except we don’t hear about them because what child in the Middle East is going to come forward about rape, if women are scared to?
The comments on Daniel’s article that ripped apart Daoud’s made my blood run cold. You cannot sit here and say that Daoud’s article did not speak the truth. More so, Daniel’s insistence that the West’s sickness with sex is spreading across the world seems kind of ridiculous. Clearly it is being met with such resistance by older generations and the younger more pious ones. Daoud wrote his article because the Arab world is trying to insist on its forcing its warped sexual ideologies on Europe. FGM. Women’s-only pools and beaches. German pools have taken to banning male immigrants, not because they don’t want men and women to mingle but because immigrant men have attacked both women and children. Separate spaces are thus growing in the West not because of modesty but for “safety.”
If I had to choose one of the sexual miseries, I would without a doubt choose the Western misery a la carte. Because the thing with Western misery is that you DO HAVE A CHOICE TO opt out, or at least more of a choice than people in the Arab world. You can choose whether or not to have sex, casual sex, to date or not to date. You can choose whether to buy $50 Dior mascara or inject collagen in your lips. You can choose whether or not to get married, start a family, be Gay, be bisexual. Generally speaking, you don’t have limits.
One’s sex life should be PRIVATE. It is between two consensual people. Why does everyone have to know? Who cares? Why does virginity have to be at the heart of all sex talks, East and West? Why can’t we own up to the fact that men don’t have control of their desire for sex, and so they have placed limits on all humanity, and put the blame on immoral women?
If Daoud said “you guys are sick,” than Daniel’s response “Well,  YOU guys are sick” does not change anything. It’s childish, “I know I am but what are you?” It doesn’t actually address the roots of the problem, nor possible solutions. One of Daniel’s readers wrote that we must find a middle ground, a moderate in between sexual frustration and sexual overload. Where men and women can control their own sex lives, and sexual images of women aren’t rampant in advertisements.
As the song says, let’s talk about sex, habibi.



The Sexual Misery of the Western World

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