Tuesday, 14 June 2011

On the Topic of SeXual Taboo in Lebanon

There are certain topics that people do not dare approach due to it being standardized as ‘Taboo’. However, if it’s a dirty job then someone’s got to do it, right? I took the liberty in pointing out a serious topic that people don’t address for various reasons (Taboo, Privacy, etc). I decided to write a short article regarding this hoping to put enough points and integrate enough ideas to educate the common public in understanding one of the most ‘Needs’ human beings take for granted. For those new to me, please don’t be bothered with my capital Xs. It’s my personal signature and those who are used to me, you’re already aware.

I decided to focus on Lebanon as the core subject but that won’t stop me from giving a general idea with concrete clinical examples and ideas. To start with, you don’t need to be a Psychologist to know what I’m about to eXplain because I’m going to go through everything in details.
To start with, in order to understand the most compleX being – that being the human being (for now) it is best advised you look at the human being as first, a free living creature. So now my perspective from eXperience is that you should look at the human being as a Bio-Psycho-Social Model. What is the BPSM?

First, we’ll deal with the Biology – the neurons, the hormones, the entire body and its functions that contribute to what shapes a human being’s personality.
The Psychology – the psyche, the behavior and the attributes.
The Social ConteXt – How the environment plays a role in shaping a person, friends, family etc

Now though there’s Psychology involved, I would like to point out the reader that though we’re in the topic of seX, that doesn’t mean I’m talking about Freudian Psychoanalytical theories. Though Freud has many ideas regarding this, it is only one part and a theory – and we will tackle many points in Psychoanalysis.

Now when people hear the word ‘seX’ you’ll likely hear people say something like: It’s for pleasure OR it’s between two people who are in love.
Though they’re both right, it depends on the individual since every individual is right in his or her own way. But when we come to Lebanon, what’s going on? Let’s proceed.

First, let us look at the environment.
Lebanon is notably an Arab Country in the Middle East. Through the years, it has achieved widespread international popularity for being an active city. Foreigners coming from around the world to go clubbing and pubbing. Gemaizeh is full all over the weekends, Skybar goes through the roof and all that. Now a city that’s rebuild itself to become internationally recognized as a night city that doesn’t sleep, it should have a ‘freedom’ to do anything, right? I mean if you’re going to have alcohol, you’re going to know that too much alcohol is going to get the person into a drunk state, right? So right now I’m going to hit you with BAM – PREMARITAL SEX IS WRONG.

Who said its wrong? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others. Welcome to Lebanon where the man gets to sleep with whoever he wants and the more vaginas he gets, the more he is considered a Conqueror or better yet, a god. Sounds like the average lifestyle yeah? The problem is women who engage in premarital seX have more or less ended their life in the Lebanese Social Scene as they know it. When a woman has been found to be ‘deflowered’, her parents become drenched in shame and before you know it, the entire University has nothing to talk about but this girl’s lifestyle of her being a whore. The best part is that the same people who talk are the ones who are doing quite the same or in fact, higher degrees behind the curtains.
Now if you’re a foreign reader, this sounds absurd, no? That I mentioned a party city where everyone is dancing, getting drunk and then I just hit you with something that resembles the Sharia Law of Saudi Arabia. The best part of all this, and if you’re a feminist you’re going to feel quite insulted – males who have spent their twenties sleeping with all the vaginas they could get, they decide it’s time to go back to the village and find some innocent virgin princess to get married to. Here, getting married to an un-virgin is considered a disgrace. So now, look at the typical Lebanese male. It has gotten to a point where all he sees a woman is just a handy tool for his own pleasure. Then after the marriage, things don’t work out and nobody but a good psychologist knows why (I’ll come back to this)
So there you have it, an idea what people go through when it comes to seX in Lebanon.
I’m going to start defining what seX, seXuality and things you never knew about it (Unless you dealt with these before. (Psy majors, please skip)

let’s start this article and deal with it. I’m going to introduce a Freudian theory to help verify things easier. The mind, according to Sigmund Freud, is made up of three parts:
The Conscious: When they say he’s awake and he’s conscious, what does that mean? It’s the same meaning here. The person is aware and cognitive of his surroundings. He is able to perceive things and this part of his mind is on this level.

The Pre-Conscious – The PC is part of the mind that’s in-between the Conscious and the Unconscious. It is also accessible. For eXample, if I asked you where you parked your car in Uni today or what did you do last Christmas etc. All this information is retrieved from the Pre Conscious.

The Unconscious – Now we come to the great unknown. The unconscious makes up the biggest part of our psyche. It is our storage boX where we cannot just simply access and it holds everything including our darkest secrets to reasons why we actually do things. Freud believed the Unconscious talks to us through our dreams using symbols.

I mentioned these to give you an idea with the terms I’ll be using. I hope it’s clear.  Now the fun part begins. Imagine a human being that is made up of
Superego- The Super ego is basically what the environment gives to you. When your dad tells you, no this is wrong. This is bad. This is the superego. It’s what you learn and take from the environment and implements it into becoming a part of your psyche.  It’s best to put the Superego into the Conscious mind since it deals with awareness.
The ID – The ID can best be defined as the pleasure principle. What do I mean by this? I mean the ID is relentless and seeks only to satisfy itself (thus the name pleasure principle) if the ID desires food or seX, it will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. Young infants are good eXamples of being a pure ID. When you show a child a Christmas present, he or she has no super ego at this point and will do whatever it takes to open the present no matter where the parents hide it. We are born with the ID and it’s not given to us by society like the Superego. Classify the ID with the Unconscious.

The Ego – Now when I mean ego, I don’t mean Brad Pitt showing off he has Angelina Jolie. The Ego is the self and what I mean by the self is your identity. What does the ego do? It helps balance the conflict between the superego and the ID. The Superego and ID are always in conflict. Look at it this way (using a seXual eXample) I, a healthy stud, catches eye with this beautiful goddess crossing my path. My ID ‘desires’ this woman and sets me running. The ID doesn’t care if I just held her and had seX with her right where she’s standing. After all, that’s what the ID is – actions without society’s rules. But then I don’t actually do that because my superego comes in and tells me ‘Stop, doing that will get you in trouble, sued and in jail’ So the ego finds a way to balance this two conflicts by doing something like this: ‘Okay I desire her so I’m going to go talk to her, get to know her, ask her out and hopefully get to sleep with her afterward’. This way the mind is settled.

I would like to introduce a Psychoanalytical Defense Mechanism known as Sublimation.
Sublimation, in book definition, is transforming ‘urges’ (ID here) into sociable acceptable behaviors. For eXample, a person with the urge to kill – rather than being a murderer instead becomes a soldier. The same butcher who guts open pigs and leaves a mess AND a plastic surgeon who gently and precisely opens up a human body as if its poetry have the same urges. The only difference is that they sublimated these urges to what satisfies them the most. These urges can be anything from violence or seXuality. I will also like to note the same area of the brain that is triggered during violence is triggered during seXual acts.

Now I’m going to start with Clinical eXamples.
Biology – The human body is a master piece we just can’t seem to understand. The human body has ‘Needs’ to alleviate suffering and to survive. One of these needs is seX. Surely we won’t die if we don’t have seX unlike eating or sleeping right? But is that all to it? You’ll be surprised. Unlike animals, we have freedom. Animals have seX because nature forces them to reproduce. Humans do it both for the sake of reproduction and pleasure.
I know a case of a girl who has Muslim parents in Lebanon. They decided that their daughter cannot be raised strictly since after all, there’s no stopping her from eXperimenting the clubs around her eventually but they made it very clear that premarital seX is wrong and forbidden. So if this girl has urges, is she going to masturbate till marriage? This girl ended up becoming two things:
1-       A gorgeous physique the way society sees physique as gorgeous
2-      A supreme dancer where dancing is what she centered her life into.

When I interviewed this girl more or less, I asked her what she enjoys so much about dancing so much if it’s just a hobby. She told me the reason besides having fun and all is that ‘She Feels SeXy’

Here is an eXample of Sublimation. When you suppress an urge so much, the mind finds a way of eXpressing it through other means. Some people can literally get an orgasm just collecting and posting stamps while others something eXtreme like hunting or jumping off bungee etc
An eXtreme case is a Nun who by suppressing so much of her impulses ended up waking up in a motel room dressed up in whorish clothing. Now though that sounds scary and some people are going to go ‘What the hell?’ These cases eXist. The mind can go as far as creating a whole new personality in order to alleviate itself.
I would like to point out all these are normal, we all go through a basic sublimation process so don’t ever point fingers but remain virtuous.

Now I would like to start on how the human being shapes up his or her personality using Adlerian Concepts.
What is the real reason nowadays everyone is having so much seX? It’s not really because girls skirts are getting shorter that’s just a basic way of looking at it. The real reason is
The Media.

We live in the Middle East for crying out loud. We have rules like Sharia Law and religious strict conducts to follow but if you think the word of religion is strong, the word of Media has become the absolute religion. The Media is the only religion accepted by everyone in the world and it has no limits. Humans naturally want to strive for their own fulfillment (even if it’s a desire to fail)
When a Lebanese child is born into a world where a 3rd World Country wants 1st World living, it should be ready to accept all the things that a 1st World would give. Parents nowadays want technology to make their lives easier. You can’t compare your state of living to some tribe in the Amazon Forest, can you? The moment you introduce and accept this technology, you’ve already moved into a level where you bring the culture in it as well. Why are the parents scared of their daughters having seX? Why are religious institutions preaching nonstop with their latest Blackberry in their pockets? They failed to see this. If you want to live like it is in Europe or the States, then you’ve got to get ready to deal with their way of living as well. You can’t go to some tribe in Africa where they have the latest technology yet they don’t have a club with alcohol in it. People in Saudi Arabia where it’s illegal to have alcohol and seX – you’ll be surprised what happens in the underground. The media is fast to report these things but two women discussing how they had a good time is quite faster I can assure that. So now we have Lebanon trying to be a big shot in the Middle East and making so much noise with Gemaizeh and we have parents complaining. What is this nonsense? How much of a fool and a hypocrite can one become?
Before moving to this eXample, I would like to point out how social factors are implemented into us that it becomes a part of our psyche and personality. We grow up in an age where beauty for women is all those tall models, right? But that’s not the case – the human mind is designed to find anything beautiful but the media believes otherwise. We never stop to think about the things that society has made a part of us and how it affects us. Continue.

Moving on, let’s tackle a case and a very basic case using the BPSM.
We have two female adolescents. One of them comes with the full package – a drop dead beauty with a size 10. The other is chubby or fat, short and not the fancy blonde. Both of these women want to become nuns and give their lives to their faiths. I’ve just defined their biology. Let’s look at the social pressure.

The typical response when they find out the blonde is going to become a nun, guys would go: What do you want with this way of living? You can do so much more! It’s a shame, really!
Now here depends on the Psychological Immunity of the person.

The Blonde is going to be quite pressured because let’s face it – humans are social creatures and we take what others say into account with each person varying in degree of course.
The fat lady instead has grown up in a society where she knows she isn’t beautiful (as discussed above) so she’s going to find a way to defend herself. She requires a defense for her compleX inferiority. Her best defense here is: None of you can judge me, I am a nun. She basically shielded herself with another taboo which is God or religion in this case.

Like I said, it depends on the person’s psychological immunity. You give what you have. This line is very important – You give what you have. An eXample is that I knew some kids who just got to be around the ages of 14 or 15. One of the guys, the best looking stud received a picture from a girl similar in age as well as the hot shot of her group whereby she’s half nude. So what’s the problem here? It’s not only that we live in an era where the media gets to pour their ideologies on everyone. Human seXuality develops quite early. Don’t tell me the first time you felt an attraction is when you started developing your urges in junior high. Sigmund Freud went as far as believing that even new born infants seek pleasure. Just remember not everything seXual means intercourse. We have parts of our bodies just developed to be erogenous zones as well. Freud believed in an oral phase whereby the baby seeks pleasure orally which is why everything an infant sees right from breast sucking to a tiny ball goes straight into the mouth. The mouth itself is still used as a major tool in foreplay. Freud believed if this area wasn’t satisfied during its phase, the adult will become unconsciously needy of things to fulfill that pleasure like smoking, gum etc. But that’s just a theory! Let’s talk biology! The lips are erogenous zones and it never felt bad using them – simple as that.  But why did I give an eXample of the two early teenagers up there? The girl is gorgeous compared to her friends. You give what you have. In her belief, I’ve got the body – my parents and boys are always telling me I’m beautiful. (She implements the idea of beauty into her personality) and she decided to send pictures of her nudity to the stud. You give what you have – if these are going to make you known in the society, we humans are social creatures are going to use these attributes.

Back to the hot blonde nun! I didn’t say she’s going to stop being a nun but I do mean she’s going to have a harder time than most depending on her psychological immunity. If she decides to give in to these feelings and she’s in the monastery locked up, she’ll start alleviating (Notice I used the word alleviating) her urges by masturbating or even lesbian practices. Note that doesn’t mean she turns lesbian but that doesn’t mean she can’t practice it. This has always been a shaky topic so I won’t go into seXual identity now. But it’s also important to note that being gay in the Lebanese society is also considered wrong.
If you ask a girl why she’d give oral seX or a blow job for a concrete eXample, she’ll give you two main reasons
1- Because she enjoys doing it
2-Because she knows it will please her partner

And trust me it’s mostly number 2 here and it’s the same Lebanese guys who go telling their friends that she’s a whore and she actually did that. It’s quite a shame.
So now that we got a small idea with few eXamples, I hope my points were straight through and I’m trying to keep this as short as possible so I’ll go on to the main topic of SeXual Taboo in Lebanon.
First, those living in Lebanon, from what I’ve observed – they live most of their lives in their area. Lebanon is a small country so you either go to your village for change of weather or you’re in the city. Growing up in a small area means you’re part of the system and everyone knows everyone. The average Lebanese Facebook has at least one mutual friend. So if one is to grow in an environment where she goes to school then graduates and goes to University and then either work here or travel abroad, let’s look at the options. We become seXually active during this main period of school and university. With this, Lebanese people have their personal groups who they’re friends with. This group usually goes clubbing together and everyone goes out with someone in this group more or less. The moment someone brings a new friend into this group, someone’s already with that person. So what have we concluded here? We can’t escape the Lebanese Society.
What’s wrong with the Lebanese society? SeX is a Taboo.
What did I say about human beings? We’re Freedom Fighters naturally.
A caged bird sings a song of freedom not a song about which team is going to win the world cup. The adolescents of Lebanon have the cage which is the seX taboo and they’ll do whatever it takes to eXperiment. The real thing is that if you pressure a human being not to do something, it’s not going to work. We naturally want to fight a power to feel good about ourselves. If a child wants to eat chocolate and you take it and shout ‘No!’ the child is going to give you a nasty look and shout back screaming ‘No!’. It’s the same with our urges and the Lebanese Culture doesn’t want to understand the more you suppress something, the more it’s going to leak out until it eXplodes.
The problem lies with the males. It’s a guy’s world in Lebanon. There was a case my professor once talked about where a guy had intercourse 64 times or so in 24 hours. Though this was a case of SeXual Compulsive Disorder, the guy who had this came into the clinic depressed, in pain and could barely walk. The mom came in with her head up high saying my son is a ‘real man’.  What is this ignorance? This is the poison of the Lebanese Society, what they failed to understand, they manipulated it to what they see fit.
This system of belief became so obvious that it went through as jokes. For eXample, there’s a Lebanese joke where three women, one being American, the other French and the last, Lebanese. What do all of these say while having seX?
American: Yes, more.
French: Oui, Encore
Lebanese: Please, for the love of God, don’t tell anyone.
People find this sad piece of truth to be funny. Well, it’s funny in the case how ignorant society can become.
And one way or another, this is the line that haunts many Lebanese girls engaging in pre-marital seX.
Now I’m not promoting Lebanese girls to have seX, but rather I’m trying to point out awareness. After all, no society wants a woman who has slept with everyone. No sharp female in society would want a man who has slept with every woman as well – Unless again depending on the type of individual we’re dealing with. Some women might take him as a prize while others would say; If he’s done everyone he’s going to do it again.

At my University once, a man came to speak about seXual awareness. I noticed I recognized almost everyone. Half of them we’re the not so cool people society dubbed as geeks who never got laid. The other half we’re people who just wanted to look innocent.
The problem was the preaching the man gave. He said it’s gotten to a point he knows he can’t tell teenagers to stop having seX so his method was: Have seX BUT feel bad afterwards. What is this? It’s like saying you’re on a diet, go eat 20 kilos worth of chocolate and go damn, why did I eat chocolate? In his case, feeling bad after seX is a way for God to go: “Aha, this person felt bad after the act so I’m taking this person to Heaven”
Let’s not forget the rules of seXuality are all from religious organizations. If God wanted full abstinence, I personally believe God wouldn’t have given us these hormones to begin with.
Lastly, to give a final eXample with a BPSM:
Now for all those Un-Lebanese reading this, you might as well got an eXample of how it is here. One more thing to discuss in detail: Regarding the clubs and pubs.
Since we already defined the human ID, its just pleasure seeking and in a constant war with the super ego. When you’re clubbing, you can never really have much of an eXperience unless you got the magic alcohol to do the trick right? The more alcohol and the more you go into a state where your ID takes control of you. Think about it- when you’re loaded on alcohol, you just want to release and have a good time. One way or another you’re like a kid again just dancing, laughing and God knows what thoughts you have running in your head. Who knows what you do at this state, right? Not to mention other factors like eXposing skin basically saying ‘You’re invited’ or dirty dancing where a part of you is really enjoying the scene.
So that’s it.
In conclusion, seXuality is part of human nature and you’re inborn with it and you’ll eXercise it with the help of society. If Lebanon wants to see change, it first has to make a decision: Either to live in a fully conservative system OR learn to accept things as they are for the sake of progress. Just remember for all those who agree with this, it’s going to be your responsibility as parents to map out the full schema to your kids when the time comes. Right now we’re the ones suffering this because Lebanon has undergone massive change from the 90s to present so by the time we’re parents, it will be our responsibility to make these changes but it’s never wrong to make a stand now.
Just remember all this depends on the Psychological Immunity of the person. If the pope decides to be abstinent, then the pope will be abstinent. If the biggest porn star decides to do the same then it’s possible. Just remember if the porn star has in his or her mind that I should have seX in order to be a fully living functional human being, then that person is going to fail. Your mind is charge of your body. What the mind sees, the body does, right?
For all those who read this, I’m appreciative and only hoped you learned something new. I tried to compress a world of topics into these pages. For all those outsiders reading this, feel lucky that nobody holds you by a leash. For all those Lebanese who agree with this, I can only hope you at least learned and related to this. For all those typical males, I hope you’d learn to appreciate this act and what this woman is giving to you. Appreciation from someone is far more important than praise. In order to hope for a better society without ignorance, the first step is to understand that and begin with change.
Thanks for reading!
Special thanks to my close friends at the Psychology Department in NDU notably Sandra Ziadeh, Elie FleX Sarkis, Joseph Koubar and Antoine Saroufim.
Special thanks to Sensei – Dr. Walid Sarkis for answering all questions and who is always there to help answer my questions.
Cheers and more to come!

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