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Unveiling the Middle East’s sex industry

Salon

If asked to identify a country with a thriving sex industry, ubiquitous exposure to pornography and rampant homosexual sex, most would point somewhere in the Western world. But what about Egypt, Iran or Saudi Arabia? These would be equally accurate answers, according to John R. Bradley, author of “Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East.”

Bradley, a journalist with an expertise in the Arab world, crushes the popular perception of the Middle East as erotically stifled, and the West as the land of sexual expression and freedom. The more nuanced truth, he says, is that these seemingly oppositional cultures have far more in common than we often admit: Both “live under rulers who, under different pretexts and with varying degrees of severity, seek to curb the unruly sex urge as a way of maintaining social control.” There is also a shared “gap between propaganda and reality” and “a vast gulf between public and private morality,” he argues. This fascinating and comprehensive book guides readers through the seedy underbelly of the Middle East — from prostitution in Bahrain to temporary marriages in Iran — but it is just as much a reflection on Western sexual mores.

I recently spoke with Bradley about child brides, temporary marriage and Islamic feminist perspectives on the sex industry.

You frame your book as a look at the cultural sexual similarities between Arabs and Westerners. Can you explain that?

The supposed licentiousness of the West is forever being contrasted, to my mind, in wholly spurious ways, with a sexually barren Middle East. “Behind the Veil of Vice” undermines stereotypes about Arab sexualities that have become entrenched in the English-speaking world, partly by reminding readers that we still have plenty of sexual hang-ups in the West, too. In particular, it debunks the notion, promoted by the likes of Martin Amis, that terrorism carried out by Islamists can be explained away with reference to the repressed, envious Arab male who can only find release by flying airliners into phallic-shaped skyscrapers.

I’ve been based in the region for a decade, and the sexuality in the Middle East I know is every bit as capricious as its Western counterpart, as unruly and multifarious, and occasionally as becalmed. By exploring the diverse sex cultures in countries like Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Iran, I try to show that, as in the West, illicit sex continues to thrive in the Middle East, often in the open and despite the increasingly shrill public discourse.

What kind of pornography do you find in Arab countries?

Watching pornography is no longer a big deal for young Arabs, any more than it is for young Americans. It has become a normal part of growing up. Just about anyone in the Middle East with a satellite dish has access to hardcore pornography channels, and just about everyone has a satellite dish. In that sense it’s probably more accessible than in the West. Technically, these porn channels are banned, but even in Saudi Arabia you find guys selling “special” cards for your satellite decoder in the back alleys around the major shopping districts.

Even in countries with governments infamous for blocking political content on the Web, the porn sites are still mostly accessible, and the more secular regimes tend not to view sex as a threat in the way Islamist regimes do. The people who tend to obsess, of course, are the minority Islamists, because for them the personal is always political. Did anyone ever think so much about sex as those who want to ban it? But they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to the proliferation of smut in the Middle East, much as evangelicals are in America.

What impact did the Iraq war have on the sex industry?

The book opens with an evening I spent with a young woman whose family had fled Iraq and who had turned to working as an escort in a Damascus nightclub after her family had run out of money. There are definitely many more Iraqi women like her working as prostitutes or escorts in Syria than there were before the Iraq war. The local women in Damascus working as prostitutes were forever complaining in my conversations with them about how these Iraqis were bad for business, because they charged less than the going rate.

This increase in numbers of Iraqi women working as prostitutes in Syria should come as little surprise. A million refugees, many of them impoverished, flooded into the country from Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion. We should not lose sight of the fact that we are to blame for this situation. We bombed Iraq back into the Stone Age on the back of a pack of lies, have done nothing to bring to justice these war criminals who lead us, and at the same time feign concern and feel all superior when reading about the plight of Iraqi women working as prostitutes in Damascus.

What did you find with regards to sex trafficking in the Middle East?

The issue has unhelpfully come to frame the debate about prostitution in the Middle East, as it has in the West, in the sense that if you advocate legalization and regulation you are accused of being by default in league with the human traffickers. I found no evidence that human trafficking is widespread in the Middle East, and the statistics routinely quoted are almost always unsourced and often wildly contradictory.

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New research shows us why straight women have less orgasm than other groups

Ever wonder why straight women have less orgasms than others? A new study has corroborated the well-known phenomenon of the orgasm gap, while also providing some answers to the above question.

Much has been said about the so-called orgasm gap, but the new study from several U.S. institutions – Chapman University, Indiana University, and the Kinsey Institute – analyzed the sexual behaviors of about 52,600 American men and women, and sought to find which specific group has the most or least orgasms, and why this is the case. The groups in question were straight men, gay men, straight women, lesbians, bisexual men, and bisexual women, the Chicago Tribune noted in an exclusive report on the study.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, lead author David A. Frederick, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University, explained that his group launched the study due to the lack of data on how gender and sexual orientation play a role in orgasm frequency, or conversely, the orgasm gap.

“There are actually multiple orgasm gaps. The gap between all men and all women — meaning all groups of men orgasm more frequently than all groups of women — the gap between lesbian women and heterosexual women, and the gap between lesbian women and all men.”

The results of the study might not have come as any surprise, as 95 percent of straight men said that they “usually to always” orgasm when being sexually intimate with their partners. 89 percent of gay men answered to the affirmative for this question, followed by 88 percent of bisexual men, 86 percent of lesbian women, 66 percent of bisexual women, and only 65 percent of straight women. But why do straight women have less orgasms than other groups do?

According to Frederick, it may all boil down to the type of sex they have with their partner; 35 percent of heterosexual women who only have vaginal sex answered “usually to always,” as to 86 percent who received oral sex. There were also other sexually-related factors involved in determining the chances of a straight woman having an orgasm or not.

“Receiving oral sex is by far the strongest predictor of how frequently women orgasm. The second strongest predictor is how long sex lasted — meaning from the time you start being sexually intimate, not just intercourse.” Frederick added that women get best results after more than 30 minutes of sexual intimacy, but are less likely to orgasm if the sex lasts 15 minutes or less.

Interestingly, a report from BBC News noted that oral sex was important as a determinant of orgasms not only in heterosexual women, but also in lesbians, gay men, and bi men and women. This link was noticeably absent in heterosexual men.

According to the BBC, the study also suggested a few other tools men can use to ensure that their straight female partners enjoy greater orgasms in bed. These include asking women what they want in bed, and praising them for something they did during sex. Women may also try wearing sexy lingerie, while both man and woman can consider new sexual positions.

Additionally, Frederick and his associates believe that straight women have less orgasms because of their tendency to be less satisfied in their appearance and figure than men are.

“Many women are dissatisfied with their appearance and weight, are less satisfied with their appearance than men and are more likely than men to be self-conscious about their bodies during sex. Body dissatisfaction interferes with ability to orgasm.” In conclusion, Frederick told the Chicago Tribune the main takeaway of why straight women don’t have as many orgasms as men or women of other sexual orientations do – sexual advice as found in magazines and other resources is all well and good, but it’s more important to single out and determine the factors that cause the phenomenon in the first place.

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It is the secret dream of every Swedish or German woman to marry a black men, or at least have sex with a black man. Every smart young African man should migrate to Europe. Free money, nice house, good sex!

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Some Canadians still travelling to Switzerland to end their own lives

Quebec academic blasts politicians for lack of 'courage' in letter written before assisted death

CBC News

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that a growing number of Canadians were travelling to Switzerland for help to end their own lives. This story has been updated with the correct numbers.

A small number of Canadians travelled to Switzerland to end their own lives last year, as Parliament passed a new law permitting doctor-assisted death that was widely criticized as too restrictive.

According to figures from Dignitas, a Swiss organization that assists patients with chronic or terminal illness to die, 131 Canadians became members in 2016, but only five travelled to Switzerland to end their lives, down slightly from seven the previous year and 11 in 2014.

Forced to die 'with strangers'

"I will die with strangers who are more courageous and humane than our doctors and our decision makers," she wrote in the letter, written in French and released by Dignitas. "I leave you hoping that our elected officials finally have enough courage and empathy to permit people who are suffering to decide the moment of their death, here in Quebec and in Canada. As a matter of fact, when you read this text, I will probably be dead. It's sad! Indescribably sad...."

In the letter, Hamel accused politicians of putting electoral interests ahead of patient care, and also lashed out at doctors who oppose more liberal assisted death, saying they want to preserve a "monopoly" over life and death decisions.

She said the current law forced her to die far from home and loved ones, and that she spent more than $20,000 in fees for medical verification and travel costs.

In 2016, there were 7,764 people from 98 countries who became members of "Dignitas, To live with dignity – To die with dignity," up from 6,595 five years ago. Last year, a total of 201 people travelled to Switzerland to end their own lives.

Canada's new law, which came into effect on June 17, 2016, limits assisted death to mentally competent adults who have serious and incurable illness, disease or disability, where death is "reasonably foreseeable."

Restrictions on minors, mentally ill

It excluded some of the most contentious recommendations from a parliamentary committee that studied the issue, including extending the right to die to "mature minors" and the mentally ill, and allowing advance consent for patients with degenerative disorders.

Shanaaz Gokool, the CEO of Canadian advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada, said that excludes large swaths of people who should have been covered under the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the landmark Carter case which struck down the sections in the Criminal Code that prohibited assisted death. That's forcing people to travel abroad to die, she said.

"We would hope that with the Supreme Court decision on Carter that people wouldn't have to resort to these measures, and it's very unfortunate that people have to be separated from their friends, families, communities at their most vulnerable time in their lives, when they are having an assisted death," she said.

Julia Lamb, a B.C. woman with spinal muscular atrophy, and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched a legal challenge of the new law, arguing it is too narrow.

Spurred by Supreme Court

The government was forced to draft new legislation after a unanimous landmark ruling on Feb. 6, 2015, by the Supreme Court of Canada, which found the ban on physician-assisted violated Canadians' Charter rights.

The case involved two B.C. women who wanted end their lives with medical help. Both died before the court ruled,

Gloria Taylor, who had a neurodegenerative disease, eventually died of an infection. Kay Carter, then 89, travelled to Switzerland.

Justices gave the federal and provincial governments 12 months to prepare for the decision to come into effect.

After taking office, the Liberal government asked for a six-month extension, but the high court granted an extra four months, to June 6, 2016, leading to a compressed law-making process.

David Taylor, a spokesman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said independent reviews of three issues identified in Bill C-14 as requiring further study is now underway, with a report due by December 2018.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who chaired the special parliamentary committee that studied the issue, said he's disappointed by the pace of the review and called it "very concerning" that Canadians are forced to travel abroad to die.

Law needs more clarity

"I think Canadians need to understand that this is affecting real people and that we have to have better clarity in the Act to ensure it meets the Supreme Court expectations," he said. "To me, the Supreme Court was clear that an illness did not need to be terminal to be eligible."

Oliphant said he has received a number of emails, phone calls and letters from Canadians and family members who can't get the medical assistance they need and are either forced to travel to Switzerland or endure tremendous pain.

He said the recurring message is that Canadians should have a continuum of medical care that allows them full dignity.

"That's what the legislation needs to guarantee, that people are able to entrust their lives and their deaths in the hands of the physicians who will understand whether they have the right to end their own lives when a certain set of criteria have been met."

The special committee's 70-page report said Canadians should have the right to make an "advance request" for medical aid in dying after being diagnosed with certain debilitating but not necessarily terminal conditions.

It also said assisted death should not be limited to those with physical conditions, and that Canadians with psychiatric conditions should not be excluded from doctor assistance to end suffering.

Medically Assisted Dying Oliphant 20160227 Liberal MP Rob Oliphant chaired the special parliamentary committee studying medical assistance in death. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Corrections

This story has been edited from a previous version that incorrectly stated 131 Canadians travelled to Switzerland last year for medical assistance in ending their own lives. In fact, 131 is the number of Canadians who are members in an organization there that provides medical assistance in dying; only five Canadians travelled to the country last year to end their own lives.

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