Recently Yalla! Lets Talk. shared a few Instagram posts on Mia Khalifa and followed them with shocking statistics on porn shares and consumption in the Middle-East and North-Africa region (MENA). Knowing that MENA was one of the largest consumers of pornography, with some countries in the region scoring the longest average sessions, was not enough for me. Surely, there are other stats and reasons behind this? Curiosity got to me. I had to go down that rabbit hole to investigate why MENA was scoring the highest.
Before taking a deep dive into this, we must acknowledge that sex is never talked about in our societies. At least not in a positive way. Sex is the highest of taboos in our culture, regardless of religion. This is upheld by our families and elders acting as if it does not exists, in hopes the shame and taboo of this conversation will make it disappear on its own. Sexual education (sex-ed) is virtually non-existent and any MENA school that teaches it has a very censored, toxic, and ineffective curriculum with a highly conservative delivery of the topic. It’s also not uncommon for parents to pull their children out of these classes altogether.
The porn stats from the Middle East draw a rather grim image showing very disturbing entries in the top five searched by the region. I am not here to argue against one’s sexual preferences, fetishes, or kinks, the following is not that. Among the top five searches were entries like pain, father-daughter, brother-sister, and animal related searches. It’s worth noting that the most searched for term was “Arab” which might seem normal and predictable. But it raises a point I will get to later when compared to other countries.
At this point, I ask you to pause for a moment to think about the following: Why is our society the highest consumer of porn? What is happening to our society now that we are consuming porn but are still not getting any proper sex-ed?
The Why – Pornography Consumption
When was the last time you saw a public display of affection within our society? When was the last time you saw your parents holding hands? Have you ever? It is evident that our society is deprived of intimacy and fulfilment both romantically and sexually. If we cannot receive the love and affection we need within our society we will likely seek it elsewhere or in alternative ways.
The other red flag that pops up is that our society is lacking in sexual fulfilment. From my discussions with many members of the society, and eavesdropping on those who thought I was not Arab, I can conclude that many are not fulfilled in their intimate lives. This may be one of the bigger reasons why porn consumption is high within our society. Remember how I mentioned that “Arab” was the most searched for term? Could this be because those searching for it are looking for fulfilment they cannot get within the definition of our “Arab” society?
The What – Effects of Denying Arab Youth Proper Sex-Ed
Pornography lacks empathy, sensuality, fulfilment, or love. Porn promotes the idea that promiscuity is a natural state. According to a site dedicated to help quit porn addiction; 88% of porn scenes contain physical aggression and 49% contain verbal aggression. Because of this porn users often have unnatural expectations leading to an unfulfilled sex-life. This is not taking into account revenge porn or unconsented recordings.
I’m not here to tell you that pornography is bad, we can establish that. Let’s instead look at what happens in the absence of sex-ed and healthy discussions about sex. What’s happening now is that our youth and society, and anyone with access to internet, is getting their sex-ed from porn. Remember the awful top five searches? These are the most consumed in terms of sexual material.
In the absence of sex-ed and healthy discussions around sex, porn presents itself as the norm. This is the case especially if there are no other conversations or knowledge to go against it! In other words, there will be a rise in those who seek pain-inflicting, abusive, incestuous, aggressive, and exploitative sexual acts to gain fulfilment in real life. We can also see a rise in the normalisation of promiscuity in the eyes of our young men and women.
Is sex-ed really the answer, though?
Sex-ed does not only aim to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
A properly designed and inclusive sex-ed curriculum does the following;
empowers one against sexual violence,
protects children from online and phone-based predation and exploitation,
tackles the virginity myth,
and teaches one to understand, embrace, and love their body.
Healthwise, sex-ed should also teach one to check their bodies for indicators of cancer: breast, melanoma, testicular, and more. Let us pause here, do you know what to look for? I don’t. I was never taught what any of this looks like, in fact I was taught to not even acknowledge my body.
Some may be thinking “surely, this doesn’t apply to our culture where we’re not even supposed to have premarital sex?” I want to remind you that “supposed” is the operative word here, and that it still happens. Even if it doesn’t happen, pornography has been consumed by many either in their past or present, as we discovered. We have established that our society is already exposed to sex, but in a harmful way. Why not address the elephant in the room and have a healthy discussion about sex? Maybe finally accept that sex-ed is needed in our culture so our youth can learn about it and attend informative sex-ed courses.
I hope this opens your eyes to the need for sexual education. To anyone still considering: I will leave you with this thought. Know that they will learn all about this, more than you can ever imagine, from a young age either online or through their peers. If you think you are protecting your child or sibling by excluding them from sex-ed in schools or by voting against sex-ed – you’re not. Denying our Arab youth sex-ed does more harm than any intended good. You may instead be leaving pornography in charge of the curriculum in lieu of proper, healthy education. You owe it to them and to their future to protect them from predation, exploitation, hurt, and an unfulfilled future. They need to feel safe in discussing this topic around you and coming forward with any questions or complaints. Especially the complaints.