Religiously conservative Muslim countries are (in)famous for minimizing, shaming, and repressing human sexuality. Shockingly enough, this doesn’t actually seem to be a foolproof strategy for convincing people to refrain from expressing or enjoying their bodies.
On the contrary, many of these countries are home to some of the highest consumers of porn in the world. (The same effect can also be observed in the largely religious U.S. South, where some of the strongest areas of opposition to LGBT rights also lead the nation in gay porn searches.)
Writing for Salon, Carrie Weisman notes that, its popularity notwithstanding,
… the sale of erotic material is banned in nearly every Arab country except Lebanon and Turkey.
While the material is illegal in much of the Middle East, that hasn’t stopped people from finding it. Indeed, Pakistan serves as a good example of a nation that, despite its moral injunctions against porn, has consistently topped the illicit-searches charts. And not just for people looking for pictures or videos depicting consenting adults and paid actors, either. In 2010, it was reported that:
Google rank[ed] Pakistan No. 1 in the world in searches for pornographic terms, outranking every other country in the world in searches per person for certain sex-related content.
Pakistan is top dog in searches per-person for “horse sex” since 2004, “donkey sex” since 2007, “rape pictures” between 2004 and 2009, “rape sex” since 2004, “child sex” between 2004 and 2007 and since 2009, “animal sex” since 2004 and “dog sex” since 2005, according to Google Trends and Google Insights, features of Google that generate data based on popular search terms.
The country also is tops — or has been No. 1 — in searches for “sex,” “camel sex,” “rape video,” “child sex video” and some other searches that can’t be printed here.
Sure, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but it’s at least worth considering that the absolutist stance against any and all expressions of sexuality might be having the opposite effect.
This peculiar disconnect between ideas of morality and behavior is further exemplified in the treatment of Muslim porn stars — by fellow believers. Weisman notes that Lebanese-American Mia Khalifa‘s videos have recently inspired some pretty hardcore rage:
Many conservative Muslims have targeted Khalifa via Twitter, writing things like, “@miakhalifa You do realize that you’ll be the first person in Hellfire right?” Another user posted a manipulated image of an Isis militant holding Khalifa’s decapitated head.
And she’s not alone. After Sila Sahin, a Turkish-German actress, posed nude for the German edition of Playboy, she received a slew of criticism. Threads on Islamic websites read, “She must pay” and “She needs to be careful.” One user wrote, “I would kill her. I really mean that. That doesn’t fit with my culture.”
And the people saying these things probably imagine themselves to be moral champions. Which suggests to me, again, that the repressive views of human sexuality are causing plenty of damage in so many unintended ways.
These attitudes are about as far from moral as you can get.
Not that it’s likely to change any time soon. The Abrahamic faiths have been obsessing over sexuality for thousands of years, and it’s a cherished belief of fundamentalists. So I suspect the porn industry can count on plenty of support from viewers in the Middle East (and Bible Belt) for a long time to come.
(Image via Shutterstock)