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Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab Worldby Shereen El Feki
Synopses & Reviews
**Kirkus Best Books of the Year (2013)**
If you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms.
As political change sweeps the streets and squares, the parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at an upheaval a little closer to home—in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region. The result is an informative, insightful, and engaging account of a highly sensitive and still largely secret aspect of Arab society.
Sex is entwined in religion, tradition, politics, economics, and culture, so it is the perfect lens through which to examine the complex social landscape of the Arab world. From pregnant virgins to desperate housewives, from fearless activists to religious firebrands, from sex work to same-sex relations, Sex and the Citadel takes a fresh look at the sexual history of the region and brings new voices to the debate over its future.
This is no peep show or academic treatise but a highly personal and often humorous account of one woman’s journey to better understand Arab society at its most intimate and, in the process, to better understand her own origins. Rich with five years of groundbreaking research, Sex and the Citadel gives us a unique and timely understanding of everyday lives in a part of the world that is changing before our eyes.
"'When it comes to sexuality,' El Feki writes, 'the Arab world can seem like a citadel.' For her assault upon that fortress, she mobilizes medical expertise, reportorial skills, and personal experience as a Cairo-based journalist (currently vice-chair of the U.N.'s Global Commission on HIV and Law) and the daughter of an Egyptian father. It's all here: matchmaking, diverse forms of marriage ('official,' 'unofficial,' 'summer'), anal sex, oral sex, sexual positions, sexual dysfunction, impotence, infertility, domestic violence, virginity (testing, proving, losing, restoring), female genital mutilation, abortion, illegitimacy, sex education, prostitution, 'legal sex work,' and LGBT issues. In linking young Middle Easterners making 'rebellion against the head of state and openly defying the heads of their families,' she makes a case for 'sexuality a mirror of the conditions that led to uprisings.' 'Not an academic tome, nor a slice of Arab exotica,' El Feki warns, as she dips into history (Flaubert's travels, al-Katib's thousand-year-old Encyclopedia of Pleasure), talks with diverse contemporaries (beauty parlor owner, female genital mutilation practitioner, herbalist, sex therapist, lawyer, talk show host), and bits of family history. Though El Feki's breadth and detail is wearying, she delivers a clear wakeup call: 'The Arab region began this decade with a political big bang; how that will shape, and in turn be shaped by, sexual life is an open question.' Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates, U.K. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A fascinating, groundbreaking look at changing sexual attitudes and behavior in the Arab world, by a leading expert on social practices in the region.
Since the political unrest that swept across the Middle East in 2011, all eyes have been on the streets and squares erupting in protest. But for the past four years, Shereen El Feki has been looking at upheaval a little closer to home—in the sexual lives of men and women across the Arab world. The result is an informative, insightful, and engaging account of a highly sensitive and still largely secret aspect of Arab society.
Sex might seem a strange lens through which to examine change, but it is a prism that refracts the region's complex social spectrum, from religion and culture to politics and economics. Sexual attitudes and behaviors not only are a reflection of the conditions that led to the recent uprisings but will also be a measure of hard-won reforms in the years to come.
By linking sexuality to political, economic, social, and religious trends, Sex and the Citadel opens a window on the greater landscape of the Arab world. This highly personal account, rich with original research and first-person stories, gives us unprecedented and timely insight into a part of the world that is being transformed before our very eyes.
About the Author
SHEREEN EL FEKI is a writer, broadcaster, and academic who started her professional life in medical science, with a Ph.D. in molecular immunology from the University of Cambridge. An award-winning journalist with The Economist and presenter with Al Jazeera English, she is currently vice-chair of the UN's Global Commission on HIV and Law. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and Prospect magazine.
Table of Contents
A Note on Language xi
1. Shifting Positions 3
2. Desperate Housewives 27
3. Sex and the Single Arab 93
4. Facts of Life 134
5. Sex for Sale 180
6. Dare to Be Different 216
7. Come the Revolution 278
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