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Sexuality In Contemporary Egypt Essay

918 words - 4 pages

Thinking about sex and sexuality evokes certain feelings and emotions among most westerners. The first and overwhelming thought is in the context of a healthy and loving relationship. That may closely be followed by mutual lust or maybe even a kind of sport for some perhaps, yet it is a widely accepted belief that western women hold the keys to that kingdom. The notions of necessity or domination certainly would not be the first things one might consider. However, the majority of the material covered in this course suggests that necessity and ideas of domination and submission are commonplace in contemporary Egypt while men are the overwhelming decision makers in such pursuits. To compound these issues, the authors of the course texts use sex and sexuality to illustrate counterintuitive points like the lack of virility, diminishing masculinity, and to drive people apart more than bring them together.
One of the most profound instances of sexual anticlimax is in Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell. To put the encounter into context, the main character had been recently released from prison after doing a five year sentence for engaging in unfavorable political activity. The main character simply trudges through his days without any kind of excitement, which is intelligently punctuated by the run-on structure and uneventful vocabulary. This man, living a very meager and dull life, without much elaboration or explanation, finds himself with a former lover in his bed. After some time of denied advances written off as her usual shyness, the character’s narrative continues as follows: “I reached my hand toward her chest but she pushed it away and said, No. I rolled away, then stretched out beside her. I waited for her to turn and embrace me but she didn’t.“ (Ibrahim xx). After his acceptance of denial, the man proceeds to masturbate, and then go to bed. This interaction is one of many in the novel that solidifies the protagonist’s continued imprisonment. The main character is not in jail anymore, but is a prisoner to his own alienation from society. He is looking into the face of what once was, and is denied that former liberty and must handle his desire himself. This denial brings about questions of virility and masculinity, characteristics which are very important to Egyptian male identity as referenced by other works in the course like AUTHOR’S “Turn Out Those Lights.” These characteristics are so important to Egyptian male identity that this commentary was the basis for the Egyptian Ministry of Information to ban this book upon publishing in the late 1960s (Egypt’s Conscience).
Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building is riddled with examples of sexual relationships, most of which are not necessarily mutually desired. In almost every...

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