Porn in the Middle East

Studies show that of the eight countries that search the most porn on the Internet, six are Muslim. Erotic materials are banned in almost all Arab countries, but porn is very popular.

Our world is big and the cultural differences are huge. But there are a few things that unite all people, regardless of borders. Someone says that food unites best, and someone says that education. But these topics have one very serious rival: porn on the Internet.

Porn is made and watched in Middle Eastern countries, and millions more people watch it all over the world. In fact, the largest number of porn users are in the Middle East. Of the eight countries that search the most porn on the Internet, six are Muslim, according to Google. Pakistan leads the list, followed by Egypt. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are ranked fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth respectively. Pakistan is ahead of everyone in the search for animal porn such as pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

According to a study by PornMD, the top 10 search terms in countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Iran include “jet orgasm,” “blowjob,” and even “Kendra Wilkinson” (former girlfriend of the magazine’s founder Playboy Hugh Hefner). The word "Arab" ranks first in searches for porn terms in Egypt, Iran and Syria. And someone demonstrates even greater perversity. "Pain" is ranked fourth in searches in Iraq, while "father-daughter" and "brother-sister" are ranked fourth and fifth in Syria. In Egypt, the top ten includes the words "mother" and "mom".

These details point to the vast changes taking place in a society where exceptionally rigid "moral" norms operate and even dominate. Even the fact that pornographic trends in the region can be followed is impressive, since the sale of erotic material is banned in almost all Arab countries, with the exception of Lebanon and Turkey.

In 2009, the Iraqi government introduced new censorship laws, banning material deemed harmful to society. Culture Minister Tahir Naser al-Hmood said at the time: “Our constitution respects freedom of thought and freedom of expression, but this must be accompanied by respect for society as a whole, as well as for morality. It is not easy to strike a balance between security and democracy. It's like a tightrope walker's performance."

State Internet Service Company Chief Engineer Ahmed Mohammed Raouf told the New York Times, "I don't want to stop people from watching what they want, but I also want to protect society."

Recently, the Saudi Arabian government claimed that it had hacked and deactivated about 9,000 Twitter accounts that were associated with the publication of pornography and arrested many of the owners. This operation was organized by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which is the religious police of Saudi Arabia.

The good news for porn lovers from this region is that many of these restrictions are fairly easy to overcome. On the streets there you can often see vendors offering pornographic videos. You can often find young people there selling unlock cards on the Internet in popular shopping centers.

Meet the Stars

21-year-old American Muslim Mia Khalifa, born in Lebanon, has just been voted "number one porn star" on free website Pornhub, which is the 73rd most popular website on the internet, according to analytics company Alexa. Khalifa moved to the US at the age of 10 with her family. Pornhub VP Corey Price told Buzzfeed that more than 750,000 people have visited the site since Saturday looking for Khalifa.

Khalifa emphasizes her Muslim roots in the films she stars in. Sometimes she wears a hijab, and sometimes she puts on eyeliner, emphasizing her "exotic" appearance. The explicit sexuality in Khalifa's work completely debunks Western stereotypes about Muslim women. In his article In Praise of Vulgarity, Charles Paul Freund notes: “Mass culture, whether popular or vulgar, is far from a means of entertainment or a source of self-absorption. As the Islamists have learned, it can act as a bulwark against coercion. Moreover, it can even be a means of democratic consolation.”

But this idea also has opponents. Juliana Yazbeck wrote: “As someone who is trying hard to establish herself as a person with a working and thinking brain, I cannot deny that I felt a sharp pain of despair when Mia appeared on all social networks and news. I had no idea that she had no right to it. But I had this thought. What is it? Very few Lebanese women become stars. And why does it have to be a porn star?”

Yazbek's reaction was very moderate and mild compared to other opponents with radical views. Many conservative Muslims have turned against Khalifa on Twitter, tweeting things like "Do you realize you'll be the first to burn in hellfire?" Another user posted an image of an ISIS fighter holding Khalifa's severed head.

She is not alone. When Sila Sahin, a German actress of Turkish origin, posed naked for the German edition of Playboy magazine, she was hit with a flurry of criticism. On the branches of Islamist websites, the entries “She will pay for this” and “Let her be afraid now” appeared. One user wrote: “I will kill her. I mean it seriously. It doesn't fit my culture."

What is this, a sex problem? Or a porn problem? Or is it just another deviation on the long road to gender equality? After all, women in pornography most often take center stage. Maybe someone in the Middle East doesn't want that. Or maybe they think that sex is a more private and intimate matter, and it needs to be transferred to the childbearing plane. Many Muslim countries declare that one should not violate strong social norms of morality. However, the data presented here indicate that society may have a different opinion on this matter.

Source: Carrie Weissman, Salon, USA