Sex, but no sex.

Pick a street in Beirut. Any street. Look in front of you, behind you, above you. Chances are, within your line of sight, there is an ad for some form of physical enhancement, a woman who looks like a cross between Najwa Karam, a disco ball and a Czech pornstar and a guy who has consumed enough steroids to make Schwarzy look like a girly man whistling at her. This unholy trinity of visual queasiness is starting to get very annoying.

I am by no means conservative when it comes to social mores. I’m a Godless libertarian. But the socio-visual landscape in Beirut is becoming repugnant. I actually wouldn’t mind it if everyone was actually bumping uglies, but it’s the blatant hypocrisy of it all. Our society has become hypersexualized, with a distinct lack of actual sex.

Let me explain. I don’t mean no one is having sex, obviously. I mean, Beirut is one of the rare cities I’ve seen where they sell every kind of Durex condom under the sun at the Duty Free checkout counter at the Airport. You know, in case you’re thinking of joining the Mile High Club and you haven’t planned ahead. What I’m saying is that if you walk into a club in the UK, your chances of leaving with someone and getting up to no good are about 70%* (*highly unscientific guess). Your chances in Beirut, where I would say everyone is dressed and acting about the same, is 15% (*again, highly unscientific guess).

There is something misleading about the way we function. Everyone is always dressed up to the nines. Everything is enhanced. Breasts are augmented, fat is reduced, hair disappears. Eyes go green. Lips go red and plump. Pecs appear, bisceps bulge. And yet, very little actually every happens between the sexes on a casual basis.

I know I keep coming back to the opinions of tourists I meet, but they’re a highly useful objective and external vantage point. Every time I take them somewhere, they gasp and say something like “Jeez, it looks like everyone here is getting some tonight”. I proceed to explain the complex dichotomy between appearance and reality, which is an immense buzz kill to the pack of marauding horny Italian Eurotrash men.

Much like the oversexualized women in Arab pop videos, Lebanese women are expected to be alluring and seductive, yet remain virginal. Walking through a shopping mall or making limp-wristed vaguely Oriental dance moves in a club, most seem to be reprising their role as themselves in the movie of their life. It’s a symptom of the Blingification of the world. Everyone wants to be in a hip-hop video. So the men and women of Lebanon flock to Skybar (Note: Other Rooftop bars are available), tanned and toned, their bloodstreams a mix of vodka and champagne, their nostrils flaring at the smell of fireworks. They sway and flirt. But there is no dancefloor. Ever. There is no communal space for people to interact and meet, dance and sweat together.

Everyone lives in a proverbial music video for a few hours. Then they leave the blinged out universe of faux-independence and fleeting adulthood and return to their parents’ homes. Their parents’ homes replete with marble floors and gold chandeliers and expectations of virginal daughters.

Of course, for the men it’s different. They are coached from their earliest age to have double standards, namely that Lebanese women are pure and respectable and foreign women are to be used as vessels for sexual discovery. Many Lebanese men have their first sexual experience at the hands, quite literally, of Eastern European prostitutes in seedy hotels North of Beirut filled with the pungent odour of desperation and lost youth.

Men then go on to embrace this concept of the “Western Whore” and consider anyone remotely blonde that they meet ripe for the taking. Like unevovled cavemen, they whistle and gawk and grope. It’s an embarrassing sight. When I dated a Russian girl in London for two years, and I’d tell anyone in Lebanon where she was from they’d give me a knowing wink and I suppose they’d imagine her with her legs wrapped around a pole, upside down, her blonde hair caressing the stage floor. When I would explain she wasn’t a stripper, or blonde and was the epitome of class, I’d get confused looks for a few moments. It was as if I was pulling the rug from under their every assumption about relationships and sexuality. Then they’d chuckle, as if to say “I’ve just erased what you’ve said, and gone back to my parochial social dynamics. Phew, that was close”. Sigh.

So Lebanon is a country that has something that goes beyond double standards. We have Triple or even Quadruple standards. Lebanese women are virginal yet buxom, foreign women don’t know how to do their nails but they’re fair game in male sexual exploration and all of this happens to the sound of trance and house music and smashing vodka glasses.

It’s an explosive mix. As the summer quickly takes over, and even more clothes are shed, and more alcohol is consumed, more frustration builds up. The gulf between the faux-Miami we’ve created, and the enduring pervasiveness of traditional social values spreads wider. Lots of sexualized bodies with no one to have sex with. Even if they had someone they’d have nowhere to do it, with 30 year-old men still living in their childhood rooms, surrounded by high school memorabilia and a maid that makes their bed before they head off to act like adults for the day.

Our only hope? Well, at the rate we’re going, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that hypersexualiztion will turn into complete desexualisation. The more men pump steroids into their system, the more women pump Botox into theirs, the less they look human at all. Semi-retarded blobs of post-human flesh floating around a phantom city, occasionally bumping into each other and feeling nothing. What was once skin, now a tepid silicone and steroid laden wasteland. The only hope for sex in Lebanon? The death of sex.

125 Responses to “Sex, but no sex.”

  1. PJ
    August 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    I just saw this pasted on my friends wall and I am already a fan.. Looking forward to reading more great stuff.. It may not all apply, this is the stuff we speak about with our friends and it’s nice to read about.. Plus your writing intrigued me

  2. Blogger
    August 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Great piece, bravo Nasri!

  3. Rola
    August 19, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Love the satire. Love the dry wit. For all those mindful of how accurate this is, I think they should tune in for the next UN report on the Lebanese sexual scene. I prefer your take on it for now 😛

    Will keep coming for more!

  4. Agame
    December 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    reading these posts are a guilty pleasure I tell you: factual and somewhat amusing. From someone who lived in beirut for sometime and now reside abroad, I can safely say I understand the contradiction that is lebanon, but secretly fear that if the lebanon ever become less ‘lebanese’ (more rational?) it might lose its mystique and that je ne sais quoi…sad but true

  5. Nawal
    December 4, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Just amazing. I am reading your blog for the first time. I’m Lebanese… well, with the exception of the part where my mother’s mother is an African but it doesn’t stop there: my father is a Maronite and my mother’s father was a Sunni and her mother a protestant… Imagine arriving in Beirut at 11 without the language in an all white Beirut carrying all the ethnicity. By my teenage years, I discovered from my so called boyfriend’s real girlfriend, that he was with me for the sex. She actually said those words to me. I was shocked. I wasn’t having sex and didn’t till I was in my twenties and on my wedding night thank you very much. Not that it was the best decision either! But my virtue is questioned regardless because I am tainted with ethnicity other than Lebanese blood. A non-Lebanese ethnic is synonymous with being easy! But what I find the most disturbing from your blog piece is that Nothing has changed in the way Lebanese women value themselves and other women. There is an acceptance for women to be degraded and treated unacceptably simply because they are “sub”. Every time I reflect on this, I have to pause and think of the culture my parents were up against in the 70s and I have to admire their tenacity and borderline revolutionary behavior to get married. Wow. Thank you for blogging!

  6. Carolyn
    December 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Every time I (natural blond which is something very different than artificial blond) come to Beirut, I have to think about the german say “Barking dogs don’t bite…”
    The more people advertise sex, the less they practice! All energy goes in promises, no one is able to keep!
    All the investments in dressing, make up and unatural habits puts the subjects under so much pressure, that in the end when it comes to facts they can only fail. No way reality can keep up with the fiction they create about themselfs. So, the best is to avoid facts, calling it “Im a serious person”, at least for a while one keeps up the illusion about…
    Sex (I prefer make love) is THE natural behavour living in all of us and the more artificial one makes it, the less he’ll be’ able to enjoy it. One doesn’t think constantly about it, but it comes to you. Unexpected, unprepaired just like a warm wave of the sea, capturing you and carrying you in the wide open ocean to discover the – unknown!
    What ever moves in steriotypes isn’t anymore alive, but just a poor and sad copy from someonelses original…
    Love is life! If one puts it in a cage of “How to do it, it dies…”

  7. alien
    December 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I just went through some of the articles and I finally feel there is someone out there I’m not the only alien here!
    I’ll share with you some of my nags
    -I made a reservation in a restaurant the other day and the hostess promised me the best table in the restaurant in my mind I was expecting a beautiful view well lets say according to lebanese standards the best view is where you see and are most seen right in the center of the restaurant.
    -regarding the jeita phenomenon I was actually avoiding the subject with any1 as I was the only person I knew who didn’t vote!
    -the shocking truth I discovered just lately was during the death of a family member apparently the show off has no limit. I am sadened by the death as its the 1st I experience but I find myself shocked sooo much I’m getting in so much trouble triying to understand the competition of who cries more, posts more shocking notes and pics on fb or even loved the dead person the most !!
    so I want to thank you for making me feel that there is indeed life outside this planet.

  8. Nasri Atallah
    December 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Allen – Glad to make you feel normal again :)

  9. Nasri Atallah
    December 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Carolyn – Thank you for your comment!

  10. Nasri Atallah
    December 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Nawal – Thank you. You’re far too kind.

  11. Nasri Atallah
    December 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Agame – I get what your’e saying, but fell willing to forfeit the ‘je ne sais quoi’ :)

  12. Carolyn
    December 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    @ Alien
    If you wish to exchange some thoughts about how humans act when a beloved person dies, let me know.
    I’m working since 20 years in emergency support of people loosing someone in traumatic circumstances such as accidents, murder, suicide or sudden infant death.
    I can’t offer you answers, but you might find your answers!
    I’m sorry for your loss and I hope the person who’s gone still made you the gift to appreciate life as something special and one should think about really good how and in what to’ invest it.

    Regards Carolyn

  13. Jean Akouri
    December 9, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Just posted the link on my Facebook page (you’re welcome!) with the following comment: Alright this one’s quite funny — despite being overly blankety as has come to be expected of these now beyond cliche “critics” of “Lebanese society.” It applies to the “in” crowd (about 10% of Lebanon, which of course is not a scientific fact either!) only! The rest of us are managing to live relatively “normal” lives and “get some” without SkyBar and co, nor being overly done up! Worth the read though…It made me chuckle with some priceless statements as “I proceed to explain the complex dichotomy between appearance and reality, which is an immense buzz kill to the pack of marauding horny Italian Eurotrash men.”

  14. maze
    December 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    or another way this could go : complete “sexualization”… the pot will explode and we will be left with fornicating animals doing anyone and maybe anything in sight …

  15. Elie
    December 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Very interesting article indeed! I wrote my own views on it here. Tell me what you think Mr Atallah :)

  16. Nayiri
    December 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    I should say it was elegently put :) and love the word blingification.

  17. alien
    December 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    To Carolyn
    Thanks a lot for your concern is there anyway I can contact you?

  18. Jad
    December 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Lol, seriously? The chances are of leaving a nightclub anywhere in Lebanon with a girl and having sex with her is 100% if you know what to do, and I dont mean drugging or getting her drunk.
    BUT I have to agree that there are many flaws in our society and they are all derived from how FAKE people are these days.

  19. Carolyn
    December 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    To Alien

    Yes, you are wellcome to send a message to
    any time.

  20. Yara
    February 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Loved the Sarcasm! Kudos ! Will definetly check your blog more often :)

  21. Alomah
    February 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    So this sounds a bit like Italian society.The foreign girls are to be practice on and local to be married to.But don’t forget local girls can gain their experience from Foreign guys too.Double standards and hypocrisy is something this world is existing on.U can be upset by it, or use it in your advantage, make things interesting working around it. Forbidden fruit is always sweeter.Maybe in this way you can more appreciate the things you gain..I do not appreciate the veto on premarital dating though..or on prejudice bout mixed marriage and dating choice (different religion,race,nationalities..) and that is all rooted in the tradition and “honor” of society we are living in. And appearing “European” outside does not change the “Middle Easterner” inside..obviously..Nobody likes to live condemned by society and that is exactly what you will be doing if you stand out from other people.There is very few places,even in West where these double standards are loosen up(they do exist) but mostly if you are wealthy enough you can pull it off anywhere:)(life style of the rich and shameless) ..There really isn’t any solution to this, unless you move from the country..but you can take the girl/guy out of the hood but you cant take the hood out of the girl/ we are back at square one..


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