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. M. Annan
    June 29, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Brother, I just wish to commend you an such an insightful and eloquently written piece! These ideas have been wandering through my mind for over a month now, it’s great to see someone express them.

  2. JayJay
    June 29, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    overgeneralized and a tad hypocritical.. It wouldn’t hurt you to be ‘some’ ‘most’ ‘many’ and don’t tell me you don’t check yourself before leaving the house in the morning.
    I agree that its mostly designer labels with no brains and a knack for drinking but they are having sex, it’s just no one knows about it 😉
    Great post Nasri. <3

  3. Sarah
    June 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Wow. I just read this article via a link from a friend, and I must say this is the most insightful, frank commentary on the status of Lebanese society I have ever read. You have a new reader!

  4. Tatool
    June 30, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I don’t know where to start! you’re listing a number of observations, say they are contradicting and yet your “solution” has nothing to do with anything mentioned above. Of course the number of “Eastern European” females imported to Lebanon to work in prostitution has nothing to do with how Lebanese men view them, and the fact that every movie nowadays has at least 1 scene of mindless loveless “mistake” sex does not promote the idea of what you call “western whore.”
    Everyone wants to look beautiful, and everyone wants to be appealing to the opposite sex, but this is the 1st time someone suggests that self control and restraint is something negative.
    Granted, your observations are not wrong, and I’m not here to defend the “Lebanese Way” (if there is such a thing) but let’s give everyone their fair share of the blame.

  5. Nasri Atallah
    June 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Karim – I agree, there is always a group of people in every city which you can get along with better than others (and I’m lucky enough to have found that group of people). However, it’s always healthy to observe the sections of society you disagree with and try to understand them.

    Syrian American – I don’t pass a value judgment on anyone and I’m obviously pro-everyone engaging in premarital sex. I don’t think there is a western model and an eastern model. Two generations ago, premarital sex was frowned upon in Europe. It’s just that gender equality and the sexual revolution changed that. I hope we get our equality soon. Again, my only problem is with hypocrisy.

    M Annan – Thank you for the kind words.

    JayJay – How am I being hypocritical?
    And yeah, again, “overgeneralized” isn’t a valid response to a non-scientific piece of social commentary on a blog. I never set out to make a detailed academic analysis of the phenomenon. I wrote a blogpost in 15 minutes following an observation during a conversation with a friend. When you make a point to your friends in a discussion, don’t you use overgenerlization to make a point? Or do you interview a sample of 6000 people for every statement you make. I’m pretty sure lots of people ARE having sex, again, I’m just noting the hypocrisy in the visual landscape.

    Sarah – Thank you!

    Tatool – I never said restraint was negative. I said hypocrisy was negative. I’m a firm believer that everyone has a right to do what they want. I’m just making an observation on the fact that the visual landscape doesn’t mesh neatly with the prevailing underlying traditional attitude.
    And just to respond to your Twitter comments, all the posts here go through moderation, and I’m on holiday abroad, so it took me an extra few minutes. There’s no conspiracy to keep your comments from appearing.

  6. Tatool
    June 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Let me start from your final comment: I didn’t mean to imply a conspiracy :) I was just waiting for my comment to go online and some people asked whether the comments are moderated. I apologize if I made it sound negative. I think you’re doing the smart thing by filtering comments.
    I agree with you that hypocrisy is negative, and I don’t want to fall in that trap here or have a “holier-than-thou” attitude, but I don’t believe it is hypocrisy when women dress up and show some body parts and yet choose not to engage in sexual activity. It is wrong to assume that every girl who dresses in a specific fashion is “easy.” It is generalizing, categorizing, labeling, and discriminating. I dress like a slob, or a bum, but that doesn’t mean I am one.
    Again, your observations are spot on, and I do agree with you totally that what is going on is not healthy or correct in any way, but I wish you could’ve provided a deeper analysis. People who want to defend a view often fall in the trap of blaming everything on the opposing view, and usually this is not correct. There are many parties involved in this, and like I said earlier, I think we should blame people fairly and carefully.
    Even though this is (as you said) not a scientific document, it is published online, and people are reading it, and I do believe people should be more responsible about opinions that do not remain private. You may disagree, and you have all the right to do so. You wrote your honest opinion and I thank you for not denying mine.
    Finally, I hope you’re having a nice vacation. Keep writing, and I promise to follow your blog and sometimes spice things up with my disagreeing comments.

  7. abdalla bissar
    July 3, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    simply brilliant..and to the point.

  8. Samir
    July 5, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Great article Nasri… Unfotunately you’ve hit the nail right on the head. I’m a 30 yr old male who lives with his parents in the room I grew up in and lost his virginity to a Lebanese prostitute… couldn’t afford European at the time. Luckily however, I’ve been living abroad for the past 8 years and just came back. Not much has changed unfortunately, internet still sucks, traffic is disastrous, and the women… well they play a tight game. Lately though, I’ve been just wandering off alone and changed the destination of my outing to the not-so-popular places and voila, I’ve been getting some left n right. Yeah I wouldn’t go to Skybar and expect to score. I’ve gotten phone numbers there which I didn’t even follow up on cause I wasn’t interested in a virgin who looks like Haifa Wehbe, but at the time I was drunk. I’ve been finding lots of real women who express themselves in however way they see fit and not how society expects them to be. I feel there’s a perfect negative correlation with how expensive the place is to how likely you are to get laid. :) Stick to the humble places and you’ll tap into Beirut’s hidden treasures. Oh and regarding where to do it, most guys nowadays have secondary places just for that. It’s usually a run-down place with a mattress layin on the floor but it does the trick. Obviously people need to be making more money but hey, this is Lebanon, love it or leave it. I can’t decide.

  9. LT
    July 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    So…you make a direct link between two concepts that are not necessarily directly linked…
    while two issues that you bring up may be accurate in Lebanon (on their own)…they are not necessarily related in the way that you are saying they are:

    1. Girls dress up to the nine

    2. Foreign people are disappointed because they can’t get ‘any’…little casual sex.

    Shou khass tuz bi mar7aba?

    Is it not a valid choice for women to want something more than a fling?

    Men are just pissed off that women reject them. Maybe they just aren’t as physically attracted to everything that moves.

    Maybe it has something to do with the female-male power relations and they aren’t comfortable with any men, or anyone, feeling like a conqueror/penetrator. What men don’t realize is that one of the hardest things for women to do is not fall prey to this ‘trying to be cool’ dynamic despite how many men tell them to be ‘liberal’.

    Right now, because there is a power structure in place, women are playing into it every time they sleep with a guy who tells them ‘it’s just for fun’ and they hope it will turn into something more…but they act cool like they don’t want it to show that they give a shit…because after all their body is a playground for men to swing in and out of…

    Proof that this structure is still in place and there are very few times when women can feel comfortable sleeping with whoever/whenever:

    1. Societal Reaction
    2. The guy usually feels the need to lie to the woman to get them into bed…they lead them on, get them tipsy, guilt them into it with manipulative lingo
    3. The mentality of most men these women sleep with.

    The only time it doesn’t get as messy is when the guy doesn’t think anything of sex or no sex which is rare and almost impossible in this country…it is ok when two people are on equal footing..and in this society…any person will tell you it is not possible when these power structures are still in place.

  10. LT
    July 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    and this is a dialectical relationship…

    so the men assume that women that dress up are up for sex

    if they weren’t looking for casual sex they should dress up more conservatively…in order for the ‘landscape to mesh with the attitudes’…

    you’re falling into the same hole of hypocrisy you’re accusing women of.

    i swear it’s like men are just pissed off that they can’t have sex with whoever they want when they walk into a bar, tell a girl she has a nice ass and he has a nice car and how great it would be if the two of them and his backseat spent a hot foggy night….

  11. Moh Fay
    July 8, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Well written ,i like your pen but i have to disagree . somehow that this is no longer true , this article should be dated 10 years back . i am a daily wanderer from posh bars to the simplest most decadent leftwingers pubs & i see that our society reached some sexual emancipation & it is real . i believe that a very high percentage of Men & Women are having sex daily , freely & with no remorse. let’s say 70 percent of our night scene (highly unscientific guess too :-) ) & in recent years even homosexuals got out of the closet & express themselves & practices publicly . there are high chances for foreign men & women to get laid with locals . all it takes is an interesting physique ( not even international mediatised beauty standards ) a great sense of humour & a sense of initiative . & that nose jobed stuck up lady would eventually step with the guy that puts her at ease & makes her laugh rather than get in that Porsche Hum v whatever at the end of the night .. yes lebanon is a destination for Sex. Long Live Eros.

  12. Abulkook
    July 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    You need to get laid 😛

  13. Michael
    July 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    I too loved how well-written, funny, and on point this is, it’s great (I just saw it now through Twitter)

  14. Leb-Thoughts
    July 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I’ve only been ‘introduced’ to your blog a couple of weeks ago but it wasn’t until this weekend that i’ve been reading all your previous posts dating back to February. Wittingly inspirational stuff.


  15. Sarah Ayoub Christie
    July 11, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Just stumbled upon your site courtesy of someone’s tweet. This post is the epitome of Lebanese film clips as seen on my parents’ satellite TV here in Sydney, and the photos I see on Facebook. Loved it!

  16. shaheryar mirza
    July 11, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    this is a brilliant piece. eloquent, beautifully written.

  17. Nasri Atallah
    July 11, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Tatool | Well the intrinsic problem with opinions is that they are just that, opinions. An observation is something that, by definition, I have seen through the prism of my understanding of the world. However, far more intelligent and eloquent people have picked up on the issues raised long before me. I’m about to reread Samir Khalaf’s “Sexuality in the Arab World”, as a lot of people have been recommending it. And by all means, keep providing contrarian comments! They’re the most fun ☺

    abdalla bissar | Thank you!

    Samir | That seems to be the consensus across the board. Again, like I said, I’m sure plenty of people are getting some. But obviously not enough to stop people from driving like maniacs. I’m convinced that if people had healthier sex lives there would be less anger and frustration all around.

    LT | Again, I don’t think I’m preaching any double standards. Quite the contrary. And I think the hypocrisy I’m noting is very present. The hypersexualization of our environment is undeniable. From the Arab pop videos, to advertising to the physical people we see in the street. Sorry, but having an overtly sexual discourse without sex is hypocritical, any way you turn the argument.
    I wish people would just get on with having healthy relationships. I’m convinced a lot of people who refrain from sex on both sides do it for social, rather than personal or physical reasons. In societies where people are on equal footing, it isn’t really one party that withholds access. It is kind of a common attraction. I feel we’re still far from that, as you rightly point out, since there is still an asymmetrical dynamic in society as a whole. Which is kind of what I was saying.

Moh Fay | I agree that there has been a certain evolution of sexual mores over the past couple of decades, but I still think we’re far from where we profess to be. I also think the major problem that remains is in terms of consequences. i.e. Maybe more people are hooking up, but the consequences for them socially are the same as they were 20 years ago. The labels they get tagged with. When THAT changes, we can truly speak of a revolution.

    Abulkook | Lol. Cheers, I appreciate your concern.

Michael | Thanks ☺ Glad you enjoyed it.

Leb-Thoughts | Wow, thanks. I hope you don’t get tooo bored reading back through the archives. ☺

Sarah Ayoub Christie | Funnily enough, I started writing this after I’d read a friends graduate thesis on the sexualization of women in Arab pop videos, where the cliché of the virginal seductress is ever-present. Well spotted!

shaheryar mirza | Thank you very much.

  18. Ameen
    July 11, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Loved your post. Sincere, eloquent and well articulated.

  19. Doesnt Matter
    July 11, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Very true. Except that they do actually have sex. The details of that are even more sordid.

  20. Ramie
    July 11, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Spot on, mate. very well diagnosed .. which can be summarized into 2 words “retarded society”

  21. Liliane
    July 11, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    As always, the way you express yourself is impressive. And I agree with the overall idea you’re trying to portray here. But when reading it, as a Lebanese who’s lived here all her life, I see the loop holes in your story, because for example, if you go to a Lebanese restaurant, you do find a dance floor. That not all guys are pumped up and many gals aren’t filled with botox. But of course, in these rooftops and clubs and bars and such, you will see this, I liked how you compared it to a hip hop video. What I mean to say is that, I read it, get your point, laugh and know where the exaggeration (or the lack of portraying the other side) exists, but I worry sometimes that what would an outsider draw from all that? It’s definitely not the same conclusion as mine. So I donno 😛 I am not being able to be pithy here 😛

  22. LT
    July 11, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    People are having sex. They are just choosing WHEN to have sex. (For example, in wedlock)

    You are talking about ‘casual sex’ in your article.

    All meanings are ascribed right? So, some people have assigned a different meaning to sex here and elsewhere. They have sex at a different time with different people.

    People are talking about being sexy, being attractive…but their resasons for it perhaps have nothing to do with getting someone into bed for sex…maybe it’s more about getting someone to buy them a bed then they can have sex haha: to be attracted to them so that they can get married.

    Might not be what you think is right…but that is what they want…the reasons for it have to do with wealth, survival, traditions, producing offspring, and so on

    It’s not hypocritical. It’s about different desires, different wants. Free choice goes both ways: conservatism/liberalism. It’s hard to argue that the people having casual sex in this country are more honest or less hypocritical…

    side note: Yes, it would be cool for some of us if everyone was willing to have sex with eachother…but there’s issues with that as well…like unwanted pregnancies, diseases and so on…especially without sex ed.

    Maybe its good that we don’t have people sleeping around so much yet since we can’t even get sex ed into our curriculums.

  23. Nasri Atallah
    July 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Ameen – Thank you.

    Doesn’t Matter – I don’t know about sordid. I mean, I never pass value judgements. Everyone is free to do as they please.

    Ramie – Thanks. And that might be oversimplifying it a tad :)

    Liliane – lol that’s the word of the week huh. Yeah I agree, I’m sure there are tons of places I don’t know. But the fact that there have been academic studies about this (which I’ll like to when I can find them online) does seem to indicate that the problem does exist.

  24. Nasri Atallah
    July 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    LT – Again, I think we’re arguing different points. There is obviously a distinction between casual sex and sex in a committed relationship. I’m just saying (and this has been noted in academic studies which I can’t seem to find for free online anywhere) that there is a certain virginal seductress discourse prevalent in the country (and region at large). It’s not something I’m imagining. It’s not something that exists purely within the gilded cage of the country’s elite. It is something that exists. Pure and simple.
    As for sex ed. That’s a whole other debate. But your comment strikes me more as scare-mongeriing (i.e. thank god people aren’t having sex because they’d catch all these diseases). I’d rather people were taught everything they needed to know then made informed decisions on how many partners to have and how often and how. And so on.

  25. Lebanese expat
    July 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    It was really delightful to stumble across your blog, and it’s refreshing to hear some honest dialogue, and well-constructed comments (compared to the usual crazed Lebanon is the best/religious diatribes).

    One thing that I believe is critically missing in all this discussion is the ‘best’ Lebanese invention ever: il mazahir.

    It both fascinates and disgusts me when elements within Lebanese society try tirelessly to outdo each other, competing for a sense of status.

    Sex/sexualisation, botox, steroids, tans, owning 3 storey houses, chandeliers, mobile phones, having maids – all stem from Lebanese people trying to look and act like (or what they perceive to be) westerners, but ending up looking like frankestinian caricatures of western society and Lebanese culture.

    I can’t comment on whether people are or are not having premarital sex in clubs etc- but maybe you should look at statistics of hymen replacement surgery in Lebanon to give you some of that answer. Also, maybe people prefer to have sex with people they know rather than strangers.

    My main point, however, is that Lebanese people may be too busy outdoing/critiquing each other to notice others at these clubs, leaving many a foreigner sex-deprived in a hypersexualised atmosphere!

    PS: Please don’t think that I have completely negative views about Lebanon. There are many amazing and beautiful qualities about Lebanese people. This is just one topic that has long frustrated me :).

  26. LT
    July 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    my point is: so what if they are seducing men but not having sex?
    They are using their sexuality/feminity/whatever for ‘something’…just not for sex. So what?

    I’m not trying to scare anyone …im just saying that with sexual liberation, certain issues need to be cared for simultaneously.

  27. Moey
    July 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I guess we remain orient…

  28. Nasri Atallah
    July 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    LT | So, to paraphrase you, they’re being seductive but not having sex. They’re using their sexuality for other purposes.
    Haven’t we just defined hypocrisy there?

    Moey | That’s a tricky one. I mean things have changed slightly, and it’s the confusion with various value sets that creates the current tension.

  29. LT
    July 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    haha no. Sexuality does not mean sex or necessarily lead to sex so no.

    If a sexually ‘liberated’ person that often has sex, goes out and feel like dressing up to the 9’s..flirting…hitting on whoever..then not having sex…is that ‘hypocritical’?

    Maybe we’re arguing over semantics…”Hypocrisy” is not the right word.

    Examples of hypocrisy:

    Having different morals that you preach in public/private (which a lot of people do).

    You can have your own judgement about what sexuality should be used for…but they are your own judgements…

  30. Nasri Atallah
    July 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    LT | Damn! And there I was thinking I’d won this round. lol
    I think semantics do play a role. It’s all about definitions. I see where you’re coming from and I’m pretty sure you see where I’m coming from.

  31. Omar
    July 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Sounds like you’re talking about where Cairo’s been headed as of late.

    The difference here is that among a certain (at the risk of sounding crass) class, there’s a look-but-don’t-touch attitude that is universally adopted, but social constraints are a lot more pronounced causing both sexes to want to portray a “liberal-bad-boy(girl)” demeanor, but not too bad: they’ll always go the extra mile to make sure there’s an on-off switch that guarantees you can take them home to meet your mother.

    That ends up driving people’s sexual activity undergound; WAY underground, and that in my opinion is the biggest problem Egypt faces – insecurity-induced multiple personality disorders. whereas your argument is that in Beirut people are giving off the facade that they maybe open for business, in Egypt, said demographic is actually open for business, you’ll just never find out about it.

    It’s becoming more apparent because of the sheer numbers. We are A LOT of people, and we’re everywhere. I think i like it the way it is though – keeps people guessing.

    Great piece man extremely well written – for the record i was in Beirut for a wedding recently, loved it. And you guys shouldn’t have it any other way either.

  32. Maya terro
    July 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Atallah…i Loved this post!!!
    But i have to say that like in everything, Moderation is Do try Not to get Urself trapped in overgeneralization!!!!
    Will Be back in Libanon sooonz…
    Whats Ur Email like????
    Woulld Love to Share my ideas with ya As well…
    Peace and Luv
    Maya =)

  33. May
    July 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Great post! I love the way you write- forwarding it to my friends :)

  34. Simon
    July 12, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Such a great post! This was sent to me by an aussie co-worker! So many pple are fascinated and bewildered by our community, that i keep getting posts forwarded to me by non-Lebanese (westerners)

    Absolutely loved this post. I visit Lebanon on a yearly basis, and have come to accept the whole Sex-but-no-sex mentality and am pretty much used to it now. I have to admit it was pretty confusing at first, and still is confusing to lots of my friends who visit lebanon.

    As for the “socio-visual landscape in Beirut”, I completely agree with you on how ridiculous and polluting it has become. A friend of mine visited me in Sydney, she works in advertising in Lebanon, and the first remark she had was the lack of billboards on the roads. That’s because here it’s considered to be Visual Pollution. (we also have other concepts such as Sound Pollution… etc)

  35. Al
    July 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Great piece!
    I was having this exact conversation with my friend last night. He has been working in Sweden for 2 years and came for the summer. He is Lebanese and he could not help commenting on the look-but-don’t-touch attitude. It’s true you can score here, but please don’t tell me it’s as casual (don’t read ‘easy’) as it looks/should be.
    A well-educated, mediocre-looking, pleasant individual should not have to go through all this trouble to ‘get some’.
    This comes from both sexes equally.
    I hope my post won’t bounce for this, but to better phrase the hypocrisy here: It’s when you act like an attention-whore, but run way when the attention exceeds the all-eyes-on-me bar.

  36. The Silent
    July 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I apologize in advance for quasi-shameful self-promotion, but a reader of my blog suggested I check this post out. Entertaining and thoughtful piece, Nasri. It’s not easy to cobble together a quick post, so the lack of survey data skewed towards Lebanon’s demographics is certainly understandable!

    For your reading pleasure, and for other readers looking for “seasonal rants” on Lebanon, please check out my summer 2011 “User Manual for Lebanon”:

    Happy ranting,

    – Silent

  37. ray
    July 14, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    1- you need to get laid
    2- all of it is true and great facts
    3- but whats the point??? death of sex?? worst conclusion bro

  38. omar
    July 15, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I’m so in love with this article I actually want to print it and frame it. Mind you that it will be framed in an exuberant golden baroque frame in order to match my parents choice of guest room furniture.

    What I love about your examination in the article how you’ve surfaced a cycle that goes with hyper-sexualised media created by the society, then ludicrous standardisation is set, generations growing up to such standards, going out there with Sky-high (pun intended) expectations to fulfill their sexual lives, creating sexually-frustrated beings, in return they go out there and hyper-sexualise their contribution to the “socio-visual landscape” in order to reach a sense of self-satisfaction and the vicious yet sexy cycle goes on.

    It is quite good imaginative exercise, but I suppose it gets to a point where steroids for the imagination is getting pumped!

    I think a lot of this has to do with the embedded Lebanese beliefs of “representation” and how image is prioritised above all. By the country’s uber-touristic nature, I think the problem goes way back. That and the recent, constant strive to Europify Lebanon. These, and the double (triple, quadruple…etc) female standards conceived an ugly monster child. One of three parents: Ancient female double standards, Representation and the Europification…

    Sorry for the long comment, but it is seriously one of the best pieces I read on the internet in maybe a year or so.

    Thank you!
    (a non-Lebanese, btw)

  39. Nasri Atallah
    July 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Lebanese expat
    I’m glad you stumbled on my blog!
    That’s an interesting (and funny) point. People are so busy outdoing eachother that they don’t have the time or energy to have sex. I’ve noticed that in some places by the way, where the action of partaking in a certain crows is the main goal. It’s like it becomes asexual.

    Thanks! And yeah, it would be interesting to draw some parallels with other countries in the region. I’m supposing despite all its flaws, Lebanon is still one of the more liberal with regards to this.

    Maya terro
    Hey Maya! But overgeneralization is so much fun! I can’t help it. It’s much more entertaining to write (and I hope read), than a stale analysis which might miss the Zeitgeist in the process.

    Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for promoting! ☺

    Ha! Trust a lebbo to notice the LACK of something annoying. That’s classic. It feels nice to know that non-Lebanese are reading this blog and finding some of it to echo what they’ve noticed about the place!

  40. Nasri Atallah
    July 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I only bounce comments when they’re abusive. Yours is fair and to the point. I agree that people shouldn’t have to go to this much trouble either to get some, or hide the fact they’re getting some. And that applies for both sexes/genders. Everyone should be able to have the fun they desire, especially if we want to keep claiming our proximity to a European lifestyle.

    The Silent
    Ha! Feel free to shamelessly self-promote, I do it all the time! Will check out your blog now.

    2- thanks
    3 – I love (melo)dramatic conclusions!

    First of all, thank you for your compliments.
    Secondly, I think you raise an interesting point about what this means for future generations. What the standarisation of this behviour, it becoming the “norm” means for kids growing up today. It deserves further thought, but I shudder at the idea.

  41. N.A.
    July 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    I read it and I found it extremely interesting! Correct me if I’m mistaken but I got the vibe that the author doesn’t like the fact that people go through all that self-modification even though they’re not out there to sleep around.
    Personally, when I go out, whether its to dance or just to the grocery store, and decide to dress up and put on make up, its not because i’m looking for attention and its not because I’m hoping I’d be picked up, its simply because it makes me feel good about myself when I look in the mirror and think that I’m pretty.
    The problem is that some people only think they look pretty when their faces are covered with so much make up that you don’t recognize them without it.
    He estimated that maybe 15% of the people out clubbing in Lebanon would end up in casual sex but I think that the small percentage is a really good thing! And I’m not saying that from a cultural-religious point of view, I just really think it’s safer in terms of diseases and so on.
    He does discuss a very important point in that many believe that being European means you’ll be up for sleeping with whomever asks so I’m glad that’s being brought up :)

  42. anaminalmanya
    July 17, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Interesting article.

    As I had my share of fun with a local – yet it was everything but casual, the whole thing – I guess I don’t really fit the “statistic” here in any way… 😉

    I think, however, that you generally seem to overestimate the situation of casual sexy times over here in the “promised land of Europe”. Sure, in several big cities the situation should be like paradise from this point of view. Especially if you come here and are still in over-dressed Beirut mode and look better than everyone around you, suddenly, because noone else is really trying THAT hard… Just dont tell the people that you’re arab, but rather Italian or French and you should be really “popular”. ^^

    The situation is way different though, if you go beyond the large cities, to the somewhat smaller towns… and I think Beirut is a lot like a small city, in some ways: If you hook up with someone in Beirut (as a local), chances are your cousin, friend from back-in-the-day highschool, or your siblings’ co-worker notices – and won’t really keep it for him/herself. If things were like that in the big cities here, I think there would be much less going on, too…

  43. A.G.S.
    July 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    I’m afraid I disagree with the last bit;

    The current generation is alredy shedding away the last traints of a concervative society, I guarantee you that the upcoming generation will be way more sexually “liberated”. I recall when I was 12, I had no idea what English-language sex-related words like “porno”, “horny”, “slut” and so on mean, however, to my great surprise, most 12-13 year olds nowardays are not only aware of the meaning of those terms, but are also much more prone to discuss sex and even have it.

    I recall an incident happening in a certain remote, concervative mountain village a few months ago where a 14 year old boy filmed a sex tape with his 13 year old female classmate with her full awareness and consent. Naturally the girl’s family was infuriated and pressed charges against the boy, but since his family had good connections the charges were lifted.

    As I have found out recently, incidents like this are happening all across the country and usually involve children as young as 12-13, so Nasri, I think It’s all but merely a matter of time before all this bottled up sexual tension breaks loose and a generation of nymphomaniacs springs out all over the country, facilitated by the country’s excessively concervative (if not to say ottoman) jurisdiction that simply ignores the matter, regarding it as a dystopian taboo that is “beneath” the Lebanese society.

  44. Wafa
    July 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    This is the case with almost all Arab countries. The idea is “you can look but you can’t touch”. I think the writer got so busy being poetic that he actually drifted away from his solution and didn’t give us one at all. I don’t have one either. The only thing I have is “Teach kids how to respect; respect women, men, elders, nature, earth and everything else” How to end the double standards?? That is a different story!

  45. Malice
    July 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Great article Nasri, and while it is an observation that was written in 15 mins- u seem to have left out a few other observations, such as: all the university students who come in from other Arab countries who live on their own oustide the dorms.. Surely they’re having sex – random hookups and not just with “easy europeans” .. Having studied in Leb I saw lots of “ur place or mine” situations .. While lebanese women are expected to be virginal like other Arab women, its all about being discreet…

  46. jay
    July 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    ahh Beirut.. Woman of Beirut were more easy to pick up then europe but when it comes to sex you have to work on them, eventually it works out.You have to choose the words they like to hear. Also married woman are available and run after young single males. interesting place Beirut.

  47. Nadine Kai
    August 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm #


    Although your article is rather interesting, I would have to disagree with you on some points.

    Let’s agree to disagree!

    What you see is certainly not what you get. But all your claims are not based on anything concrete.
    People here are, for the majority very sexually active. True, they live with their parents, but they still engage in intercourse.

    The real problem here is rather the sexual hypocrisy. Virginity remains a taboo when in reality almost 75 % of lebanese young men and women engage in sexual activities, be it direct intercourse, anal, oral, whatnot. The taboos are still there. But in reality, the social landscape has drastically changed. I am basing my claims on some recent studies that have been made among the young. Unfortunately I can’t give out the exact number since the study hasn’t been published yet. And I am not its author.

    Your article is very engaging, and I agree with some of the facts you pointing out. True that lebanese tend to stereotype foreigners in general, eastern european women in particular.

    We are a judgmental people. We keep scrutinizing others. We keep scrutinizing each other. That’s the way things go in Lebanon. Nothing is out in the open.
    But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.

    And if I may add, we are far more perverted than most foreign societies. We live in a closet though. An old archaic wooden closet. Worn out by time. One we wouldn’t dare to open, because of some heavy burden we call heritage, traditions, perhaps also because of war.

    Lebanon stopped evolving in the 70s. Today, it’s all gone wrong.

    Keep up the good work. Your posts are very interesting



  48. Sap56
    August 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    …”limp-wristed vaguely Oriental dance moves in a club” Very funny, as a foreigner having done about 8 years of Oriental dance i was shocked by the laziness of many Lebanese women on the dancefloor in clubs. My only explanation is that they don’t want to sweat and make their hair flat and make up runny. That or they put deodorant all over their face because it’s not possible to look that fresh at 5am after a night out if you actually move.

    Semi-retarded blobs of post-human flesh floating around a phantom city -> HAHahahhahahaha.

    I’ve thought a lot about the “se but no sex” issue in Lebanon, it has interesting side effects, one positive one is friendships between guys and girls seem to be less problematic, as the question of sex is out of the way, (obviously not in every case) opinion?


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