Sex in Lebanon: How About We Stop Calling Our Women Whores?

The following is a guest post by an anonymous Lebanese woman.

I didn’t like my first time. Not because I was underprepared. Not because of the little pain I felt. Not because I didn’t feel pleasure after it. But because of what I thought people would think of me now that my hymen had been sloughed off.

I was 17 back then. Don’t faint. Yes, I was sexually active as a teenager. I’m 23 now. A lot has happened in 6 years.

I dumped my most recent boyfriend a while back. I had slept with him as well. Little did I know, however, that I’d get word that this so-called boyfriend was busy calling me a “whore” behind my back, letting everyone know about his exploits with me. He thought he had led me on. He thought I was so gullible I’d fall prey to his irresistible charm.

Time for a mini-vomit moment? Yes.

The thing my horrendous ex doesn’t know is that I wanted to sleep with him as much as he wanted to sleep with me. The thing I think most Lebanese guys don’t know is that we, Lebanese women, need sex as much as them. The only thing stopping us from pursuing it like they do is our fear from society turning on us.

“Chefto heide? Bento la flen? Eh heide charmou*a.”

I’m not afraid to walk around Hamra, my neighborhood, today with my head held high. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Who should be ashamed is every single person in Lebanese society who has no problem deflowering a girl or penetrating her, both literally and figuratively, and then pretend it was her fault for being receptive.

I have to ask those men busy calling women whores. Who are you sleeping with exactly? Dolls? Fleshlights? I rest my case.

For the women criticizing other women who sleep around, why don’t you do something useful instead? Like trying to get us into power, like trying to lobby against our current laws which are way more degrading to us than a reputation you think I’m forcing on you. Instead, you’re busy bringing down every other women who doesn’t fit into the conservative mold society has implanted in your head. I’m not judging you because of it. You have the right to be critical. But I’m pretty sure there are lots of things I can criticize about you. You don’t see me doing that, right?

People with glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Lebanese society, when it comes to sex, is slowly opening up. No pun intended. But we have a long way to go. No one has a problem admitting sex is a beautiful thing. And it sure is. But many have a problem acknowledging that people are actually having sex.

I spent last summer in Paris and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I wasn’t afraid of what people would think of me if I had a little more than I should to drink at a pub. I didn’t care about what some guys would think if I was obviously hitting on them. I didn’t think what other girls would think about me being happy on a Saturday night.

I do that in Lebanon too.

But the thing is, the girls and guys of Paris didn’t care as well. Their equivalent in Lebanon would be eyeing me either as a potential prey or as a threat. Take your pick.

I recently read an article on NowLebanon by Angie Nassar titled “A Culture of blame” and while I believe her analogy between what happened with Myriam Klink and NewTV’s Ghadi Francis is a little far-fetched for my taste, I have to say that the most poignant point is made early on:

If a woman steps outside the strict boundaries of behavior prescribed to her, she faces communal rejection, stigmatization, violent assault (as in the case of Francis), and even death by way of “honor killing.”

The sad thing is that everyone’s participating in painting the box that women are allowed to be free in: the men, the women and our media.

For example, when it comes to the Myriam Klink incident, no one had a problem rejecting Nemr Abou Nassar for calling her a whore. Her song is sexually suggestive? Of course. But what right does that give anyone for calling her a whore, regardless of how “obvious” you might believe that is?

When it comes to the Ghadi Francis incident, if the SSNP – horrible as that party may be – had beaten up a man, wouldn’t that have caused a bigger stir than the basically irrelevant ripple that the Francis incident caused?

When it comes to everything in our society today, don’t you find that there’s a flagrant double criteria applied to women, the most simple of which is the issue of sex? Men are allowed to have sex. Women are not. If men become promiscuous, then they are deemed as studs. If we fool around, then we are whores.

People tell me that I need to appreciate my body and not let it defiled in the way that I think should be permitted. But I have to ask, what business does my body have to do with you? Isn’t this my skin, my muscles, my face, my breasts and – gasp – my vagina? Don’t I own all these things? Aren’t they the byproduct of my parents having sex to bring me here? Aren’t these my property and no one else’s? Don’t I get to do anything I want with something I own as long as it doesn’t hurt you?

I don’t see how me having sex is hurting you.

I don’t see how me having sex can be hurting anyone.

I don’t see how me having sex should elicit any response apart from the question from my girlfriends “so how was it?”

Sadly enough, getting to that point is still so far that the questions many of my girlfriends as me today is “how could you? After only the first date?”

Perhaps I’m a little hasty and upfront. Perhaps I should be a little slower. But the whole point is the reputation of Lebanon doesn’t rest on my body. Stop making it seem as if me having sex is hurting our country indefinitely. Stop making it seem as if the whole Lebanese situation rests on my hymen. Stop making it seem as if the whole solution of the sectarian system is contingent upon me being forever untouched. Stop making it seem as if being a good person can only happen with me not spreading my legs – ever – except for my future husband. Stop making it seem as if the only interaction men would want with a girl like me is to get into my pants. Not gonna happen.

If me spreading my legs for you will make you go all conservative on my reputation behind my back, then let me tell you something quite honestly. It’s going to be you and your hand every single night.

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Bab el Tebbaneh vs Jabal Mohsen: The Dichotomy Representing Lebanon?

Ask any Lebanese today and they try to distance themselves from Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen as much as they can.

That’s simply not us, they’d tell you. They’re just not us, we’d all rationalize.

But the simple truth is Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are the perfect representation of the Lebanese id, Lebanon without limits, Lebanese without boundaries, Lebanon let loose.

On one hand, you have Jabal Mohsen. The only thing Lebanese about Jabal Mohsen is its location. Even the people who are from there would rather be Syrians. Their leader had even asked for the return of the Syrian army to Lebanon not very long ago. In fact, this is their official Facebook’s cover picture, just to show exactly where their allegiance lies:

On the other hand, you have Bab el Tabbaneh: the poorest region in Lebanon, where people follow politicians not because they are convinced by them but because they are a source of food and living. It’s a place where many families live in what used to be prisons with no basic facilities and with each elections coming up, politicians come and throw a lot of promises around to get these poor people’s votes. And then they go into the realms of forgetfulness again.

You’d never see such an array of flags in Jabal Mohsen

Both neighborhoods are heavily armed, as is the entirety of Lebanon, whether we like to admit it or not. Jabal Mohsen’s weapons are provided by Syria or its allies in Lebanon. Who’s providing the weapons in Bab el Tabbaneh? Your guess would be as good as mine. Or as good as Mustapha who wrote about it here (interesting read, by the way, so check it out).

Why are they fighting?

The struggles between Bab el Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are very old. They are making news more than usual these days because they’ve become more recurrent than before, because they are being linked to the crisis Syria is going through next door and because of the different kinds of weapons used.

My friends from Tripoli have been telling me about how they’re spending their nights, cowered away in one corner of their house with their family – where the bullets wouldn’t reach them. The fights had never been this heavy. The weapons had never been this strong.

The fights between Bal el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen have been recurrent since 1986 with the Bab el Tebbaneh massacre. The wounds run too deep for the healing.

You have the poor Sunnis on one side and the empowered Alawites on another. The fights are sectarian.

You have the staunch pro-Assad group on one side and the staunch anti-Assad people on another. The fights are political.

Both regions are marginalized, forgotten, and impoverished. The combination of their living conditions make them much easier to be manipulated. Both regions are puppets in the hands of those who are stronger than their people. The fights are a mere expression of other powers wanting to meddle in Lebanese affairs.

Everything aside, Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are us. They are sectarian Lebanon. They are politically divided Lebanon. They are poor Lebanon. They are controlled Lebanon. They are armed Lebanon. The only difference with the rest of Lebanon? Their self-restraint regarding violence is much weaker.

It is here that I stop and give a biology analogy. A neuron, which the most important cell that makes your nervous system, responds based on an all-or-none law. That is, if the stimulus given to the neuron is above a certain threshold, the neuron will give a maximum response no matter how much you increase the stimulus.

Beirut is not much different from Jabal Mohsen or Bab el Tebbaneh. It just needs a higher threshold of stimulus because of its apparent “civility” in order to fire. And we’ve already crossed that threshold a few times.

In a way, Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbaneh are a compas of some sorts to the Lebanese situation. Whenever they explode, know that there are worse things going on behind closed doors and that the crisis that our country (the Syrian affair, Sunni vs Shiite, etc…) has always found itself in is in one of its upward, rather than downward curve, of the alternative current that is Lebanese politics.

 

 

The Official UEFA Euro 2012 Song?

Update: this is not the official song. Armin Van Buuren just did an official video for it that’s Euro 2012-inspired. Shakira can still have a song be the official one :p

It’s not a Shakira song. Can you believe it?

Armin Van Buuren is delivering the official “song” for this year’s Euro 2012. It’s obviously trance and features one sentence, which is incidentally the song’s title, “We Are Here to Make Some Noise.”

I actually like it. It definitely serves as something that would get the crowds going.

As for me, I’ve got my jersey ready for next week. The flags will soon be taken out of storage. We are pumped for some football!

Yes, Forza Azzurri!

Spring in Lebanon: Saydet el Nourieh Convent, Hamat

When it comes to my favorite places in Lebanon, the Saydet el Nourieh (Our Lady of the Light) Orthodox Convent in the Batrouni village of Hamat, which many people incorrectly believe is in Chekka, ranks high.

It’s possibly one of the most peaceful and picturesque places you can find. But I may be biased. Batroun pride, I guess. I think it’s very difficult not to be taken by the beauty of the mountain descending almost perpendicularly into the sea, giving you a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean and for religious people a very serene place to pray.

The story of the convent goes as follows: around the year 503 AD, two sailors found themselves in peril at sea. So they prayed to the Virgin Mary for salvation. She appeared to them as light and guided them safely to shore. To honor Her, they carved a cave where they saw the light emanating from. An Orthodox monastery was built in the 17th century.

And what better way to bid farewell to the Marian month than with a tribute to one of the most famous Marian shrines in Lebanon?

The convent

The view from the top of the mountain

Going towards the cave

The cave that was carved

All of these pictures were taken with an iPhone 4S and edited with the app Camera+.

An Update on the Land Sold in Dlebta, Keserwan to the Saudi Prince

The view from the land sold

Following up with my post from Tuesday about the land in Dlebta that was sold to a Saudi prince, Pierre Daher, the person who had shared the original picture which went viral on Facebook, had the following to say in order correct the information I had shared in my post about the sale:

This picture is not representing the Dlebta valley Sold. This is the very nearby area of Harissa Valley! The red line represents the Harissa valley and has NOT been sold. Dlebta is just in the top right corner of the picture outside the red frame.

For reference, you can check out the post in question here and the picture here. In the meantime, these are the facts regarding the land sale, according to this article by Annahar and other sources:

  • The decree to authorize the sale of the land to the Saudi Prince was passed in the Official Gazette on April 26th, 2012 – almost a month ago. The land that was sold is not as huge as originally thought. It consists of 4 properties, numbered 76 – 157 – 160 – 1152 in the Dlebta region, a town that hadn’t seen lots of real estate movements similarly to the surroundings towns. The sale was brokered by a Lebanese man who’s not from Dlebta.
  • The total area of the land which the Saudi prince purchased is 7700 squared meters. It is part of Tallet el Salib, which neighbors another hill called Tallet Mohammad. Talks are already underway to purchase a part of that hill as well.
  • The presidential decree that was signed and passed in the gazette allowed the Saudi Prince to purchase the 7700 sqm land even though the limit for non-Lebanese is 3000 sqm.
  • The authorization to approve the sale was signed by President Michel Sleiman, prime minister Najib Mikati and minister of Finance Mohammad al Safadi.
  • None of the Christian ministers in the ministry spoke against the sale despite their previous stances against such transactions in Christian areas.
  • The owners of the land are a rich Maronite family in the region who had previously sworn not to sell any land to anyone from outside the region. I guess the Saudi Prince is not “ghrib” anymore to the Keserwanis.
  • The municipality of Dlebta was not consulted in the matter of this transaction.

A few things, however, still need to be said:

  1. The fact that the land is not as huge as originally perceived doesn’t mean selling it should be permitted. I am firmly against selling Lebanese land to foreign nationals especially those coming from countries where the people of the aforementioned areas have very limited rights.
  2. The sale of this land, especially allowing it, sets a dangerous precedence for the entirety of the Harissa Valley, which is highlighted in red in this picture. If they allow this land to be sold, then what would stop the selling of bigger properties in the valley some other time?
  3. The fauna and flora argument is irrelevant to many Lebanese – but the area in question is one of the few areas in the region that has been kept relatively untouched. In fact, half of the area highlighted in red in the above picture has been made into a reserve by the Maronite Church to prohibit commercial activities in it.
  4. The Dlebta sale is not the first and won’t be the last. In fact, much worse sales have already taken place and received much less attention. Why so? It could be because they’re not situated in an area Lebanese Maronites consider sacred. For instance, 740 acres were purchased by Hezbollah from a Christian man in the Chouf for a total cost of $240 million – one of the richest land deals in Lebanese history.
  5. According to this report, here’s how the sales of land breaks down in select areas: the towns of Ajaltoun, Rayfoun, Mayrouba & Kfardebien in Keserwein have 80% of their lands sold to non-Lebanese, as well as 85% of the town of Alma in Zgharta. The story is similar in the Chouf, Baabda, Batroun and other regions as well. This is a reality, not paranoia.

Let me tell you the story of a very good friend of mine from a very small, almost irrelevant, village in the caza of Aley. There was once a man who needed money so he decided to sell the only land he owned and he knew it won’t go for much. Why so? Because the village barely had an access road to begin with and his land was nowhere near it. It was also almost unusable for agriculture. Why would anyone need a land like that?

And yet, an offer from a nearby village came in. It was much higher than what the seller had thought possible. But why would the buyer want to buy this land? Why would anyone buy this land? The town’s people rallied together and pitched in to keep the purchase from passing forward.

True, the example I gave is a matter between Lebanese but when foreigners start to desire and work on getting Lebanese land as well, then we must get very worried especially that many Lebanese can’t afford the prices of land in their current state but those foreigners can. If we keep letting foreigners, regardless of country of origin and supposed limits that they can obviously work around, buy land without any form of regulation, which is the current case, then we won’t have a country to return to.

The people of Dlebta are organizing an event to support their cause this Saturday. You can check it out on Facebook here.

The Lebanese Army is Becoming Way Too Reckless

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was heading back to his hometown in the Chouf. Knowing the road like the back of his hand, he didn’t think there would be a military checkpoint which was set up there in the few hours he wasn’t home. So while driving back, he didn’t stop at the checkpoint.

As a result, the army spiked his car’s tires, deflating them all and stopping him in his tracks. He ended up paying over $500 for new tires. In retrospect, my friend was very lucky.

If this had happened with him today, my friend would have been dead.

Charbel Rahme is the latest casualty to the Lebanese army. What was Charbel Rahme’s fault? He didn’t stop at the Madfoun checkpoint. Should he have stopped? Definitely. Everyone should stop at a Lebanese army checkpoint. But is not stopping enough reason for the army to kill someone?

I refrained from commenting on the army killing Sheikh Abdul Wahed last week. Let’s wait for the investigation, I figured. Perhaps Sheikh Abdul Wahed had a ton of arms with him in the car. Perhaps his convoy shot at the army first. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Too many suppositions.

But in Charbel Rahme’s case, he didn’t shoot at the army. He didn’t threaten their lives. And still he died. His car was shot 6 times. There’s no room for randomness with 6 bullets. He was shot in the head. He died instantly. He was 38.

Charbel Rahme’s brother is a major in the army as well.

Two theories come to mind. Either this is the act of reckless individuals within the army, in which case they should be trialed as soon as possible. Or there’s a command from high-above to shoot to kill. When it comes to the former, the fact that this incident has happened twice in one week means there are way too many reckless individuals within the army and if the “myth” of the army being protective to all Lebanese is to stand then massive pruning is needed.

As for the latter theory, how can I expect protection from an army who would kill me if I run a checkpoint? The argument that I’m a civilian who “doesn’t understand” doesn’t stand. I’m the civilian whose life is threatened here. I’m the civilian getting killed in a meaningless situation no one should die in. I’m the civilian whose trust in the army is waning dangerously thin. I’m the civilian whose support the army desperately needs. I’m the civilian who can’t understand why I have to die if I don’t stop at a checkpoint.

We are not hypocrites. We supported the Lebanese army when the hypocrites proclaiming Lebanese army love today laughed at some of the army’s martyrs. But when it comes to our lives, some things need to be said. The Madfoun checkpoint has a puzzle of barricades to prevent people like Charbel Rahme from speeding away from the checkpoint. The army would have had way too much time to spread out the spikes needed in order to stop the car.

The spikes wouldn’t have allowed Charbel Rahme’s car to go more than 20 meters with deflated tires. Even if Charbel Rahme had continued trying to move away, his body has way too many points the army can hit without killing. And yet, Charbel Rahme’s body is lying cold in the morgue of the Batroun Hospital with a bullet hole in his head.

There’s no other way to spin it. The Lebanese army is getting reckless with the lives of the people it should be protecting. The Lebanese army is becoming way too reckless with the weapons it has especially with people against whom these weapons should never be used.

Alla ye7me l jeish? I beg to differ. Alla ye7mina ne7na iza heik.

Is Lebanon fast turning into a military state where your life ends depending on how you behave at checkpoints? Is not stopping at a military checkpoint now a threat to the national security of the country?

The people of Bsharre are now ringing the bells of their churches, lighting candles and praying for the soul of Charbel Rahme. May he rest in peace. His death was unnecessary, uncalled for and much more dangerous than the death of Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Wahad. Why? Because Charbel Rahme was a regular citizen, like you and me.

This is Charbel Rahme

As Tripoli Burned, PM Najib Mikati Was Busy Getting Entertained

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A friend from Tripoli told me yesterday about something – or someone – he saw while watching Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanco show, currently showing at Forum de Beyrouth.

PM Najib Mikati was apparently so exhausted from what was going on in his hometown that he found it fitting to go and watch a circus show, which he must have figured would be better than the one taking place on the streets of Tripoli.

The prime minister's hometown and one of Lebanon's major cities being in turmoil wasn't enough for him to cancel attending a show. Instead, as people battled on the streets and army men died, the prime minister was busy applauding a bunch of Canadians as they jumped from place to place.

Instead of trying to come up with a plan of action and ordering the army to deploy immediately, Mikati figured it would be better for his city and the country that he takes a break from it all. If Saad Hariri was out of sync with Lebanon due to being away, what excuse can we come up with for the current prime minister for being this untactful?

Instead of blaming militias first and foremost for killing army men and civilians, how about we blame the politicians who let them roam free with their violence for obvious political gains while their eyes satiate with art?