Lebanese sex therapist castigates ridicule on “childish” TV hosts | Women’s rights news

Sex therapist Sandrine Atallah believed she had been asked on television to debate sex education in Lebanon – instead she was ridiculed by her male hosts, sparking a storm of misogyny in the Middle East.

In a country where sex education is practically absent from school and where discussions about sex remain taboo, Atallah hoped to put the facts on the table and dispel misinformation.

But before it even hit the air, a panel of mostly male hosts tore up educational videos she had posted online, including one on arousal and another on masturbation.

“Sometimes it’s sex education, sometimes it’s sexy, I don’t know,” a male On Another Planet host said with a laugh.

“The way she talks is very exciting… your mind goes elsewhere,” said another male presenter of the show.

When the 42-year-old doctor walked into the studio on Sunday, she was repeatedly interrupted and mocked, sparking outrage online over the objectification of women in a country with a long history of systemic sexism.

Lebanese women do not have the right to pass citizenship to their children, and personal status laws administered by religious courts favor men in divorce matters with custody of children.

Although the country tightened its domestic violence law and criminalized sexual harassment in December, Human Rights Watch said the law imposed too heavy a burden of proof on victims and did not prioritize prevention.

After widespread public pressure, On Another Planet host Pierre Rabbat apologized for “what happened on Sunday” – the second time in a week that Atallah has been ridiculed on the air.

On Twitter, netizens decried the ridiculous and lascivious hosting in a torrent of comments.

“I don’t have kids and if you have a wife I feel so bad for her,” Twitter user Marianne commented after the apology.

Childish, sexist

Atallah said in an interview that these two incidents summed up the dominant attitude towards sex and women in Lebanon.

“It’s so childish, like they’re 11 or 12 years old and excited just seeing a woman,” Atallah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Lebanon is often touted as the most liberal country in the Middle East, but she said it is a country where many do not know the words for private parts of the body or how they work.

“Women, in particular, often have no idea. They think there is a wall that must be broken by man the first time they have sex. I’ve had patients who have said they don’t know what the right hole is, ”she said.

Atallah works at the American University of Beirut Hospital and hosts a weekly Haki Sarih, or Straight Talk, podcast with more than 100,000 monthly downloads, mostly in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

She also racked up a quarter of a million subscribers and half a million likes on the popular video sharing app TikTok, widely used by teenagers, in less than six months.

Demand for information is high, but she said the language was a barrier as many Lebanese only know the French or English terms for sexual organs due to the country’s colonial history and lingering questions about it. identity of the nation in the Arab world.

“We don’t know these terms in Lebanon. It has to do with this attitude that we are not Arabs and that we are different and better and superior – which is not true, ”Atallah said.

Other countries in the region have a healthier and “much bolder” approach to sexual health.

“There is this misconception in Lebanon that talking about these things will make people do them, but the opposite is true,” Atallah said.

“Sex Ed [education] teaches women that they can say “no”. It pushes back the age of sexual activity and helps to avoid unwanted pregnancy and unprotected sex. “

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