CAIRO: It was the first time Marwa talked about sex in public, she said, “especially with boys in the room.”
Almost all the students attending the European Union simulation organized by Cairo University last week echoed Marwa’s sentiments.
Thirty students gathered in the Egyptian National Research Center over four days to discuss social differences between the orient and occident. Three of the participants hailed from Europe, including this Daily News Egypt reporter from Austria, as well as two others from France and Germany.
Yousri, a delegate, explained: “In general you don’t talk with girls about such topics – and certainly not in a serious way.”
“It was unusual to hear their opinions on these topics,” another delegate, Mahmoud, said.
The simulation offered participants an opportunity to challenge their perceptions and opinions of the “other” as well as “themselves.”
Before he gave his speech, Magdi, one of the delegates, urged participants to use “appropriate language as some of our female participants might feel offended.”
Most of the female participants were surprisingly outspoken. “I don’t understand why girls should not speak about sex, whereas boys can do this freely,” Monica said, adding: “We should get rid of the cliché that girls have to blush immediately when sex enters the discussion.”
Sexual harassment, sexual education, abortion are some of the topics that dominated the agenda of the conference.
“The communication channel between Europe and the Middle East has been perverted by the film industry and the media,” Monica said, adding, “Men-women relationships are uptight and unnatural in Egypt.”
The stereotypes of the western lifestyles the youth are confronted with through the media sometimes contradict with their social and religious traditions, as sex remains a taboo topic in Egypt at school, at home or among friends.
“Can we please refrain from talking about nudity?” one delegate objected.
Sexual harassment was also a topic of discussion, as participants explained that it is not only faced by women, but by men as well.
“Sometimes taxi drivers ask me if I want a woman to have sex with – they could arrange something,” Emmanuel, the French delegate, said.
The majority agreed that marriage was the solution to sexual frustration. But, as delegate Fouly laments, “The girl’s parents are too demanding nowadays, they want not only gold and a flat for their daughter, but also a car, the newest television set and a high-tech fridge before they agree to the marriage. It is normal that Egyptian men who cannot afford marriage are sexually frustrated.”
Enas, one of the participants, explained that men’s “despair and frustration tends to turn into aggression.”
“Marriage would allow us to satisfy our natural needs in a socially accepted way,” one male delegate said, “parents and society should ease marriage conditions:”
“You always want to discover the forbidden, the unknown,” Hendrik, the German delegate, said, pointing out that “by demystifying sexuality we can try to (re)build a natural and relaxed relationship to our own body and sexuality.”
Sexual education was a foreign concept to some of the delegates. After it was explained to them, nearly everybody acknowledged the need for sexual education in schools.
During the discussion on abortion, there was a consensus that the decision to abort should be solely up to the mother. However, participants eventually agreed that “abortion should only be legal under certain circumstances [such as rape, health danger or in case of diseases].”