A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Graphic Illustration of Why There is So Much Sexual Content on the Internet

February hasn't been a great blogging month. I lost a couple of days to a bug and much of the country was iced, snowed, or otherwise weathered out of the picture for a while. On the weekend I did a routine check of blog  traffic and found it was low on this site and others. I've talked about the situations in Egypt and Syria, a fair amount of cultural stuff, the Bouteflika-Mediene power struggle in Algeria, and other serious matter, though little has been exciting. Traffic on the blog has been a few hundred visits a day, the extremely low end of normal.

Then we learned that Lebanese Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun had once taken her top off for a ski calendar photoshoot. Though the photos I posted here were in the Sports Illustrated  Swimsuit issue level of peek-a-boo suggestiveness at best, the whole Chamoun issue went viral due to a "making of" video which she says was not to be made public,  I had one critical comment on the post, criticizing me for "bashing" Ms. Chamoun while I thought I was defending her. That post went up late on the night of February 10. The next day I got 1,242 visits and 1,504 pageviews; the following day 942 visits and 1,093 pageviews. Not my all-time high or even close, but pretty impressive for February. I later had a follow-up post on the surge of support for her. (And Sports Minister Faisal Karami, who called for an investigation, is not in the newly-named Cabinet.)

The graph above is Google Analytics'  trace of the first two weeks of February's blog traffic, showing the Chamoun surge. [Update: off blog I've had comments about the shape of the graph. Take a cold shower and get a girlfriend.]

 Lebanese traffic also increased, Lebanon rising to number 7 in my source countries. It may have risen that high in the past, but not for quite a while. The English-speaking countries (US, UK, Canada and Australia: where are you, New Zealanders?) plus Egypt, Israel, the UAE, Germany, and lately Turkey (which used to block all Blogger sites) usually dominate, but this propelled Lebanon up the ranks.

In the top 10 Google search words included all of the following:
Jackie Chamoun (the number one search)
Jackie Chamoun topless
Jacky Chamoun
Jacky Chamoun topless
Jackie Chamoun nudity
Five in the top ten; three in the top four. Most do not appear to relate to her Olympic ski performance; she didn't actually ski till the weekend. None said "Jackie Chamoun Olympic ski results."

Now, don't read this as meaning that my readers are basically all lecherous males looking for not-very-revealing pictures; it's more a function of lecherous males looking for not-very-revealing pictures who never heard of this blog before finding it through Google.

On the other hand, among my highest-ranking posts for all time are those dealing with Aliaa Elmahdy, though again her actual nudity never appeared on the blog. So talking about nudity works.

We all know sex sells. Apparently naked, or topless, Arab women draw traffic. (Who'd have thunk it?) In my original post I said that the still pics were mild and only the video showed much, and commented:
I still think it's rather mild: there are a few shots, at some distance, where you seem to see her breasts fully, but unless you're really good at stop-motion screen shots, if this is the only way you can find nudity (with nipples: see above) on the Internet, you're doing it wrong. I find it innocent enough to post here.
I underestimated the lechery of the Internet: of course there are now tons of screencaps showing blurry shots of Ms. Chamoun's breasts. You won't find them here, as I'm respecting her Facebook request not to circulate them further, and if blurred distant toplessness is the best you can do you don't understand the Internet; but I fear she's paying the price of being photographed in revealing ways, even if not for publication. Once a photo or a video is on the Internet, it will never entirely disappear. I still don't think she did anything wrong: actresses in Arab films and music videos sometimes appear seemingly topless, though only their back is shown; I assume the cameramen and director saw more. (And a few have survived "sex tape" scandals, though without the career boost that seems to create in the West). Ms. Chamoun did not think the "making of" video would ever appear, and the calendar, if coy, was unrevealing. The biggest "boobs" in this story are her critics.

Despite the huge surge last week, I am not taking from it the lesson that this should be a sex blog, or start running a Page Three Girl if we had pages.The Middle East Institute tolerates my rather broad "social and cultural" mission definition, but I'm not going to push it. (There aren't enough topless Arab women anyway.) But if you wonder why there's so much sexual content on the Internet, I think the graph above is revealing. It draws traffic.

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