A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Recycling Old News: Middle East Watches Porn

It seems about once a year someone studies online search traffic and "discovers" that searches for online pornography are extremely high in the Islamic world. It's happening again in this Salon article, "Why Porn is Exploding in the Middle East."

I'm not sure "exploding" is the right term. Yes, "According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states." But in December of 2013, I blogged about a similar study, more limited to the Arab world, and it was old news then. I think writers enjoy the contradictions and seeming hypocrisy implicit in discovering that some of the most repressive and censored parts of the world are watching online pornography; periodically we also read that Utah, the most conservative US state, consumes the most porn per capita.

The Salon article also notes the recent furor in Lebanon, which I hadn't blogged about, over a Lebanese American called Mia Khalifa, who was voted the most popular actress in US porn by some website. I didn't blog about it because she isn't making films in Lebanon, but in the US. I am unfamiliar with Ms. Khalifa's, um, body of work, but I didn't consider it a Middle East story. If she were making films in Lebanon, that would qualify as news.

So, it's old news. The countries in the region routinely condemn it, try to block it, and insist it's a Western plot, but it continues to be popular in a part of the world where there are few socially accepted outlets for sexual curiosity. This is not news; it's human nature.

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