Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Sex, Values & Globalisation or Mazen Abdel Jawad’s free fall

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/08/2009

Last week, LBC & its young anchorman Malek Maktabi were reminded that “red lines” still exist in the Arab world and that crossing them can have an economical and a political cost. This simple fact was brought to their mind when the Saudi authorities closed down their offices in Jeddah following the airing of the weekly programme “A7mar bil khat al 3arid”, “Bold Red Line”.

Here’s the extract that started the whole commotion.

As you might have noticed, the reporting isn’t really interesting. The anchorman’s sensationalism comes across as cheap and uninteresting. We are shown a young man in his “crib” bragging about his sexual exploits, expressing how important sex is to him and how he stimulates his partner’s desire. Some people have described his crowing as lewd, while others have stressed how immature and teen-like his approach to sexuality is. He gives no graphic details of his sexual relationships, and the “sexual accessories” he shows are:

  • A book : “101  questions surrounding sex”. Is this show going to make it a bestseller? Probably not. The reporting only shows you its title, here some more info:مصبري القباني”مئة سؤال وسؤال حول الجنس “، دار العلم للملايين ،بيروت، ٢٠٠١”. Yes, the book is Lebanese. With a bit of publicity, it could become the star/emblem of the Beirut world capital 2009.
  • Two plush toys on top of one another.
  • Two “funny” penis shaped hopping toys (image is blurred).
  • An aphrodisiac.
  • Condoms.
  • A dildo (image is blurred).

Basically, it’s much less than what you see in Video clips or teen oriented comedies or music channels such as MTV. But this is not MTV, it’s LBC, and the guy bragging is not a US teen, but a 32 y/o Saudi citizen. The airing of the show was followed by an immediate backlash. Saudi citizens wrote to LBC, complained to the authorities, spoke out in the press and TV stations, and even wrote to the young man’s employer to have him fired. Mazen Abdel Jawad was eventually arrested. Embarking on a damage-control campaign, Mazen Abdel Jawad gave an interview in which he apologises for his remarks and accuses LBC of “arranging” the scene/his room, adding accessories to his room and editing the interview in a dishonest way so as to distort what he was saying.

Here’s an example of the way the “Mazen Abdel Jawad affair” was treated in the Saudi Media. Check the way the interviewed person reframes the affair. It’s about upholding values, repressing deviants, portraying and upholding a positive image of Saudi society. This is in sharp contrast with the way such an affair would be seen in Europe or the US where their wouldn’t have been much debate because of the way civil liberties are understood (freedom to choose a lifestyle, freedom of the press…). For an interesting analysis, check out this Saudi blog. It’s quite refreshing.

Another media related “sex scandal”

While I was searching for more info on Mazen Abdel Jawad, I stumbled on this Saudi reporting. It’s very interesting to compare the treatment of both cases (media envelopment, sensationalist reporting, public stir)… Here’s the lesson I learnt: When discussing sex on TV, better stick to interviewing strangers.

3 Responses to “Sex, Values & Globalisation or Mazen Abdel Jawad’s free fall”

  1. Ms. Tee said

    Good post, WL.

    The Saudi reaction was peculiar considering that there were no previous objections to “lewdness” on LBC before. As long as they were looking in on an aquarium, it was OK. But as soon as it became about a Saudi individual, it was an outrage!

    Have you heard or read anything about this also having to do with Walid bin Talal’s shares in LBC?

    • Yes, I believe I read something about it in yesterday’s edition of al-Akhbar (if my memory serves me right). But I think it’s rather far fetched. I think the issue is much simpler.
      Do you remember the reporting that aired on French television two years ago on “housemaids reduced to slavery” in Lebanon. The Lebanese reaction was quite intense. The legal terms is “undermining the image and reputation” of a country, in other words, reflecting something about a society that it wishes to ignore, something that hurts is self image.

      Notice the way the other “affair” was treated by the Saudi Television. The woman was shown unveiled. All those involved in the prostitution network had their faces shown and their identity unveiled. The whole reporting was shot as a fictional TV criminal series. And we’re talking about offences that are considered criminal in Saudi Arabia. But there is no problem discussing the details of what was happening in the prostitution network, the people the woman encountered. As long as the people involved are all foreigners (something the report insisted on) and they are shown as criminals that will be persecuted… the self image is preserved and reinforced. While Mazen Abdel Jawad’s bragging is not a criminal offense (even in Saudi Arabia), and for crying out loud, he boasted about being molested when he was 14 y/o by a neighbour. But this detail isn’t even taken into consideration. He “undermined” the image of Saudi Arabia… and did so because of foreign media (LBC)!

  2. […] and Malik Maktabi, host of the show Ahmar bil Khatt al-`Arid — a recent episode of which provoked the ire of Saudi authorities into shutting down the LBC office in Jaddah. Since the Twaynis are a well-known Orthodox family and […]

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