Jordanian Sexual Denials

On Ammon today, an interesting article featured a Yarmouk University professor who protested AIDS awareness posters posted by the Ministry of Health that asked “Have you practiced anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex?”. I’ll let you do the reading but to sum it up, Dr. Azzam’s argument is that the posters promote promiscuity or, at the very least, promote sexual relations outside the marriage, especially by asking such questions that assume students have engaged in such activities. He also argues that such media campaigns are designed to achieve the agenda of some “special parties” more than increase health awareness, and that AIDS is not the biggest problem facing our youth today and thus shouldn’t be given that much attention. Naturally, the professor ends by saying we should be focusing on the bigger “moral crime”, which is sex outside the marriage, claiming that such posters only normalize these “crimes”.

If you’ve been outside lately, you’ve probably noticed the Ministry’s AIDS campaign scattered throughout Amman in the shape of posters, billboards and buses covered in advertisements. It’s the one that features the picture of a tattooed arm shooting up, because, you know, people who have tattoos are probably heroin users, and stupid heroin users at that.

The cliches and stereotypes aside, I was actually surprised by the campaign. Mostly because it felt like the government was acknowledging the existance of AIDS in Jordan for the first time, and on a national and public level. So I tip my hat to those who felt it was time to start publically combating its spread and raising some awareness.

But back to our dear professor here.

While his arguments may sound a bit absurd (at least to me), I do have to acknowledge that they are representative of the majority, and that that majority would indeed agree with him. I won’t be surprised to see those posters disappearing soon, from the campus grounds at least. Nevertheless, his arguments emphasize a common and perhaps growing problem in Jordan: sexual denial.

Social conservatives seem to be living in a bubble that denies the existance of any sexual activities outside the norms of marriage, when in fact, I would wager that a growing portion of our population (the majority of which is under 30) are engaging or have engaged in such acts. No, not just in West Amman. Sex is widespread throughout Jordan and most of this country’s youth know it.

Such denials are a cause for concern, simply because denying these realities means denying greater problems: like AIDS. Rejecting the premise that more and more young Jordanians are engaging in sex is like closing your eyes to the elephant in the room in hopes that it will go away. It is the same bubble of denial that causes people to be surprised that homosexuality exists in the country and that it’s bigger than most think. It is the same bubble of denial where upon a recent case of someone trying to register the first official gay organization at the Ministry of Social Development, suddenly became the talk of the town.

It is the same bubble of denial that the Jordanian government has been stuck in for a long time, and it resulted in sweeping the issue of AIDS and sexual education under the rug. Even if some in government did acknowledge it, they wouldn’t dare suggest raising awareness about AIDS or safe sex simply because it goes against social norms. Mind you, such decisions have probably cost lives, and policy makers should be aware of that. I am hoping that this latest campaign is indicative of a wider policy shift that will trickle down from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education.

So I’m forced to naturally disagree with this professor. This is a big problem that faces our youth today. They are an emerging generation of young people who have no knowledge about sex because someone thought it would be immoral to teach them. Aside from the growing problem of AIDS, sexually-transmitted diseases and even abortions, the lack of sexual education that stems from such denials does take its toll, even within the boundaries of marriage. Lack of sexual knowledge when it comes to contraception means that there is a lack of family planning, bigger families, increased poverty, increased unemployment. Lack of sexual knowledge means that Jordanian women, for the most part, know next to nothing about sex and Jordanian men get all their information through pornography, an equation that I doubt leads to a healthy marriage.

Lastly, the professor, like many who have echoed his arguments, claims the sex outside the marriage is un-Islamic and indeed prohibited by all three of the monotheist religions. While this is true, we should also be pointing out that Islam is perhaps the most liberal when it comes to sexual education and sexual awareness.

So I guess the question many conservatives should be asking themselves is: why aren’t they?


  • Well said Nasim. I always say that in Jordan everyone ‘s having sex and everyone’s a virgin… Its about time soemthign was done about STD awarness and safe practices. Its not about sexual rights its about peoples right to health and education that is at stake.

  • Denial is our expertise!

    I don’t get the notion of accusing an awarnace campaign of spreading immorality. Sex outside marriage boundaries exist in our society at large whether we accept it or not. There is no way that we can stop that even if we want to. When someone has a child who he knows that he smokes behind his back and can’t manage to stop him, he tries to make him not the risks of smoking. The same is applicable here, if some people don’t agree with sexual practices of others, then the answer of the government should be to takeresponsibility and spread awarnace so that to minimize the risks of such practices.

  • In the US, where doctors screen for HIV very frequently especially in patients with risk factors, more than 25% of those infected with HIV still don’t know they’re infected because they haven’t been tested yet. In Jordan, the percentage is probably much hugher because most doctors don’t screen for it, and don’t ask about risk factors, so many young people with HIV don’t know they are infected.
    There are also more Jordanians living outside Jordan than anytime else and those can get infected with the multiple sexual experiences they have.

    I agree with every measure the Ministry of Health is taking to prevent HIV. The cost of HIV infection is way beyond our means and it can bankrupt our budget. IT’s more of an economical loss than human loss.

  • shalabieh: “I always say that in Jordan everyone ’s having sex and everyone’s a virgin… “

    lol I have to find a way to use this phrase in the future.

    observer: “There is no way that we can stop that even if we want to. “

    which is why denial usually helps

    Hareega: “the percentage is probably much hugher”

    as someone with a medical degree, you are not allowed to use that word again!

    “The cost of HIV infection is way beyond our means and it can bankrupt our budget. IT’s more of an economical loss than human loss.”

    a very, very interesting point.

  • Nasim,
    I do agree that one of our biggest mistakes is that we keep denying our problems. Yes, sex outside marriage is widespread, homosexuality is there and practiced by many, and these are not the only problems. I also agree that if we keep denying the existence of such problems, we will never solve them.

    However, I do not see how this means that we should have campaigns about safe sex or against STDs.

    Admitting the problem does not mean admitting the west’s way of solving it. Talking about safe sex and STDs shifts the attention from solving the real problem of sex out of marriage to saving those who practice such an act.

    Our way of saving people is to help them not perform the act. The west’s way of saving people is to let them do it, but do it safely. Sorry. That does not fit with us.

    Admitting the problem also does not mean that we have to speak about it loudly everywhere. Admitting the problem means that we have to take the right steps to solve it. I believe that speaking loudly about such a problem degrades its severity in the eyes of people. We have campaigns against desertification, smoking, shooting in weddings, using the phone while driving, and STDs!! This will cause people to equate the severity of these problems, which in its turn degrades the severity of the problem in the eyes of people down to the level of the other problems.

    Thanks for the post, I enjoyed reading.

  • You are raising a valid point, and glad to see you venturing outside of comfort zone more often recently.
    Well it will be the biggest sham if they manage to remove such campaigns from the places that they are most needed in.
    Here some interesting questions to think about, if a simple campaign such as this has raised voice’s like the “honorable doctor” what would calls for actual sexual education bring forth ? and for how long will be submit to the ever growing gap between the mentality of the previous generation to that of the contemporary ones ? are they going to remain voiceless for long ?

    “we should also be pointing out that Islam is perhaps the most liberal when it comes to sexual education and sexual awareness.”
    I’m just curious what gave you that impression ?

    ibrahim hmmm you seem like a nice guy, a bit in your shell. my honest advice is go out more and mingle outside of you social circle… maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about how effective preaching abstinance and committing to religion is in keeping people from having sex. After you managed break the mirage of society as a rosy muslim one, maybe you will appreciate how much damage sweeping issues under the rug might cause.
    talking about them manages to form discourse on the issue and removes judgments from their holly pedestals. maybe, and just maybe, then people will have some real compassion towards others rather than just a facade.
    you apparently read the words but haven’t read the post

  • Indeed, denial will always be amongst our biggest problems, but I think we shouldn’t wait until the government and the officials overcome such issues, politics is a mess, let aside the social side of the matter, so we have the responsibility to raise awareness with all means available, for instance, your article here is a great endeavor on that way, and many of us can by one way or the other disseminate and circulate information, in this cyber connected reality that we live, information is being passed on in virtually the speed of a click, so why don’t we take the effort of passing on what really matters.

    I already quoted your article here and passed it on Mahjoob :
    wish you the best of luck brother…


  • i would just like to add, that the only answer to ignorance and complete lack of information on this issue, is . *drumroll* : Misinformation.
    Case in point, Aids awareness campaign by national Aids program, in which flyers were distributed (in books@), telling us that Aids is transmittable via tears and saliva.
    the miseducation of jordanian youth continues!

  • Nasim thanks for such a great article and issue to raise, Just wanted to raise something here, they west or let say the youngs in the US try to use protections most of the time as I have seen that or heard ,on the other hand the young people is jordan try to do it thinking that this is their only chance to do it without using any kind of protection or even thinking of doing safe sex, people are shy to go to the pharmacy and ask for protections or ( condoms) thinking what the pharmasist would think now if she is a girl or a boy,

    Also looks like Ibrahim is against any educational or lets say informative campaigns such as this one. Mr ibrahim , how can we become improve our people and their knowledge if we don’t raise such a thing, i bet you that there are many people in jordan now who don’t know what AIDS mean or where it comes from , you don’t get infected by AIDs only by sex and thats a fact but the biggest percentage is by sex interaction,

  • Ibrahim — the West’s way of “dealing” with the problem isn’t working all that great. We have high abortion rates, rising numbers in teen pregnancy, and rampant STDs. So what is the solution?

    One idea: I think parents need to get more involved. I’m not talking about threatening your son or daughter, but being honest with them about sex, preferably before they go through puberty. Perhaps it’s a societal taboo, but in a world where sexual material (pornography, prostitution, even movies) is becoming more accessible, parents need to step up and get to their kids before others do.

    It’s sort of a Catch-22 situation, huh? If we admit the problem, people automatically think that sexual relations outside of marriage are OK. On the other hand, by not speaking up, we are contributing to the problem as well.

    My other idea is to put a giant protective bubble around Jordan (or perhaps the entire ME) and cut off all forms of communication with the outside world 😉

  • Here here. Denial often leads to preventable deaths. It’s all about breaking out of our comfort zones, which you have done here, and engaging in dialogue. I’ll say it 1000 times. Talk. Talk to your kids, talk (as parents) to each other. Discussing the dangers of unprotected sex or promiscuity is not the same as promoting either, and I’m so sick of that argument. It’s not saving lives, is it?

  • The fantastic article on 7iber by Umm Yazan is the best example I can think of to prove that Sex education can protect our children, not ‘corrupt’ them.
    Not addressing an issue contributes to the crippling culture of ‘3eib’ that pervades our most intimate lives, and especially in the case of children, makes them the victims of our own complexes. Our own fears of western culture, our own identity crisis, become their living hell.
    Using morality as an excuse protects only the professor’s sentiments: it is a selfish and self-conscious claim dressed up in moral gibberish.

    “Lack of sexual knowledge means that Jordanian women, for the most part, know next to nothing about sex and Jordanian men get all their information through pornography, an equation that I doubt leads to a healthy marriage.”
    hahaha well put!
    a few jordanians at uni here once had a conversation about rape rates in jordan and the west, and we were trying to explain why they r so much higher in the west. someone argued that it is most probably because a lot of rape is not reported in jordan, including the very frequent rape committed by husbands on their wives. surprise surprise, a lot of (mostly guys) were very alarmed at this argument, and explained that a husband can not rape a wife because she is his ‘right’ [min 7a2oh]. How is it even possible to conceive of healthy marriages when such attitudes exist? and without healthy marriages that sustain healthy families, is it not in vain to hope for a better tomorrow?

  • I find it extraordinary that the MoH allowed printing and hanging posters that have “Have you practiced anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex?” on them in the first place (I would appreciate a copy). It is recognition of sex in its various forms, and that’s a huge achievement, one has to admit.

    I think the discussion misses an important point, however.

    We are no strangers to Jordan and the dual multi-personality conservative-liberal way of living. I am not astonished by the reaction of the “professor” and find it within the acceptable line of none-sense often uttered by our distinguished “scholars” and “intellectual leaders”, who are only a product of our way of being (in its various forms).

    My question is how do we actually reach the target audience of these campaigns (beyond attempts to liberalize the masses or keep their minds under arrest)? What brilliant ideas do we (the well informed fortunate few) propose to get the message through to those who need it, those who practice different forms of sexuality unaware of the dangers associated, without insulting the belief and moral systems of the majority of this country?

  • كلنا نريد أوجوبه وحل ،لاتتوقعوا أي حل في ضل حكومه رجعيه لا تأبه الى المشاكل المتراكمه والمزمنه

  • What boggles my mind is that we copy the clothing of the west, their food chains, watch their tv shows but then when it comes to policies we find it unacceptable to adapt their most successful. Adapting a policy of another country does not mean giving up our culture, after all we adapt traffic rules, communications, cars, airports, etc.

    If we are to catch-up with the industrialized world, we cannot reinvent the wheel every step of the way. We should learn what we can from them and become a society that changes and evolves, an innovative and thinking society. Pretending that abstinence promotion will work in Jordan where it failed all around the world is at best a naive way of looking at things.

    We need a movement supporting and strengthening the campaign. I think it is a great step in the right direction (I can’t believe I am saying that about our government 🙂 ).

  • There is a sequence of reasoning that I can’t understand:

    Sex is widespread -> We have to admit that the problem exists -> We have to promote safe sex.

    Promoting safe sex to me is like giving Panadol to a person with a broken arm. It helps, but does not solve the problem.

    I stress that we do not want people to use condoms while having illegal sex; we want to prevent illegal sex altogether.

    I am not against sex education, on the contrary, I am a strong supporter for sex education, but again, this does not mean that we have to adopt the west’s definition of sex education.

    The post raised two points:
    1) It is wrong to deny the existence of the problem
    2) The current campaign is good.

    I strongly agree with the first. However, I don’t know if the second is true because I live outside Jordan. Nevertheless, I would like to stress that any campaign should respect the social norms of the society.

    I think that we should shift our attention from the question of having a campaign or not to the wider question of how we can address the problem in our conservative society so as to solve it and yet respect the identity of the society.

    There are many things that can help solve the problem or part of it. For example, watching night clubs closely, tracing non-Jordanian prostitutes, enlightening parents about the importance of talking to their kids about sex, watching more closely for people spreading and selling pornographic material, promoting rules and organizations which make marriage easier, etc…

    There are many lines of work, so lets not think like:If we don’t ask them about anal and oral sex then we are not solving the problem.

    The only thing I came out from your comment is that you have more knowledge and better understanding than me, and that my comment is lousy because I still have to learn and see many things in this life.

    Did I understand your comment this way because I am good enough to understand words but not posts? Maybe.

    I really would have appreciated if you have concentrated on the ideas I have discussed rather than on me. Any way, thanks for your honest advice, and please accept an honest advice from me too:
    Never assume more knowledge or understanding than others: it is not healthy.

  • The poster is actually pretty funny if you see it. The questions start off with “Are you a beautiful girl? Are you a handsome man?” then it starts asking the other questions LOL. But no, all kidding aside, I think if the schools are not willing to implement a sex ed course, then universities should at least. Call it a health course, whatever, and make it compulsory like national education or 3oloom 3askarieh (military sciences?!).

  • You articulate your point well, have you considered contacting this professor? Maybe you can send him this in an email. As a university professor he’s a smart guy and has ifluence on at least his students. I would be very interested in what his thoughts would be after reading your reply to his stance. Maybe this is a point of view he didn’t think to see before and perhaps a useful discussion can be opened up.

  • Jordan is a country confined to a mental state of denial because we refuse to be called what we are becoming, an open-minded country. Although most people think that Jordan won’t ever be “westernized”, the fact is that it already partly is. The new arising generation is more conscious towards all the above mentioned facts of sex outside marriage, homosexuality and an open-minded country in general and it’s with time that everyone will have to accept the out-there facts : there are gays in Jordan, thousands of teenagers have sex and public affection is not a crime. It will take us a few years, maybe a few decades, but we will get to the point where our schools have a obligatory sex-ed class, our universities hand out free condoms and our cafe’s don’t ask us to “sit properly” when you’re with your partner.

  • Asoom,
    “As a university professor he’s a smart guy and has ifluence on at least his students”.
    This is not necessarily true with regards to how we define “smart”. And the argument that he has influence is true to the extent that they share his values and beliefs.

  • “It’s the one that features the picture of a tattooed arm shooting up, because, you know, people who have tattoos are probably heroin users, and stupid heroin users at that.”

    Not to be a nit-picker, but tattoos are another method in which AIDS can be communicated. So maybe they were just cutting budget costs by hitting two birds (causes) with one stone (poster).

    First, I find it unsettling that a professor from Yarmouk; a university that is allegedly in the upper echelon of higher education in Jordan, is publicly making these ignorant statements.

    Second, with all due respect to the authors optimism, I find the current Ministerial “AIDS Awareness” campaign to be an inadvertent attack against homosexuality whereby they have equated being gay with having AIDS, and in doing so ignored the natural existence of a phenomenon that deserves to be recognized rather than “eradicated”. Good public policy means engaging your public, not alienating it.

    In the same way that these entities have acknowledged that AIDS is a threat; they should also acknowledge that being ignorant of naturally occuring phenomena is equally so.

  • Totally agree with what the article says and think its good that Jordan is making the effort in fighting AIDS. I am not in Jordan right now so I cant really judge the campaign but I do know that the majority of the population would support the professor and you cant blame them! This is a sensitive topic and people will most likely jump to include religion into this, where really the problem is purely social!
    I think before you can go ahead and push a major campaign such as this one the audience should be able to handle it, yes this may have worked in a different place at a different time, but I dont think it applies to Jordan because the message itself is very shocking for the average Jordanian, which will push the likes of the professor to argue and blame “special parties” (which is the automated & programmed response we’ve been hearing for so long…..)
    I agree that educating the masses is the right way to go (and I am not talking about memorizing poems and what fruit grows in what part of the world!!!) but social education. Right now you have people that are fighting this, which means they are not accepting let alone understanding the situation and the reality of the situation. This should be a long term campaign and not just ads, their should youth programs involved and distributing brochures and books instead of shocking people and push them away deeper into their denial. Ultimately people should know the truths, facts and tips on how to avoid AIDS but on their terms otherwise its money well spent!
    Those are my 2 cents!

  • To Ibrahim
    ” There are many things that can help solve the problem or part of it. For example, watching night clubs closely, tracing non-Jordanian prostitutes, enlightening parents about the importance of talking to their kids about sex, watching more closely for people spreading and selling pornographic material, promoting rules and organizations which make marriage easier, etc…”

    يعني يا أبراهيم بكفيش المخابرات بتراقب وتجسس على الشعب، وبدك الشعب يتجسس ويراقب نفسه الى متى سنترك عقلية التجسس ونترك الناس لوحدها؟

  • Ibrahim makes very reasonable and important points.

    Also, for those who are rubbing the fact that those of us who are in the “Muslim Bubble” know nothing about the “outside world”, I guess you’re also living in your bubble as well; although many of our youth have sex outside marriage, many more don’t!!!

    So, here is when the message these advertisement campaigns are trying to promote present a problem. Implicitly, they say “well, if you insist on having sex, then do x y and z to protect yourself”.

    Sexual education is tremendously importantly. So is protection from AIDS. Matter of fact, the MoH needs to pass a law that forces newly weds to run blood tests before writing their books.

    All Ibrahim is trying to say is that in order for us to control the AIDS pandemic, we must come up with solutions that are culture-sensitive and context-specific.

    We can definitely make use of creativity and ingenuity once in a while!!!!!

    Also, I’m sick of the attitude of many around here, looking down upon members of our society, like the Professor, who’s opinions might not jive with ours (our excellencies, cuz u knowww.. we’re educated, we have facebook ‘n all!)

  • Mohanned, I meant smart in the very general sense. He obtained a phd, he’s capable of rationalizing and connecting dots. Clearly he’s capable of making a claim and justifying it. Whether he’s “right”, “wrong”, or a little out of touch of is a different issue.

    “And the argument that he has influence is true to the extent that they share his values and beliefs.” I don’t get it. Why would you expect them to share his values and beliefs? They’re his adult students, not his children!

    Or maybe you meant his students are only capable of being influenced by him if they share his values and beliefs, to that I disagree. When I say influenced I don’t mean to be convinced of a specific idea….you can be influenced to just think, to consider something you didn’t before, to analyze why something is “right” or “wrong”, to take interest in an issue, or to take some kind of action. In that sense I’ve been influenced by many college professors whose “values and beliefs” I didn’t share.

    Anyway my point really is perhaps a practical exchange of ideas can come out of this professor who is employed by a large university community and teaches many students (I’m assuming) being directly presented with an articulate counter point of view from a young jordanian-such as this post.

  • While this campaign was certainly organized with noble intentions, I’m sad to see it being carried out in such a silly manner.

    Our society is a conservative society. To satisfy both those who are conservative, and those who want to spread sexual education, the campaign organizers could have simply made sure that the campaign materials were visible to everyone, but the wording was such that it did not carry such presumptuous undertones.

    The MoH could have simply coordinated with the faculty at all schools to hold mandatory sex education classes the purpose of which was solely to educate today’s youth about tomorrow’s choices.

    There are many statistics out there about STD transfer among married couples. The sessions and the campaign itself can all be spun around the concept of sexual relations that are constrained within marriage, while still reaching out to singles.

    BUT, we in Jordan unfortunately are plagued with fools, and their obsession with the topic of sex out of wedlock (either in favor or in opposition) leads to this stupid target fixation that is clearly demonstrated in this campaign.

  • I feel like Jordan is in the middle of an identity crisis. Between older generations, Gen X, and Gen Y, a gap is getting broader. While the population of Jordan consists of mainly younger people, mostly older people are in charge of actually running the government.

    Besides age, you have the social/plitical views. The conservatives, the liberals, and people who just want to live in peace. Jordan is a small country, and being new to globalization makes change more difficult than it already is.

    It will take time, but it eventually must happen. While I am in agreement with sex education and similar issues related to health, I hope it does not escalate into bigger things such as the issues Shmal addressed. Just because Jordan is opening up does not mean that limits should be off as well.

  • I just can’t but ADORE how some readers insert the progressive “westernization” of Jordan as to say, sex is no foreign element to our culture— hmmm, an opinion that counter’s the professor’s assertion, ” السنا نعيش في مجتمع لا يحرم فيه الدين- الذي يعتنقه أغلب أبنائه – ليس فقط الزنا .” in quality! two opinions that are basically flawed.

    Hamzeh N hit the nail on the head regarding the way this campaign should have been executed. If ever they decide to revise the survey questions set, especially those very first ones, wording, strategies, ways to reach a wider body of students without being rejected from the start, they should consult him. really.

  • I cannot and won’t try to read the original article on Ammon, but from what you have paraphrased from the Professor, I agree with his point that those posters are not suitable for the Jordanian population. To me they might even introduce ideas to those who were previously unaware of them and that we do not need.

    I have seen the posters in town with the arm shooting up. At first I had no idea what they were about. It took me a few tries to figure out that the Arabic there meant AIDS. Since they had transliterated the English abbreviation instead of using Arabic words to inform people of their meaning, I thought that might make others more confused instead of informed.

    Perhaps we are dealing with a marketing campaign that has not had the benefit of doing some market research before going thru. I agree that the Jordanian public should be advised of dangerous issues, but the way they have gone about it is perhaps not the most effective.

    I don’t think it is smart to take Western methods and campaigns and just translate them to the Jordanian public. There has to be a sense of our religious and cultural beliefs taken into consideration in order for a successful campaign to be introduced.

    And Nas, I am sorry to say that your accusation towards the conservatives in the Islamic community just rubs me the wrong way. Those who are straying from their religion are to blame, not the conservatives or the religion itself. Muslims need to get back to their religion and read more from original texts. Knowledge is a tenet in Islam but so many are completely illiterate in their Deen.

    The government does need to do more to address AIDS in this country. Just testing foreigners for HIV once a year isn’t going to solve this issue. We need to start testing the natives as well. It doesn’t just take a foreigner to introduce the problem to the country, it is all of those ‘good’ Muslim sons and daughters who are contributing.

  • i tend to agree more with the prof..

    we dont live in the West, the social community is pretty different..

    we should tackle issues in a different way
    “most” of the people who actually have intercourse, are 17+ and heard all about AIDS.
    so yea, the posters does more damage then help from my view rrly. i cant see how all of you finding them helpful, they are a bad joke. if you mean the part that the government atlast started handling sex, i cant agree more with you, but this is a very ineffective way.

    what Jordan needs, is biology course in early school grade.. no need to go printing stuff all around..(i dont know if they rrly have it or not, but it would be enough)..

  • “Jordanian men get all their information through pornography” this just doesn’t apply to jordan it applies on most of arab countries and this because sexuall education is so taboo that you rarely find your father or elders talking about it. in islam learning about sex isn’t forbidden at all our beloved prophet peace be upon him tauught sa7aba “apostles” many things about sex so if the proffessor is having a problem with the posters why don’t he try to make posters that raise awarness about aids and other std’s and in the same time shows that outside marriage sex is forbiden not only in islam but christian and jew. and last thingit makes me sad that stuff like outside marriage sex is increaing in our islamic countries

  • I do not believe that the Jordanian population is as unaware or as naive as we want to believe it to be, or that posters asking pointed questions that could save lives would cause people to suddenly act out of character. I have heard stories from Uni students here that make my hair stand on end. Then I want to vomit. Stuff is going down all over this country, and I feel it simplistic to blame it only on straying from religion. There is an entire culture of shame at play (on so many levels!) and many of the religious leaders are not doing their jobs engaging the youth in dialogue. If my kids can learn at school the reasons for needing to make ghusl, then they can learn how AIDS is transmitted.

    Just yesterday on Hayat FM, there was an English program discussing this matter. The gracious and smart hostess of the program asked WHY it was not mandatory for couples wanting to marry to be tested for AIDS. The good Dr. on the line told her that it is not mandatory because it is an issue that carries a stigma. Ya salam. So does syphillis, and how might that be transmitted? The Dr. advised anyone wanting to be tested to do so anonymously, therefore “not having to involve the other partner and attract attention.” It was is if he was promoting silence. Someone tests positive and can go ahead and marry? And would it be the man who has had relations outside of marriage, which, am I right people, is kind of expected? Accepted? Brushed under the rug? Please let me be wrong.

    Allah help us.

  • For more on Jordanian Sexual Denial please see Naseem’s other sex topic back again by popular demand in the vox populi ….UNBELIEVABLE pure society polluted by west ammani open minded people’s stinking is that for denial. People who have sex should die with their stinkin STD’s.

    Back to topic …This STD campaign like the “kaffa” car accidents campaign is not a solution it basically just says the government finally acknowledges we have a problem.

    Farah makes a great point about a compulsory sex ed class, how about a driver’s ed class while we’re at it. Not to be taught by idiot professors.

  • And while they are at it, what about a bit more being said about planned families so that “every child is a wanted child” and also talking more about about the dangers inherent in intermarriage between cousins. I read a statistic somewhere that Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia have the highest percentage of inter-cousin marriage, and for generation after generation.

  • Boy! One of my favourite subjects!

    *getting on soapbox*

    Ibrahim, how much do you know about the Bush Administration’s 8 years worth of abstinence-only education funding in the States? The program was a dismal failure. By some estimates, as many as 90% of teenagers who pledge to stay virgins until they’re married do not.

    People stray from proscribed interpretations of religious texts all the time. We accept that as reality when we look world religions prohibiting things like swearing, slander, over-indulgence, etc. – and then look at the reality of daily life.

    For some reason, sex is the issue that gets singled out. People can be “imperfect” (as per religious texts) in most other issues, but Lord forbid anyone is honest about the “imperfections” surrounding the sex lives of homo sapiens.

    I don’t know why the shift in priorities happens here. I guess powerful shaming mechanisms are at work – powerful enough to where saving people’s lives takes a backseat.

    The reality is – even if you’ve never strayed outside the confines of your beliefs, it’s possible that your husband or wife has. It’s what the Pope ignores when he goes on his spiel about condoms – women in many African countries have sex with their cheating husbands, and then women are slowly murdered by disease, whereas a condom would have saved their lives. But what’s some poor woman’s life when we have a veneer of gentility to uphold?

    Another thing that happens is rape. Rape in the context of marriage, and beyond. It can happen to anyone – women, men, kids. Most of us are raped by someone we know. Most rapists don’t bother putting on condoms either, so if they have HIV, there’s a risk for the victims getting it too. If you’ve been a victim – you need to get tested.

    You have to fight a battle on two fronts in regard to that – you have to fight both sexual violence and HIV. One does not preclude the other, these are not mutually exclusive issues.

    Ibrahim, I also find it interesting that you say society ought to be “tracing non-Jordanian prostitutes…” I guess native Jordanian prostitutes have magical reproductive organs that shield them from disease? AIDS has had a presence in this country for years – neither foreigner nor local is safe. This disease is a part of the native landscape, as it is in every country by now.

    Opening up the conversation about AIDS is sure to bring out reactions – anger, discomfort, fear. Jordan is not unique in this. Muslim countries are not unique. The thing is, if you’re going to talk about AIDS, you have to be blunt. In the American south, AIDS spread silently, because social customs prevented people from talking about it. End results? More lives needlessly lost.

    People cough nervously when I tell them I’ve been tested. It’s like an admission of horrible depravity, even among secular people. It’s an issue of prejudice as much as anything else – we’re used to viewing the HIV virus as something that happens to “those” people, but certainly not people we know and care for.

    But that’s not how it really works. Which is why I think the discomfort is actually a good thing. Discomfort leads you to question yourself and those around you. Until you start doing that, a plague will continue to quietly infect more and more people.

  • oh no natalie, you didn’t say this :
    “People stray from proscribed interpretations of religious texts all the time.”
    That is entirely not true, you should have amended this with “except the followers of islam”. How can you commit such a rudimentary error.
    Not just that … you go and you make fun of people when you don’t know the first thing about the culture. How dare you sarcastically say this ” I guess native Jordanian prostitutes have magical reproductive organs that shield them from disease? ! Everybody knows that they don’t, how silly of you. Didn’t you read anything about the issue ! There are no jordanian prostitutes in jordan, hence there is no need to trace them.
    All that is forgiven because you don’t know better, YOU are one of “those” people ! you got tested, I heard that they write down your name and social securtiy in “THE BOOK” and they brand you with a tattoo of crescent to mark your movements around the country after you test. it figures you are uninformed enough to warrant a test . Shame on you

  • Ibrahim, how much do you know about the Bush Administration’s 8 years worth of abstinence-only education funding in the States? The program was a dismal failure. By some estimates, as many as 90% of teenagers who pledge to stay virgins until they’re married do not.

    I think it’s safe to say that this statistic, while informative, is not exactly useful when it comes to this topic.

    The problem with the MoH campaign is not that “it talks about sex.” It’s that it talks about it in a presumptuous way. It’s like the department of state in the US putting up posters in Dearborn Michigan asking people “Are you a member of a terrorist cell? If you are, then please come to this seminar to learn about why terrorism is bad.”

    It’s not the idea, but the implementation that was completely screwed up. Read my first comment.

  • I think it’s safe to say that this statistic, while informative, is not exactly useful when it comes to this topic.

    Why not, Hamzeh?

    It’s like the department of state in the US putting up posters in Dearborn Michigan asking people “Are you a member of a terrorist cell? If you are, then please come to this seminar to learn about why terrorism is bad.”

    LOL… I can just picture that.

    But I think in the case of what’s happening in Jordan (and I don’t know if it will be effective in the long-run, though it might be a useful first step) is that shock-tactics are being used to stir people out of polite complacency. I understand why this complacency exists, like I said, I don’t even think it’s unique to Jordan.

  • Sorry, I just realized I provide no reason whatsoever for that statement. Two things: first, that I think this is not about abstinence to begin with (though I acknowledge you were not the one who brought up the subject). Second, Jordan is a much more conservative society to begin with and abstinence is almost built into its culture and religion. While the aim in the US might have been promoting abstinence, in Jordan it would be preserving it. This difference should say a lot I think.

    Your point about shock-tactics is well taken. Maybe the whole purpose of this was scaring those who would not otherwise be careful enough to use safety measures or ask for testing prior to marriage.

  • Naturally, Jordan is more conservative than the States – but the reason why I mentioned the Bush Administration is because a) Ibrahim mentioned “Western” style-thinking, and I think that it’s important to parse out just which tactics are being talked about here, and whether or not they actually work and b) I think that in Jordan, the idea of abstinence is built into the culture (as for religion, well, lots of things are built into it – and in the U.S. a predominantly Christian society, we have the statistics that show just how well religion works).

    I think the reality is different from the idea.

  • Interesting topic. I notice how the elephant in the room is being danced around except, oddly, by Ibrahim. I don’t mean young men and women having sex outside of marriage in Jordan. I mean young men and other young men. Or older men and younger men. Or older men and young men who they are coercing, or as we say, raping. I would guess that homosexual sex, which is probably always or almost always done without condoms, is the biggest risk factor in Jordan, and that this extends to the wives and children of many of those men out there who are ‘on the down low’, as they say here. But by all means, let’s pretend that both foreign men and Arab men don’t get hit on either, or that this isn’t going on in Jordan.

  • UmmZaid, you are right. Many people on the down-low are still convinced that their type of behaviour can carry no risk – since nobody can get pregnant, what’s the big deal? On the other hand, there is the problem of downright molestation and rape of boys.

    Because rape in particular is so “’emasculating” (many people view it as something “natural” in context of women – or if not “natural,” then at least something that makes sense wrt femininity) to men, it just doesn’t get talked about.

    A man cannot admit he was ever raped – not as a child, not otherwise. It’s like he ceases to be a man if the subject is broached. Silence covers everything, except that silence is getting increasingly dangerous and deadly.

    I think if two dudes want to get it on, they’ll get it on, whether they call themselves gay or straight or otherwise. If they’re both adults, it should be their decision – and prohibiting it, even in a conservative society, is pointless and counter-productive. People do what they need to do, always have.

    But personal responsibility and protection has to be the staple of every relationship. It’s horrifying, when you can’t trust someone you’re with because you don’t know what they’re really up to.

  • I know this post is a little dated, but I found it quite interesting and wanted to respond.

    First, let me introduce myself. I am a high school teacher in Vermont, USA. I am currently taking a class called “Gender in the Middle East,” and our professor has asked us to read and comment on blogs from the Middle East.

    Despite the fact that the United States was one of the first countries hit by the AIDS crisis over 25 years ago, and while our rate of new HIV infections is lower than many countries, the problem of blame and denial still goes on. Many still see the disease as a “gay” disease or one limited to the “immoral” like gay men, prostitutes, and IV drugs users. In addition, the fatest growing new HIV infections are among African American women, so the average bland white guy or even gal can’t bring themselves to care all that much. And the conservatives in this country try to block sex education and promote “abstinence only” campaigns that have an incredible failure rate (see Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin’s, the Republican VP candidate, daughter. It is great, as you note, that the issue is getting some play in Jordan, but for everyone, dealing with and eliminating this disease, particularly among women, is still an uphill battle.

Your Two Piasters: