Secondeven Defiance must be done with caution. On the wall of a private art gallery in Dubai, the liveliest city in the United Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates), is an office loft. They contain pictures of homemade sex toys: just pictures, because if they were genuine, the Dubai police might confiscate them; they are homemade, because importing is prohibited.
Sexual taboos have been broken across the Middle East in recent years. Receptionists no longer check to see if couples sharing Saudi hotel rooms are married.last year United Arab Emirates Legalize premarital sex. The growing enthusiasm for sex toys reflects women’s rejection of the idea that men should be in control of their sexuality.
In Dubai, customs inspectors search the bags of incoming travelers, especially Arab women, and confiscate any sex toys. Most people will be warned. But under the country’s obscenity laws, they can be fined up to 50,000 dirhams ($13,000) and jailed.
Similar colonial-era laws prevail throughout the Middle East. Every year, customs officials across the region confiscate dildos, vibrators and furry handcuffs. Many religious preachers reinforce this attitude.Most people think that masturbation is holy place or prohibited.Shia Islam’s leading ayatollahs, Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Iraq’s Ali Sistani, released Fatwa Sex toys are specifically prohibited. Sunni scholars also strongly disagree with them. An Iranian mullah has warned women against peeling eggplants lest it arouse inappropriate thoughts. “Self-pleasure is the biggest no-no here,” says Christina Lindea, a Finnish sexologist based in Dubai.
Yet people have found ways around the ban. Some lingerie stores in Dubai Mall double as under-counter sex shops. Online stores offer “wellness enhancements,” advertising the vibrators as electric facial massagers. Global demand for sex toys has soared during the pandemic. Sexologists and retailers in the Middle East are seeing similar trends. A vibrator called Deem costs $85 online; it’s sold out twice.
Turning to sex toys is part of women’s desire for greater power, said Sura, founder of Mauj, a site run by Arab women whose name means “wave” (sexual pleasure) and sells Deems. In places like Dubai, expats make up 90% United Arab EmiratesThe population is shifting at an accelerated rate.
More open-minded religious figures are also at play. Unlike their Christian counterparts, Muslim clerics have long maintained that their religion encourages sexual pleasure, not just procreation.Sheikh Muhammad Fadlallah, an influential Lebanese Shiite cleric who died in 2010, argued that female masturbation was not holy place Because there is no semen overflowing. He added that a dildo is a legal substitute if the husband is absent or unable to meet the wife’s needs. Others are now making similar arguments. Ebrahim Desai, a Sunni cleric from South Africa, endorses the use of sex toys for foreplay between married couples. Some Saudi clerics say vibrators are acceptable if they are not “intrusive”.
New platforms launched by women promote self-pleasure as an act of female liberation. Online videos are filling a sex-education gap by regulating taboo words like clitoris.Bizzle Arabic; Chu Chu Lai Persian). Egyptian platform Love Matters challenges the stigma surrounding female sexuality. “The tide is turning in the Middle East,” Sura said. “We’re addressing the culture of stigma that dominates our bodies and our lives, and helping women confront and explore their sexuality.” If all else fails, suggest another site, “Use your…fingers. They’re free—and They are not banned!” ■