The Islamic Sexologist

Read the article at Salon: Sex and the married Muslim

Meet Dr. Heba Kotb, the first certified sexologist and host of a sexual advice show in Egypt. The good things about her are that she promotes a positive view of sex, encourages a healthy sex life, and insists that female sexual pleasure is important. Plus she says all that with a backing of Islam.

However, despite all this, she is hardly a liberal. Her merit is that she talks about sex openly, but the catch is that she inherits most of the conservative attitudes towards sex that exist in Islam.

She calls for women to explore their sexuality, but forbids female masturbation, in essence saying that the way for women to explore their sexuality is by letting their husband do it:

"You have encouraged women to explore their bodies -- does that include masturbation?

The woman, by means of instinct, does not need masturbation. She's not like the man whatsoever. It's not a call of nature for her. So that's why I'm not very sympathetic with young women and girls choosing to masturbate. They're ruining their sexual future -- a woman has to remain blank until she gets married and by masturbating she's forming her sexuality."
I think she is outright wrong about female masturbation. And her saying that a woman has to remain 'blank' actually makes me cringe.

What makes me cringe even more? Her saying that homosexuals are "just like the alcoholics and the drug-takers" followed by her outrageous claim that she has actually been curing homosexuals of their disease. The first certified sex therapist of Egypt apparently has a lot to learn about sexuality!
"Sex is one of the things that is forbidden before marriage and outside of marriage; on the other hand, it's allowed within marriage with a lot, a lot of freedom. This creates a balance."

"In Islam, everything between a husband and wife is allowed sexually, except for two things: anal intercourse and intercourse during menstruation. One caller said she desired to be penetrated from behind. I got mad because this is a closed subject -- this is haram."
Let's face it. Dr. Heba Kotb is a heteronormative, islamonormative, marriage-normative conservative who happens to very vocal and open about sex but only within the limits she thinks it is permitted. Better than nothing, perhaps, but not good enough to garner the support of liberals.


Komal said…
Wow! This was a very interesting post indeed. I'm glad you called her out on her obvious misogyny and homophobia.

The idea that women ought not to masturbate, and that they should let their future husbands 'teach' them about their own bodies, is nothing but a denial of female autonomy. Even talking about female sexuality in terms of men is, for example talking about the vagina in terms of the penis or penetration.

And as for women and girls not wanting to masturbate: that is clearly false! All women and girls I know masturbate, except those with severe internalized misogyny or those who are asexual or celibate. She should not generalize and be essentialist in this way, by talking about what 'the woman' or 'the man' is by nature.
Anonymous said…
Somehow sex and religion does not make sense to me at all. Im not against Islamic way of life but at times I feel in Islam people dont even consider women human beings.
Rekhaa said…
So long as it is wrongly perceived (and publicized) that, in a bond, great sex indicates (or must) indicate a strong love and vice versa, it will also be sadly true that the bond would remain tied down to immature notions of love and its beauty.

Sex is a very necessary experience in life but one must also learn to sublimate the tendencies as it is a great drain on one's energy on all levels. If sex must be had nevertheless, practicing the attitude of surrender and giving, full of love, to one's partner can at least help one have some kind of a deeper experience (than is normally had when sex is had for pleasure only). Such a selfless attitude will soon teach one the art of true love and also help pave a way where sex tendency will gradually be diminished to a minimum and finally become unnecessary. This is how sex must be utilized, if it has to be, and finally subdued - if a superior depth has to be achieved in a bond. Living with animal passions day in and day out reduces man to being a slave and nothing else and covers up all his deeper and meaningful potentialities.

It makes at laugh when people talk about hot sex, more sex, passionate sex, etc as some kind of glorious thing to achieve in life. Sex then must be rightly called lust and not love. Because lust enslaves while love liberates.
Komal said…
Awais, I love that you said heteronormative at the end! That is a brilliant point, and one so few make, especially in a Pakistani context. Heteronormative also ties in with misogynistic (a word you didn't use in that last paragraph, I note) in a big way.

I agree fully with Rekhaa on the issue of the need to sublimate lust. John Stuart Mill was one of the few secular Western philosophers who envisioned a world free of sexual desire. I also envision a world free from lust as the ideal, not merely one where sex is no longer problematic from a political point of view (i.e. from a feminist pov).

This is where I differ from other feminists. Radical feminists have a great, astute critique of sexual politics, but they imagine that egalitarian sex is the ideal. Some people who support egalitarianism are even willing to accept pornography if it's egalitarian or 'feminist'!. Since my objection to pornography, inegalitarian sex, the eroticization of violence and power, gender roles etc. has always been for feminist AND spiritual reasons (i.e. for seeing lust as enslaving), egalitarian pornography -- if that's even possible -- would still be problematic in my view.
Rekhaa said…
Loved the blogpost mainly because I felt Awais gave a short and very coherent summary of pros and cons of Kotb's theory.

Personally, what struck me about this sexologist is that she has tied a direct knot between Allah and Sex. Interesting! I am not aware if 'Allah and Sex' as a conceptual fountainhead of positivity and pleasure in marital life is truly novel or already exists in Islam.


Love Stuart Mill! If Sri Aurobindo and Mother had not been my personal guides in life, without a doubt I would have looked up to Mill as my philosophical guide. :)

Egalitarian pornography, to me, is nothing but pristine bullshit of a theory: in conceptual stupidity, it is something akin to egalitarian prostitution and in dynamics of effectuality, it is something akin to egalitarian violence. My main objections to such dangerous theories are these:

(1). Sexual objectification and commodification of human body is unethical and must not be promoted at any cost and in any guise.
(2). A worthy ideal (egalitarianism) must never be used as a crutch to promote an unworthy non-ideal (pornography).
(3). A theory that sees a particular benefit in degrading and emotionally mutilating the concept of human sexuality, and thus misleading men and women into a depravity, is a clear hazard to human society and does no good service.
Komal said…

Interestingly, John Stuart Mill was my 'main man' (i.e. most admired person) when I was an atheist ^_^. I think he's among the most Enlightened of Western secular philosophers. After I became spiritual, however, I found other people to admire more, including Jesus, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I continue to respect JSM though, and it's clear to me that he was being moved (interestingly, he lived right before Sri Aurobindo, and I think their lives overlapped by one year).
Komal said…
This latest comment was spam, btw.
Awais Aftab said…

Thank you, removed :)
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