There’s an old joke…
Q. Why will the second-coming never happen in Stockport*?
A. Because you’d never be able to find three wise men and a virgin.
Now I don’t know about virgins in the Kingdom of Shoddy Absurdia but there would appear to be a significant wise men deficit…
A report this week by Kamal Subhi, a former professor at King Fahd University, warned that allowing women to drive would provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it warned, there would be “no more virgins” in the kingdom.
Women are also banned from riding bicycles.
As I type this my wife is currently in the motor getting provisions from Sainsburys. This is naturally causing me to think things like, “Actually, I quite like musical theatre”.
Saudi society endeavours to keep men and women separate, but sexual harassment — leers, jeers and even being followed — is depressingly common. Raising a ruckus or simply loudly asking the harasser anta Muslim? (“are you Muslim?”) will usually suffice to scare them off.
Large, well maintained air-conditioned malls and grocery stores (i.e. Safeway, Geant, Carrefour) are scattered throughout the kingdom. Note that all shops, even those selling women’s clothing and lingerie, are staffed exclusively by men and have no dressing rooms. You may be offered use of a back storeroom for trying on clothes, but it is best to not accept the offer — a number of women have been raped this way.
Now whilst all of this does happen in the decadent West it is not “depressingly common”. Now call me a cultural snob but is this not because we don’t regard every potential encounter with the other sex as a divinely sanctioned (or divinely dis-sanctioned) opportunity for sexual intercourse? The thing is as this story shows it’s all very relative anyway. Now I don’t know to what extent the Victorians really found a glimpse of ankle shockingly arousing (I get the distinct impression that tales of Victorian prudery are somewhat distorted – as possibly shown by the birth-rate) but the whole veiled woman thing has history as being specifically arousing. Certainly to in “orientalist” tales of harems and Fry’s Turkish Delight and such. Whether that works for the Middle East – I don’t know but a brief glimpse at the lingerie industry shows that less is not always more. In any case eye contact is core to flirting and such activities. Psychologists certainly have studied it to death.
Of course this is all politics because the (glacially) reformist King Abdullah is getting on a bit and his heir apparent Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz is “Old Skool”. Saudi Arabia is certainly a country to watch. Things could get very interesting there.
*Insert (oh, er, missus…) wherever you want.