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EGYPT: Muslim woman gives sex tips on Arab TV

Egyptian sexologist takes on taboos through the prism of Islam

Times of India
Monday, December 4, 2006

Cairo --- Heba Kotb is a conservative Muslim, wears an Islamic head scarf, and goes on television once a week to talk -- frankly and in great detail -- about sex.

On her show, Big Talk, Kotb answers questions from Muslims all over the Middle East about the most intimate bedroom issues with an openness that is shocking and revolutionary in a society where discussing the subject is taboo.

"How do I talk about these issues? Very seriously," the Egyptian sexologist says. "I put on a mask-like face and make sure I speak in the right tone of voice."

She also does it by talking about sex in an Islamic light, arguing that the faith is in favour of pleasure for both men and women, with one important caveat -- that it be only in the context of marriage.

"I'm very proud of my religion," Kotb said in an interview at Cairo University, where she teaches forensic medicine. "My studies revealed to me more and more how Islam was ahead in all sexual matters. I discovered that Islam understood sex long before the rest of the world."

For example, Islam "stresses the importance of foreplay," Kotb said, and she often stresses to listeners that women should also enjoy sex.

Kotb's frankness is a hit in a region where sex education is minimal, male-female contact is often discouraged and talk on the subject is usually in hushed tones, allowing myths to circulate freely.

She lectured in Saudi Arabia and Yemen recently, where she said many men in the audience where shocked, while women -- some with veiled faces -- bombarded her with questions.

Kotb, 39 and married with three daughters, studied sexology with Maimonides University, a private school in Florida, and combined it with her own knowledge of her religion to produce a dissertation titled "Sexuality in Islam". She opened a sexology clinic in Cairo in 2002, wrote sex advice columns in newspapers, appeared on talk shows and answered questions on an Arabic website.

She started Big Talk on the independent Egyptian satellite channel El-Mehwar more than two months ago.

Much of her advice is straight biology -- laying out facts rarely aired elsewhere. Nothing is too sensitive. She discusses sexual positions, female orgasm, oral sex (allowed, "since there is no religious text banning it"), even masturbation (frowned upon but at least preferable to unmarried or adulterous sex, which is "haram," meaning forbidden by religion).

She takes a strict Islamic line on homosexuality -- she calls it a disease. Along with doctors, she sometimes brings Islamic clerics onto her show, and many callers ask about the religion's rulings on sexual issues.

Because Islam trumps all else on her show, some complain that it's part of a general inclination in the Middle East to view everything through the prism of religion.

AsiaMedia