Middle East discussion highlights region’s views on sex, media

The University of Tennessee’s Sex Week hosted a discussion in the Howard Baker Center with Drew Paul and Ayse Ikizler about Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East on March 7.  Ikizler started off the discussion by describing the term “Middle Eastern” to the audience.

Ayse Ikizler and Drew Paul spoke about Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East. TNJN/Alyssa White
Ayse Ikizler and Drew Paul spoke about Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East. TNJN/Alyssa White

“Middle Eastern is usually thought of as a more inclusive term,” Ikizler said.  “Depending on who you speak to, where they were raised or what country they are from can change what it means.”

“What is generally considered as the Middle East on maps includes parts of Europe, Northern Africa and even some parts of Asia, so you are really talking about a very diverse area of countries when you are referring to the Middle East.”

The discussion then moved to comparing sexuality among different regions.

“Sexuality is somewhat of a taboo subject in the Middle East just as in Tennessee,” Ikizler said. “It isn’t that different from what you see here.”

Drew Paul also spoke about how  stereotypical activities and individual preferences portrayed through the media may not be relevant or shared throughout all of that region.

“It’s much easier to generalize when you’re talking about a culture that’s not your own.  So I want you to keep this in mind as you think and talk about another culture, in this instance the Middle East, a society that we don’t know about, and that we might only know from the news media or whatever scattered information you may have gathered from here or there.”

Margaret Cross a senior studying English and German here at UT said that she agreed that Sex Week should continue this program next year.

“America is such a melting pot, and because of 9/11, and a lot of other historical events that happened here, we have a lot of stereotypes here about people from the middle east,” Cross said. “Being able to combat those with facts instead of just with what the media depicts to us will help us to understand and know a little more about where they are from will help us to build a better picture of what the world around us is actually like outside of what the media tells us.”

Edited by Maggie Jones

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