Chewing Viagra Gum, the Audio Version!

15 March, 2022

“Chew­ing Via­gra Gum”—Mai Ghous­soub’s ground­break­ing essay on cul­ture and Arab media, begins with the Israel plot to under­mine “the Arab body” with sex­u­al chew­ing gum, a sto­ry that was first report­ed in Mid­dle East­ern news­pa­pers in 1996.

Ghous­soub’s essay also cri­tiques patri­ar­chal atti­tudes in the region, medieval Islam­ic sex­u­al man­u­als and Egypt­ian cin­e­ma. Ghous­soub (1952–2007) was an author, artist and pub­lish­er known for her writ­ing on gen­der issues, her plays and art per­for­mances. She co-found­ed Saqi Books, the first Mid­dle East­ern pub­lish­ing house and book­store in Lon­don, with André Gas­pard. Saqi, which means the water-car­ri­er in Ara­bic, pub­lished titles no oth­er Mid­dle East­ern pub­lish­er would touch at the time, such as Bri­an Whitak­er’s “Unspeak­able Love: Gay and Les­bian Life in the Mid­dle East” (2006) and Ammar Abdul­hamid’s debut nov­el, “Men­stru­a­tion” (2001).

“Chew­ing Via­gra Gum” first appeared in Imag­ined Mas­culin­i­ties: Male Iden­ti­ty and Cul­ture in the Mod­ern Mid­dle East, an anthol­o­gy of essays she coedit­ed with Emma Sin­clair-Webb, which Saqi pub­lished in 2000. The essay was abridged, in this spe­cial read­ing for the TMR by Malu Halasa, with music by Justin Adams.

 

Arab sexualitychewing gumMai GhoussoubMalu HalasaViagra

Malu Halasa is a London-based writer and editor. Her six co-edited anthologies include—Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, with Zaher Omareen; The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design, with Rana Salam; and the short series: Transit Beirut, with Rosanne Khalaf, and Transit Tehran, with Maziar Bahari. She was managing editor of the Prince Claus Fund Library; a founding editor of Tank Magazine and Editor at Large for Portal 9. As a former freelance journalist in the London, she covered wide-ranging subjects, from water as occupation in Israel/Palestine to Syrian comics during the present-day conflict. Her books, exhibitions and lectures chart a changing Middle East. Malu Halasa’s debut novel, Mother of All Pigs was reviewed by the New York Times as “a microcosmic portrait of … a patriarchal order in slow-motion decline.”