Abstract Chatter

Challenging Sex Taboos
June 17, 2009, 11:15 am
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It’s been quite some time since my last post. I know that these words won’t do justice to the experiences that I’ve encountered over the past few months. But I hope it’s worth the quick read. The madness, the intensity and the stress has slowly come to an end–has slowly evaporated as I’ve just completed an entire year of policy school. It’s summer time, yet I still dream of regression outputs from STATA. I have nightmares about not being able to interpret scholarly articles in an accurate manner by not controlling for fixed effects or other external factors.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was about 9 months ago that we drove to the mixed income housing projects during orientation week. It was then that I realized the capacity that a policy degree holds—the tangle solutions it can bring to the table, and the voice it can bring to the voiceless.

The word “school” came up in a conversation last night, and I nearly had a panic attack–felt a slight shortness of breath. I’ve been beaten to death with methodological tools that everyone claims will in come in handy some time in the near future. But how can I assess whether I’ve learned anything? How can I ensure that the $50k which went into this year’s education was worth the investment? And not something that merely swirled down the toilet.

I still don’t seem to have any (dogmatic) opinions about the world around me– I’m still thoroughly confused about my beliefs on a variety of issues. But maybe this is just who I am—a person incapable of seeing the world through a myopic lens. And maybe I have to play off this characteristic and somehow mold that into a strength.

Now that I can breath again,

I was recently able to draw a parallel from a Political Economy course I took this quarter to an email exchange from a NYTimes entitled “Challenging Sex Taboos, With Help from Quran”. 


The article went into how a sexual activist was attempting to tackle taboo issues related to sexuality. Here was my very minimal and not so profound response in the email exchange:

I’m drawing a parallel to what’s going on in the US as far as same sex marriage to the “Challenging Taboos…” article. What’s interesting is that in class we’re learning about the court system as an institution and its ability to influence (or not influence) social reform. One of the things we discussed was about same sex marriage and the court’s role. We used an example of the referendum that passed in California, basically eliminating the original position of allowing for same-sex marriage to take place. Now the public policy position (after the referendum) seems to be more conservative than the original stance. Why you may ask, was there a regression from the court’s original position? It could very much be due to the fact that the sentiment or general trend to push for gay marriage didn’t really exist in the masses, on a grassroots level .. at least not yet. But I imagine that once a precedent and understanding is set, there will be movement at an institutionalized level within the court system, supporting the trend towards the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

The parallel that I drew was related to the same type of backlash that the sexual activist was receiving in the Middle East. Of course progress as expressed in this article is good thing. But I also think that backlash is going be continuous, namely because she’s in a minority position in every aspect. Being a female, wanting to talk about sex, AIDS etc. puts her in a position where her support is limited, particularly when the dominating leadership and expressive voices on the ground have had such an anti-sex tone. Let’s hope that her voice isn’t completed elimiated from the overall discourse and that some reduction of backlash will take place once the dialogue grows.

Nothing profound but thought I’d attach a connection to something domestic.


Now that I have had some more time to reflect on my own thoughts, I’m beginning to come up with conflicting conclusions. (surprise, surprise) . Maybe the parallel isn’t applicable in a context where one institutional structure is much more democratic than the other. The question might then become– can the leadership in a dictatorial society provide a vision that the public is able to accept without much backlash? Maybe the direction that  social reform takes place depends on the type of society that is need of the reform. Under which context can the public influence social reform and in which do the elites? I suppose that U.S. structure has the institutional makeup where referendums are a tool to voice the opinions of public discourse– thus producing backlash in the context of same sex marriage. Maybe then, popular opinion isn’t needed in countries such as Saudi, because public opinion isn’t a necessary component to alter policies.