An evening with Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel
(Pantheon, published March 12, 2013)
As political change sweeps the streets and squares, parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at upheaval a little closer to home – in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region. These are the themes of her new book, Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, the result of five years of field research and “an extraordinary, informative and engaging account of an aspect of Arab society that is still largely hidden from view.”
Shereen examines how changing sexual attitudes relate to today’s anxieties in the Arab region and how this plays out in everyday lives: from the taboo of premarital sex to trouble in the conjugal bed; from sexed-up writing to censored movies; from debates over sexual education and abortion to the incendiary topic of unwed motherhood; from the booming business of sex work to the struggles of those who break the heterosexual mold.
Shereen met hundreds of women and men from all walks of life: doctors and traditional healers, bloggers and filmmakers, activists and religious leaders, those who busy making and breaking the laws that govern sexuality. Behind these personal stories is a wealth of facts and figures about the state of sexual life in the Arab region today, much of which has been out of sight until now. This is not another book about what’s wrong in the Arab world. It’s about what’s right: from national policies to community projects to individual choices, how people across the Arab region are finding solutions to their problems, along the grain of religion and culture.
About the speaker
Shereen El Feki (@shereenelfeki) is a writer, broadcaster, and academic who started her professional life in medical science, with a doctorate in immunology from the University of Cambridge, before going on to become an award-winning healthcare correspondent with The Economist and a presenter with Al Jazeera English. She is the former vice-chair of the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law, as well as a TED Global Fellow. Shereen sits on the board of a number of civil society groups working in the Arab region, among them Meedan and the Arab Forum for Freedoms and Equality. Shereen also contributes to a number of publications and has written widely on women, sexuality and HIV in the Arab region. With roots in Egypt and Wales, Shereen grew up in Canada; she now divides her time between London and Cairo.