‘Spicy’ porn in Iraq

If you haven’t heard yet, President Obama will make a speech from the Oval Office to announce the end of combat operations in Iraq. To evaluate the quality of conditions in Iraq, reporters often look at factors like violence, education, elections, and social services.

Recently, Tarek El-Tablawy from the Associated Press considered porn as a evaluative measure for how the country is fairing.

The porn, in an odd way, has told the story of Iraq’s security and political situation since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003. It emerged in the anything-goes atmosphere that erupted in the vacuum immediately following the U.S. invasion–then went back into hiding amid the anarchy when armed militias roamed the capital through 2008, targeting those they saw as immoral.

Its reemergence since then reflects how security has improved but also how the fragile government is busy with more pressing issues than spicy videos.

So there you have it: the presence of porn “reflects how security has improved.” Spicy is defined in part as “lively, spirited,” so since when do reporters call porn “spicy” and get away with it as an objective descriptor? Also, is the trend an indication of how Islam in Iraq has changed over the years? How does this trend impact the women in the country?

Overall, though, it’s a good idea for a story, pretty interesting when you consider how porn was illegal just a few years ago. The reporter offers some interesting context, reporting that porn is illegal in every country in the region except Lebanon, Israel and Turkey (though it does exist through satellite and the Internet).

Towards the end of the story, the reporters offers an odd example of a porn video with a connection the violence Iraqis have faced.

The titles alone–many along the lines of “The Rape of the Coeds”–offer disturbing insight into the possible psychological effects the years of indiscriminate violence have had on Iraqis.

Many have seen, if not first hand, then certainly on video and TV, children blown up, people kidnapped and beheaded and prisoners abused by U.S. forces.

The films don’t show actual rapes–they’re just titles tacked onto mainstream porn films downloaded from the Internet as well as homemade movies of amateur Arab couples.

In a nod to the politically elusive dream of Arab unity, Hanoun carries a collection entitled “Cheap Meat.”

“It’s got Syrian, Egyptian, Lebanese girls,” he says. “All the Arabs.”

But, in an ironic symbol of the difficulty with which Arabs have had coming together, the DVD gets stuck in a loop in the first five minutes.

Does that conclusion seem pretty flippant to anyone else? The story quotes two people selling porn, but what the reporter is missing are some voices for considering how porn might impact a society, for better or for worse. I would think that some scholars have considered the impact of factors like alcohol, porn, etc. in their research of Islamic countries. My guess is that there is some diversity in opinion over whether reporters can mark this as a positive sign for the country.

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  • Jerry

    Good grief. I think you were much too kind. Contrast David Brooks’ look at Iraq http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/opinion/31brooks.html which is not a news story but easily could have been and probably should have been.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Too kind on the story or on his evaluation of how things are going in Iraq?

  • Jimmy Mac

    David Brooks, indeed. From WMD to Nation Building, without the blink of an eye.

  • Jerry

    Sarah, too kind on the story.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    For his link between porn and the (more positive) state of the union in Iraq, or did he miss other aspects in his story?

    Overall, I thought it was interesting that he spotted the trend. Executing the story, not so much.

  • Chris

    He maintains the tone throughout that he is using it as an indicator. Don’t think it is meant to be about the social implications of porn, but the other way around.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Chris, that’s true, but are they connected?

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

    “In the most recent Gallup poll, 69 percent of Iraqis rated their personal finances positively…”

    I wonder if Americans would poll that high right now.

  • Ben

    When I first read this story a few days back I did a double take at that final line about the loop. I admit, I laughed. But at the same time it struck me as too much editorializing for an AP article.

  • Dave

    Spicy is defined in part as “lively, spirited,” so since when do reporters call porn “spicy” and get away with it as an objective descriptor?

    Perhaps the term is used here to mean “hot in a non-thermal sense.”

    Porn is being used here as an indicator of how loose or tight society has become. There are other indicators arguably easier to survey, eg, how many women cover their heads in public, and how much. But the “research” isn’t as much fun. ;-)


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