Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Attitude adjustments

I was reading this article in the New York Times about the sex-segregation in Saudi Arabia:

"Love on Girl's Side of the Saudi Divide" - May 13, 2008

One thing about reading an article like this is the challenge of thinking about this in an open-minded and non-judgmental way, the same way I ask people to think about my life as a polyamorous, pansexual pagan. And at some level, I understand that a society's religious beliefs direct such extreme (to modern-day Western eyes) practices, and if we turned it around and looked at our own culture from their eyes, we might feel their disgust at the constant barrage of sexual advertising and the high sex crime rates that could be somewhat linked to the permissiveness of our society.

A couple thoughts I had when I read about young Saudi men beaming pictures and messages via Bluetooth to any available female's cell phone in range: one, the thought that if men weren't such horndogs in general, there would be less need for such extreme measures to "protect" them from female charms; and two, that part of me would love to have some protection from such men in our society; and three, that instead of limiting the freedom of the men to keep them away from women, it's the women who are forced to curtail their freedoms, since the men are obviously unable to control their baser instincts.

It also seems a little odd that in a country that has such latitude in punishment options (as opposed to the U.S., where it's basically limited to prison, fines and community service) that the Saudis don't just enforce good behavior on the part of men toward women. For example, any man convicted of a sex crime could be chemically castrated with androcur. It seems a lot more humane than stoning women who have unacceptable contact with men, whether they were willing participants or not.

Of course, my attitudes are informed by the basic assumption that males and females have intrinsically equal rights, and that's not the case everywhere (or anywhere, as some might argue). So while I can't agree with, or even fully understand cultural practices like the Muslim way of sex-segregation, it does illustrate the challenge of understanding someone else's practices when your core beliefs are not the same, such as why the Catholics can't abide homosexuality and why most people can't tolerate polyamory.