Sex and the Saudi: one man riles a nation

Airline worker arrested after boasting about his exploits on television
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The Independent Online

In this ultra-conservative kingdom, where husbands and wives rarely even kiss in public, many Saudis have been scandalised by a compatriot who spoke frankly about sex on satellite TV, showing off erotic toys and fantasising about joining the mile-high club.

More than 200 people have filed legal complaints against Mazen Abdul-Jawad, dubbed a "sex braggart" by the media, and Saudis say he should be severely punished. "His punishment should be as harsh as his sin," said Mohsen al-Awajy. "He has outraged everybody."

Mr Abdul-Jawad was detained a week ago for questioning. But his lawyer said the interview, which aired on the Lebanese-based LBC satellite TV station, was manipulated. He also said his client was not aware in many instances that he was being recorded. The LBC chief, Pierre Daher, refused to comment on the allegations.

The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, enforces strict segregation of the sexes. An unrelated couple, for example, can be detained for being alone in the same car or having a cup of coffee in public. Saudis observe segregation even at home, where there are separate living rooms for male and female guests.

So Mr Abdul-Jawad's appearance on LBC's Bold Red Line programme on 15 July shocked Saudis who have rarely heard a fellow citizen publicly confess to such sexual exploits.

The segment began with the 32-year-old Saudi Airlines employee apparently talking about the first time he had sex – at age 14, with a neighbour. Then he leads viewers into his bedroom, dominated by red accessories, where the divorced father of four says "everything happens".

Another shot shows him in a red shirt and red slippers, with a stylish goatee, holding up blurred sex toys, a sex manual and a bottle he took from a box. "It's used for women who do not have sexual desire," he explains.

In another sequence, he greets three male friends at the door of his apartment in the western seaport of Jiddah. The four, who have since been detained by Saudi authorities, then briefly discuss what turns them on and how much "comfort" they get from sex. "One million per cent," notes Mr Abdul-Jawad.

Saudi papers have closely followed the saga, splashing the story on their front pages. Online viewers have posted comments laced with expletives and YouTube on Thursday disabled comments for the video.

Sulaiman al-Jumeii, Mr Abdul-Jawad's lawyer, has filed a lawsuit against the LBC satellite TV channel, which is controlled by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Mr al-Jumeii said that LBC had led his client to believe that he was going to appear on a show aimed at helping couples who were too embarrassed to discuss sexual problems and that the sex toys were brought by the TV staff. LBC had not got his client's written approval for airing the segment, filmed more than seven months ago, as Saudi law stipulates, the lawyer added.

Mr Abdul-Jawad has not yet been charged. But in an interview with Okaz newspaper, he begged forgiveness from Saudi society for appearing on the show.

"I despised myself and felt low after I watched the episode," he said. "But the TV station aired only about 5 per cent of the interview ... you cannot imagine the anger that has swept through my family. Those close to me have harshly scolded me."

One of the most difficult moments, he said, was when his 14-year-old son brought him a newspaper with his father's picture in it. "He had tears in his eyes, he hugged me closely and said he was worried I would be jailed."