Expressing Sexuality Through Art

To commemorate World Sexual Health Day (September 4), an art exhibit entitled “Good Sex/ Bad Sex/ No Sex/ Your Sex” was held at AltCity, in Hamra.

“Sexuality is such a profound part of our life. So is art,” explained event organizer Rola Yasmine, member of the Youth Initiative Committee of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). “What we did here is create a space for artists to express what I feel is a very profound part of who they are and who we all are. But maybe they can speak on our behalf in that sense. And I’m really glad that we have such great people who can come out and write exactly what they want to write, and say exactly what they want to say in all these forms for all of us.”

The event was an attempt to break the taboo on sex and sexuality in the Lebanese society. “People are afraid to express, afraid to indulge in their sexuality,” said Yasmine. “They’re afraid to experiment and discover. And some of them are even afraid to discuss it, and that’s the simplest thing we can possibly do.”

Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. – World Health Organization, Working Definition

The exhibit showcased various artworks related to sexuality, including paintings, installations, photography and short stories. In a painting entitled “Sexual Revolution”, Leila K. stressed that there’s no revolution without a sexual revolution. In another painting entitled “Beneath the Veil”, Dalia Chabarek used a covered up calligraphy of Surat al Nisa’ to reflect on how strict interpretations of the Quran are used to control women’s sexuality. In a two-piece photo set entitled “United Colors of Unequal”, Rayya Haddad questioned our pursuit of equality, using nudity. In a short story, Paolo Salwan shed light on the hypocrisy of the Lebanese society when it comes to sex. A section was dedicated to selected e-cards from the post secret-inspired column “Bayneh w Baynik” featured on Bekhsoos, the queer Arab magazine published by the LBTQ support group Meem. I contributed a piece entitled “Expressions of Sexuality“, a visualization of the World Health Organization’s working definition of sexuality in the form of an anagrams puzzle.

The event also included a short reading of the book Bareed Mista3jil, a collection of 41 true (and personal) stories from lesbians, bisexuals, queer and questioning women, and transgender persons from all over Lebanon.

Representatives of the Beirut-based Marsa Sexual Health Center were in attendance to talk about the importance of sexual health and the services offered by the center.

The purpose of this year’s World Sexual Health Day was to highlight the participation of young people in shaping their own sexual health and to encourage open and respectful discussion of their rights and responsibilities.

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