LONDON – The Arab world’s first Muslim sexologist is breaking boundaries with a sex education television show that has taken the Middle East by storm.
Dr. Heba Kotb, 39, devotes "Serious Talk," broadcast weekly on the independent Egyptian satellite channel Al Mehwar, to answering intimate sexual questions posed by curious young Arab men and women.
The Egyptian doctor, who runs a sex clinic in Cairo, discusses topics usually unthinkable within conservative Arab societies: different sexual positions, the female orgasm and problems such as impotence — all with an Islamic perspective.
Her show, the first of its kind in a region where sex education is rare, has provoked strong reactions. After each episode Kotb receives more than 70,000 text messages and e-mails from viewers.
Misunderstandings about sex are rife in the Middle East so much of her work involves explaining basic biology. One mother rang in because she did not know how to explain lesbianism to her daughter.
Kotb gives all her advice according to Islamic principles and she frequently invites clerics along with doctors to take part in discussions. In a first for the Arab world, she has dared to state on air that there is nothing shameful or sinful about sex, so long as it is within marriage.
The Koran, she claims, is very direct in its teachings about sex. While studying for a degree in clinical sexology in Florida, she was struck by parallels between discoveries about the female orgasm by the researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, and references to sex in the Koran.
“In Islam, women as well as men have the right to enjoy sexual intercourse,” she said.
Kotb believes that more than 80 percent of divorces in the Arab world are caused by sexual problems. She recently advised couples not to renounce sex during the holy month of Ramadan.
Her critics say her program is too explicit. Sheikh Youssef al-Badri, a radical Islamic cleric, said her show “invades the privacy of our bedrooms” and “increases the number of sex perverts."