Lebanese Stand Behind Sexologist Who Was Bullied During A TV Interview

@DrSAtallah | MTV Lebanon

The internet has been buzzing with reactions against the Lebanese TV hosts Pierre Rabbat of the MTV talk show 3a Gheir Kawkab (On Another Planet), former singer Yuri Markadi, and LBCI’s Hisham Haddad of Lahon W Bas.

In a wave of recent backlash on social media, outspoken Lebanese citizens show that there is no place for air-headed comments, bullying, and misogyny on Lebanese TV.

What used to pass back in the days is no longer tolerated. Today’s ‘cancel culture’ will make sure of it and no empty apology will be able to reverse the damage.

Inviting to ridicule?

On Sunday, MTV host Pierre Rabbat hosted sexologist Dr. Sandrine Atallah on his show and proceeded to ridicule her on stage aided by his not-so-popular (male) guests.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that a male doctor tackling the same topic on air wouldn’t have been treated or spoken to the same way or been told: “You have a sexy voice.” Pathetic as it sounds, it did happen and many found it utterly offensive.

Dr. Atallah, who has a multitude of degrees and certificates under her belt, did not expect to be invited on set to be treated in such a degrading and condescending way, neither did the public who had decided to watch the program because of the importance of the topic.

“It’s so childish like they’re 11 or 12 and aroused by just seeing a woman,” she said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF).

Fact is, the “debate” they had asked for turned into an attack on the topic and a show of hubris against the female doctor, her work, the way she presents, her voice, and so on, which wouldn’t have happened if it was a male doctor.

A male doctor wouldn’t have been either dismissed the way the host did towards Dr. Atallah, asking her out of the blue a totally unrelated question to shut her up. He interrupted her to ask if she took the COVID-19 vaccine, and closed the debate, stunning her and the public.

It’s okay to talk about sex

Dr. Atallah is a consultant in sexual medicine and a certified psycho-sexologist who aims to teach sexual education in a country where opening the conversation is still surrounded by myth and taboo.

Her professional experience had led her to notice that, with a lack of proper (or any) education into sex and female anatomy and physiology, women are clueless even about the way their own bodies function.

This lack of knowledge can leave girls and women vulnerable to unsafe sex, unintended pregnancies, and can make them susceptible to sexual violence.

Speaking to the TRF, she added, “Sex ed teaches women they can say ‘no’. It pushes back the age of sexual activity and helps avoid unwanted pregnancies and unprotected sex.”

Liberal Lebanon has a long way to go

Even though Lebanon is considered one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, it is clear from a simple TV show that the country has a long way to go in forming a safe environment for women to thrive and for its society to evolve with the remaining of the world.

Where on one end, the first Lebanese-made vibrator was just launched in a bold statement of sexual liberation, on another end, a male minister publicly asserted that women cannot be ministers in the government, and permitted himself to degrade Lebanese women’s capabilities during a televised interview.

It is worth noting that sexual education has been an integral part of school curricula in most countries for decades and is equally important to males and females, as proven by countless studies.

These governments have long realized that a proper education in the subject by experts in schools is better (and healthier) than children and youth getting misleading or distorted information from movies and TV shows.

In Lebanon, even adults can’t get to discuss it without a wave of offenses and toxic remarks.

A change among the younger generation

Despite Dr. Atallah’s horrid TV experience and the public outrage, it may have worked to pave the way to finally open the conversation and encourage people to speak up against bullies and increase their request for sex ed.

Based on reactions on social media, it shows that the new generation (both women and men) have a higher level of maturity and are more understanding of the importance of addressing the topic than those before them.

This is not surprising as it includes those who want to tear down governmental corruption and build a new functional system based on transparency, gender equality, and human rights.

It is also safe to say that they have proven more respectful towards women and their crucial role in society and in the economy than the older generation.

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