Sexual education and knowledge among Egyptian men and women is close to non-existent based to various cultural and educational factors. Most schools don’t have sexual education and if they do it is merely very scientific and not discussed. Most sexual beliefs stem from urban myth passed on through generations through family members or false information passed on by peers. One of the pioneers in educating Egyptians and the Arab world about sexuality is Dr. Heba Kotb, known through many TV shows and appearances as well as being a renowned speaker on many conferences.
“Let’s talk about sex”, this is the famous quote spelled out by Egypt’s first licensed sexual therapist Heba Kotb, who is basing her methods on the teachings of the Quran, which encourages strong marital life with a healthy sexual relationship. We met with Dr. Heba Kotb, squeezing our interview into her very busy schedule, to lay out solutions to questions that cross our minds on regular basis.
Kotb, married with three daughters, studied sexology at Maimonides University, a private school in Florida, and combined it with her own knowledge of her religion. She continued her studies, eventually earning a PHD with her thesis, entitled “Sexuality in Islam“. Returning home in 2002 she opened a sexual therapy practice in Cairo. Shortly she took TV talk shows by storm appearing as a guest speaker followed by newspaper columns dealing with sexual problems. Eventually, Kotb got her own TV show “Kalam Kebeer” (Big Talk) on the private Egyptian satellite channel “Al Mehwar” followed by “Kalam Kebeer Gedan” (Very Big Talk) on “Al Hayat” channel. Furthermore, she gives sex education courses for unmarried youth with the consent of their parents, but accepts only married couples in her consulting practice.
“When I started, some of my friends were shocked and found it irritating for a female to talk about sex.”
How did your family receive the news of wanting to become a sexologist?
I have to admit that I’m lucky enough that my family showed me supported me with anything I wanted to do in my life my. They were totally aware how much I wanted that goal and my father carried on for my expenses at the U.S. When I started, some of my friends were shocked and found it irritating for a female to talk about sex.
What does your husband feel about your media career?
My husband was my college sweetheart. We have known each other for 23 years now and we are in love since. He knows who I am and he knows my red zone. The red zone for me is my career and he knows that he must step aside and leave any single decision among my career for me and I’m aware of his red zone too, even if I don’t approve of some things.
You lectured in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, how was the feedback there?
Well, I expected much worse feedback. Saudi Arabia takes sex as a taboo from a religious point of view unlike Yemen who takes it as a social taboo. I gave four lectures in Saudi Arabia and three lectures in Yemen. I was stunned by the positive feedback I received from Saudi Arabia as I never dreamt of such a positive attitude. I entered the lecture wearing my typical clothes I wear in Egypt and the interactivity was great. To avoid embarrassment people passed their questions on paper and I kept on answering the questions for an hour and a half. Thank God the people there had an urge for knowledge.
“A good and balanced sex life reflects positively on various parts of the life and most importantly creates a good mood.”
What is the importance of sexual therapy?
No denial that sex is a great part of a person’s life. It affects ones social life, behavior and personality. Having bad sex may lead to everyday arguments of a person with his neighbors or colleagues. If people don’t enjoy a healthy sexual life, they turn to be losers in many aspects of life whereas a good and balanced sex life reflects positively on various parts of the life and most importantly creates a good mood.
Does sexual therapy prevent sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is mainly related to psychological deviation. Basically, sexual therapy is for balanced people, but in that case we use mixed therapy which consists of psychotherapy combined with sexual therapy. But sexual therapy as a whole is for regular people with healthy psychological status, who happen to face sexual problems with their partners.
Who gets better sex, the Middle East or the West?
The same problems are universally found.
Through my exposure to international conferences I found out to my surprise that a person in Boulaq faces the same sexual problems like a person in the US there are basics of sex everyone must follow regardless of the environment.
Like in the Egyptian Novel Chicago, the mother told her daughter, who despises having sex with her husband, that sex is a duty and is vanished soon after the couple have children, how could we get rid of such beliefs?
I hear such things from patients all the time. A very old AUC graduate, 57 years, came to me and told me that her mother used to tell her that sex is an exchange for food and accommodation at her house and her mother was from the high society, but that’s culture regardless the socio-economic status. There was no source of science at that time that’s why I always tell students to go ahead and have this specialization as I can’t treat millions of people. A very old woman came to me and told me that she is a fan of my programs although her sex life ended a long time ago, and she wished she had such media at her time as a lot would have changed. A person at a small village in Naga Hamady watches the program from his small room through his small TV and a lot of information and messages are delivered which could change his life completely. Media is the only way to change these beliefs and media plays a very important role in our society in Egypt.
“But sexual therapy as a whole is for regular people with healthy psychological status, who happen to face sexual problems with their partners.”
How could we raise awareness to sexual education at schools?
I came up with a curriculum which was presented in various conferences. It was on sexual education for kindergarten children to educate them on what organs of their bodies are private like to name people who could see the child exposed in order to prevent child molesting and so on. The curriculum aimed also to raise awareness to domestic sexual abuse between the child and the driver, maid, even if someone he likes and feel secure with. Another phase of sexual education was for teenagers to learn about puberty. Children should know everything about their bodies. Some parents think that their children gather sexual information from their friends and they are totally ok with that as most parents are shy to trigger an open discussion with their children which leads to negative results. The curriculum wasn’t applied very much in Egypt but it was in the Gulf Region and it’s available for anyone who wants to educate it at their schools. We want to guarantee that every single person gets the message. We should raise awareness to sexual education through schools and lectures.
What do you tell your children about sex?
I’m used to an open conversation with my three daughters. I have demonstrative books of human body which I share with them. I speak with them about sex in the simplest way mentioning what is avoided and forbidden to practice preventing premarital sex as it should be in the right track and we could deal with it verbally. Sex education isn’t about telling your child how to enjoy sex, but telling them what is right and what’s not.
“Some parents think that their children gather sexual information from their friends and they are totally ok with that as most parents are shy to trigger an open discussion with their children which leads to negative results.”
Are gynecologists capable of providing sexual advice?
Gynecology and sexology are interconnected in some parts, but gynecologists should be aware of some subjects. Unfortunately, some gynecologists provide false advice and I always say that specialists should interfere in just their own specialization to have credibility. A gynecologist could be aware of some sexual issues, but that doesn’t mean he could provide prescription on sexual issues and the same thing applies for the sexual therapist.
Islam stresses on foreplay how is that?
The foreplay issue was mentioned in both the Quran and Hadith. There are two types of foreplay, the solid part is a matter of electricity which means to tackle a certain part of the body of all men or a women. The flexible type is for the individual. The Hadith by prophet Mohamed (pbuH) was left open; he mentioned kissing and verbal communication during sex. In “Al Baqarah” verse in the Quran, the issue of changing the place and timing of sex is advised. I tell people to have sex anywhere and at any time. If people don’t have the time and money to travel, they could change the room or the bed; this is very healthy according to sexual boredom.
Who are more obedient in following the instructions you give, husbands or wives?
Husbands are more obedient than wives. The husband is the positive partner and he sees this through his manhood as he worries of not pleasing his wife which affects his manhood, so he abides by the instructions I give.
Could a woman run to you outdoors and ask you for a simple sexual advice, or everything needs counseling and prescription?
Everything needs counseling. I have the right to enjoy my private life outside work. Me and my family have the right to enjoy life after work and when people run to me, I tell them to call me when I’m at work in order to take care of my private life.