Are Muslim fuck buddies a sign of progress?


Middle East Media Research Institute has a fascinating roundup of the hubbub over misyar (or "visit") marriages, a form of clandestine matrimony in which the woman gives up any spousal rights and stays in her own residence, the man visits her for sex, and after a while the union is dissolved by a divorce. (The last part is optional and officially frowned upon.) MEMRI provides no statistics to back it up but says the practice is growing in popularity, fueled by the large number of divorced women and old maids in Saudi society, the economic pressures of the post-boom Gulf, and the ancient desire for consequence-free copulation. (One type of misyar contract makes divorce automatic if the woman gets pregnant, which not only reveals the he-man woman-hating bias of the culture but suggests birth control devices, and the expectation that they're being used, are widespread.)

The acceptance of the practice has been accompanied by the usual religious hair-splitting that allows every type of vice and transgression as long as it's properly defined. A fatwa from the Institute of Islamic Religious Law allowed misyar marriages but stipulated that neither party can enter into the union with even a secret intention of getting divorced. This seems to address the main concern with these types of marriages—not that they're unpious or bad for women or hypocritical, but that they too closely resemble the mut'a marriages popular among Shia Muslims. The more honest mut'a union is contracted for a specific period of time, and can be ended without a divorce.

Opponents of misyar marriages (and to a lesser extent, MEMRI) bring out the familiar arguments: that it's exploitative toward women, that it's harmful to the children who inevitably result, and so on. Among women polled in Jeddah, 81 percent were opposed to this type of marriage. The demographics suggest a big helping of desperation:

Saudi author Dr. Ibtisam Halwani, who researched the phenomenon and published a number of articles on the subject, found out the following about misyar marriages: Most of the women in these marriages are non-Saudis, and are from a certain few large cities; in some misyar marriages, the woman relinquishes only some of her rights; many marriage contracts are made not in the presence of the woman's guardian, but in the presence of a public official; some women in misyar marriages demand a divorce after a while so as to remarry and obtain a new dowry; many men set conditions for the woman, such as "if the knowledge of the marriage gets out, you are divorced," or "if you get pregnant, you are divorced"; many of the men divorce when it is even suspected that news of the marriage has reached the families; many students from out of town seek misyar marriage; and most misyar marriages end in divorce.

So is this a new stone in the misogynistic wall of Arab culture? On the principle that nunneries and whorehouses were the first places where women enjoyed anything like independence from men, I'm not so sure. "Young religious man, 29, working in the UAE, seeks misyar marriage with pretty, religious girl from a well-known tribe, age 14-19. I will pay her 1000 dirhams a month," reads one personal ad for a misyar candidate, clearly indicating that the kept woman will not be relinquishing all rights in this arrangement. (Where is the Saudi Rona Jaffe who will immortalize this rising class of doxies?)

It's also not always clear who's zoomin' who: One complaint about the practice is that young men are entering into misyar marriages with rich old bags in order to "extort" them. Imams have had to address the question of whether working women are getting exploited in the same way. That the 19 percent or so of women who support this type of marriage might see ways of getting their money's worth doesn't appear to have entered the conversation. In any event, dissolution of sexual codes is a pretty dependable preamble to social change, even when the forms are as crazy as this thing or the insane laws that governed Christian divorce in its early stages. We'll see.

NEXT: South Park Refugees

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  1. “makes divorce automatic if the woman gets divorced”

    Uh, what?

  2. I’m gonna misyar kissin’
    I’m gonna misyar huggin’
    I’m gonna misyar swoonin’
    When I’m awaaay . . .

  3. The fuck-buddies tease on the main page shows up twice on my monitor. When I click on the H&R logo, the entire item is repeated (one version shows 12:52 and another shows 12:53).

    For as long as I’ve been reading this site, various comments have been posted twice. Many posters have noted this phenomenon.

    Why don’t you fix this?

  4. A triple blog entry by Tim Cavanaugh!
    All playing the H&R drinking game, down a shot.
    Beer chaser is optional.

  5. “Young religious man, 29, working in the UAE, seeks misyar marriage with pretty, religious girl from a well-known tribe, age 14-19.”


    But then Muhammed married a 6 year year old when he was 53.

  6. Can they marry foreigners? Just curious…

  7. “So is this a new stone in the misogynistic wall of Arab culture?

    Not so sure. At least from that article.

    I’d read it first as ‘real life’ just finding work-arounds when cultural codes, religious edicts, etc come into conflict with basic human needs.

    It doesnt seem all that different than ‘dating’….ok, with lots of conditions and strings in favor of the man. But I’d presume it has to be formalized anyway to fit into expectations of their culture. If you fool around outside the male/female ‘rules’ in some of those countries, you’re open season for honor killings or whatever. I’m sure there are plenty of examples where it’s abused or it puts women in indentured kind of position, or whatever… but i’d hesitate to write it off the way MEMRI does without meeting some folks who’re in these kind of voluntary arrangements. Could be they’re making a big deal out of kids just hookin up.

    I’m not surprised that in a culture where male/female interaction outside of marriage is so limited that they’ve created classes of ‘marriage’ that vary widely…

    I’ve always suspected the ‘Roots of Muslim Rage’ had a strong component of sexual repression. Who the hell wants to blow themselves up at 21 if they’re getting any?

  8. Larry Fortensky and David Gest could live like kings over there.

  9. “Advocates of misyar marriage argue that such marriages meet the needs primarily of women who have little chance of finding a husband for ordinary marriage. These include widows, divorcees, and especially single women who are beyond marriageable age [awanis].”

    I’m also wondering how many options poor widows, et. al. have in some quarters. I understand poor men have a hard time finding opportunities in much of the Middle East. If it really is a misogynistic culture… How do unsupported women in the Middle East fare otherwise?

    …the ancient desire for consequence-free copulation.

    If this practice has recently become popular, I’d expect the HIV rate in the area to skyrocket. …If I was one of these guys lookin’ for such a wife, I’d sure as hell want to know how the widow’s husband died. Anyway, HIV aside, am I to understand that children from such a marriage have no claim on their father’s support?

    I suspect everyone born on this planet exists as a consequence of the ancient desire for consequence-free copulation.

  10. “Young religious man, 29, working in the UAE, seeks misyar marriage with pretty, religious girl from a well-known tribe, age 14-19. I will pay her 1000 dirhams a month,”

    Isn’t this effectively prostitution?

  11. And these are the people who decry the decadence and sexual practices of the West?

  12. “Isn’t this effectively prostitution?”

    Not in Colorado at least:

    Colo. Rev. Stat. sec. 18-7-201(1): “Any person who performs or offers or agrees to perform any act of sexual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, masturbation, or anal intercourse with any person not his spouse in exchange for money or other thing of value commits prostitution.”

    (Emphasis added)

  13. I don’t know if this sounds so bad. “Marriage by contract” sounds pretty good compared to the “one size fits all” marriage we have here in the West. Instead of letting someone else write the rules to your marriage (ie., a lying pack of self-serving professional polititions), you write your own rules.

    I personally swore off the idea of getting married after spending two years with a live-in girlfriend. I discovered that while I like women, I can’t stand living with one — they’re just too moody and irrational for me to put up with one 24 hrs. per day. (On the other hand, I imagine that I’m a bit of pain in the ass to live with, too.) So why not have “visit marriages.” If everybody is happy with the arrangement, who is to say it is wrong?

  14. For as long as I’ve been reading this site, various comments have been posted twice. Many posters have noted this phenomenon.

    Why don’t you fix this?

    I posted this on the gooseliver thread (that sounds like something out of the Brothers Grimm). Here it is again. I won’t repeat it.

    Defending your First Amendment Rights against the squirrelogenic oppression:

    After you have composed and previewed your post,

    1) copy and paste it into your WP program for spellcheck, and when it’s cooked

    2) close out of the blog window, and

    3) open another window displaying the same thread/comments section

    4) paste your latest contribution to the advancement of Arts and Letters in Western Civilization into yon post-a-comment box, then

    5) preview it if you must, but do so briskly;

    6) fill in your vital

    7) click on Post

    8) Reduce the window and go outside to play, you spend too much time in front of that damn screen and you’re looking pale, Honey

    9) open another copy of the blog/comments section and see if you’ve made your mark. If yes, rejoice. If not, unreduce the window you’d reduced, and see whether the message is

    a) still in its foetal, predelivered condition


    b) if the screen has gone into “Cannot find server” mode (good help is so hard to find these days).

    10) If the latter obtains, copy your wilting message from the still-open WP program, and repeat steps 3) through 9).

    This will cure non-postings, prevent multiple postings, and thus possibly postpone the moment of your succumbing to the appetites of worms .

    No, no, don’t thank me; I thank you.

    Comment by: M at August 30, 2006 09:47 PM


    If 9a obtains, repeat step 8.

    That’s the main point.

    Comment by: M at August 30, 2006 09:50 PM


    Without hitting Post again.

    I need a secretary.

    Comment by: M at August 30, 2006 09:52 PM

  15. This will cure non-postings, prevent multiple postings, …
    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    “2 Iraqis 1 donkey and a night vision camera. ya get the picture”

  16. M,

    That sounds like a lot of work. Dodging work is primarily the reason that most of us visit H&R.

  17. M’s 10-step solution might work on the duplicate posts in the comments, but wouldn’t address the same issue on the Reason main page.

    I have to admit, it seems to me that it would make sense for the Reasonoids to fix this bug on the server side. I wasn’t so much complaining, or asking M to describe the work-around. I’m sincerely curious about why a problem that’s gone on for so long, a problem that the Reason web editor himself is struggling with, doesn’t get fixed. Oh well …

  18. M —

    Sorry, not a reliable cure. FYI, there have been a couple times when I have hit “Post” once and only once and the server shortly after or simultaneously hiccupped and commended to churning interminably (during which time I amused myself by opening other windows, visiting other sites, or occasionally even doing some work, etc.) and the thing still posted twice.

    I do know better than to continue clicking “post” repeatedly like some kind of manic digital woodpecker. Honest I do.

    Also, remember that H&R has some kind of “postus interruptus” software to prevent rapid subsequent postings. Instead, if you try to post in rapid succession, you get a notice to the effect that your ability to post has been temporarily disabled. Now, if people really were hitting “post” multiple times, wouldn’t this trigger that interruptus software instead of resulting in multiple posts?

    I suspect that at least some of the time, the multiple posts are the result of a feedback error on the server’s side. That is, whatever causes the server to hiccup might also lead the server to fail to recognize that it has already published a submitted comment, and subsequently publishes it again (and again, and again?) until it receives and is able to recognize some kind of “comment has been posted to site” feedback signal?

    In other words, maybe the hiccup does not disable the server’s “posting” abililty, but somehow disables it’s “recognizing that it has posted” ability?

    I offer this hypothesis with absolutely no technical knowledge whatsoever, but logically it seems to make sense to me.

  19. M’s 10-step solution might work on the duplicate posts in the comments, but wouldn’t address the same issue on the Reason main page.

    A good observation, and one that I also think supports my hypothesis put forth above: It’s a server-failing-to-recognize-feedback-that-it-has-already-successfully-published-an-item problem.

    That commenters posting to H&R might be clueless idiots may seem all too likely, but do we really think that seasoned blog editor Tim Cavanaugh is sitting at his PC and hitting “post”-“post”-“post”-“post”-“post” like an idiot? I don’t.

    PS: Tried to post this before, got a “page not found” error message. Opened up a new browser window, returned to site, tried posting again. If it multiple posts = not my fault.

  20. Outlaw Saudi, 49, seeks washed-up African-American pop star for fun and possible misyar. Crack OK.

  21. Osama Bin Lonely,

    I’m your baby tonight!

  22. Oh well. Worked for me.

    When the Revolution comes, and its army of volunteers will be struggling with this sort of problem on a kerosene-fueled server, while we’re eating cheesecake.

    Do you know what degree of self-restraint was entailed in my posting this only once? Only once? Only once?

  23. Sounds like american style DEMOCRACY is catching on in the middle east or as it’s portrayed on the SOPRANOS.HECK of a job DUBYA,I knew you would find a way to do it.

  24. “Sounds like american style DEMOCRACY is catching on in the middle east or as it’s portrayed on the SOPRANOS.HECK of a job DUBYA,I knew you would find a way to do it.”


    Is there anything bad in the entire world that President Bush is *not* responsible for? Or should we just blame the guy for all the world’s ills, including the Reason server squirrels?

  25. you know what I hate worst about bush? he and the federal government have never stepped up to the plate and fulfilled their responsibilities to the maintenance of public order–they just let people suffer through this reason squirrel thing. bastard.

  26. What this country (site) needs is a good 12 step program to prevent double posts.

  27. They’ve had this among the Shia for centuries. I didn’t know it was coming into fashion among the Sunnis (a Sunni friend of mine, when asked about it, said “It’s prostitution”), but it’s not a new thing.

    Nor is it much different from dating. Nor is it really hypocrisy–Islam is all for sex behind closed doors between two contractually bound people, and Islamic marriage is much more like a contract than Christian or Jewish marriage.

  28. What this country (site) needs is a good 12 step program to prevent double posts.

    And a good two-dollar broom.

  29. Just goes to show that the eternal desire for pussy crosses all boundaries, and creates pretzel logic in its wake. Could this be the ‘opening’ we need to make nice with our enemies?

  30. Sexual frustration is definitely the root of Islamic terrorism. If these guys were getting some, they wouldn’t be blowing up stuff.

    Just look at all these Objectivists who want to do the same. A lot of them can’t get laid either.

  31. I think you wrote this article with pious. You combined your opinion with run facts. THis article is all massed up.

    Islam doesn’t allow what you are talking about. I have been Muslim for 26 years and can tell you this.

    Islam doesn’t allow this. If you are Islam hater you approach the bashing came in a wrong light.

    PLease get your facts right. IF you want to write opinion do so, but don’t get some bullshit facts written by another ediot like you and call it an article.
    Good Luck

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