More Censorship

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Strict censorship is alive and well here in Saudi Arabia. Morality of the citizens here is of the utmost importance and measures are in place to ensure that people behave impeccably, although despite all the enforcement efforts, sometimes people fall short. Pork in any form is prohibited, and so is pornography. Photos of women in books, magazines, and product packaging are routinely censored with black markers if any skin is showing and sometimes pages are just ripped right out. Sometimes the black marker is just scribbled across the woman’s image, like in the photo above which is a package for a maternity support belt. Other times, the censor is much more careful about coloring in the parts of the woman’s body that are objectionable. You can see what I mean on a post about censorship in Saudi Arabia on my other blog, Susie’s Big Adventure, that I wrote not too long ago.


About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
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33 Responses to More Censorship

  1. Amazonbaby says:


    I was wondering something. You seem really confused about how Saudi culture works and why. I’m assuming that you have been married to your husband for at least twenty years. And, from what I’ve read you have lived your entire marriage except since 2007 in the USA. Did you not take trips to KSA before this? Didn’t your husband explain his culture to you? And, since you have to become a Moslem to enter Saudia to live with your husband I’m confused why you aren’t knowledgable about Islam and it’s rules in Saudia.

    You must be familiar with living under Sharia laws? Everything under Sharia is designed so the man is the supreme leader and the laws are designed so the man wins the legal argument. And, I’m sure you are aware that Arab culture is based on honor. Man’s honor is based on how adept he is at controling the women under his control. Women are basically responsible for keeping the honor but receive no reward for their hard work. If it is perceived that their behavior will dishonor the man who controls them, then depending upon their dishonoring action, the women always pays. For instance, if a woman is raped, she has brought dishonor upon the man/tribe/family’s honor. If she is married or engaged then she is declared to be guilty of adultry regardless if she had no control over the circumstances around the rape. It usually takes “blood” (usually her’s) to restore honor. Unless there was four male witnesses or eight female witnesses to the actual penetration, then the man will not be held responsible. The women is the only one who is punished. If she is a virgin, then the rape resulted in her losing her virginity. This means the man/tribe/family has lost the dowry money and it showed that her guardian/man could not control the women under his rule. So for him to restore honor either the rapist must marry the now deflowered virgin since she will no longer have any financial worth or bring in money on the marriage/dowry marriage market. I may not have these results perfect but the basic legal idea is there. What I’m trying to show is under Sharia Law or Islamic Koran Legal System, usually the woman is the one who ends up being guilty even under circumstances where it would seem that the man should be the guilty party. In some Islamic cultures, virginal daughters are used to pay debts or blood honor debts.

    How the whole idea of gender social separation started was by Mohammed. One day he became mad that his friends or members of his congregation were coming to his house for a religious meeting or just dropping by to talk to some of his wives or to visit because some of his wives were family members of these men. He became angry when he thought they were flirting with his many wives. Mohammed limited his followers to only four wives and all the concubines/slaves they stole/won in battle. But Mohammed was allowed as many wives as he wanted. So, he declared that Allah suddenly handed down another revelation/new law. Men and women were to not socialize together openly any longer and women had to wear veils to cover their assets in front of men except if you were of a close family relationship as established today in Islam. So, that is how the social gender division began. He also declared that men and women could talk to each other through a curtan but oculd not see each other. It must have evolved into women wearing a bodily covering. It was under a similar type revelation that Mohammed declared suddenly that dogs were “dirty” when a puppy annoyed him.

    Sharia law also declares that women don’t have permission to leave their home, travel or study without the permission from the man who is responsible for them. Most women must have written permission from their male guardian to leave the country. In some Islamic countries under Sharia Law, a women must have a male accompany her whenever she leaves the house or goes to the doctor. The man will be the go between for the doctor and women. The doctor will ask the man the questions, the women tells the man, and the man answers the doctor. While the doctor can physically examine her with his hands, he is not allowed to look at what he is touching. Sometimes the doctor must examine her with a sheet hanging in front of his face and the female patient is on the other side of the sheet.

    Susie, do you perform the grocery shopping yourself? Mostly, either the driver or men do the grocery shopping. Women usually don’t go to the airport to meet family members or see them off.

    Women in Saudi Arabia are told they are incapable of handling many normal activities women around the world perform every day. And, then they are further hampered by Sharia Laws. A women could not call up to have a telephone installed or apply for a loan at a regular bank because she is not allowed to speak to a strange man. She can’t supervise the installation of the phone or cable TV at home either because she can’t be alone with a strange man. The punishment if something like 30 to 50 lashes. Samething for home or car repairs. One of the arguments for women not driving is what if the car breaks downo or gets a flat tire? She can’t call AAA. But then it’s okay for an unrelated man hired by the family to drive her everywhere and be along with him. The difference is that usually the driver is not Saudi but from a different country. The real issue is the problem is cultural. They shift the rules so she can be alone with a non Saudi male but not a Saudi male. It’s a real burden on a family that can’t afford to hire a driver because that means a male family member has to stop everything and drive the female family member. So, usually, poorer women don’t leave home much.

    Anyway, I’m trying to give the philosopy behind some of these laws. Not excuse them but give you an idea of how and why.

    • Thanks, Sandra, for your comment and explanations. I’ve basically heard all of this before, but it still doesn’t make it any easier for me to “like” the way things are done here. Having been an independent career woman in the states all my life and coming here in my mid-50s, I find many of the customs here just so unnecessary and outdated – because I know what I was perfectly capable of doing before and now suddenly I can’t. Shifting many of the responsibilities that I always handled over to my husband hasn’t been easy either. Many things that I took care of just aren’t important to him so I am in the position where I either have to prod him or just give up. In the states I could easily just do things myself without involving him at all. It’s a difficult position to be put in when you’re my age. Thanks again for taking the time to comment – I appreciate it.

  2. qrays says:

    Some people here are complaining about the censorship shown on the picture. Is it too difficult to realize that in West women are enslaved nude to promote products, and that doesn’t bother you at all?

    Women! Are you not offended and feel degraded seeing nude pictures of your gender on products to seduce male customers?

    • Women in the West have the choice to do what they are comfortable with, and some women are very comfortable with their own bodies and pose nude. They are not enslaved and it is their choice. I admire the female form, especially when it is presented artfully and tastefully. I am not offended and I don’t have a problem with it. The woman blacked out in this photo was not naked and was photographed demonstrating how to wear the product she was hired to show. It should not be misconstrued by religious zealots into something nasty, perverted, or shameful that others need to be shielded from. And in answer to your ending question: NO! I am NOT offended nor do I feel degraded seeing nude photos of women – and honestly, I have never seen nude photos of women on products to sell anything, but maybe I’m not shopping in the same places as you are.

  3. unlizzzzzted says:

    Jerry M….the USA has a big industry in pregnant women pornography so I who has the problem…To all the hecklers about saudi arabia….the problem comes from arab culture thing not an islamic thing totally. Crotia’s attitude is praiseworthy…If KSA journalists or islamic scholars commented in the media on the crime and injustice that happens in the usa. They would get tired. Susie your not going to be able to make KSA resemble arizona. No matter how many elite interlectuals make you feel you can. Each King has a different agenda.

    • I didn’t realize that I am trying to make KSA resemble Arizona. I like to show the differences and the similarities as well because there are many. But as far as making KSA like Arizona – that’s not my agenda.

  4. croatia says:

    Why should I care about Saudi Arabia and their law, if they don’t bother me?

    • You don’t have to care about it. But it is a reality here and that’s what I am showing. It is something that we didn’t have in my country and I try to show things that I think people will be interested in knowing about this country.

  5. Countrygirl says:

    I’ve just imagine the legion of men with big black marker who spend the whole day censoring photoes that here in western countries are so common. When those men come back from work are they saddisfied of what the have done? to get this kind of job should they attend some courses (eg. which brand of eraser is better, coloring naked women 101)?

    I’m wondering what those retarded (sorry but in my opinion they are retarded) would do to the Birth of Venus? and regarding this I’m wondering if art books
    are censored as women (eg birth of Venus) are portraited naked in many classical paintings?

    I hope that you aren’t in trouble for your other blog, it’s a damm shame that for a total innocent blog someone could get in trouble.

  6. leif hagen says:

    “interesting” . . . as we say in Minnesota. Great photos – fun to look through your blog pictures again. Regards from EAGAN daily photo blogger in Minnesota, USA

  7. Chuch Bells says:

    Blocked!? Ouch 😦

  8. The men here are not held accountable or responsible for their behavior toward women. Therefore all women are made to pay the price for the sins of the men. I agree – it is very confusing and unfair.

  9. João says:

    Greetings from Portugal, Susie.
    As i entered the follower’s panel i saw the image of a censored woman and i entered here. I just can’t stand with this. When you showed us, the Katy Perry’s album cover i get 😮 … now i get :s … really. This makes me confuse. Why they can’t deal with nudes womans, weel not even nude .. half-nude!!! I don’t know what to say, this just makes me confuse … why? I’m catholic but i really hate in general the religions, because this censor you show is nothing more than some stupid religious generations. and still, in Saudi Arabia they manage to have more than a woman i suppose.
    Are the saudi-arabians in the 19th or what? Womans should be how they like to be. Let’s suppose i’m a woman, who has the right to say that i MUST cover myself so people can’t see my skin? I only know one, the laws!! And if the laws (and the government) say that, they’re just a bunch of religious and retarded minds.

    Sorry my angry, but i just can’t stand this!

  10. Jan says:

    Susie: In case I don’t get back here to tell you, you will be mentioned on our blog on Friday, May 29th (in a nice way) for our Sky Watch Friday photo. Hope you have time to stop by and check it out!


  11. Marahm says:

    The disgusting aspect of censorship is not so much that it exists, but that it exists in a climate of hypocrisy.

    If I am not mistaken, male clerks are still selling bras to female customers. Also, these bras are out in plan site, for all people to look at, no?

    Why are images in magazines still blacked out, while films of real women, in various forms of dress or undress, are readily observable on television?

    • Yes, Marahm – even though there supposedly was a law passed more than a year ago, men are still selling lingerie to women here and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. There is a movement to have women stop buying lingerie in the Kingdom altogether until things change.
      I totally agree about the images on TV – my hubby and I were watching Sex in the City tonight, and there were totally nude couples in the act! I heard that satellites were supposed to be illegal here, but they are everywhere.

  12. DeSeRt RoSe says:

    Hey Susie can you access your other blog?? I tried to today and it seems it’s blocked!!
    Or is it just me?!

  13. Mel says:

    Perhaps because of the extreme censorship, this makes even innocent items like maternity products ‘sexual’? For all the talk about how our society is desensitized to sexuality and so on, perhaps it is the extreme opposite over in Saudi Arabia, where maybe this has to be censored because it may result in lustful thoughts in guys? This is not to excuse it, as I find this silly. Guys need to learn how to control their urges.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with your theory. I believe that all this censorship and covering up here has made the men here crazy and read sex into everything, so yes, it has worked just the opposite of what it was meant to do. I think it has produced a more sex-obsessed society.

  14. Zahra says:

    I love reading your adventure blog. When I logged on today.. repeatedly your site is coming up as blocked by the Saudi Government… you know the one that comes up all the time when stuff is banned. I am very concerned.
    To this article, I have been living in saudia for 2 years, and what I summed up is that they REALLY do treat women as they would cattle. Women are “given” rights or “allowed” by men to do things.
    With this kind of extreme censuring, I believe a person just suffocates and society as a whole becomes more vent up.

  15. Jerry M says:

    I know I am getting on a high horse, but to me morality is as much the responsibility of the viewer as the person viewed. In 1997 I married a woman who had adult daughters. It became my resposibility to interact with them as adults not as sex objects.

    I can guess how Saudi culture developed the way it did, but that hardly justifies why men aren’t expected to not view women as pieces of meat. Women exist, they can be attractive, get over it.

  16. Michon says:

    Sorry, forgot to say, the article was printed in the last seven days.

  17. Michon says:

    Everything and everyone is sexualized. Did you catch the article in the Saudi Gazette, 22 % of the kids there have been sexually abused. WOW…

  18. Geogypsy says:

    It’s so ridiculous. Why doesn’t the government just manufacture and produce their own packaging. I mean the whole idea is stupid in my mind. Must put a lot of people to work coloring. I wonder if this could be work women could do from home. After all, wouldn’t want some poor man getting over excited while coloring female body parts. It all seems so twisted.

    • janice says:

      GeoGypsy brings up a great point.

      Who are the ones doing the “coloring”, men?

      Then it would seem to be counterproductive if the whole point of “coloring” is to save men from themselves. A poor “coloring” associate leaves the office and after an 8 hour shift of “coloring” female skin and finds himself wanting to be immoral.

      Sounds like it raises more problems.

  19. Cristóbal says:

    Yes, Jerry has mentioned an interesting point I would to know about.

    I don’t think the person who scribbled the package did a good work since I can manage to see some “parts”.

    Your CDP and your blog are very interesting 🙂 Congratulations from Chile.

  20. Jerry M says:

    Censorship of ‘pornography’ is something that crosses cultures. But Saudi Arabia takes it farther than most other countries. Do men really get their jollies looking at pictures on pregnancy items? (I’m a man, I certainly am not so hard up that I have to look at hair color boxes or pregnancy item labels to satisfy my libido.)

    The men in this country sound like they really need some help (libido wise).

    • I just don’t know what’s up with the people here – everything seems to be looked at sexually, and therefore it is prohibited. Once when I was at a family get together, I was playing with a baby, bouncing him on my lap, and my abaya came open a little bit, revealing that I actually had legs! I was wearing long jeans underneath. My mother-in-law told my husband to tell me to fix my abaya so my brother-in-law couldn’t see. I have a difficult time comprehending this mentality, where men are not expected to control themselves and read sex into every situation possible. It’s so extreme, and to me, it’s not normal.

  21. Jerry M says:

    Yes, there is nothing more disgusting and provocative than an image of a naked woman ;-).

    How do they teach biology? I don’t imagine sex education is a big subject either.

    • “..there is nothing more disgusting and provocative than an image of a naked woman.” – especially a pregnant one whose belly is being supported by a big maternity belt!
      As far as I understand, for medical purposes, photos in textbooks and doctors references are okay. I’ll see what I can find out about sex education!

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