Sex gets blamed for many things in this world, including the Egyptian revolution that launched "Arab spring," the populist uprisings throughout the Middle East and north Africa.
"The revolution's being identified with horny youth," said UC Santa Barbara Professor Paul Amar at a UC Davis Middle Eastern Studies forum Wednesday night. Because they couldn't afford to date or get their own apartments, their pent-up sexual energy and frustrations "exploded on the streets of Egypt," Amar said - that's just one of the false myths about Arab Spring. The truth is that the revolution was led not by marginalized, unemployed youth but by labor movements, "people with jobs," Amar said.
Another myth that needs debunking is the idea - fueled by the NY Times and other media - that Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook after his girlfriend broke up with him, "unleashed the democratic spirit in the Arab world - another horny youth."
In reality, Egypt managed to shut down the Internet on the third day of protests, more than China was able to do when there was an uprising in western China a few years ago, Amar said.
Technology did play a key role - thousands of shopkeepers who lost their jobs during the Egyptian revolution opened call centers and internet cafes on street corners where civilian journalists and activists could communicate with the outside world, Amar said.
Amar also debunked the myth of senile dictators uprooted by youth, since several key Egyptian dissidents are in their 70s and 80s - and that women were raped and sexually harassed and couldn't fully participate in the revolution. The truth is female organizers in textile factories played a key role in mobilizing workers to protest for labor rights, Amar said, "not as victims of sexual harassment and rape calling for protection but as feminist organizers."
Beshara Doumani a history professor at UC Berkeley, spoke about the power of the Arabic slogan, "The People Want," as a unifying theme that cut across religion and ethnicity, while UC Davis professor Susan Miller said that despite the violence in Libya, it is the only nation where the opposition has already formed a government.