Frustrated male sexuality fused with terror in the burned undies of the Crotch Bomber, a.k.a. the Underpants Bomber, a.k.a. the Weeniebomber, a.k.a. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. Farouk1986. Many terror experts are trying to get “inside the head” of this privileged, 23-year-old Nigerian banker’s son who appears to have learned terror tactics from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as nonchalantly as he studied mechanical engineering at University College London, before boarding Northwest Airlines Flight 258 from Amsterdam to Detroit with deadly plastic explosives nestled right up against the Abdulmutallab family jewels.
As a sex therapist, I think it wise to try to get inside both heads of this young man, not just the one between his ears but the one between his legs, to look into the dirty underwear, so to speak, of the Panty Bomber who didn’t actually bomb anything, yet had enough PETN next to his junk to bring down a whole plane with all 278 passengers and 11 crew members.
In many ways, “Farouk1986,” as he called himself on the Gawaher Islamic Forums, was a typical, horny, young male virgin valiantly attempting to follow religious strictures that kept him from releasing his natural sexual tension in any acceptable way. Most orthodox versions of the world’s organized religions denounce sex before marriage as sinful. Though young people tend to be ready for the pleasures of sex long before they are prepared for the responsibilities of marriage, this is one of the bulwarks of “family values” and not to be disobeyed. Not only are observant, young, single males in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths not allowed to have sex with anyone, they’re not supposed to masturbate either.
According to George Carlin, if God had intended us not to masturbate, (S)he would have made our arms shorter. But most priests, rabbis, ministers, ayatollahs and imams do not get that joke and do not tolerate their choir, yeshiva or madrassa boys “abusing themselves.”
Farouk1986’s religion is, of course, a “radical” form of Islam. That’s not to say the other religions are superior when it comes to being reasonable about sex; they’re just culturally different. But since we’re trying to get inside both heads of young Farouk1986, let’s examine what he was going through as he attempted to live the pure, asexual life of a modern, devout, unmarried, Muslim male.
First, he is not allowed to look at, talk to or touch any woman, except his mother and close female relatives (keep in mind that Farouk1986 spent most of his young life in boarding school and college, away from his family). Looking at pictures of women is also off-limits. He must not “party” with friends because that tends to lead to something sinful, like drinking alcohol or watching movies featuring unveiled women. So he spends a lot of time alone where of course, he is not permitted to masturbate as it is haram, forbidden by Islamic law.
Every day, religious young Muslims, Christians and Jews live in abject terror that they will be struck dead or damned to hell for their natural inclination to touch their genitals to relieve sexual tension. I talk to some of them in my telephone sex therapy practice; they’d be too mortified to see a therapist in person, so they call me on the phone, whispering their questions like prisoners fearful their guards might overhear. Devout Muslim men who masturbate are afraid their lives will be cursed in this world and the next. Some Muslim authorities say that since male masturbation is “adultery with the hand,” all men who have ever stroked themselves will be resurrected with pregnant hands. Of course, the Christian myths that self-pleasuring grows hair on your palms or makes you go blind don’t make much more sense, but the idea of giving birth through your hand takes Junior to a whole new level.
Masturbation Forbidden, Marriage Postponed
With such wild fantasies running rampant through his fevered brain as the usual hormones flowed through his hot young bloodstream, Farouk1986 wrote 310 posts in the Muslim Forums, including:
“First of all, i have no friend. Not because i do not socialise, etc but because either people do not want to get too close to me as they go partying and stuff while i dont, or they are bad people who befriend me and influence me to do bad things. Hence…i feel depressed and lonely. i do not know what to do. And then i think this loneliness leads me to other problems. As i get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and i struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze…. And this problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused.”
In that last statement, I imagine that Farouk1986 really means marriage might give him a proper outlet for all that passion, instead of what many snide bloggers have surmised about marriage being the death of arousal (that’s the subject of another bloggamy). Unfortunately, for young Farouk1986, one of the newer Muslim customs seems to be that most men don’t marry – even their first wives – until they are 26 or 27 and somewhat established in their career. Of course, later they can have up to four wives at a time, if they can afford them, but what’s a horny, lonely, young guy like Farouk1986 to do in the meantime?
“The Prophet (S) advised young men to fast if they can’t get married but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don’t want to wait for years before I get married,” he wrote, later adding that he had not started searching for prospective partners because he needed to get “a degree, a job, a house, etc. before getting married.”
In the eighteenth century, Muslim boys would marry as young as 14. Not that anybody should be getting hitched at 14 in today’s world. But since they’re marrying an average of 12 years later AND they’re not allowed to spank the monkey in the interim, it’s not surprising that some of them turn into ticking time bombs. I doubt his father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former minister and chairman of First Bank in Nigeria, would have minded if the youngest of his 16 children, son of his second wife, wanked a bit to take the edge off. But Farouk1986 himself desperately wanted to be sexually pure. Indeed, that seems to have been a way he could distinguish himself from his successful father who paid for his posh pad in London but refused to finance his desire to study Shariah law, leading to their estrangement.
I can just see this sullen, pious, nice-looking, young man wandering alone across the London College campus, spying a flyer advertising study in Yemen, promising an escape from the temptations of the West to his mother’s native country, a place where women cover their “sinful” hair and lower their gaze even if he can’t. Then in Yemen, I imagine he sees another flyer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a “franchise” of the original, which he’s as happy to sample as franchises for Pizza Hut and KFC. The romance of al-Qaeda is one of the few things that might seem more exciting than sex to a young man like this, at least for a while.
Then again, Farouk1986, an avid social networker with a Facebook profile in addition to his Muslim Forum posts, probably found al-Qaeda on the Internet. Most cybernerds cruise for relatively harmless things like porn. But I imagine Farouk1986 wouldn’t allow himself to even glance at such sinful imagery. So he searched for the next most titillating thing to sex: adventures in terrorism.
Holy War Football Match
Besides Islam, British football appears to be Farouk1986’s greatest passion. Sometimes I think he mixed up the two, describing fantasies of Holy War like a divine soccer game: “I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the muslims will win, insha Allah and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!” reads one Feb. 20, 2005 post.
“So usually my fa(n)tasies are about islamic stuff,” he continued. “The bad part of it is sometimes the fantasies are a bit worldly rather than concentrating in the hereafter.”
Worldly? Oops! There go those pesky, lustful thoughts again, the sinful fantasies that make Farouk1986’s lower head swell with desire, rising uncontrollably like Jack’s beanstalk. What to do with it? Must destroy it! Burn and destroy!
Penis Mutilation Rituals
In my opinion, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s penis had already been mutilated years before. Religious Muslims, including many African tribes, practice circumcision on their young boys, as the Jewish religion and most American hospitals perform this procedure on male infants. Everyone in the West denounces female circumcision which is pretty abominable. But many support or just ignore the violence of the same act on males, even though it is only marginally less abusive. Female cliterectomy usually chops off the clitoris and sometimes the labia, leaving a woman essentially without outer genitalia. Male circumcision slices off 5-20% of the penis, specifically the foreskin, the vital part of the male genitalia that protects the glans when it is flaccid and retracts sensuously to reveal his erection when fully aroused.
There have been many excuses posited for circumcision, including the almighty virtue of “cleanliness,” but the main point is said to have been to keep men from masturbating. And yes, it does feel good to move that sensual foreskin back and forth, and circumcision does seem to deaden sensation, leaving the glans in a perpetual state of exposure, as well as creating all sorts of untold traumas for boys who are put through it. But I think it’s been proven a gazillion times that circumcision does NOT stop guys from masturbating, though it does help keep the lube industry going (uncut men don’t tend to require lube). So, maybe the *real* purpose of circumcision is just to cause pain, to toughen the boy for a life of violence, war and sacrifice.
As a good Muslim boy, Farouk was most certainly circumcised, so his penis had already known considerable pain and trauma. Perhaps he even fetishized the penile pain, thinking something along the lines of, “Since Allah won’t allow my penis to have pleasure, then let it have pain, let it explode with pain and take some heathens down with it!” It doesn’t take much imagination to see how thoughts like that might lead to tighty-whities packed with explosives.
Drop Pocket Rockets, Not Patriot Missiles
Of course, Farouk1986’s big head (the one between his ears) did have some other, more justifiable reasons for turning to terror. He was vocally against the U.S. bombing, invasion and occupation of various Muslim countries, and as president of the Islamic Society at University College London, he invited human rights lawyers and former Guantánamo detainees to speak at the school.
I’m not saying it would completely stop nutty, sexually frustrated jihadists like Farouk1986, but I do believe sending care packages filled with Fleshlights, anal beads, condoms and lots of lube, instead of the bombs we usually send, is more likely to win some hearts, minds and both heads in that part of the world.
To some extent, this is already happening, as many Muslim men and women are getting a broad sex education through the Internet, as well as interacting erotically through webcam and talking about their feelings with sex therapists like me over the phone.
But for the most part, official America would rather use sexy imagery to sell Nikes and war than donate sex products that might actually help people who are “on the fence” about us. Though the sex business is fairly big, the war business is much bigger; America doesn’t manufacture much anymore, but we do make bombs, expensive ones. It’s one of our only growth industries. That statistical detail might also bother an idealistic, frustrated kid like Farouk1986.
Farouk1986’s Great Adventure
So he got his own bomb. The info is still murky on how Farouk1986 obtained his PETN package, so neatly sewn into his Fruit of the Looms. He seems to have picked it up in Yemen, maybe from a Saudi plastic bomb-maker, perhaps with the guidance of US-born Yemeni Islamic cleric, Imam and spiritual leader, Anwar al Awlaki, author of the best-selling internet manual “44 Ways to Support Jihad,” who has been linked to several terrorists around the world (including Nidal Hassan, the American Army psychiatrist who shot and killed 13 people at a Texas army base on November 5, 2009). But that isn’t certain, as of this writing.
What we do know is that Farouk1986 had no problem getting past security in several airports with his explosive booty, even though his dad had warned the American embassy that his youngest child was falling in love with “radical Islam.” They put him on a list of people with terror connections, but not the no-fly list. Anyway, heads are rolling over why this guy was allowed on a plane, but it’s not in the scope of this bloggamy to examine those heads. Farouk1986’s two heads are quite enough.
What was going through his big head while his small head was cozying up to the six-inch plastic container, probably a condom (okay, so my sex care packages could be used for evil), holding about 75 grams of PETN (same stuff that Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber had packed in his heel almost exactly eight years before), more than enough to blow a hole in the plane if properly detonated. I imagine we’ll find out more about what Farouk1986 was thinking as he breezed through security, since he seems to love gabbing with FBI agents (no more loneliness!). So I won’t speculate too much, though I’d say it went something like “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this, insha Allah, OMG!”
And yes, I suppose he was fantasizing about his magnificent future in heaven with Papa Allah smiling upon him and the 72 beautiful virgins ministering to his heroic needs, or whatever malarkey he picked up from Mr. al Awlaki or whichever father figure persuaded this impressionable youngest child of a banker to strap his tender loins into exploding panties on Christmas Day, the Crusaders’ happiest holiday of the year.
Allah’s Panty Boy
But both heads considered, I tend to think that Farouk1986 might also have had some intellectual and emotional doubts about this glorious mission, which is one reason the whole thing – thank God, Goddess, Allah, the Baby Jesus and the rest – fizzled into much ado about nothing.
We may never hear about his doubts, unless his dad buys him a smart lawyer who might get him a few less years for admitting that he was just too damned scared to carry out his operation fully and he more or less purposely fumbled the ball(s). Maybe at the last minute, he just decided he didn’t really want to die, and maybe even didn’t really want to kill.
Of course, young Farouk1986 probably wouldn’t admit any of this, because to be seen as cowardly is far worse than being viewed as incompetent or having a faulty bomb. But as a sex therapist, my guess is that Allah’s Panty Boy chickened out.
First, let’s consider the amount of time it took him to try to detonate his bomb. Why do it at the last minute, when the plane is just about to land and everyone is in a state of high alert? Why not do it towards the beginning of the flight, just after the captain has taken the plane to maximum altitude and they turn off the “Fasten Your Seatbelts” sign – like Mohammed Atta and his guys did on 9/11 – or at least in mid-flight, when almost everybody’s sleeping?
Okay, so maybe the plan was to explode the plane over US air space. But still, why try to detonate a plastic explosive under a blanket, where you can’t see what you’re doing, with other passengers all around you? Why attempt to get the acids in the syringe to the powder in your pants while you’re still wearing them, and the natural human reaction to being burned is to jump and try to put out the fire? Farouk1986 was highly educated, a mechanical engineer, so he would know this. Why didn’t he simply stay in the plane’s lavatory, carefully take off his powder-keg undies so his own physical reaction wouldn’t interrupt the proceedings, and set the bomb off there?
This is how I imagine Farouk1986’s al-Qaeda boss would tell him to set off the bomb. You pack the powder in your underwear to smuggle it through security, but you don’t keep it there when you detonate the bomb! Unless Yemenis have a much more profound sense of humor than I realized.
According to many witnesses, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab actually went into the airplane lavatory for a few minutes before returning to his seat, where he complained of stomach pains, then pulled the blanket over his head and started fumbling with the syringe, setting his pants afire which were heroically stomped out by Dutch video-producer Jasper Schuringa.
Apparently upon hearing some “pops” and smelling smoke, Schuringa lunged across the seats between them, grabbed a “burning object” from the flaming young man, then stripped him of his clothes and handcuffed him with the help of a crew member.
Farouk1986 suffered second-degree burns in his genital area, but is otherwise fine. The young man smiled as he was wheeled into a conference room inside the hospital for his arraignment the next day. Asked how he was feeling, he replied: “I’m doing better…better than yesterday.”
This does not seem like a man determined to die for Allah, 72 virgins, his al-Qaeda Daddy or anybody else. This sounds like a man who is happy to be alive and “better than yesterday.”
US District Court Judge Paul Borman said Abdulmutallab faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Asked if he understood the charges, he replied, “Yes, I do.” Translation: Papa can pay the bill, and I’m now an internationally renowned jihadist with a slightly burned hot dog and a nice long stretch of time to memorize the Koran. He may not have gotten into Stanford or UC Berkeley, his top choices for American schools, but he made it into the US Prison System (another one of our few growth industries), alive and super-famous. Fame may not be a Muslim virtue, but it is definitely a core value of the Facebook set.
Now Security Will Peek Into Your Panties
What happened under that blanket? My guess is that Farouk1986 just changed his mind or faltered in his plan, postponing his date with death as it drew closer until he could put it off no longer as the flight was ready to land. He went into the lav, but he just couldn’t bring himself to detonate that bomb in there where no one would see him, as his al-Qaeda boss probably instructed him to do. So he shuffled back to his seat and hid under the blanket, worrying about how humiliated he’d be if he got off that plane without at least trying to follow through on his glorious mission. Maybe he even thought he was in danger that some hitman from al-Qaeda in America would chop off his head (the big one) or whatever they do to cowardly suicide bombers. He didn’t want to do it, and at this point, he didn’t have time. But he had to do something! So…he lit his dick on fire. And – Praise God, Goddess, Allah, Baby Jesus, Mother Nature and everybody else – between his fear, his fumbling and his loathing of his own physical sexuality, Farouk1986 wound up blowing up nothing except a little more skin on his cursed crotch, and the whole thing turned into a kind of terror comedy, not the deadly tragedy that might have been. Blessed be the cowardly who fail in their missions to destroy us. Amen and Awomen.
But acts of terror aren’t just about the kill count; they’re about effectively sowing the seeds of fear into the populace. Farouk1986 certainly got our agitated attention with his powder-packed undies, even if they didn’t blow anybody up. Is he right when he brags to the FBI that there are “many others” like him, and what if some of those others have the balls to actually go through with their missions?
So now we must beef up our airport security with advanced checkpoint screening devices that use so-called millimeter waves to create an image of a passenger’s body, so officers can see under clothing to determine if a weapon or explosive has been hidden. Personally, I don’t mind if strangers want to look at me naked (though I’d prefer they join my bloggamy for that), but these machines are expensive and bound to increase ticket prices and create longer lines. Moreover, all that x-raying is a health hazard, potentially causing cancer or sterility.
Though I do think there ought to be security cameras in airplane lavatories; they won’t hurt anyone physically, they’re not that costly, and any suicide bomber with the cajones to go through with this kind of operation would probably do his dirty work in there, where it’s well-lit and secluded, not under a blanket among other passengers. Sorry, all you privacy advocates who don’t want the flight attendants to watch you pee, poop, barf, boink, wank or shoot up in the lav, but better safe than sorry. Besides, maybe you’ll be more likely to flush and clean up after yourselves, knowing you’re being watched.
Whatever happens, the terrible words of that other “radical” Muslim guy with a wealthy dad and a Yemeni mom, are proving eerily prophetic, at least in terms of air travel: “Freedom and human rights in America are doomed,” said Osama bin Laden shortly after the 9/11 attacks, “The US government and the west will lead its people into an unbearable hell and choking life.”
America is also using the Crotch Bomber as a vivid excuse to bomb and support other violent military actions in Yemen, according to our increasingly bellicose President Barack Obama in his first radio address of 2010. This not only winds up killing innocent civilians and wasting money we don’t have, but it plays right into al-Qaeda’s game, enhancing their drive for more frustrated, idealistic, young suicide bombers like Farouk1986 and, unfortunately, some will have the balls to do the job.
But let us not allow this inevitability to bring us down, nor give up our freedoms (though I do think we need the lav cams, and not just because I’m an exhibitionist/voyeur). And let more of my fellow sex therapists, ethical hedonists and libertines join me in “converting” the radical Muslims, two heads at a time, along with the radical Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and even the uptight atheists among us, to accepting the enjoyment of the simple pleasures of their crotches, instead of trying to blow them up with the rest of us nearby.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex therapist and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://drsusanblock.com/blog/ Email your comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© January 2010. Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex therapist and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://drsusanblock.com/blog/ Email your comments to her at email@example.com