The amount of immorality that surrounds us in everyday life is staggering, I know. We see and do immoral things everyday. This has a direct impact on us and our families. This has an impact on the society we live in through us. Everyday we struggle with the concept of immoral versus acceptable and let the coin decide what wins that particular day. But no one, absolutely no one, sells their soul to the devil like a single Muslim woman who enters a premarital relationship under societal pressure and to find a husband.
And again I’ll register my frustration with our patriarchal society! Where women are told everyday that they’d be lucky to score a man who, might I mention, barely meets the vision of the life partner that she had all her life!
The necessity of the society’s approval of her is kept so fresh in her mind at all times that she settles for the first man who expresses any interest in her. But he doesn’t look like the man she wanted. Not even remotely. Or may be he does. May be if she got to know him he’d be closer to the idea of the man that she has nurtured all her life . She just has to know him more. Of course she can’t run after her dream guy forever. She will just have to make a decision now. She has been hearing it from everyone that she should be coupled. She can do this. She can be with someone and learn to love him. Not all love stories are spontaneous and sweep-you-off-your-feet. Hers may evolve into an amazing, romantic fairytale. It doesn’t look like that from here but may be, after they get married, things will be different. Can you see a Faustian trade happening? I can. The first piece of her soul goes to accept a man just because she wants to buy a little peace of mind, an approval of sorts from society by having a man by her side, a little validation, a little power.
This is just the beginning. This is opening the gateway to more compromises, more adjustments. This is going to be her initiation to the corrupt and dishonest system of becoming someone’s significant other at the expense of her dignity and integrity.
Having a premarital relationship without any asks from it is probably okay for many people who are still searching for themselves and their ability to handle relationships but it’s not for everyone. Particularly most women! Most women usually date to settle. They usually date to look for the final guy. Unfortunately they rarely share this vision with their partner. While their partner will “test” many women out, they know that they don’t have the same privilege. They would be called a variety of colorful names if they indulged in the societal practice of “looking for a mate through dating”. That practice is only okay for men.
See another Faustian bargain coming up? I do. A Muslim woman trying everything in her power to nail this guy down. Her first boyfriend. In this process, she is willing to sacrifice more than she set out to. She deems it okay because when he becomes her husband these would just be trivial hurdles that she had to get over in order to make him hers. This isn’t a bargain or a jeopardy of the very morals that she was raised with. This is totally fair in love and war. To think that this woman is sacrificing her beliefs for a guy whom she doesn’t even love that much or for that matter, like that much, is heartbreaking and another big mark on the way our society is making our women think that marriage is the ultimate destiny.
The first moral quality and her most valuable trait that she loses in this process of making him hers forever is discretion. She bids farewell to it. Who needs it? She has a man by her side and if he makes minor ethical slurs against other women everyday, she can let it go. Why, he’s a man and that’s what she has seen most men do! She’d have to pick her battles if she wants to keep him happy. There are way too many women in the sea for her to be cavalier about her guy. This one she’s gotta hold on to strong.
The second quality that goes out is loyalty to her own family. Somehow she tells herself that this guy is more important. That he’s the one who’s gonna be the last man standing. That when all is said and done, he’s her knight in shining armor and deserves her loyalty the most. She doesn’t listen to her mother’s word of caution or her father’s warnings about this guy. She can’t do that. She is aware of all the areas he needs work in but she is also aware of her status becoming painfully single as soon as she utters anything in disagreement of his ways. She can fix it all after they get married. Not everything needs to be fixed now. He’s gonna change when they’re married.
But even though most of the above-described losses are huge, nothing brings herself the amount of guilt and trepidation that compromising on some physical limitations that she had set on herself do.
You can disagree all you want but the amount of unwilling physical barter that goes on in premarital relationships is directly proportional to the amount of emotional and economical autonomy the woman feels. There is actually many accounts of women holding the reins to physical contact in their relationship if the man doesn’t get the dinner check at the end of a date or if she doesn’t feel compelled to invite him back to her place. Compelled? That’s a strange word in a purported love relationship. It is but it exists in shady relationships which are touted as love-based but are actually a compromise of sorts. In those relationships, because a woman feels that she has to contribute in some way, she offers herself. Because she feels that she has to seal the deal with this guy because she has been with him for four months and people know they’re dating or because she fears that if he got upset and broke up over this and left and then she won’t have prospects, she offers herself.
I can’t comment on other cultures but because premarital sex and physical intimacy isn’t allowed in Islam, it certainly puts pressure on 21st century relationships borne out of the need to find a man and not necessarily love and commitment . The number of women who wouldn’t have any qualms about going the physical distance is scary to the ones who are saving themselves. This can really mess with a woman’s mind. This can make her make some dangerous and high liability decisions. This may lead to an unplanned pregnancy and even a child out of wedlock. This can lead to a dissolution of her relationship. But……denying physical intimacy to her boyfriend could lead to a break up too. See the complex issue at hand here? When we tell women that marriage is a necessity and the ultimate goal in life, they’re willing to sacrifice their convictions and their goals. From a career in their aspirations their goal shifts to hunting for the perfect guy , or whoever will take them for that matter. And from there it takes them to lose discretion and mind over this guy. Everything, everything that a woman values about herself is what the devil wants from her and every time she gives it to the devil hoping for this to be the last trade with him, he wants more. Every time he raises the stakes. Every time she surrenders.
Why does it bother me that women are shortchanging themselves? Why do I care? Why is my own straight and narrow life not enough for me? Why is global awakening of women important to me? Why are more female role models for the next generation my focus in life? Why are grass-root level efforts for empowerment my concern? Why is empowerment of all women necessary? Why can’t just the ones who are asking for it be awarded empowerment and society can be done with its job? Why is this something that we need to talk about? Why are we supporting Aurat March (Women’s March)? Why do we want an equal representation for all women? Why do we want religious education to come to women just like it comes to men? Why are women an important part of clergy? Why is feminism important? Why are women in medicine important? Why are more women in administrative positions important? Why can’t we have a world of harshly-defined, gender-based nesters and hunters? Why should a woman have any say in the decisions made for her by men? Why shouldn’t a woman just trust that the sanitary pad that she uses is better made by a man, her bra and tampon are better designed by men, her maternity leave laws are better devised by men, her right to her body is better determined by men, her ultimate goal in life is better decided by men, her participation in religious lawmaking is redundant, her role in the upbringing of her child is all the contribution that she can make to raising that child? Why?
Here’s why! I have a daughter. And I don’t want her to make any Faustian bargains in her life just because she wants to score a man or live a socially popular lifestyle. I want my daughter to love if she wants to, work if she wants to, get married if she wants to, stay at home with her kids if she can afford it and wants it, can go out and make money if she wants it or has to. I never want my daughter to settle for the first guy she meets, worried that this has to be the future husband. I don’t want my daughter to make a guy happy because he’s the only man who ever looked at her. I don’t want her to ever sell her soul to the devil for a man unrelated to her. A man who may or may not be part of her future. I don’t want her worth to be due to a man. I want her to be worthy on her own, by herself.
I’m not anti-marriage. But I am also not pro-marriage. I’m pro-choice. If choice is to be married, then people should get married. But not because people around them are getting married. Not because they’re getting interrogated about when they’d be getting married. When we tell women that marriage is the next box on the checklist of their lives and they’re incomplete without it and should be married under all circumstances, we aren’t empowering them. What young, impressionable women are hearing is “there’s marriage. That’s the finish line. Now go and touch it and don’t hesitate to give your soul up in the process”.