The Muslim woman’s relationship with sex….. shame, guilt, respectability politics and how we circumvent pleasure to reach chastity and sexuality in one smooth orgasm!

When I was a little girl I was told that sex is categorically bad. I was told that it is condemnable under all circumstances. Its many vices that included masturbation and other forms of self-gratification were all described to me in hushed tones. The message that came with all the preambles was about the sin of sex.

Along the way, as with many things, my people tweaked the script so I could start getting ready to please the patriarchy. Women around me started speaking of sex with some openness and shared with me how it’s something that men enjoy. I was told that it is okay for a man to engage in it. I was told that it’s bad for a woman to enjoy it. Also that I’m a vessel for reproduction and because reproductive processes are tedious, men are allowed this little tiny pleasure along the way. This was my introduction to the bare bones of sex.

But like all women who grow up stifled by the patriarchy, I had to experience the full spectrum of patriarchal badness and so had to get married. Sex took another meaning. Intimacy took another form. A girl who grew up on romance novels realized that my friends and I, as much as we idolized the romance novel men, had unfortunately gotten married to them. Have you heard of midlife crises? Girls usually have them in their twenties.

The fact that I’m a woman who has sexual needs is second to many other facts about my being. There is so much to consider before I think of my body as a machine that feeds on the same things that a man’s does. I have lived under so much fear of crucifixion for small things that something as inexpensive as an orgasm has become a big thing also.

I’m not here to change anyone’s ideas of the fair trade of sex and sexuality. In a world where women aren’t considered much, our status as humans who should be sexualized but shouldn’t be sexual is almost uncontested. As a cisgender heterosexual female I have a lot of privilege, I understand that. I haven’t been allowed fluidity, that’s true. My life as a wife has still been somewhat fulfilled, that’s true also.

But I am here to ask all the gatekeepers of chastity why Muslim women are bound to ideas of chastity and propriety and why these ideas are steeped in sex and sexuality. Why is a chastity belt a thing to prevent women from having sex but is found in many sex stores? Why do some women not require a belt at all? Why are their minds conditioned to sense the belt around their loins at all times? That’s cause for pause!

Sex is a personal subject, most will agree. Then why has it transcended pleasure and joy and entered the territory of respectability, virginity, social cache and what people think of a woman who asks for it and expects it on equal basis? Why are Muslim women afraid to tell their husbands that they have sexual needs also when our husbands are sold to us with the promise of being our everything? Are we wrong to expect our men, our woke and progressive men, to please us without wondering privately and vocally if we are deprave women with sex on our minds?

Sex education is a hot topic in Pakistan and everyone thinks that this will change the rape culture. It hopefully will but it would be shortsighted to assume that adding more shameful jargon to the already lacking sexual knowledge is the way to go in a country that’s largely controlled by indoctrination. Also, sex education is best delivered by informed and empowered parents, in small doses, over years. It’s not a one-time show that a patriarch runs and is themed around how the patriarch views sex.

If the purpose of sex education in Pakistan is to continue to create the same type of Muslim woman who thinks that sex is bad or intimacy is wrong or the clergy is always right then we will continue to have young women in midlife crises. We can’t have empowered children if we don’t remove the inherent shame that millennials have grown up with around sex. It’s not easy though.

It’s not easy because most Muslim women who are deprived of sex in Pakistan are married women in sexual relationships. They are women who have had the same men with them for decades. They have had short sex lives of spontaneous sex with at least a year of confinement and many years of raising the result of a night of debauchery that didn’t even end on their terms. These women have tried to find an orgasm in moments of purported love and abandon, but were quick enough to realize that an orgasm comes at the cost of shame. It comes with misgivings about their chastity. And while a Muslim woman is usually raised without a sexuality so it’s easy for her to forego any opportunity of ever finding it, she can’t forego her chastity. That has been the biggest lesson indoctrinated to her. She can’t ask for sex, she can’t tell what pleases her, the fore play that most women boast about is how their men like it. A Muslim woman pays the price for her chastity with her sexuality every time she has sex. That, dear patriarchs, is how you get your orgasms. This is why you have a healthy relationship with sex. This is why women in Pakistan see marriage less and less useful with each passing day. This is also a cause for pause.

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