Numerous women, both Muslim and non, have asked me to write a response to Mona Eltahawy’s recent article in the New York Times, Sex Talk for Muslim Women. I have never met Ms. Eltahaway and I want to make this clear, first off, I have the upmost respect for a woman who can not only own her voice, but also have the courage to speak on such a taboo topic. I wish more women, globally, had her bravery.
While I [personally] do not agree with premarital sex, I understand how sensitive and important the topic is. I grew up in the Midwest, to Egyptian-American Muslim parents. I understood at a young age, the importance of safe guarding your modesty. I am first to admit, I took this too far when I begged my parents to take me out of sex education in junior high, because I did not want to be taught by a male teacher and within my male colleagues. It took a lot of convincing, but my parents complied and pulled me out of sex Ed. I am very thankful my parents listened to my plea because I felt, at a vulnerable age; health class should have been separated.
I was raised in an environment where I felt safe and comfortable to talk to my parents and spiritual leaders about everything. Including, sex. My foundation for understanding sex came from both my parents and my community.
There was a young couple, at the mosque I grew up in. The guy was a few years older than the girl. Let’s call them, Sarah and Adam. Sara was 16-years-old and Adam was 19-years-old. Adam pursued Sarah, strongly. Sarah confided in her girlfriends that she felt pressured to be intimate with Adam and she was leaning towards giving in. Her girlfriends told their brothers and thus they distracted Adam, extensively, to the point where he grew frustrated with the challenge and dropped the pursuit. They did not leave Adam alone or give him the opportunity to hang out with Sarah, for a minute. When I asked one of the brother’s why they got involved, he said, “To protect Sara. She is young and she may not realize it now but later, she would have regretted this. If Adam had good intentions, he would have taken a different route.”
I was raised in an environment where I felt safe and comfortable to talk to my parents and spiritual leaders about everything.
There is more to sex than just the physical act. Sex is a spiritual, emotional and psychological affair. We are human beings and sexual experiences become imbedded in our needs, desires, expectations, insecurities and even fears. The psychological construct is greatly affected. A friend of mine was in a lot of emotional torment a few months into her marriage. She married a virgin when she, herself, was not. “I could not stop comparing my husband to my ex’s and I felt so guilty about it. I love my husband whole heartedly but now that I’ve had more experience than him, I can’t help but always think of others, while I am having sex with my husband.” Without a doubt, the residuum of having sexual partners before your significant other lingers.
I am not advocating for everyone to adhere to abstinence. Everybody has a different spiritual path and a different karmic sexual spiritual path. The act of sex itself requires you to merge your energetic body with another. You are doing more than just swapping bodily fluids, you are literally exchanging and creating energy. Life comes from sex. So we cannot deny the energetic existence of the physical act.
When a man is aroused, that natural pattern of his sexual energy flows out and downward. While this energy can be moved upward, located towards the heart, it requires training. Whereas, when a female is aroused, her energy naturally flows both inward and upward towards her heart. Further activating an emotional response. Perhaps this is another reason why religion advocates for abstinence, to prevent the emotional attachment that comes from sex.
There is more to sex than just the physical act.
There are people who need to engage in sex, in order to keep their root and sacral chakras open and healthy. Your root chakra is located at the base of your spine in the back and at the pelvic bone, in the font. This holds your basic needs for survival, safety and security. The second chakra, otherwise known as your sacral chakra, is located in your lower abdomen. Basic needs for sexuality, creativity, self-worth and emotions are held here.
Proper balance of these sexual chakras entails the ability to remain present, go with the flow. Allow your emotions to be balanced. Be in control with your sexuality. See footnote on details related to a blocked chakra.
You can be abstinent and have these chakras open. In order to prevent, what I like to call, sexual constipation, listed are other forms of healing:
- Hip-opening yoga poses
- Work out routines that open the pelvic area, hips and lower abdomen
- Visualization with the corresponding colors to open the chakra (i.e. red for root and orange for sacral).
It is imperative we acknowledge that our bodies and our sexuality are sacred, in order to undo the sex-shame we place upon individuals who chose to have premarital sex. Again, while I do not personally agree nor advocate for the practice, I believe everybody has a right to choose. Everybody has the right to his or her own sexual liberation. However, to also impose the belief that a woman who decides to remain a virgin is not liberated, is just as damaging and suffocating to her sexual freedom.
When people call for a ‘sexual revolution’, within Islam, I am confused. Islam came to give women rights, not just for land ownership or inheritance rights but also including, sexual rights. Both the Quran and Hadith discuss not only the importance of foreplay but advises the woman to achieve orgasm first. Further, Islam gave women the right to divorce on grounds of sexual dissatisfaction.
There is a responsibility with sex.
Religion is neither oppressive nor corrupt. Rather, it is the homogenous minority who practice, that is.
For once and for all, can we please can it with the 72 virgins in heaven, talk?! Whether you are making your case for a sadistic terrorist attack or wanting to prove your point that a minority of men use it as an excuse to remain celibate, it is shameful to the religion, as a whole. The word ‘horus’ in the Quran refers to an angelic being (i.e. jinn) and that it cannot be interchanged with human – as no human has ever been to Heaven. So when people claim that ‘horus’ means virgin, that is incorrect. Because Angel’s cannot be virgins since they are not human.
Both sex-shame and virgin-shame are dominant and damaging in secular and spiritual communities. I cannot tell you how many times people tell me I am “unfit” for a relationship because I am abstinent. Or how many times a man did not want to continue a relationship with me because I chose to remain pure. I respect a woman’s right to choose how to live her life, as I demand the same respect back.
If I have said anything offensive or incorrect, I sincerely seek your forgiveness and pardon. For that is from my own ignorance. If I have said anything of benefit or inspiration, all praise is due to the Creator, Lord of the worlds, both seen and unseen.
Both sex-shame and virgin-shame are dominant and damaging in secular and spiritual communities.
In love and light.
Author Note: If the sexual chakras are blocked, a person may feel emotionally explosive, manipulative, obsessed with thoughts of sex or may lack energy. Physical problems may include, kidney weakness, stiff lower back, constipation, and muscle spasms. Belly body parts include sexual organs (women), kidneys, bladder, and large intestine.