What Pakistan wouldn’t print

Here’s that piece Mona Eltahawy wrote, in the New York Times. It’s about the burden of virginity religion imposes on women, and the frustration of women who don’t want to marry or haven’t yet found someone they want to marry, but don’t want to miss out on sex either.

Remembering my struggles with abstinence and being alone with that, I determined to talk honestly about the sexual frustration of my 20s, how I overcame the initial guilt of disobedience, and how I made my way through that guilt to a positive attitude toward sex.

It has not been easy for my parents to hear their daughter talk so frankly about sex, but it has opened up a world of other women’s experiences. In many non-Western countries, speaking about such things is scorned as “white” or “Western” behavior. But when sex is surrounded by silence and taboo, it is the most vulnerable who are hurt, especially girls and sexual minorities.

It’s just sex. It’s been ringed by taboo and fear because of its connection to pregnancy, but now that there is technology to deal with that, it should be possible to realize it’s just sex. It doesn’t turn you green or make you grow two heads, it doesn’t corrupt your soul, it doesn’t send you to hell. It’s just sex.

Sometimes, I hear the argument that women in the Middle East have enough to worry about simply struggling with literacy and employment. To which my response is: So because someone is poor or can’t read, she shouldn’t have consent and agency, the right to enjoy sex and her own body?

People can do both! That’s another way it’s useful to remember it’s just sex. It doesn’t lure you away from everything else you want to do, or take up every minute of your time, or waste your precious bodily fluids. It’s not a trap or a snare or a pit lined with broken glass. It’s just sex.

The answer to that question is already out there, in places like the blog Adventures From the Bedroom of African Women, founded by the Ghana-based writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, and the Mumbai-based Agents of Ishq, a digital project on sex education and sexual life. These initiatives prove that sex-positive attitudes are not the province only of so-called white feminism. As the writer Mitali Saran put it, in an anthology of Indian women’s writing: “I am not ashamed of being a sexual being.”

My revolution has been to develop from a 29-year-old virgin to the 49-year-old woman who now declares, on any platform I get: It is I who own my body. Not the state, the mosque, the street or my family. And it is my right to have sex whenever, and with whomever, I choose.

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