A friend of mine once told me of a woman he knew who was divorced the day she was married because she confessed to her husband that she had been molested as a child. The man left her immediately to save his own reputation. Not with God, of course. With people.
With God, her track record was clean. Islam is against pre-marital sex. Islam is not against pre-marital non-virgins. And for good reason.
She is still a “pure” woman. The only impurity is that of the rapist. She has not been “tainted” or “contaminated.” This sick mentality, where women are described as if they are merchandise, is part of the reason that women who have been sexually assaulted are discarded and ignored as damaged and impure. The virginity myth hits women harder than it does men, and in this rape culture we’re living in, in this culture in which rape charges are always viewed under unnatural scrutiny with the inclusion of irrelevant factors, in which men are encouraged to use rapist language to portray dominance over one another, in which men are expected to bond over the uses of women, in which women are told not to wear this and not to go there when men should be told not to rape, in which women are held responsible for their own attacks, in which the unbelievable and unacceptable romanticizing of a man driven by uncontrolled impulse ripping off an unwilling woman’s blouse and forcing her against a wall is shoved into our senses as something beautiful take it as a compliment! instead of the perversion it truly is, in this rape culture–where sex and violence are such easy associates we don’t think twice about it–the concept of virginity, that a woman has a duty to be pure until she is “contaminated” only adds to harm.
It has not only the potential to destroy her life, but her self-worth as well.
And that’s just outside of Islam. Imagine all that harm, and additional harm, exerted on a woman who believes she has an afterlife–and is brainwashed by a repulsive society with the misuse of religion into believing that she’s ruined her own chances with God, that the actions of the rapist were her fault, and because of this she might as well let everything else go. I’ve lost my virginity. Everything is gone.
In reality, she did not have pre-marital sex. She was raped. She is devoid of sin. Losing “virginity” is not sinning. Pre-marital sex is sinning. And being raped does not mean you “had sex.” Being raped means you did not have sex.
As for Muslim women and men who really did have pre-marital sex–willing, consensual sex–all is not lost for you either. The virginity myth also creates a deluded mentality that sinning the first time for some reason is the only “real” time you can sin as far as pre-marital sex goes by implying that sex is something to be taken from the woman and given to the man. This is also a contributor to rape culture. Consent is not a one-time thing. It is an all-time thing. Just because someone let you have sex with them once does not mean he or she has given you permission to have sex with him or her whenever you want, and it does not mean you can do whatever you want with his or her body.
You cannot, for example, have sex with her when she’s asleep just because she gave you permission to penetrate her once before–unless she specifically told you prior to the act that she wouldn’t mind being woken up this way. Julian Assange, I’m looking at you. Yes, she allowed you to continue when she woke up–but if that is really what happened, initially, you raped her. And yes, this case is only getting all the attention it is for political reasons–that does not mean the allegations cannot be real and should not be taken seriously. They are serious allegations.
It’s really pathetic that in our culture male sexual activity is viewed from an angle of accomplishment rather than pleasure. (Men, I’m not blaming you for this. It hurts you too. Less, but still hurts.) Sex is not a thing to be given or taken. And that goes all ways, in ways of consent and in ways of practice. Muslim men and women, pre-marital sex is the same weight of sin every time you do it. You should not just spiral into a life of pre-marital sex because you willingly lost your “virginity.” It still counts, and that’s not an excuse for Islamically unlawful sexual activity. Doing it the first time does not weigh any more or less than doing it the second.
If you’re Muslim that is. Women who choose different religions and lifestyles should be able to freely engage in responsible, consensual sex without hypocritical slut-shaming. The harm caused by the virginity myth, and the importance in implementing the feminist model of consent, applies to and affects everyone.
6 thoughts on “Muslims, feminism, consent, and the virginity myth”
Nahida, I want to thank you with all my heart for writing this. I was under the impression that because I'd messed up once Allah (swt) no longer cared enough about me to count repeats of this sin, and I would have continued to keep sinning. You're right, the first time isn't any more special as the next as far as sin goes. Amazing how culture can blind you. Thank you.
I always wondered what Islam's view on rape was and I agree whole-heartedly that just because the woman was raped, does not that mean that her pureness was taken away from her; her "virginity". Rape is something that happens, beyond the woman's control, especially for Muslim woman since most of them are not scantily dressed and therefore do not "distract" or "provoke" the men. (Though, I think men should be taught not to be "distracted" or feel sexual urges when a woman IS dressed in a revealing manner.) But yeah, you're still a virgin and pure, raped or not.I really like this by the way :D Amazingly written and you have so much backing up everything you say. If you write like this, it just makes me wonder how you'd give a speech. A bone-chilling experience that must be, in a good way of course :)
Thank you both!Mimmi you are absolutely right–"distracting" or "provoking" clothing is an infuriating excuse, if you can even call it one, no matter what religion. It is completely irrelevant what the woman is wearing. The actions of the criminal are not her responsibility. If a man is robbed no one questions what he was wearing when he was assaulted. In cases of rape the woman's clothing should not even be brought into question.When there are rape crises on campuses women are kept from walking outside alone after a certain hour–complete patriarchical BS; they didn't do anything–keep the men inside after a certain hour!
i have always wondered at that attitude. Maybe if the visual of women, dressed in a way that reveals anything, turns men into slavering beasts, (as patriarchal BS implies as the reason a woman is raped). As in certain Shaykhs describing women as “uncovered meat”. Then men should be chained up at home like a slavering beast, or in a zoo. You are responsible for your own choices, behaviour and actions. If you choose to rape a woman, take responsibility for it, dont blame the woman, she didnt force you, if anything, the definition of Rape implies the other way. And if you are within the age of innocence, and was molested(as i was), then you definitely had no control or ability to consent, and are still innocent.
I found your blog randomly (Googling images of iftars, I think) and I’m completely in love. You’re intelligent, educated, articulate … Basically, I want to be you when I grow up. :)
I’ve read all of the articles under the “Quranic verses and misconceptions” header, and several others. They’re all fabulous.
I just wanted to say that, and also point out that I think “Consent is not a one-time thing. It is an all-time thing.” is backwards. Consent is NOT an all-time thing, it IS a one-time thing.
Anyway, yes, fabulous blog, and I’ll be reading it all and sharing it with everyone I know.
Ah! Yes, I meant… something else by that =P Thank you very much!! <3