Very briefly, I’d like to address the annoying and incessant reemergence of a peculiar social/unfortunately feminist phenomenon: the defining of sexual pleasure in rigid constraints and the application of these constraints to the criteria of a feminist accordingly.
You may be familiar with it.
Not long after Role/Reboot republished a post I had written months earlier, I was accused. (“J’accuse!”) I had offended a feminist! Because I was not having enough sex, or something:
I’m trying not to let my anger and amazement get the best of me here, but how can any female call herself ‘feminist’ if she does not masturbate, has never really done so and admits to knowing “nothing of the workings of my own body or where anything is”? Every adult female should understand the workings of her body, know where EVERYthing is and know how to give herself an orgasm. Instead of thanking religion, we should be working to free women from the mental and physical enslavement of its prejuduce, ignorance, sexism and cruelty.
*massive eye roll* (Also, did she just refer to me as a “female”?!)
The article in question made it clear that Islam and feminism had rectified my sexual ignorance—the sexual ignorance that patriarchy promotes—not contributed to it. This was made so clear in the piece, in fact, that I can not believe anyone could be this deficient in reading comprehension. What’s more likely is that this woman believes what she wants to believe: that she is the white knight of all ignorant Muslim women everywhere! Her very assessment is structured in colonialism.
I don’t mind Islam being held accountable for my virginity—it’s a reason after all—but I sure as hell mind when it’s held accountable for my sexual ignorance. This infuriates me. My lack of sexual knowledge is a consequence of patriarchy, not of Islam—and in fact, my religion is responsible for my comfort, security, and safety. And yet I’m never released from the exertion of these indictments against Islam, the very religion that had assured me that sexual desires were natural and acceptable, and—even more strongly relevant to me—that so was my mild disinterest.
Additionally, I am highly uncomfortable with the fetishizing way that a Muslim woman’s sexuality is tied to her religion. While there is an additional harmful element of perceived exoticism when we’re talking about Muslim women in particular, I understand that this comes with the disturbing territory of eroticizing women who are allegedly unwilling or unknowing—the “Catholic schoolgirl” fetish. And when the context is Islam and Muslim women, it’s a context of marginalized and politicized experiences distorted and misshapen to sexually satisfy those in a privileged position and to define a woman’s identity based on harmful presumptions and forceful expectations. Fetish is confused with identity, and a woman’s right to her identity and to her expression of that identity is consequently destructively confiscated. This is partly why my initial reaction to Love, Inshallah was extremely cautious and less than thrilled; I was incredibly wary of the potentially detrimental conclusions drawn from this framework of exposure.
In a discussion with a classmate in which I disclosed that I don’t find vibrators the least bit appealing (they are cold and pastic and resemble dismembered body parts), the classmate attempted to convince me that there are all kinds! Well, I’m sure there are, and I would have had no problem with her informing me of this (though I firmly maintain my opinion), if she had not just previously realized I was a virgin and had declared that it was “adorable.” She was presenting this concept of all kinds! of vibrators as if it were new information explained to a child.
Feminism recognizes that women are responsible and powerful, and that a decision to not have sex isn’t “adorable” but an application of freely giving and withholding consent.
In other words, if I hadn’t then known the anatomy of my vagina, I didn’t have to do or know anything this intimate until I was ready and it unraveled naturally. I understand I’m a certain type of woman; I realize that for some women—maybe even for most women—these things don’t simply “unravel naturally.” But I knew myself well enough to recognize that it would for me, and it did. A couple of months ago it simply occurred to me that I recognized where the clitoral hood is located, and relative to that was everything else (including, as I realized in astonishment, the crescent-shaped hymen obstructing part of the vaginal opening.)
As a friend of mine worded recently, I get off more on fantasy than sensation. I’m sure sensation would help, but it’s not something I require. And for now I’m content with this, and anyone with an urge to revoke my feminist card can go fuck herself. I mean that literally–you go do it, I don’t want to, and that is fine.
What’s alarming is our tendency to trivialize female pleasure by neglecting to recognize the range of full-body sensuality, and reducing pleasure to penetration or physical masturbation by dismissing fantasy and/or the whole of sensuality as “foreplay” or merely a preamble to sex.