The Nonconsensual Sexualization of Unintending Young Women

At the age of 10 I had a way of walking I’m certain had been with me since I first learned to walk. There is nowhere I could have learned it, and I hadn’t given it any thought to have learned it in the first place. But it was called to my attention at 10, because it was “provocative.” And it wasn’t brought to my attention by men, but by women. Girls, in fact.

It was one foot in front of the other, a hip-swinging walk. And it was not okay. And the girls let me know this immediately. “Stop acting so stuck-up!” “She thinks she’s a model.” “Why do you walk like you’re all that?”

Of course, I didn’t think I was “all that.” And at the age of ten, being rather sheltered from all things overtly sexual, I was thoroughly bewildered and confused. This was how I naturally walked, and it wasn’t something I could change because I had no idea what I was doing wrong. It weren’t as though I could see myself walking and compare it to others. Eventually, though, I did learn to “fix” it. What’s interesting is not only the accusation of sexuality that I never implied, but the fact that I was not allowed to be sexual. These were girls who wore lipgloss, tight jeans, and midriff tops. They weren’t stereotypes–they were whole complete people, who cried when I wrote them sad stories and were fiercely loyal to each other–but they played into stereotypes. They gossiped, worried about their weight, talked about boys, copied each other’s homework, and had serious mean streaks. And consequently, they categorized and forced me into a stereotype. I studied and read and wrote and dressed conservatively (thanks mom) and contributed greatly to class discussions and was overall smart (though they were too!) and therefore was not allowed to demonstrate any kind of “grown-up” confidence.

Ten year old girls don’t walk the way they do to be sexual. They walk that way because that’s how they walk. When the girls cornered me for long legs and swinging hips, it was the confidence they attacked. I’m sure they had some idea that it was interpreted in the world as symbolic of some sort of sexual power, but it only just forming in our understanding. As far as they were concerned, this was power play. I was not a part of their clique.

“You can’t walk like that.”

I was a sweet kid. It’s hard to believe now, and it frustrates me when I remember it, but it’s frightening how soft I was. Watching the girls, I forced myself to change the way I walked because I genuinely believed there was something wrong with me. I walked like them instead. I remember the process, asking a friend of mine, “Do I walk weird?”

“You walk so gracefully, like a swan.” she said. “Don’t listen to them; they’re jealous.”

“Swans are clumsy on land.”

Looking back, there is so much about this that disturbs me. It was my first introduction, I can see, to the sexual interpretations of others forced onto me in a dangerously she-was-asking-for-it-like manner, while I have no involvement and no desire of involvement. I didn’t intend for anything–I was just living my life. I couldn’t intend anything; for crying out loud, I was ten. And yet this is so deeply ingrained into the mentality of society that it was pushed onto me by none other than ten-year-old girls, who themselves had no idea what they were doing, but had somehow come to understand the significance and had learned to police “sexuality.” And I “fixed” something that didn’t need to be fixed to appease to the fabrications of patriarchy, unwillingly, tearily, and self-destructively.

Growing up, the prevalence and instillment of the incident became clear. Everyone thought like this. At 12 I had a red dress I loved wearing. Still conservative, mind you, my mother picked out my clothes. But one day I put it on, and she told me to change it.


“It makes you look pretty. I don’t want… you getting the wrong kind of attention.”

Even then, I wanted to scream.

Did I mention this dress covered everything? Everything? Full-length sleeves and full-length skirt? It doesn’t even matter what it covered. I wasn’t wearing it to be sexual: I liked it because it reminded me of the dress one of the characters of an adventure book I was reading wore on the cover. I felt like riding dragons and finding ghosts in my dreary castle. It also doesn’t even matter if I were wearing it to be sexual, had I not been 12: it doesn’t give anyone the right to involve themselves without my permission.

My mother doesn’t tell me I’ll be raped, but she sure as hell implies it. “You could be kidnapped,” she says. “And… used. For business.”

I would say my mother is paranoid about sex trafficking, but she isn’t paranoid. She’s right. What she isn’t right about, however, is suggesting that being “unpretty” would somehow save me. And while she didn’t make me accountable for the possibility of rape (though it disturbed me greatly that she consistently hinted my life would be utterly and entirely over) she did make me liable for others’ interpretations of what “message” I was sending by the way I dressed.

My mother meant well. She was terrified to death of losing me, a defenseless child, to predators. When I hit my late teens and was not so defenseless, she promptly allowed me to “dress pretty” again. Before class, now a young woman of 17, I walked past the mirror in my bedroom and slid into a well-fitted black dress that zipped on one side. I tugged up the zipper and it stopped, leading me to believe I’d zipped it all the way. In actuality, the zipper had stuck at the curve of my breast, exposing the black lace of my bra.

“Nahida, you look gorgeous!” my instructor exclaimed in third period psychology. “Come here.”

“What is it?” I asked, walking up to her desk.

Without warning, she reached out and yanked the zipper upward, closing the dress completely. I stood for a minute in shock.

“You’ve been walking around flashing everyone all morning,” she guessed grimly. And then, I won’t forget the look she gave me–more than just disapproval, it was blatantly, almost hatefully, accusatory.


“I–I didn’t know,” I stammered truthfully. “I thought I zipped it.” Please, please, please believe me, please.

She had dismissively returned to grading papers. “Thanks,” I murmured and walked back to my textbooks. My psychology teacher liked me–not only as a good student but as me, personally–and I liked her, which made her reproach all the more scathing.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. The forging of a false reality by those who have no business interpreting my behavior and policing me occur even here. Whenever I write a sex-related post, men–men this time, Muslim and non-Muslim alike–submit comments that clearly assume I am attempting to ensnare them with the subject of sex, even if the entry itself has nothing to do with seduction and everything to do with my perspective, experience, and feminism. Just because you don’t see a point, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There are other commenters who very much see the point–so I take it the problem is you, not my writing. And if there weren’t a point? Well GTFO–that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s for me to decide. You need to see your way out. I’m pretty tired of receiving comments along the lines of, “Modesty, sister!” and “STOP TRYING TO SEDUCE ME!”

I am not, in fact, trying to seduce you.

The Internet is a big place. If you don’t like the discussion, don’t participate. Don’t read. Find something else. Don’t lecture me about modesty when you’ve clearly lost yours, arrogantly believing you have any right to tell me these things or command me to stop or interpret my behavior and involve me in your incorrect interpretation by submitting such comments or that you have any say on how I should live my life or what I should write about.

The whole delusion of she must be attempting to be seductive or she wouldn’t be wearing that / talking about this is at its core egotistical. And, fine, let’s say a woman is trying to be seductive. What the hell makes you think you’re the one she’s trying to seduce? And if you aren’t, what the hell makes you think you have any right to shove yourself into her business? Your thoughts are your own: you are free to notice her, think about her, fantasize, etc.–you are not free to involve her, through actions or words that disclose what’s going on in your pants, unless she specifically consents and makes it clear. And this consent is not infinite. Or “a light switch” as they say. And this goes both ways. Were I to fantasize about a man I knew, I wouldn’t tell him this, thereby involving him, unless I was certain he wouldn’t mind hearing it. Otherwise, yes, it is harassment–I would be involving him against his will and making him feel extraordinarily uncomfortable.

It astonishes me to no end that men have a problem with this. A lot of guys wouldn’t appreciate being hit on by someone they’re not interested in–but they expect women to accept it. Would a straight man put up with being hit on by other men? If it ever happens, tell him to quit bitching. Don’t listen to pathetic excuses like “I don’t want to be hit on by someone I’m not into” or “That’s just really creepy, and I don’t find him attractive.” He’s clearly a vagina.

Like the ten-year-olds previously mentioned who categorized me–and themselves–into stereotypes, the actions and very real personalities of women are often fetishized as though they aren’t whole or they belong in compartments of sexuality, a mentality that enables men to “sample” women of each respective fantasy and ultimately objectify and limit them to these. And there are several. The “innocent girlfriend”–popular among religious men and Nice Guys–whom men protect not out of selfless care and love but for the sake of being the first ones to “corrupt” her, or to fulfill their own fetish through the limitation of her personality. The “experienced whore”–her supposed “opposite”–and then of course the deadly dichotomy, whom few women are–and when they are, they are viewed as deceitful, mind you–and destroy themselves attempting to become. Smart girls are fetishized for their intelligence, not for being whole people from whom we learn and with whom we expand our perspective, but for “Hey I slept with this really smart chick.” And don’t get me started about “beautiful exotic girls.”

We don’t revolve around you. And my personality is not a fetish.

What people don’t realize is that there is a point at which slut-shaming and prude-shaming are pretty much the same damn thing. Literally. When you shame a woman for “dressing like a slut” and therefore supposedly bringing inappropriate advances upon herself, you are also prude-shaming her for not tolerating such behavior.

Seriously, just stfu.

Sex Toys

There is something about vibrators and dildos that always disturbed me. I can’t come across a photo of one without recoiling. For a time I chalked up my discomfort to perhaps being uncomfortable with sex and not realizing it, a possibility I was distraught about as a feminist, and often considered conditioning myself to view vibrators as tools just like anything else.

But then one of my friends reviewed a massager xie was using as a vibrator, and it didn’t disturb me. My immediate, automatic explanation was that it’s because it doesn’t look like a vibrator–but if it was the function I had issue with, it shouldn’t matter. I decided it must have been the discretion, that I’m okay with vibrators after all but that I don’t want it to be obvious that something is a vibrator. This, though seemingly less negative, I was still not happy about either; while I don’t use or own sex toys (or masturbate at all, really) I don’t think people who use sex toys, men or women, should be at any degree ashamed.

And then I realized it was not the apparency of an unmistakable vibrator that disturbs me, but the phallic shape itself. It looks like someone else’s body part. This would also explain why I associate them with some level of sexual violence. And that disturbs me, the same way that very realistic detached arms or fingers or legs would. And of course, being that it’s meant to resemble a penis, something is probably triggered in my brain that makes the shape appear closer to what it resembles in viewing than it is in actuality–and then the discomfort, because I am not okay with dismembered body parts. I have especially been not okay with dismembered body parts recently, since certain women seem to find the unwarranted castration of someone’s defenseless husband hilarious.

It’s a little funny, I think, that I assumed some type of unrealized sex negativity on my part, possibly because I’m so used to it blatantly from other people on a societal level. I’m relieved and happy however, to have uncovered the true cause of my discomfort, and for it to have been something understandable and not weirdly hypocritical.

What is sex?

Here’s where I feel like I’m 5.

But seriously, what is it? Due to how this question arose, I am thinking about the Islamic definition of sex, but I want to hear from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Someone once said that if you can get an STD from it, it’s sex. So vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex are all sex, but not using your fingers.

But I’m not too keen on defining sex with disease. Besides, the definition of even STD is sketchy. Lice is considered an STD. (If the definition hasn’t changed since I last attended puberty sessions in grade school that is.)

I have to say that I consider vaginal, oral, and anal sex as forms of sex but not so much using fingers. But it bothers me that I have no idea why. The only thing that would make sense to explain this is the STD definition… which, yeah I don’t want to use.

Islamically speaking, from the verse in the Qur’an which discourages people from approaching their spouses for sex during menstruation juxtaposed against the hadith in which the Prophet uses his fingers suggests to me that when you use your fingers, it isn’t sex. It’s the only explanation for why the Prophet would engage in the activity.

This, along with Quranic focus of defining sex by regions of fertility, seems to imply that sex is the exchange of fluids around fertile regions–if we completely overlook the fact that not all women can give birth.

And that makes me think. I’ve mentioned before that anal sex is considered haraam because it was excluded from specifications in verse 2:222, which left it at a default status of prohibition: oral sex can involve the vagina (assuming we are talking about either a heterosexual or same sex female couple) so it didn’t need specifications because the verse prohibited sex during menstruating, and both relate to the vagina. However, anal sex remained forbidden as well, even though it involves a different orifice, because the verse forbade all sex during this period. And that place anal sex at a haraam default. But that is my interpretation, and it’s perfectly understandable if someone has a different one–this subject is vague enough for serious debate. And if they do have a different interpretation, it’s a private topic that affects only themselves; it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights, and it doesn’t contradict the primary fundamental standard of compassion in religion. (Whereas, if someone determined that poor people are to be treated like dirt, that is a blatant contradiction of the religion–and inarguably unIslamic.)

So I don’t really care either way, but it forces me to check the reasons behind my own interpretation. If I can see both sides, why do I interpret for myself that it must be haraam? Sure, I’m obsessed with details and I genuinely believe that the argument, set up by the logical order grammatical impermissibility in the Qur’an, is a strong one. There’s also an argument that anal sex is bad for you, and I don’t know if it’s true. (I didn’t care about it enough to look through scientific reports.) But if it is true, deliberately practicing what is deemed bad for your health is haraam. But I don’t know if that’s true. And then there are the hadith that confirm that anal sex is haraam. So I’m comfortable with my conclusion.

But should I be, when I suspect that a tiny part of myself is concluding this because I simply can’t imagine myself ever doing it? Sure, I have other sound arguments, but how much of it is really to secure my own personal preference?

While I fully believe that interpreting literature isn’t as easy and fluffy as everyone thinks it is, that it’s full of real debate and real points and solidity, there’s also undoubtedly a deep level of subjectivity. When we interpret religion especially, we read what we want to read. I think God designed us to work that way, so that religion fits with us each uniquely. When I read the Qur’an, I read it very differently from how someone else might read it. I see on the page what’s inside myself. So while the ultimate message might be compassion for everyone, the details are subjective. Because we’re only human, once we understand something, it’s changed for us to understand it. So the objective can remain, existing, but inaccessible. We can only come close.

And while there is a very clear scientific definition of sex, it seems that–unsurprisingly–cultural definitions vary. And they vary with situations as well. If I were in a relationship with someone and he cheated on me, I don’t care if he used his fingers or his mouth–suddenly, they’re both sex.

(This doesn’t quite fit here, but I feel like I must cover it: no matter how we define sex, it will always be unquestionable that forcible vaginal penetration with fingers is rape, because rape isn’t having sex. Being raped doesn’t mean you “had sex”–if anything it means you didn’t have sex. Rape is forcible, non-consenual penetration, with whatever object in whatever orifice; it doesn’t matter.)

Scholars conclude that masturbation is forbidden, because it’s a form of sex. But that means that using your fingers is having sex. Unless, in that hadith, as a commenter pointed out, the Prophet was not penetrating.

In Islam, it’s interesting to notice when we decide to see things as black and white as opposed to when we decide to look at the reasons behind them and determine that something is permissible when those reasons for being haraam are eliminated. Nail polish is considered impermissible by a majority of Muslims–except when you don’t have perform ablution, because then the reason for it being impermissible is gone. But why is premarital sex impermissible? People guess, so you don’t have babies in unstable situations! But now there’s birth control. People say, well that doesn’t always work. But being a single parent or an unmarried parent isn’t always an unstable situation. Besides, if it’s about children, why is adoption permissible for single parents? People say, well it’s so you don’t get attached to lovers and have your heart broken and break hearts! And it’s something that people indulge in, and then they do it in excess and forget God!

But now we are kind of getting desperate, aren’t we? We are painting everyone over with the same brush.

This isn’t to say that sex is as simple as nail polish. I still believe that premarital sex is decidedly forbidden, because the Qur’an comes right out and states it. And when God says something is forbidden that forwardly, to me a lot of times it doesn’t really matter why. I can just not do it. Whereas with nail polish, we are left to our reasons. There is a huge difference. But it’s an interesting thing to examine, when we do and don’t need reasons. I find that I look into reasons when it stops being personal and starts being used as something to police the lives of others. I don’t care why premarital sex is forbidden, because I don’t need to have it. I’m perfectly fine with it being forbidden. But I do care that people incorrectly interpret that being gay is a sin, because then that hurts people. It stops being private. (And again, The Compassion Principle.)

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. What’s sex? Should the use of fingers count as sex to the same degree as oral or vaginal sex? And isn’t it strange that we term sex with womanly parts? Like, you have vaginal sex but not… penile sex. I’ve never heard anyone say that. Probably for mechanical reasons.

Ozymandias’s Crushing and Venting Engine of Doom: Slut Pride

I have to reblog this, and I don’t think I’ve ever reblogged anything.

You can read the original here: Ozymandias’s Crushing and Venting Engine of Doom: Slut Pride. And here it is, reproduced:

(This post dedicated to the anon who keeps calling me a slut in the comments.)

I am a slut.

My cunt is not a prize to be won with wealth or game, it is not a gift given out of gratitude or insecurity. My cunt is for my enjoyment and pleasure, and for other people’s enjoyment and pleasure. I fuck because of the sea-green color of your eyes, or your sweetheart smile, or the way you move your hands that reminds me of someone I’ve loved and lost; I fuck because I like the books piled three-deep on your shelves, or a joke you made that had me laughing for five minutes straight, or the look of concentration you get when you’re shooting zombies in Left for Dead 2. I fuck because I love you with a passion that scares me, and because the idea of hurting you makes me shake in fear; I fuck because you’re cute and I have nothing better to do.

I’m not easy, I don’t go to bed with anyone (those old-fashioned slanders against sluthood). The muscle-bound jock holds no interest for me, nor the asshole spitting insults and witticisms; I prefer my boys shy, and quiet, and kind, and their hands tremble when they take that first tentative touch of my tits, my hips, my labia (both minora and majora).

A slut can be a virgin, or a sex worker, or a monogamous person married for four decades, or someone who goes out to clubs three times a week and brings home a different guy every time, or someone who has fuckbuddies, or a serially monogamous person dating around. A slut may be kinky or vanilla, high sex drive or sexually dysfunctional. A slut may be straight, or bi, or gay, or even asexual. A slut is nothing but this: anyone– man, woman, or other– who has exactly the sex they want to have.

A slut is honest to her partners about STDs, sexual history, other partners, kinks, squicks. A slut is honest with herself, about whether she can handle casual sex, a relationship or celibacy, and about what turns her on or turns her off. A slut has safer sex. A slut is good, giving and game for her partner’s kinks, and expects her partner to be the same. A slut, of course, wants explicit affirmative consent from her partners; but nore than that, a slut wants her partners to be enjoying themselves, because anything that increases the amount of good sex in the world is a good thing. A slut does not judge other people’s sex lives, as long as they’re happy and honest and safe; a slut expects other people to not judge hers.

A slut is a proud person having happy sex.

So write it across my arms in eyeliner, shout it from the hilltops and scream it in the concert halls. I don’t care. The word has no power over me.

I am a slut, and I am proud.

P.S. Morgan says he’s happy to be a beta male, because beta wolves get to nip at the alpha male’s heels, and the alpha can’t do anything without losing face. So nyeh.

To us, virgins, who love like sluts. And to everyone, whoever you are or whomever you’re with, who loves like sluts–
Because dammit there are entire universes and complexities in moments and in people. And I see them. And they stop me. Love is not an action, it’s a state of being, an indescribable depth.

sex! and vaginas

The amazing, wonderful wood turtle published a post on sex in September last year, in which she writes the following about a friend of hers who’d gotten married:

The problem was, she didn’t know what she wanted. She had never had an orgasm. (“Never? No self exploring? No boyfriend pillows?” “No.”)

It makes me wonder sometimes just how misinformed Muslim women may be about the workings of their own bodies, and just how correct those Media stereotypes are.

As she mentions in her post, Muslims in the past had always been very sex-positive and referenced sex quite liberally in literature and poetry. Somehow over the years we’d become more and more restricted in our approach to sex.

This didn’t bother me growing up. I wasn’t really a sexual person, at least not as early as a few of my friends. I had a curiosity of how I looked, but had no desire to self-explore. I was also afraid of hurting myself. I won’t know what I’m doing I’d think, if I get married I’m better off letting him to do it.

Looking back, I’m a little horrified that I ever thought that someone else would know better what to do to me than I would know myself. It was not only a dangerous assumption but an unrealistic, unfair expectation. And I have no idea where it came from. It must have been communicated to me somehow, that I–a woman–was not skilled or intelligent enough to know my own damn vagina. That a man would be able to do it better.

My mother never spoke to me about masturbation. To this day, I’m not even sure if she knows what it is. I definitely am not going to ask her. Not because she wouldn’t answer–she’s talked about [marital] sex with me before in passing–but because I simply wouldn’t know how to bring it up… or define it comfortably: I suspect the physical act wouldn’t horrify her as much as the notion of arousing thoughts, which would make things awkward for the both of us. But as she never even mentioned it to me, I’m pretty sure I didn’t gather this idea of he’ll know what to do better from her. Somehow I’d come to understand it to be truth through society itself, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s amazing how the values of society can penetrate through to even the most sheltered lives–I only ever watched PBS on TV, rarely saw movies, talked to friends about amazing books like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and engaged in imaginary quests to fictitious lands that involved fighting dragons. And yet I had this prevalent, sexist impression that I should just let a man do it because he’d magically know what he was doing better than I did–because I’m just a woman with an inferior woman-brain and might end up hurting myself.

In the ninth grade–high school, age 14–I decided to look. I should know what I look like, I thought. I hadn’t “sexually awoken” yet, so I had no desire to do anything else. I was also indefatigably curious. I was considering majoring in biology. It bothered me when I didn’t know something. Everyone should know everything! was my mentality. So I tried to position myself in front of a mirror so that I could look. It took effort.

Once I finally managed to succeed, I only became more frustrated. Why was I “different”? Why can’t I find anything? Why don’t I look like the textbook says I should?

Unfortunately, this only confirmed my earlier mentality: that I didn’t know what I was looking at, because I’m just not capable of understanding, that someone else could do it better. It’s because I’m not a doctor, I thought.

Of course, the truth is that textbook illustrations are so generic they are practically inaccurate. The truth is that every woman looks different. The truth is that women have been robbed of the knowledge of their own bodies, told that they didn’t know what they were talking about or what was best for them–not only anatomically but in the history of pregnancy and midwifery. “Fine… it’s a little early, but I’ll just get the caesarean section two weeks before I’m actually supposed to give birth because the doctor says so, and they know best! It must really not be typical/healthy that I haven’t delivered yet.”

To this day, I still don’t know where anything is, but it’s not something that really occupies me like it seems to other people. And that is fine and nothing to be self-conscious of–sexuality is a spectrum. I didn’t try again for a long time, mostly because I feel it takes too much effort to even get a view (I don’t own a hand mirror–I should really get one) and everything seems way too indistinguishable. And it’s uncomfortable.

At 16, the fantasies began. I didn’t do it on purpose. They sort of crept in. And at first, I resisted. I felt guilty. I apologized to God. They didn’t involve anyone I knew, or anyone who existed, but men who could possibly exist. He was flawed. (Originally, I typed “they were flawed” but it felt strange, because it was really…. one person. [Probably because I’m clingy, maybe?] But as different characters. And yet they were different people. Does that make sense?) I’m a writer now and I was a writer then, so “characters” seem probable. Sometimes we argued, like characters do when I write (and later I was informed this was healthier than fixating on a real person). They might have been different parts/possibilities of one person, but still whole. Either way, I felt overwhelmingly embarrassed and resisted. It didn’t happen often, once in a while, late at night, but every time it did–What does God think of me? I thought abashedly.

God, of course, created me this way. And I hadn’t known it then, but eventually discovered, that there was no shame. The amazing thing is, is that the religious leaders in my community told me this. “We are made to be attracted to each other,” they said. “It’s okay to have these thoughts and feelings.” Yet somehow, it still didn’t get through to me until much later. Instead I became frustrated with what I saw as a human flaw, a barricade from goodness and proof of impurity.

That is how much of an impact dominant society mentality can have. You see, I also believed that I, a woman, did not deserve to desire. Men get to do that. Not women. We don’t choose, we are chosen. So stop being so self-absorbed in thinking you have any right to want anything from anyone!

What’s almost tragic is that if I had known this was what I was feeling I would haven been able to correct it immediately. At the time, I was familiar with gender injustice and even actively fought for equality. But I didn’t know, didn’t realize that this horrible sexist concept was the underlying process of my subconscious thought. All I knew was that I felt very insecure, and very guilty, and very undeserving. I had a key, but didn’t know I had a key, and didn’t know which lock to fit it.

Three or so years later, I attempted self-exploration, because orgasms are awesome apparently. Searching myself, it felt uncomfortable rather than pleasurable, and I haven’t really the desire to try again, because I am quite happy with indulging in only fantasies on those rare occasions. I think that, for me, what must be essentially moving is words and concepts and thoughts rather than physicality, and it is the meaningfulness of the actions that make them passionate. I sort of know this because, a couple of times, I’ve woken up mid-orgasm–and the first time it happened I was terrified. It was too much, overwhelming. And I did it without even doing anything, physically, to myself. I don’t even know what I’d been dreaming about.

Well it doesn’t terrify me anymore, and while I still know nothing about the workings of my own body or where anything is, the insecurity and embarrassment is gone. I know not to feel guilty for sexual thoughts. Thank you, Islam. And thank you, feminism.

Muslims, feminism, consent, and the virginity myth

Yeah, I know. Nothing like sex talk from someone who’s never experienced it.

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.