Critique and Complacency in Examining Gender as a Performance

A couple of years ago, photographs of men in stereotypical ‘pin-up’ poses circulated the Internet. The photographs, featuring men accessorized with ‘masculine’ items but contorted in ‘feminine’ poses, are by artist Rion Sabean, and I encountered them rather early on in the feminist blogosphere. The general consensus by feminist commentators was that they were exceptional–an exhibition, it was declared after examination, of gender and sexuality as a performance.

I did not find them quite so brilliant.

The artist is a man, I believe, but in this instance I am unconcerned with his sex or his intentions. I don’t believe they were malicious, and I don’t believe it matters in this case. What I am critical of, however, is the reception of these photographs. In many articles, including the one linked above, the project is described as ‘humorous.’ And indeed, the reaction of most people, when first seeing a picture like this, is to sneer uncomfortably.

This I can say with the certainty of observation, because roughly a year, or maybe even just a few months, after I came across these photographs, my women’s studies professor at the time (I was an undergrad then and, for those of you who don’t know, minored in women’s studies–a decision I came to regret) introduced them to our class. I remember this clearly because I might have been the only one to groan. She had believed they were exceptionally clever. And it did not disturb her the least that every single student, with the exception of yours truly, reacted to them by laughing.

Instead, she interpreted the laughter as indicative of an awareness that the performance of feminine sexuality is just that–a performance–and therefore looks out-of-place anywhere where one is not used to seeing it. Because, you know, performing femininity is ridiculous and such. And this project just draws focus to it, employing the displacement as magnification.

Expecting women to confine themselves to restrictive expressions of sexuality is ridiculous. But what’s not ridiculous are those expressions of sexuality themselves, especially when they are something that have come to define femininity, to temper it, to make it recognizable as gentle, expressive, playful or alert, invitingly sly. In front of a camera and a photographer, it can be argued that this is laughably disingenuous. But in life, in every day, in the flickering glance of a woman walking by or the fluttering motion or suggestive smile, it is not a “performance”–it is a mannerism. It is something she has become, that I’ve become, that we have become, have adopted as fluid to our gender and sexual identities. And that is what the photographs relocate onto these men. And that is what is supposed to be ‘humorous.’

The disparagement of feminine gestures or behaviors, even when embedded in the critique that they are constructed, is violent toward the feminine psyche. And the ridiculing of men who adopt them, who are ‘feminized,’ is a continuation of that violence. The photographs themselves don’t do this; as art, they simply ‘displace’ indicators of femininity onto male subjects for our interpretation, but our quick reaction to laugh—not in surprise, but in contempt—certainly does. And I would say this is a case where the reaction of the audience, and our involvement in the perpetuation the hatred of femininity, is to be critiqued as part of the artwork itself.

Unfortunately the idea that feminine behaviors are worthy of ridicule, even when those particular behaviors are demonstrable of intelligence, is something to which our culture is all too well-accustomed. On another “humor” site with a complete list of things women “need to understand” about men (as if) is the following:

ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

Dude, if you can’t tell the difference between peach and pumpkin you’re an asinine blockhead. Here, let me help you out:

Can't tell the difference? You might be suffering from Giant Douchebag Syndrome.
Can’t tell the difference? You might be suffering from Giant Douchebag Syndrome. Common causes include people pretending you’re funny, having been raised as though you’re precious & insightful, and the XY chromosome.

Being so dense you can’t see that? That’s not a thing to brag about.

There’s an article… somewhere on the Internet… (let me know if you’re able to locate to what I’m referring) written by a woman describing how men actually benefit from the blonde stereotype. That is, when women lack any common knowledge in an area, they are ridiculed (and are the subject of an entire series of well-known jokes) whereas when men are unable to figure out how to use detergent or cook a meal, their ignorance is not only forgiven but indulged. The writer explains that her partner was quite active before they lived together, but as soon as they moved in he began to whine about how to do things and to feign not understanding, which resulted of course, in her doing them for him while he sat back and watched T.V.

LGBT people get to decide whether you are their ally; you don’t.

This email has been brought to you by questions from straight people like yours truly.

To “fellow allies” or whatever, I don’t know whether I’m an LGBT ally. I don’t talk about how much of an ally I am or about being an ally. That is because the decision is not mine.

My intention is to be an ally to the LGBT community, but as intentions are insignificant and a bit egotistical in the face of people feeling the excruciating suffocation of STOP PICTURING ME HAVING SEX AND THEN DECIDING MY RIGHTS ACCORDINGLY GODDAMIT, it is for LGBT people to decide whether my actions are helpful or hurtful in their effort of liberation from the weirdly sex-obsessed tyranny of people like me. There have been and are too many instances of a straight “ally” saying / doing totally offensive crap and then talking about how it’s okay because of ally-ness and so they actually support LGBT people and thus can get away with saying / doing totally offensive crap. Well guess what, straight person! You’re not an ally if an LGBT person says you’re not an ally because you’re not behaving like one. So you will have to find a different excuse for your behavior, like, “Actually, I’m a dunderface.”

To bigots / the perverts who can’t think about LGBT people without picturing them having sex, or whatever–yes, consider me your enemy.

a note to LGBT Muslims

Over the past couple of years I’ve received some messages in my inbox asking for advice. I can’t imagine why anyone would ask me, a straight woman, about advice coming out, except out of desperation and having nowhere else to turn. It breaks my heart to know I can’t help you because I can’t possibly know what you’re going through, but from what I have seen, all I can offer is this:

–If you are sure your parents are going to freak out, wait until you are financially independent to tell them

–If you suspect that your parents are not going to freak out, wait until you are financially independent to tell them, because they might just freak out

–Don’t depend on your parents, siblings, and friends not freaking out. You may think they will love you no matter what. Unfortunately you may be in for a surprise.

If this means that you have to wait a couple of years, then wait for your own best interest, even if it is eating you alive from the inside. I have seen terrible things happen to friends who came out to their parents–they were basically put through hell until they were able to move out. That means emotional, psychological, and even threats of physical abuse. That means the looming possibility of suicide. And hell, it’s not me it happened to, it’ll never be me it happened to, so I can’t just say that it’s better to wait than go through all of that for the sake of getting it off your chest, but I’m making a judgement call and saying that it probably is; that the feeling of relief from letting it out probably won’t be worth the anguish and torment that you might endure if you are still dependent.

I don’t mean to frighten you, or discourage you, but I do mean to see to it that you make sure your safety is first. I don’t doubt that there are some wonderful parents, that there will be those among you who will wish that you hadn’t heeded this advice because when you do tell your parents you’ll think about how you could have fallen securely into their accepting embrace ages ago and rested easy. But from my second hand experience, these types of coming out scenarios are rare. Unless your parent comes straight out and tells you, “People are so shit to LGBT folk, I wouldn’t care if you were attracted to the same sex, and I’d love you” it’s probably safer to wait until you needn’t subject yourself to their fury in order to survive.

It is incredibly frustrating, and incredibly unfair, and sometimes when something is just festering inside of you you can’t even always control when you let it out anyway, and I know. Well, I don’t know. But you know. I can only ask if there is some other outlet for you to relieve your frustrations in the meanwhile; confide in friends at the GSA at your school, for example, make connections so that it’s not so hard on you. And so that you have resources–anything that is psychologically soothing, treat yourself to it.

Sometimes that support simply isn’t available, in which case you might have to go out of your way to find it. I am so sorry. I am sorry straight people are such jerks, I am sorry I can’t have more words to give you; please watch our for yourself until you can take care of yourself, and then some, I love you.

Sweater. (and modesty)

When I was very little, I attended Quranic classes at the mosque with other small children. On one occasion, I stood lined up for prayer while the instructor lectured on prayer etiquette. It was midsummer in California. The heat was almost unbearable. My hair was uncovered, but I was wearing a sweater, and I felt dizzy. I knew what I needed to do: remove the sweater. But I couldn’t, because I recognized that when I lifted it over my head, it would pull the shirt I wore beneath it up along with it part way, which is what sometimes happens with six-year-old children. And I couldn’t have everyone see that. And I was too shy to ask to leave the prayer area; if I asked to leave for the restroom now (where no one would see me), I thought, the instructor would admonish me for poor planning. So, standing there in the boiling festering heat gathering beneath the sweater until I saw blue and purple, refusing to remove it, what did I do?

I passed out.

The last thing I remembered as I was falling to my knees is the otherwise austere instructor looking at my face with the softest, most concerned expression I had ever seen on his. “Nahida? Nahida? What is happening?! Nahida!” And then everything went dark.

I woke up with my head on a pillow, still in the prayer area. The other children were gone. Someone had removed the sweater. My mother was beside me. I sat up and began to cry.

She was having none of that. “Nahida, what on earth? Stop it. Now tell me what happened.”

“I was hot.”

“Okay. Well why didn’t you take off the sweater?”

I knew why I hadn’t; I could not, however, find the words to explain it to her.

She frowned. “Nahida, you are not that young of a child. You can take off your own sweater.”

Well of course I had had the ability! My eyes welled up again. I was in a foul mood. “I want to go home.”

“She was burning up,” explained my instructor. “After she fainted. It was like she had a fever of over a hundred. It was raging.”

***

It is summer in California again. The heat has returned.

“Hell is hotter,” lectures the man without hi’jab.

***

I am not a modest woman.

At least, not in what is accepted as the traditional sense. Whether or not what is broadly conventional is really “traditional” is highly suspect, as the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World states, “The term hijab or veil is not used in the Qur’an to refer to an article of clothing for women or men, rather it refers to a spatial curtain that divides or provides privacy. The Qur’an instructs the male believers (Muslims) to talk to wives of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) behind a hijab. This hijab was the responsibility of the men and not the wives of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). However, in later Muslim societies this instruction, specific to the wives of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), was generalized, leading to the segregation of the Muslim men and women.” But in every sense of the word that is widely accepted by the contemporary Islamic community, I am not a modest woman. While I do prefer longer sleeves and habitually wear flowing skirts, and even considering what I cover merely in terms of surface area being more conservative than the average woman in my society, what I wear is nearly always form-fitting. And to boot, I look men straight in the eye.

Tell the believing men
that they shall subdue their gaze
(and not stare at the women),
to maintain their chastity.
This is purer for them.
God is fully Cognizant
of everything they do.
And tell the believing women
to subdue their gaze, and to be mindful
of their chastity, and not to show off
parts of their adornment [in public] beyond
what may [decently] be apparent
or obvious thereof;
hence, let them draw their covers
over their bosoms. (Qur’an 24:30—31)

I look everyone straight in the eye. Granted, I don’t interpret “subdue their gaze” as meaning “don’t make eye contact” and I think it’s ridiculous that it has been interpreted as such. Understandable—even admirable (when it isn’t enforced solely on women while men look directly and steadily on contrary to the very first part of the verse, that is)—but ridiculous. I’ve been told, as other women have also reported in the comment section they’ve been told, that my gaze is too intense as to be suggestive. This does not happen only when I am intently paying attention. It happens even when I’m merely daydreaming. And when used to police women’s bodies and behaviors, this is an alarming, thoroughly disturbing indication that anything can and will be exploited to justify severe, intolerable restrictions of women’s freedoms. As xcwn writes, these regulations “reinforced the idea that men’s gaze at women (provided that it had the veneer of religiosity) was in fact God’s gaze. That the men ranting on about women’s supposed immodesty were somehow reflecting how God saw us. They claimed as much.” And it is yet another example of patriarchy existing in direct conflict with God, attempting to displace God with its own power structure which it claims is a replicate of Divine Ordinance. From a historical perspective, and the perspective of the Qur’an itself, nothing has been a greater enemy to Islam than patriarchy. Patriarchy is organized shirk. It is the very infusion of redefining terms of liberation and empowerment into viciously twisted devices of imprisonment to male interpretation of womanhood and circumscribing a structure of worship in place of the one directed by God.

Those who harass believing
men and believing women
without their having done wrong,
bear (on themselves) a calumny
and a grievous sin.
O Prophet! Enjoin your wives,
your daughters, as well as other
believing women that they should
cast their outer garments
over their persons (when abroad):
That is most convenient,
that they may be distinguished
and not be annoyed. […] (Qur’an 33:58–59)

In many translations “annoyed” is translated as “harassed” (also correct in a particular understanding) prompting the modern interpreter to conclude that women are Islamically held responsible for thwarting harassment, disregarding both the context in which the lines themselves are embedded and in which the verses were revealed; the very first lines blame the harassers, not the harassed, and the purpose of this revelation was to visually distinguish the Prophet’s wives so that others acted appropriately toward them: as the perpetual hostesses to an unremitting routine of visitors seeking the Prophet’s advice, they were continuously given little privacy or rest.

My immodesty is not related to passing out at the age of six, though the incident was a demonstration of how harmful slut-shaming, body-policing attitudes toward women are, to the point at which even young children would choose to faint rather than endure it. I know for a fact I would have preferred form-fitted clothing if the event had never transpired. I like slitted skirts because I think they are attractive. And I wear them. I even wear them to look attractive, to smile when I pass by a mirror. I love them because I love beauty, and because it was once Islamic to love beauty, as Seyyed Hossein Nasr notes in Traditional Islam in the Modern World (via Afshan), “Traditional Islamic civilization is marked by its emphasize [sic] upon beauty being wedded to every aspect of human life, from the chanting of the Quran to the making of pots and pans. The traditional Islamic ambience, both the plastic and the sonoral, have always been beautiful, for traditional Islam sees beauty as a complement of the Truth.”

A’isha bint Talha defiantly proclaimed, “God the Almighty distinguished me by my beauty, and not to keep me hidden from sight! I want everyone to see this, and acknowledge my superiority over them. I will not veil. No one can force me to do anything.”

I love hair flowers and hi’jab pins and the “camel hump” and other decorative ornaments that make hi’jab “immodest” and “invalidate” the purpose. And if it distracts, you dear brother—

You will lower your fucking gaze.

I hope you are all enjoying the summer. I’ve seized the opportunity to wear decorative hats with blasphemously large white flowers

and begin to feel leisurely at the heat, lashes lowered sleepily and all.

I can still subdue my gaze in them, as purpose of a sun hat is to shield one’s eyes. No one can complain the look in my eyes is too intensive.

;) Happy summer.

On sexual knowledge

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.

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.

“Why?”

“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.

Whore!

“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.

The People of Sodom

were serial rapists, who drank heavily, attacked visitors in gangs, lusted after the power of angels, knew first hand of God but refused morality and cheated and lied and thieved. And raped. RAPED. Over and over. In mobs.

Do you mean to tell me that God destroyed them for sexual orientation?

They weren’t even gay. They had wives.*

“Lot said: Your wives, who are like my daughters, are better for you!” (Qur’an 15:71)

*Yes, I realize gay men can be married to women. But why the hell would they want to be married to women if they were openly gay and didn’t have to be married to women? Because they weren’t actually gay. (The same way prison rape is executed by heterosexual men with the intent to “lower” the victim’s status to that of a woman.)

That same verse (15:17) is the reason everyone concludes that the tribe was destroyed because of sexual orientation: Lot clearly points out, of all the sins the people were committing that he could have chosen from, the sin of anal sex. Anal rape, to be clear.

But that’s because the sick bastards were nearly tearing down his door in attempt toanally rape the visitors at that very moment. What else would you be thinking about?! Mentioning any other sin would be preposterous.

Imagine this:

*angry disgustingly lustful mob of rapists about to tear down Lot’s door*

Lot: You know, y’all are cheaters and liars. You should really stop.

Notice that in the verse Lot did not say women. He specifically said YOUR WIVES. There is a verse in which he says women, but because every other verse says YOUR WIVES we can safely assume that in that verse by women he meant your wives. (Because he obviously wasn’t telling them to rape women instead of men. He was telling them to have consensual sex with their wives.) They weren’t just rapists, they were adulterers. That is an inversion. Correction: they weren’t just adulterers, they were rapists. And in his moment of desperation he was looking for anything–anything!–to make them stop, and so he cried, why are you doing this when you have wives at home to fulfill your sexual desires?

Most Muslims will actually acknowledge that being gay is not a sin: anal sex is a sin. For hetero couples also. It’s forbidden. In fact, you’ll find legal opinion implying that lesbianism isn’t really a violation of anything, because supposedly there’s no anal sex involved. Supposedly.

And they ask thee concerning menstruation. Say, ‘It is a harmful thing, so keep away from [sexual intercourse with] women during menstruation, and go not in unto them until they are clean. But when they have cleansed themselves, go in unto them as God has commanded you.’ (Qur’an 2:222)

This verse speaks of all sexual intercourse, or else it would have specified that anal sex is still permitted (because menstruation is vaginal.) Because it didn’t make specifications, there is an implication that anal sex is always prohibited, and hadith to confirm this.

But according to the definition of a lot of Muslims, you can’t really be gay unless you have anal sex. Or you’re not really gay or something. This is deeply problematic, because in addition to being untrue, the whole “being gay is a sin!” comes from there. And annoying, because every time it comes up there’s always a need to explain the difference before we can move on with the discussion.

They’ll agree that simply being gay–and not engaging in anal sex–is not a sin, because its understood in Islam that sinful thoughts =/= sin. A sin must be an action. In fact, if you think about sinning, but you don’t actually sin, in some cases it counts a good deed, since you’ve avoided a temptation. Thinking a good thought, however, also counts as a good deed–and carrying out a good thought counts as two.

That being said, even if one interprets this verse to mean that anal sex itself is haraam, there are like a quadrillion ways to have sex.

Recap: Being gay is not a sin. Having anal sex–between anyone, including a man and a woman–is a sin. The people of Sodom were destroyed for a number of things, the main sin being rape–which, yes, happened to be anal rape–but “homosexual activity” (it feels offensive to use this term but I can’t think of anything else to describe how they view this) itself was not among the sins that ultimately destroyed them, because–if you recall–the women were destroyed as well. Lot’s wife was specifically mentioned to have been destroyed. Had God destroyed the tribe for “being gay” (which they weren’t) or even for anal sex rather than for being serial gang rapists who lusted after the power of angels and defied morality despite having full knowledge, the women would have remained.

Should an Islamic community write and enforce laws penalizing a man for having anal sex with another man? Only if they’d do the same for a man having anal sex with a woman. But the latter doesn’t happen, does it? You know why it doesn’t happen? Because it’s none of your business what anyone does in their bedroom. But, like, that only applies if you’re straight, apparently.

The emphasis Muslims place specifically on gay people having sex is highly questionable. Why are straight people allowed to transgress sexual limits of permissibility in a Muslim community, but not gay people? Why aren’t there Muslims who are like YOU SHOULD BE KILLED when a man reveals that he’s been having anal sex with his wife? The proper response in either situation would be to look at the guy like, dude, does your partner know you’re telling me this?

I’ll tell you why: because it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with homophobia. How else does a supposedly righteous person conclude that it is permissible to rape a woman to “cure” her lesbianism? Where would you get this? Other than out of your ass, which no, is not a very scholarly place despite what you may believe. Have you not seen that God has destroyed civilizations for the crime of rape?

Some people still believe that having anal sex it is not a sin, and they have their own reasons for concluding this, and I don’t really care either way. It’s the same disinterest I have with other things that don’t affect me and don’t affect anyone other than the person who actually practices it, or–in this case–are completely irrelevant in relation to whether we should allow people their right to privacy and other human rights. It’s like the nature vs. nurture debate when it comes to homosexuality. I don’t care if you think they were or weren’t born gay–that has nothing to do with my argument that you should not be policing their sex lives or violating their human rights. Similarly, I don’t care if you think anal sex is halaal or haraam–that also has nothing to do with my argument that you should not be policing their sex lives or violating their human rights.

Edit: Interestingly, studying Greek literature in which men take other men as “true” lovers gives another perspective to the story of Lut: the men may have not in fact genuinely loved men with sexual desire like gay people, but instead hated women and viewed women as tools to deliver babies, not as equals to genuinely love. Another angle of misogyny in a town of rapists.