Searching through Twitter as I do, I found an article by Sarah Harvard called A Young Muslim Woman Details How Her Parents Avoided The Sex Talk: And Why That Needs To Change In Her Culture. It's a thoughtful read in Teen Vogue, and it's pretty funny too. Seriously - check it out and check out some of Sarah's other writing too.
She talks about her own familial and cultural experiences of silence (and when inevitably forced into their lives -awkwardness and shame) in regards to sex and puberty. But, she also talks about how the Qu'ran does not reflect this same silence and reminds the reader that young Muslim Americans' experiences in the future don't have to be like hers. The article ends with this:
Islam, like many other religions, is frank about sex. It’s a part of our livelihood as human beings, and while many of the older generations are culturally keen to sexual repression, it’s up to the next generation — our generation — of Muslim Americans to encourage a healthy, positive, and religiously compliant attitude towards sex. How can we do that? Easy — let's just talk about sex.
I love that she took time to write about this subject. She largely writes about politics, Islam, and world events (I've been creeping through all her stuff). She's creating important work about large issues with a fresh young voice, and I think it's poignant that this lack in her sexual education seemed important enough for her to discuss. This is the kind of honest and hopeful article that I love to feature in this blog, particularly because the author pointed out some specifics about her lack of education that I think is incredibly important .
As Wajahat Ali pointed out in The Guardian, Muslim Americans are forced to go 0 to 100 real quick when it comes to sexual activity. We’re forced to cover our eyes when there’s a kissing scene on television — despite the fact it’s an everyday occurrence in middle and high school. We're then expected to get married in our early 20s and 30s, and bear two to four children soon after without even knowing what foreplay is or how to find our clitorises. (For example, I didn't know what a clitoris was until freshman year of college.)The clitoris is the organ of female sexual pleasure. Stimulation of the clitoral/vulva area is necessary for orgasm, and intercourse is a terribly inefficient way to get there. The author mentioning that she didn't know what a clitoris was until college is both unfortunate, and at the same time, an extremely common experience. It's a poignant example of how much silence and ignorance about the clit and thus the female orgasm exists. It's not unique to immigrant Muslim American families. It's a larger cultural phenomenon, but I can only imagine that there is a strength, a depth, and a quality to the silence in that community that is quite unique. In fact, I imagine all different communities have unique hurdles and hang-ups when it comes to fighting the silence and ignorance on the topic. Happily married hetero people probably need to hear different things than single lesbians, and different religions and races and age groups and people from different parts of the world and of the country would probably find a more inspiring discussion of the subject, at least at first, with people speaking on it honestly within their own community. So, I love that Sarah Harvard spoke on it and has put the call out to her community to speak about it. It is a simple but an efficient way to begin change for the better
People like Sarah Harvard are exactly the types that will inspire Orgasm Equality change in a wider population. She's not a sexologist, internet sexpert, sexual health worker, or sex-positive advocate. She's just a woman talking honestly about her experiences and hopes. She didn't have to speak up, but she did anyway, and that's why I'm adding her to the Orgasm Equality Allies List. Keep bein' awesome Sarah Harvard.
***P.S. Sarah's last quote up there reminds me of Sophia Wallace's Cliteracy Law #30 "Terrorism is having sex your whole adult life, giving birth to 6 children and never experiencing an orgasm." Because, I mean that's a possible outcome of the situation she described up there, isn't it?...and that isn't any fun for a woman or the man she's making children with. I'm with Sarah - I think we can do better.