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Monday, September 24, 2007

The S-Word

Like a sword the s-word cuts through our lives; starting and ending relationships; labeling and tagging people; torturing some and relieving others. I grew up watching our Egyptian cinema turning sex into a shameful repulsive act where the woman is defeated and the man is delighted. The message was very clear: women who “give in” to men without a legally binding document end up suffering one way or the other. The s-word turns them into social outcasts, black sheep, or infamous notorious creatures of the night. The man usually vanishes leaving behind a bereaved creature pulling her hair and tearing apart what’s left of her clothes as a sign of intense remorse. Some of those women were portrayed to show further suffering when the seed of the affair blossoms into a child. With nothing but disdain and a curled lip, the voice of our intact society would echo in our ears saying “I told you so!”

In our modern cinema, girls can flirt and tease as much as they pleased but the s-word is still frowned upon. Those engaging in premarital sex strive throughout the movie to set two wrongs right – and of course it is the girl who is always doing her very best to get a ring on the damn finger. Other tragic heroines, whose character flaw is their lustful nature, have to go through a painful catharsis whereby they are humiliated, rejected, mortified, and eventually forgiven, or killed in an accident. In the first dénouement, being forgiven in this sense means that they have learnt their lesson and that they will lead a life of penance and “virtue” until a fine gentleman sees how far they have changed and kindly accepts to give them a ring. In the second scenario - where they die - they have paid in full for their mortal sin and now they can just die to set an example for the living.

Today a fellow writer, in a casual chat, asked me why girls refuse and adamantly resist getting intimate with their beau. He complained of the fact that girls feel that the s-word impacts the interest, or the lack of interest, of a guy in a girl. He bluntly asked me why girls fear losing the guy once they have sex with him. I was not the only one watching those movies; I could even consider myself lucky because I was a late bloomer in my relationship with the silver screen. Decade after another, such movies spread the guilt culture in our shame society. As if FGM (female genital mutilation) was not enough to create lifetime barriers between our girls and their sexuality, we have a whole culture preaching the virtue of a hymen.

Arabic movies, books, and anecdotes planted a deeply rooted conviction that girls who are “dishonorable” are not fit for being wives or mothers. The same influences caused men to believe that a girl who expresses her love physically is loose; hence the famous analogies between a girl’s honor and a match stick, a brand new car and a second hand car, and the famous piece of meat covered in sticky flies. My maid once noticed that my cats were not playing together and threw me a casual comment saying “why would he want to even see her face … he already took what he wanted … he is just a man!”

I have many male friends who, in my presence, share their success stories and conquests in the female world. Their verbiage and jargon are of the most offensive type; verbs like jumped, humped, and scored are very popular. So even if a guy is sitting there all polished and cleaned up for his girl, she could still sense the jump-hump-score sequel. Our men are known to be sweet-talkers and to be very expressive in the beginning of the relationship; an American friend of mine, who laments ever getting married to her educated Egyptian hubby, told me that he swept her off her feet with his words, attention, and passion – this is what our men do.

But once the girl loses touch with the ground, she falls … she falls hard and is most likely to break her neck, smash her head, or crack her back. She survives the fall only to live with a permanent disability. Experience taught girls to hold back; they learnt to disguise their feelings in a cloak of callousness for self preservation purposes. Our generation of men and women are confused; everything that they were taught as kids is being questioned as adults. Our very same inhibited women and our very own conservative men, once in the presence of a foreigner are transformed. The women no longer feel judged and the men no longer feel pressured and questioned – what a mess!

I am not for or anti premarital sex. There are so many variables in the equation and our society is not ready for a generalization of any sort at this point of time; if I tell girls to go ahead and to release their inhibitions, I will be damned. If I tell them to resist and to fight the natural urge for intimacy, I am a lying hypocrite. I will just leave it at the point where it is a case by case scenario and I will conclude on a final note to the guys: mental shackles are way worse than metal shackles. We will get out of our dungeons, when we no longer fear your dragons.


R. Elgayar said...

Amen Ms. Marwa. I love to read your blog. I am American woman married to an Egyptian man for many years. We live in the USA. My daughter in in love with an Egyptian in the mother land. And I can confirm that yes, this man is so much more liberal with my daughter since she is half American than he is with Egyptian girls. I feel like he has a burden off his shoulders and can interact with my daughter who wasn't raised with "the shame" mentality that so pervades Egyptian society. He can hug and kiss her and they interact as any American couple does. I feel so sorry for young Egyptians who have to repress all the natural sexual desires. And the virginity thing, it is so ridiculous. If the young people could just interact together and date I think the men in Egypt wouldn't be as horny as they are. I know as a 43 year old woman who just vacationed there in Aug for a month with my daughter, I was propositioned every day. It was ridiculous, but I know its because they know Amercan women don't give a dam about "hymens" and "decency" haha. We are "charmoutas". haha. But I honestly wished I had some of my single American girlfriends with me so they could help these guys release all this sexual frustration. And of course, I am biased and I love Misryin men, but I told my friends on my return to the USA, if you want sex from some good looking men who are more than willing and able, you must come with me to Cairo haha. I am afraid though that the society is getting more conservative all the time and there won't be any relief for the young people. I was so happy to discover your column and see an independent thinking Egyptian woman who questions some of the silly ideas over there. I smile when I read your columns because I so know exactley where you are coming from and I can sympathize with you habibti. Keep up the great writing.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Awesome post. You got it in one! But don't you think that kind of applies to all men to a degree. In the west if a girl 'sleeps around' she's considered a slut but if the man does well he's just being a man.
Moreover, and I can tell from my own experience, even so called 'liberal' men who are 100% not Arab still find it hard to face up to the fact that a woman might have some history, however limited this might be. He, on the other hand, is another case entirely. I hate this kind of hypocrisy!

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello R:)

Your words are beyond encouraging:) I know exactly how this man feels .. I was in an outing yesterday where a girl told me that her boyfriend of five years dumped her for an Italian girl ... she does not understand how such a conservative guy who used to give her "shit" for everything she did and who controlled her every breath .. how would such a guy be open to a serious relationship with a European girl?

Our society needs a lot of work:)

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello Arima ... I missed seeing your comments on my blog:)

There is a lot more action going on on facebook - you are most welcome to join (just send me a note so I know it is you)

A girl who "sleeps around" is not the topic of this article ... I am talking about a normal girl who is in a normal relationship and who wants to enjoy her normal right of exploring her sexuality

But I agree with you that a lot of men - even those who are 100% not arab - have loads of insecurities ... most men are obsessed with their size, their stamina, their techniques, and this and that.

I know it is allover the world but our society is light years behind ... I hate the dual standards that our society enforces

VanillaBullshit said...

Let me address one important issue here:

The reason egyptian and other arab societies are socially retarded is because the way they are brought up. In an atmosphere loaded with guilt and pressure.

When segregation has reached the point of some raggedy-ass veiled ho on a train asking me to move "go sit next to a man like yourself" then you know something's definitely not right.

Men & women in this country seek to compensate the total lack of emotional growth that comes from socializing with other human beings with bizarre behaviorisms that manifest more often than not.

Whether it's a a man trying unsucessfully to pick up a woman, or a woman that's received so many mixed signals she doesn't know who to listen to anymore; the dogmatic religious crowd that tell her to be pious, or her instincts as a woman that make her want to express and be proud of her sexuality.

When people by some perverted leap of the imagination convince themselves that an entire family's "honor" lies between a woman's legs, you know somnething's definitely not right.

This dangerous obsession with a woman's fun-box has reached critical mass, women in this society are constantly under a microscope of criticism and fear, usually by egocentric, weak-willed misgynistic men that more than anything else, fear the formidable force of a woman's sexuality, hence they try to crush it, rather than embrace & celebrate it, as any normal man would.

The result is a warped society that encourages social castration and further divisions between genders.

Religion plays a big part here too, but only as a crutch to further demean women and keep them under the watchful eye of the ever so honorable men.

Men are eager to experience the joy of being in female company, but they shift into 5th gear immediately, wanting to compensate that emotional chasm they feel with sex; most likely these negative behavior patterns are first sowed by a doting mother, later encouraged by peers.

Women are confused, they are dying to express themselves, sexually and otherwise, they want to have as much freedom as men do, to walk the streets free from harrasment, to be able to have male friends and to experience normal, healthy relationships - in short, to NOT be forced to go against their nature. Same for men.

When you try to suppress nature, aberrant behaviorisms will always be the result, one need look no further than a "society" like egypt.

R. Elgayar said...

Wow, "vanillabullshit" right on baby!!!!! I am always telling my Egyptian relatives the entire sexual thing is mother nature. And you are 100% correct, this society just simply denies mother nature and so they are missing out on some of the best things life has to offer,like choosing their own lover and being with the one they are attracted to, not chosen by some family memebers, having friends of the opposite sex that they can hang and chill with without causing a scene, women being able to dress as they want and look sexy if they want without being labeled as some big charmouta, men and women who are mature enough to enjoy the opposite sex ,some as lovers and some as friends. That is the way we were designed and that is why the Egyptians in the states act so different than in Cairo. Just like my American friends, they love to go out with the opposite sex and date and have good times with people, and they dont have to deal with any virginity and shame issues OR deal with parents with these hangups. Honestly, all my Egyptian male friends date exclusivey American women for this very reason. They know American parents are easy going and what goes on between him and the daughter is their business and won't affect the entire family's honor. So I can't blame Egyptian men for looking towards western women, the pressure is off of them. The western parent's expectations of a boyfriend and husband for their daughter are so much easier to meet. And Marwa, come to the USA habibiti, you are a beautiful woman and men over here (both Egyptian and American) would appreiciate you:)))))))))yalla habibti

Fantasia said...

Excellent post, Marwa. I loved that you exposed the reality without taking sides. We are all faking our behavior in this double faced society. The reason why girls are against such physical acts is not because their sexual urges are not as strong as men (the eternal myth that they keep screwing our minds with) and not because they are more ethical, and ofcourse not because they are more conservative. It is because they curry a huge burden of shame which makes them fear the act and anything related to it. The idea itself became scary, that most girls, even after marriage cannot interact properly with their husbands.
A girl might have all the sexual urges and fantasies in the world, yet her great fear that have been growing up with her through time (fortified by the media and art as you showed) makes her inable to expose those wishes even when she is no longer under such pressures.
We keep wearing masks until they stick to our faces.

FidoDido said...

marawa long time since i write to u so i'm happy to right to u again.i read your post carefully, i found it interesting to discuss is it only the matter of sexual desires or it more and bigger that that. for me sex is not this acts that make u feel with enjoyment and happiness only. it's matter of passion before any thing. i agree with you that s-word is most effective word in our society but thing in it for other point of view or view of the eastern guy that he love to be first one who touch and make love with his girl. this thing don't mean that i deny that this right girl also love to have it.other thing that i note it in comments send to u that some talk about its right for human to answer for sexual desires at any time so what difference between woman or man do sex with machine and do it with human and if u talk like that we may say that if u have desire u can just go to street to have some one to do sex with him , i think u say now no it is not like that ok this what i'm say its all about passion. u wrote that girl are not allowed to express her passion by make love with man she love unless they are married so what if it was fake relationship what do u think about her feeling when she realize that she were wrong in her feelings?
last thing i admit that our society has wrongg point of view about girl doing sex before marriage that they feel that she betrayal the trust of her family because they simply think they own the girl honor. but for me i believe that this thing only belong to girl only.at last i believe with said that if u ask for freedom u must be ready to take responsibility of it. sorry for my long comment and happy with your post :)