WHAT MUSLIM WOMEN WANT IN BED…
sex is taboo subject for most Muslims. However, a growing number of young Muslim women are talking about what they really want when in the bedroom. Shelina Janmohamed, author of Love in a Headscarf, explains how women are leading the way in her faith when it comes to understanding sexuality.
Abdelaziz Aouragh runs an online s*x shop for Muslims. “We don’t sell products that simply enhance the love life between man and woman,” he explains. “All of our products provide a deeper meaning to se*uality, sensuality and even spirituality.”
His company El Asira, based in the Netherlands, offers products like “sensual silicone” and “glamour lotion.” All of his products are Halal.
“The majority of our customers are women,” he tells me. “With men there is too much bravado.”
I see this pattern often repeated of Muslim women leading their male counterparts in the discussion about se*uality and intimacy.
According to Islamic law, s*x is limited to between those who are married. But when it comes to exactly what you can do, and how s*x is generally discussed, Islam itself is quite open. s*x is of course for procreation, but it’s also for pleasure.
There are stories about how Prophet Muhammad would be approached in the mosque by women and men asking open questions about se*uality. In one famous tale, a woman came to see him on her wedding night, to complain her husband was too busy praying and hadn’t come near her. The Prophet went to see the husband, admonished him for being too engrossed in religious prayer and instructed him to, erm, pay more attention to his bride.
This openness has been lost over time, and discussions about s*x have become taboo. However, things are slowly changing.
Wedad Lootah is a UAE marriage counsellor who published an Arabic s*x guide, Top Secret: s*xual Guidance for Married Couples, on how to achieve s*xual intimacy with your partner, stating couples needed the advice. Her book was blessed by the mufti of the UAE. But she received intense criticism.
Wedad Lootah’s controversial book
Whilst engaged, my now husband and I attended a ‘pre-marriage’ seminar, one of the first of its kind in the UK. The one day training included an hour about s*x. It wasn’t very good, but nonetheless, I was pleased that the subject was raised and the taboo broken.
Jenny is an Irish Muslim organising a similar two part seminar for young women only, the first on marriage, the second on intimacy. “The girls don’t know what should be happening in their intimate lives,” she explains. “The men tell them to do X or Y, and they don’t know any better.” Jenny understands that her seminar is unusual, but her primary concern is that the young women receive this education, and criticism is kept at bay. For this reason, she asks I don’t quote her real name: “I’m sticking my neck out here.”
It’s not a s*x instruction class that she’ll be hosting. “We’re not telling them what goes where!” laughs Jenny. “But these girls need to know their rights in the bedroom.”
In the USA, controversial Muslim activist Asra Nomani has written an “Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom.” to ‘uphold women’s right to pleasure”. Nomani says she received negative feedback about the bill. But when I read about it I remember thinking, this is not in the least controversial or new for Islam. If anything it shows how little Muslims – even vocal ones – have knowledge about Islam’s un-guilty approach to s*x, or understand that Islam has always been extremely open about s*xual pleasure, and in particular women’s pleasure.
Yet, it’s undeniable that to talk about se*uality, especially as a woman, is difficult, and as a consequence I’m genuinely apprehensive about publishing this piece. But push on I will.
It’s a subject that needs to be openly addressed, precisely so that these contradictions can be unravelled.
There is a lack of research about the existing levels of s*xual knowledge among Muslims. How much do they know? Where do they gain their knowledge? And perhaps the most difficult to ask: what is the reality of how they conduct their s*xual lives?
A new chick-lit novel about to be published in the UK is called No s*x and The City and features a Muslim heroine. And last year in the US, an anthology of true courtship stories written by Muslim women was published delightfully entitled Love, Inshallah (God willing). Amongst the narratives there were those that were sexually explicit and spoke about s*x both inside and outside marriage. Whilst the book itself was extremely popular, its comparatively graphic nature drew positive feedback as well as criticism. But the more important point of both books is that Muslim women themselves are trying to open a discussion about se*uality, its role in their identity, and their fears and aspirations.
For those Muslims who want to live a chaste life, the pressures are immense. Our surroundings are notoriously sexualised. Virginity is seen as freakish. And rejection of ‘s*xual liberation’ is seen as backward. For teen Muslims, these challenges must be particularly difficult.
If contextually appropriate teachings are not available – whether at home, in the mosque or in other social settings – then the taboos about se*uality become entrenched, lead to diminished knowledge, and pleasure or even negativity about s*x.
So where should a young (or even old!) Muslim turn to for s*xual teachings that they feel are in line with an Islamic perspective. Courses like the one being run by Jenny are few and far between. And those willing to discuss matters openly are equally rare.
And to even begin such discussions, what is needed is a healthy dose of facing up to the fact that how Muslims live their lives is not necessarily the same as the Islamic ideals they aspire to.
A famous Islamic traditional teaching about s*xual pleasure says that when God created desire, He made it into ten parts. He gave nine parts to women, and just one to men. So it’s no wonder women are leaving men behind when it comes to trying to better understand their se*uality, as well as the relationship between their se*uality and their faith. Giztzzz… madetv!