The article is adapted from "The Virginity Games Muslim Women Play" written by Salma El-Wardany for the Huffington Post Uk.
If you find the Hunger Games * difficult, I assure you that being a Muslim woman and losing your virginity is even harder. The same feeling of fear hangs in the air and you're constantly looking around the corner, looking for the enemy. Incidentally, your enemy can be any member of the Muslim community who can tell your parents that you were with a boy. If that happens, you're dead and the game is over. Not in the first sense of the word, but metaphorically. Your mother will cry, ask the heavens why she deserved such a girl, and your father will suggest you move to another city. It will even suggest moving to another country until your mother persuades you to stay. You will have to stay home indoors for the next fifteen years until forgotten. It will never be forgotten. The Muslim community forgets nothing.
At least this is what all my Muslim friends say when I ask them how they lost their virginity. The process is always secret and strategically planned. Moreover, it is usually an uncomfortable, always painful and often traumatic experience. For most women, their first time is not in the light of candles, but in embarrassing situations with boys who do not deserve it. If half of the population is insisted on being virgin until marriage, the act certainly comes with tension. This tension is further exacerbated as archaic traditions coupled with a refusal to discuss sexuality create a bewildering silence about the subject. A silence to be inserted between you and future sexual partners. We do not know how to talk about something, let alone discuss our needs and desires.
Despite the stigma and silence, we do it anyway. Sometimes to rebel, sometimes to love. We became women under an invisible cloak, with a new awareness that was hidden under cover. We discovered our sexuality behind closed doors by searching porn sites on Google. We understood the geographies of our bodies using candles, toothbrushes and frozen sausages. Under the blankets, we touched and we entered and felt, desperately searching for the button that put out the fire in our belly.
Even when we gave up on virginity for boys we loved, we did it quietly. I returned from a two-week trip with my secret boyfriend, shining and hiding the young woman I was. I wish I could have had the opportunity to talk to myself anymore. I wish I had told him it was one of the most beautiful nights of my life. It was not painful and I was not in a hurry or pressured. We waited a year, just to be safe. That my heart was filled with new love and that everything had a different flavor afterwards. Richer, fuller flavors. I wish I had asked what to do with my body when I felt my heart beat everywhere and didn't know how to play with it. Instead, I had Google, which seems to me more inept than mine.
Only years later, when I was 28, could she ask me to, and we gave up on complicated virginity games. We had many years of playing our roles as untouched girls awaiting marriage. I have thirty-year-old friends who still play the same game because the culture in which they live allows no deviation. I hope one day we will no longer use religion as the carpet under which we hide the things we are afraid to talk about. Islam promotes sexual intercourse and female pleasure under the sanctity of marriage, but the reality is a Muslim woman around the world will not marry sooner and girls and boys will break every rule in the name of love. Ignorance will not change anything and I have not yet found a group of women in the mosque discussing female pleasure. We're still hiding it, wrapping our sexuality in shame and calling it "religion." We're still playing virginity games and when all the participants know the truth, no one wins.
* The Hunger Games, or The Hunger Games, a book trilogy by Suzanne Collins, where protagonists selected from impoverished regions encounter death in an arena until the only surviving winner is rewarded with eternal fame and fortune.
First published in March 2018.