Changing times, changing times. Even the fact that such a discussion is taking place is a move in the right direction.
Sexual problems are legion in contemporary Egypt, sometimes ruining marital relationships, writes Gamal Nkrumah
“When you see a person, do you just concentrate on their looks? It’s just a first impression. Then there’s someone who doesn’t catch your eye immediately, but you talk to them and they become the most beautiful thing in the world.” – Brad Pitt
“Sex is a taboo subject in Egypt. Mothers do not discuss sexual matters with their daughters, nor do fathers talk with their sons. On the day of the dukhla [literally “entry” in Arabic], the day when newlyweds consummate their marriage, it is all reduced to a question of trial and error,” Madiha Al-Safti, a lecturer in sociology at the American University in Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Youngsters get whatever little they know by discussions with their friends, classmates or, these days, via the Internet.”
The almost ubiquitous assumption that a bride is supposed to be a virgin is still pervasive in contemporary Egypt.
“It all boils down to the stifling traditions of yesteryear and a reluctance to introduce sex education,” Al-Safti says. The venerable tradition that the bride be a virgin was adjudged to survive to eternity. A virgin may consent to kiss, but no further venturesome behaviour is permitted before marriage. In more ways than one, Egypt is still very Victorian.
“Ernestina wanted a husband, wanted Charles to be that husband, wanted children; but the payment she vaguely divined she would have to make for them seemed excessive,” wrote John Fowles in his 1969 bestseller, the Victorian-era romance The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
A character in Fowles celebrated novel, Ernestina, is used as a metaphor representing a sexually repressed, and sexually ignorant, Victorian woman. There are many Egyptian Ernestinas.
When I first read Fowles’s novel years ago, Egypt came to mind. “Young men, often the sons of the affluent elite, engage in pre-marital sex by sleeping with prostitutes. However, like Ernestina, their wives invariably have never had sex and do not know what exactly is expected of them. Virgins are not on the verge of extinction. They are ‘good girls’ in the traditional sense, and hence cannot please a man the way a prostitute does,” Al-Safti says.
“The husbands often expect their brides to know how to please a man. And some men do not know how to arouse a woman. They only think about themselves in a selfish fashion, not taking the bride’s desires and fears into consideration. It is a very sensitive matter.
“Neither bride nor groom really knows how to cope with the challenging experience. Brides are often intimidated by the experience, but grooms too often have bouts of self-doubt,” she adds.
“Husbands must listen more attentively to the complaints of their wives, and especially when it comes to sex, a topic that in a conservative country like Egypt is a taboo subject,” says Heba Kotb, perhaps Egypt’s most controversial and sought-after sex therapist.
Kotb is host of the popular “The Big Talk”, a sexual advice show that is broadcast on the Egyptian satellite television channel Al-Mehwar. She is the first licenced sexologist in the country. Women’s sexual rights in Islam is a subject that often crops up on her talk shows, being the inspiration behind her understanding of human sexuality.
Kotb has no qualms about discussing prickly sexual subjects, and for this reason she has come under fire from several distinguished Muslim clerics, including Sheikh Youssef Al-Badri, a strong supporter of female genital mutilation (FGM), which he insists is needed to protect a woman’s chastity.
Read on here.