Mainstream media often incites rebuttals from Muslim women defending themselves against vapid stereotypes and negative portrayals. Ostensibly, these include “We are not oppressed,” ”We play sports,” “We are educated and have choices,” “We have agency and support those who do not,” and so on and so forth. Muslim women writing about inspiring feats of Muslim women are exposed to veil puns to highlight our achievements. Anything accomplished is “beyond the veil,” “from behind the burqa” and numerous other overused cliches.Now it seems we are entering a new realm of writings by and about Muslim women: Muslim Women and Sexuality. Wait – what? Yes. I dread in that we now have “behind the covered boudoir” or “from beyond La Senza” to look forward to.
Recently there has been a barrage of articles published highlighting sexuality and, dare I say it, normalcy, of the intimate lives of the otherwise exotic and mysterious Muslim woman. A subject that is considered taboo in many cultures is being written of and addressed in different voices of Muslim women. Not since “progressive Muslim” Asra Nomani’s groundbreaking – er, bedbreaking rather – “Islamic Bill of Rights in the Bedroom” have we seen such a flurry of activity and discussion regarding Muslimah and their “intimate interests.”
Normally, I am reluctant to read pieces in mainstream media about Muslim women’s sexuality. They tend to be judgemental, vague or deconstructive and often based on reductive stereotypes about the sexual repression of Muslims, or on trying very hard to shatter assumptions by proving Muslims are as (ab)normal as the rest of the world.
We are also told ridiculous stories of how male clerics are constantly “protecting” women and men from harm’s way (aka exposure to anything titillating) – like buying produce. Because making fruit salad in Ramadan is absolutely arousing. *hijabdesk*. The story was later proven to be a hoax, but the message had already been industriously circulated.