no sex no freedom

‘Prunes and prisms’ are my doom, and I may as well make up my mind to it. I came here to moralize, not to hear things that make me skip to think of»*

«I realize that I don’t know how to say ‘rape’ in Arabic, but she and I have understood each other perfectly.» Leila Slimani disembowel with fearful and intelligent voices the sexual life in her native Morocco. In ‘Sex and lies’ (Faber and Faber) she describes the oppression, hypocrisy and contradictions of these societies who are obsessed with puritanism but are as well leaders consuming pornography. The Arab world brags about devotion at the cost of half of its population’s rights.

Nobody is politically free if they can’t have their own body freely, and the Moroccans (and the Jordanians, the Palestinians, the Egyptians…) feel like intruders on their hips. «As long as women do not calibrate the state of inferiority in which they maintain them, they will only perpetuate it,» Slimani claims between the pages of this earthquake book. «A woman, whose body undergoes such social control, cannot fully fulfill her role as a citizen.»

Thus she puts words in that eternal contradiction that I feel for the place to which I want to devote my days. Much of the governments of the Middle East and North Africa proclaim themselves masters and lords of their women’s sexuality in the name of their national identity. The Turkish author Zülfü Livaneli said it in his novel ‘Mutluluk’ (Happiness): “in the whole Mediterranean, the notion of honor is placed between the legs of women”.


In that honor there is a fervent desire that barely finds a voice. And if he ever finds a companion, the punishment will come with him since in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and a terrifying etcetera, adultery remains severely sanctioned. On many occasions there are already penalties for «illegal sexual intercourse» without a ring on any of their hands. Slimani warns: «outside of marriage there is no salvation.»

The puritanism of Muslim societies lives from fear, from concern for the «what will they say?» and from their insecurities when they break the norm. The doctor and Islamic feminist Asma Lamrabet warns of the danger of certain identifications in increasingly religious communities. “The visibility of the female body is determining the degree of Islamization of a society; the honor, the image, the transmission of the tradition, the virtue, everything falls on the feminine shoulders”.

From this continuous question mark to know what the neighbor does, the powerful nourish themselves. «Citizens are kept in a state of frustration and, in that way, their main concern is knowing who and how they are going to fuck, instead of rebelling against their living conditions,» said Zhor, one of the Moroccans interviewed. I will always remember the generosity of Jordanian supermarkets with dozens of plastic bags so that your neighbor envies your opulence from the balcony.

But these restrictions on touching each other arise from the invention of minds filled with privilege and talk in the name of religion. But which? “In the early days of Islam, sex was far from being a taboo; it was a source of balance and fullness of the human being”, oh yes, «it considered that there is no reason to call impure something that has been created by God.” How to renounce a gift from Allah? Well, Europe came to do its things with colonization and its damn progress. «Currently, the legislator does not resort to sharia or religious references [in terms of sexual freedom], but to the positive law inherited from the Protectorate.»


Hypocrisy also looms over the ancient metropolis. «Our relationship with the West is very complicated,» Faty Badi acknowledged in the book, «it is a model and, at the same time, a monster from which to flee.» Dozens of conversations have come to my mind in Palestine or Jordan in which people boasted of having traveled to Europe but when talking about our customs they despised them as haram. I never got to understand.

Slimani has given this contradiction a bit of light and it has a lot of politics. «I rely on universal values ​​and absolutely reject the idea that identity, religion or any historical legacy deprives individuals of rights that are universal and inalienable,» she says. “By contrasting a Muslim identity, based on virtue and abstinence, to a Western culture that would supposedly be that of depravity, our cultural legacy is being completely denied. The issue is not identity or moral, but political. It can be considered that if Muslims do not have sexual rights it is because most of the regimes in which they live are based on the denial of individual freedoms.” No one but her could have said it better.

Conservatism in these countries lives off of hatred towards the West. Any claim to human rights is rejected for its alleged Western influence by Islamists based on their power and privilege. «Let us abandon those antagonisms: Islam and universal values ​​of the Enlightenment; Islam and gender equality; Islam and carnal pleasure,» advocates the author. Slimani is not stopped by criticism of Islamophobe or Orientalist because her arguments are not neither of those adjectives. I, who have always been prudent to see myself guilty of projecting the idea of ​​progress in my beloved though retrograde Arab world, now I drink from her words.

“The tension between the desire for modernity and the roots authentic or fictitious of traditional values ​​undermine Moroccan society; sexual misery has origins and incidents of a political, economic and social nature. ”And thus, young Muslim women are consumed. While society moves forward fearfully but convinced, the laws are impassive. «The woman is a mother, sister, wife and daughter, before being an individual,» this argument also makes us tremble here, «she guarantees the honor of the family and, what’s worse, national identity.»

The «virtue» of these women is «a public matter.» «A woman who does not belong to anyone, who only responds to her gestures as an ordinary citizen and not according to her sex, has not yet been invented» Slimani denounces. She does not exist in their television channels or in their parliaments but she invents herself in their streets and in the nights full of courage. Of a lethal rebellion but committed to those like her. And of a desire full of inspiration.

*{Sometimes there are books that speak to you with such force that it is impossible not to want to share them. To hell with prudence!}

not without my pencil.






yours faithfully,

little woman

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