February 11, 2011

Are Muslims Sexually Repressed?

The original question asked was:

Are American (or even non-Muslim Asian) cultures really more sexually repressed than Islamic cultures?

And I answered:

I'm not convinced that Islamic cultures (or, at the very least, Islamic culture here in SE Asia) are as sexually repressed as you might think. All these kids aren't delivered by stork, ya know! ;) However, Muslims generally believe that private matters between husband and wife stay within the family and are not discussed with others. And I think that this lack of discussion outside the family may be creating a perception among non-Muslims that Muslims are sexually repressed when we're not. (And the same reasoning may explain other groups, such as American conservative protestants who also have a perception of being sexually repressed.)

To which the followup question was:

How so -- isn't Islam pretty unequivocal about condemning homosexuality and sex outside of marriage?

Islam also requires a strict code of modest dress, and sex segregation is part of many Muslim cultures.

What definition of "sexual repression" are you using?

And my response is:

I don't view any of these things as being indicative of "sexual repression." Homosexuality and sex outside of marriage is forbidden especially so as to prevent the spread of various diseases; likewise, sex outside of marriage is forbidden so as to give any resulting child from any sexual activity the chance to grow up within a nuclear family, supported by both parents both emotionally and financially. As for gender segregation, this is done only to prevent improper behavior between the sexes.

The thing about "modest dress" and, indeed, the entire notion of "sexual repression" among Muslims is that what non-Muslims see is merely our public face, what we Muslims want you to see. What you don't see is the private face of Muslim life away from non-Muslims. The dress codes for both men and women are indeed about modesty, piety and avoiding improper behavior, but that has nothing to do with Muslim family life, when the hijab comes off. For me, sexual repression is about the fundamental attitudes people have toward sexual behavior: procreation only vs. procreation and pleasure vs. pleasure only. Islam definitely encourages the middle view: procreation and pleasure. We love to have sex for the pleasurable and loving experience, but we also love kids (and I think the demographic statistics bear that latter statement out; certainly the Christians are worried about Muslim birth rates).

So I would say, don't confuse what you see with reality. :) By this I mean, seek to understand the reasoning behind what the Qur'an and Sunnah command, whether that thing is allowed or forbidden. The biggest problem Islamophobes have in understanding Islam and Muslim culture is that they take almost everything at face value and react off of what they see. But they have little to no understanding of the deeper meanings or reasonings behind our concepts and behaviors. These people the Qur'an compares with the "lolling dog" (7:176) or cattle (7:179, 25:44, 47:12). The Qur'an really does expect Muslims to understand the deeper meanings, not just what lies on the surface.

1 comment:

mshahin said...


I've never seen this question answered before in such a good way. Masha'Allah, very well said!