This post addresses heterosexual and cissexual dating and sexuality.
There is a lot of talk about the first sexual experience in the context of Muslim marriage. From advice on what to do, the halal and the haram and first-night etiquette to attempts to making Muslims feel at ease with the concept of the wedding night. There are columns encouraging Muslim women to relax and not getting stressed about their first time. There are also media articles about Muslim sexuality, halal sex shops and its respective critiques. But the reality of things is that the focus remains towards that first interaction in the context of marriage.
But what happens if, as a Muslim woman, you are not in that place, time or mindset?
I will be honest with you. I am not a virgin, and I absolutely hate the label. Sexuality is not divided in two. It is not about the virgin state and the rest. It is not about good and bad, and it definitely cannot be defined through the experience of the first time.
“I have some questions about things you’ve written about,” John asked last week. We were chatting during happy hour at the annual conference where we meet and catch up. He is one of few white folks in my circle of friends.
“It was an article in which you talk about how difficult it is to date,” he continued. “I don’t understand. You’re smart, attractive, and confident. Do you feel like its Los Angeles? Do you only date Muslim men?”
“Dating in Los Angeles is harder than other cities I’ve lived in. And no, I haven’t dated Muslim men exclusively. Though, when it comes to choice, which is what online dating is all about – that’s what I would prefer. But I am open.”
“What about dating white guys?”
“I don’t date white men,” I state frankly.
Dear Miss Sunshine and Shy Desi Boy,
I’m in a bit of a dilemma and need your help. I’ve been introduced to three boys as potential marriage prospects (rishtas). I am not attracted to two of them and find it hard to imagine having sex with either of them. While both boys are virgins and have very good careers and other good attributes, I don’t have a very open relationship with them in terms of communication. They are of a traditional mindset which I am not.
The third boy whom I’ve been introduced to is not a virgin and is also not well settled in his career. He has had sex with many women before. However, I am very attracted to him and can imagine myself having sex with him. The only problem is that I am a virgin and find it hard to trust him with his past sexual history and am worried he may cheat within marriage. I have been able to talk to him about everything from money to even how frequent he would like sex with me if we do get married as well as his previous sexual history and my concerns regarding the same.
Is attraction very important to enjoy sex? Do you think it is possible to have a fulfilling relationship with someone you are not attracted to? I know financial stability is also important. I’m just confused as to whether I should marry for money and comfort or marry for love…considering life it not really a fairytale.
Thank you for your help.
Sex or Stability
Miss Sunshine replies:
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Flying into Detroit to see Sara and Nabil’s new home, it’s my annual visit to catch up with my now 5-year-old neice, Lina. She who gave birth to me 35 years ago today will be there. We haven’t spent my birthday together for about a decade. All the warm greetings I receive today are for my mother.
This birthday is special in a few other ways too.
I’ve been blessed to have attended about a thousand births professionally, as a pediatrician. From the 1-pounder to the nearly 11 pounds. From Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to San Francisco, California. From the celebrity mothers to the orphans who were HIV+. They’ve all taught me something, and each birth was life changing for their families.
Just a few weeks away now is the one birth that will change my life.
Last night, before heading to the airport, I knelt down before the swollen belly pushing out in all directions. I have been singing “You are My Sunshine” to our growing girl throughout my wife Nadeah’s pregnancy.
Some time around October 8th I will get the chance, God willing, to sing directly to her in my arms.
On that day I’ll gain a new title: Daddy.
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In 1990, President De Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison, the East German police dismantled the Berlin Wall, and, in a 10’ x 10’ makeshift classroom at the Ibn Sina Islamic Farsi immersion school in Sacramento, Khanoom Bahari, the religion teacher, liberated my soul from the threat of eternal hellfire with a cheat code for savab, or heaven points.
Khanoom Bahari had a ballerina’s posture and wore a permanent welcome-smile. She glided into the classroom to our metal fold out table, opened up our religion textbook, and, with her gentle voice, read aloud from the text describing charred skin, the screams of guilty souls, and the eternal damnation of hellfire.
As she ran down the list of sins, I searched my memory:
Lying – I lied to Dad almost every day, telling him that I’d done my prayers when really I’d been lying on my bed daydreaming.
Cheating – Every Monopoly game, I cheated and stole money from the bank. When I ran out of money, I’d act sullen. Then, I’d act surprised to discover that I’d been sitting on one of those bright orange five hundred dollar bills the whole time.
Eating Pork – There had been three occasions; once it was ham and twice it was pepperoni.
I’m not a big Hurricane Katrina remembrance person. Like a lot of people from the places affected by the storm, I usually unplug from social media on the days leading up to August 29th. It’s not that I want to forget or pretend it never happened. That’s impossible considering ten years later I can drive through New Orleans and find many houses still marked with the “X” codes left by search and rescue teams signifying the number of people, dead and living, found inside; some because people refused to paint over it – Katrina war scars – others because they have been abandoned and never reclaimed. It’s because the damages, the wounds, are still so present, so fresh, that when the stories start pouring in it becomes overwhelming.
I’ve never seen Spike Lee’s much lauded documentary, When The Levees Broke, because just the thought of Katrina news footage – houses under water, people on roofs waiting, hoping, praying to be rescued, people wading through waist deep water trying to find food and clean water – makes me involuntarily clench my teeth and have difficulty swallowing. It’s sadness for the many people who died during and after the storm, but, more so, it’s anger for how poorly government officials handled the crisis, and how people, mostly poor and black, literally had to scream for help to the news cameras that dispassionately documented their struggles as my city descended into lawlessness.
When I think about Hurricane Katrina, two words come to mind: loss and erasure. I didn’t lose any family members or friends thankfully, but so many did that the loss feels communal. Once at the doctor’s office where I was being treated for rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that took over my body only months after the storm hit, another patient, an older man, was telling me about how his wife died after the storm and he just wished to die too but he held on because he had to take care of the dog his wife loved. His story is so different from mine, but I understood his loss and felt it like it was my own.
We’re going away for the weekend to what has been dubbed the wedding of the century. My parents are in some way responsible for the union, and now, after three successful matches under their belt, they’re convinced they’re experts on love.
Their attempts to play cupid with their own daughter, however, have been slow and unsuccessful – and a little annoying. Whilst bachelor X may be good enough for person Y’s daughter, he’ll require a great deal more vetting, a strenuous grilling, and a very thorough (read: invasive) background check, before he’s approved for me. And that’s just Stage 1.
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