Marhaba everyone, I’m Hala, a junior studying English Literature at UJ and currently enrolled in an Arab Feminism class. The topic I’d like to discuss is the differences between how virginity is perceived in both the Arab World and USA.
I recall watching an episode of Dr. Phil featuring a man who he referred to as something along the lines of “the 43 year-old virgin”. The screen was full of surprised faces from the audience that gave off the impression that it was the most absurd thing they’d ever heard. The media has also done an undoubtedly good job at repeatedly emphasizing sex as a recurring theme in American high-school based movies and series which isn’t quite far from reality. Pre-marital sex is not looked down at in the USA; in fact, I’ve learned through discussions with American students that for many, it is the commitment they cringe away from seeking fun instead. Furthermore, parents willingly provide birth control when in complete contrast, in the Arab World, pre-marital sexual acts are highly disdained. As the norm goes, a requirement for a woman getting married is everything being intact “down there” and through that she is considered virtuous worthy of respect; messing around is almost never tolerated. Also, one’s sexual state is connected to the name of the family and its honor. A family with a stained reputation acquired by a family member’s choice to go against cultural norms may lead to disastrous outcomes (honor killings being the least of them.) On the lighter side though, we find a more organized relationship structure within the community especially with marriage as the building brick of a family and hence a society.
Although our cultures differ, in light of the growing number of unwanted teen-pregnancies and child abandonment rates, AIDS and other STDs; my questions to you are: Would you agree that stricter laws should be imposed against consensual sex for those under the age of 18? Also, how would you feel if you had to live in a country that prohibited sex outside wedlock? And finally do you believe that the Arab approach towards this issue is appropriate?
Please do ask if you have any questions.
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