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'Sex and lies': Arab women are speaking up about sexual liberation Open in fullscreen

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'Sex and lies': Arab women are speaking up about sexual liberation

Leila Slimani [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2017

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Leila Slimani, a Moroccan-French writer, has released a book about the way women in the Middle East and North Africa live in what she describes as “sexual misery”

In the Arab world, a woman’s sexuality remains a widespread taboo. Women who attempt to break taboos and to diverge from common social protocols, which at large do not allow any sexual contact before marriage are commonly slut-shamed, forcing many into silence.

But one writer of a Moroccan origin refuses to stay quiet. Leila Slimani, who now lives in France, released a book, called Sex and Lies where she talks about the way women in the Middle East and North Africa live in what she describes as “sexual misery”.

“What saddened me were middle-class women who chose freedom at 20-25 years. They decided, when it was not in their upbringing to do so, to have a sexuality, lovers, to study, to work.” Slimani said in an interview with Nouvel Obs.

“Then around the age of 30-35 they regretted it, saying, ‘I won’t be able to marry or live in my neighbourhood because people know that I have had relationships’”.

With sex toys being banned in some Arab countries and the sexuality of women being dismissed at large, sexual liberation and the politics of choice in the changing political climate is becoming ever-more debated as women choose to open up.

It is very common for women to be shamed and deemed inappropriate for marriage because they are not virgins in the Middle East. Penal codes often forbid sex before marriage. The double standard accepts men having a strong sexual desire and is more lenient on them having sex outside wedlock also stands.

“All sexual relations can be subject to blackmail”, she added.

'It's very difficult, of course. Sex is a primordial taboo”, Slimani said in an interview with The Sunday Times.

“You mustn't talk about it, discuss it. Sexuality is something that's either authorised or forbidden, with nothing between the two.”

Despite this, she urges that women wish to break out of the shell society has clamped down and to be able to express their sexuality, or lack thereof freely.

“Women had a great wish to speak, a thirst for words and a yearning to confide in someone”, she said describing her interaction with other women on the topic of sex.

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