It was nineteen years old when I was first shamed for what my Mother considered an expression of my desire for sex.
I had returned from holiday where I had been staying with family friends – one of whom had an unmarried son close to my age. While I turned down the proposal to marry their son, I stayed in touch with the family.
My mother became concerned that my continued relationships with the family may send the wrong message, and she attempted to put a stop to this. In retrospect, I realise she was right. My nineteen-year-old self however, was defiant and insisted on my right to maintain relations.
Since that argument, several more have occurred. We fight. My mother screams. I cry. She calls me everything under the sun. I laugh. We move on.
But the words she uttered that day continue to haunt me:
“Is it your youth that’s giving you trouble?
Is that why you want to marry him?
Just you wait until I tell your Dad that you said your youth is giving you trouble?”
That day, all those years ago, my Mother attempted to silence me using what she considered to be the most powerful of weapons.
She accused me of wanting to marry this family friend, because I desired sex.
The first bullet of shame.
When I didn’t quite understand what she meant by my “youth giving you trouble” and defiantly said that “yes, it is indeed giving me trouble”, the second bullet of shame was fired – to tell my Father.
Though these words were uttered from my Mother’s mouth, they are not her words.
These are the words of a society (both eastern and western) in which it is desirable to be appealing to a man, but not for a woman to express when a man is appealing to her. To do so is considered desperate, distasteful and far from lady-like.
And these words are still being spoken.
I worry about the effect this narrative is likely to have had – and will continue to have – on young women
Will the shame silence them in to never discussing their concerns and queries about sex?
Are we depriving our young girls a safe-space to learn about themselves, their bodies and their desires?
Can we aid girls in making informed decisions about future spouses, by giving them the tools to differentiate between love and lust?
Is the shame hanging between us like a wall, which only open discussion can penetrate?
How can we as Mothers, Aunts and Older sisters inspire and empower younger girls, if we can’t be sure that they consider us allies and confidantes?
We’d like to invite you to write with Amaliah.com on the topic of shame within our cultures. Have you experienced it? How do we navigate it as a community and how has it shaped our attitudes to sex, the opposite gender and communication with elders? Email [email protected]
What is life like as a Muslimah navigating the treacherous landscape of Dating in the pursuit to find the 'perfect' husband? Another Dating Muslimah shares her personal reflections with us.