We love producing our podcasts and take pride in the listening experience we’re able to provide for the Amaliah community and beyond, but we want to be able to deliver amazing content for everyone to enjoy!
So, we’ve got down to transcribing all of our episodes for our incredible series, Lights On, With Angelica Lindsey-Ali, so that you’re no longer in the dark…
We’ve brought in our favourite village aunty, community scholar and sex expert, Angelica Lindsey-Ali to answer your questions, concerns and curiosities on all things related to sex, intimacy and body confidence – so that we’re no longer in the dark.
In our first episode, we’re asking Angelica about submissive sex, what advice she’d give to a single woman with a high sex drive, and how to change up your repetitive sex life.
*Beginning of Episode*
“Sex intimacy and female pleasure within the context of Islam. These aren’t all too often talked about subjects in the Muslim community. So we’ve been asking you to send us your questions or concerns on everything related to sex and intimacy, and have them answered by our favourite village aunty, community scholar and sex expert Angelica Lindsey – Ali, so that we’re no longer in the dark…
“And this is Lights On! With me, Angelica Lindsey-Ali.”
“Angelica, often the narrative around sex, centres men as being the experienced party, what advice do you have for women in a dynamic where they are more sexually experienced in their partnership. In your work, are you experiencing women ‘faking being virgins’? Why would they? What lengths are they going to? And how does the whole covering your sins and the shaming of having had premarital sex come into this?”
“In my work, I have not on a large scale come across women, faking being virgins, in terms of the physicality of the act of sex.
So, there have been very few cases of faking being virgins in a major way. They may, more often than not, downplay the amount of sexual experience they’ve had before marriage. In America we call it, knowing your body count – so how many people you have been intimate with prior to entering into a relationship with another person. And a lot of women downplay or minimise their body count and a lot of that does absolutely have to do with covering your sins, and the shame of having had premarital sex, and for me there is definitely a gendered difference in terms of sexual experience prior to marriage.
It is widely assumed that men come into marriage, even virgin men, even men who we know are not sexually experienced, there seems to be more of an allowance given to men, in terms of their sexual experience before marriage such that it almost becomes an expectation that the man in a marriage would come in knowing more about sex than a woman. But when the shoe is on the other foot, and the tables are turned…If a woman enters into marriage, having had premarital sex, it can cause a lot of friction in the relationship. A lot of social and cultural mores come into play, and so covering your sins, it becomes extremely important. And when I counsel women who are in the pre-marriage process, I talk to them and if I know or if they disclose that they’ve been sexually active prior to marriage, we talk about that in terms of disclosure to their partner, what that could mean in terms of sexual expectations and really talking about where the shame centres from. Some of the lengths that women have gone to, some women have gone into marriage and say, “I’ve never had sex before”, but then when they hit a snag in the marriage when they’re not pleased, it always comes up. And the challenge is that once you tell something that’s not true, the challenge becomes having to remember what you said. So I always counsel women on the importance of entering into relationship honestly, and I think that if you’re in a relationship with a person whom you cannot be honest, or if you’re in a relationship or entering into a relationship with a person who will judge you or shame you based on your past, then that might be something to look at because that could be the beginnings of toxicity in the marriage.”
“Okay. How do you unlearn cultural expectations about the submissive role of women in sex, and it being a shameful act? How do you address this with your partner who may also have these expectations? What if he’s not forthcoming in a woman asserting confidence and a sense of ownership in the bedroom?”
“Culture, culture, culture, is ruining sex, in Muslim marriages.
I said it. It needed to be said, it had to be said, and now we’ve brought it to light. The reality is that we carry so much cultural baggage, intergenerational embodied trauma, about the role of sex, and how it’s used in relationships. Women are expected to be completely submissive to their husbands needs. They’re supposed to acquiesce to his desires and never once voice their displeasure at something that happens in the bedroom.
But I think if Muslims look very, very closely at what our religion says about a women’s rights in the bedroom, we would change that narrative. Because a woman has far more sexual rights than our cultures let on, and this is a global culture, not one particular ethnic group or one particular group of Muslims, has the market on cultural shaming of sex. It permeates multiple Muslim societies and multiple Muslim majority cultures. And I think a lot of that comes from the fact that if a woman, truly knew what her rights were in the bedroom, what her rights are sexually, it could scare a lot of men!
Because the reality is that women have a right to pleasure. Women have a right to orgasm and this is not a right that came about with feminism or any women’s rights movement, this is something that came about with the advent of our religion, this is a part of our Deen. And so addressing your partner about these expectations about making sure that he knows that you want to be pleasured in a certain way, it becomes tricky because emotions are involved. And a lot of times men feel as though their masculinity or their power, their leadership in the home extends into the bedroom…
But what I like to think of it as, is women have one space, ONE space, undisputed space where they can exert their will, where they can exert their rights, and that is absolutely in the bedroom.
But the bedroom is not the place to have these types of conversations. When you want to talk about submission, and what you’re allowed to do, what you should do, the worst possible place to have those discussions is in the bedroom. Don’t have it right before sex, don’t have it right after sex. You absolutely have a right to be an active participant in your sexual relationship within marriage. And you have to let your partner know that. I’m a huge fan of marital checkups, whether that’s looking for a date night, a bi-weekly excursion or monthly weekend away. You need to have conversations about what your sexual expectations are, and it needs to be voiced very clearly, and very intently. Attention and communication are two of the biggest tools that you can use to cure sexual dysfunction in marriage, and a woman letting a man know exactly what she wants, maybe not in exactly the way that she wants, but saying that I want pleasure, I have a right to pleasure. And I want us to work on this together, stating, very clearly, and very plainly, then it becomes a mutual responsibility for both partners, because we know that a mutually satisfying sexual relationship can be very important in solidifying the bonds of marriage.”
“Okay, so here are two submissions we had to the sex survey.
One reads, “I’m in a sexless marriage. It’s been over two years since we’ve had sex.
The other reads, sex with my husband feels repetitive. The same sequence same position… how can I start a conversation about changing it up and trying new positions?
Angelica, what are tangible steps and practical advice people can take? Perhaps things that they can do to start the conversation. Are there ways to improve libido?”
“When you’re in a long term relationship, or even as newlyweds, sex can become boring very very quickly. Sex is mechanics. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. It doesn’t take a lot of information to have a basic sexual experience, but to have really good, satisfying, passionate sex – you have to study about it, you have to study your body, you can read articles you can read books, and you have to talk about it, you have to have conversations and again, I’m not a huge fan of having conversations about sex, only in the bedroom.
If sex is the very act by which we are created, if sex is an integral part of a halal relationship. why can’t we talk about it more often? If you don’t have children, why can’t you talk about sex across the dinner table or the breakfast table, or when you’re driving to work or when you’re driving to an outing? Having conversations about different things exploring – each other’s bodies. I’m a huge fan of couples visiting sex shops together. Now I know some sisters are already cringing and clutching their scarves, clutching their pearls,” oh my gosh, I could never go into a sex shop!”… but hear me out. There are lots of great marital aids that are out there. And okay, maybe you don’t want to walk into an actual sex shop. But there are lots of online realtors that have toys, lubricants, different types of play things that you can bring and introduce into the bedroom. And it can be tricky right? Especially if you’re talking to a partner who says things like, well, “I’ve never had any complaints that before!”, and so you have to remind them, “ have you ever been married to me, before?”.
And the reality is that sometimes you may not get as much pleasure as you want, and you have to have that tough conversation.
I would give the advice, of what not to do…don’t fake it. When you start faking it, or when you’ve been faking it and you continue to fake it, you set up a false narrative of pleasure in your relationship. And it is almost like a form of psychological betrayal, because you can fake it only so much. And the day that you stop faking it and the day that you tell your partner that you’re not satisfied, and you need to try something different and, “I haven’t had an orgasm in months or years!”, they will be absolutely crest-fallen.
So it’s important to have communication about what you want and what you need.
You can use me as an example! You can say, “hey I’ve been following that crazy black lady from America, and she said, try this!”. Or, “I read an article and did you know…?”. Bringing up things in a very unassuming way, is a great way to start the conversation and listen – most people will say, “I don’t like to talk about sex!”, that’s not entirely true. Even if people don’t like to talk about sex, they definitely like to hear other people talk about sex. And if you’re talking about your partner, if you’re talking about your husband, this should absolutely be a topic that you all should be conversing about regularly. Now, are there ways to improve libido? Absolutely. For women, libido ebbs and flows, it can change depending on your menstrual cycle, depending on outside stressors, depending on your emotional state, depending on levels of physicality and exhaustion… libido is not something that is always going to be at one level. It can also vary with age and the prevailing wisdom seems to be that your libido is higher when you’re younger, but in actuality your libido can fluctuate. And some women who are in their late 30s, early 40s, 50s even 60s, still experience a very high libido. Libido is not just a physical response however, it also has a psychological component. So making sure that you’re watching things that may be affecting you mentally is important because we know that orgasm is about 90% mental, so making sure to watch the types of foods that you eat, the amount of sleep that you get, and also reducing outside stress can be part of what helps to increase libido. But there are also other things like hormonal regulation and regulating the menstrual cycle, and also contraceptives, there are some contraceptives that have been known to decrease libido, so just being mindful in your body, and knowing exactly how your body responds to the things that you’re putting into it, and also the things that you’re exposing your body to, can be a good way to track your libido. One of the things that you can do is start to develop a journal, even if it’s just an app that you use on your phone, the Notes app on iPhone or even a journal and write down your libido, literally track your libido. We do it for our menstrual cycles, we do it for ambulation, we do it for our diets, we do it for how many steps we take a day, why wouldn’t we do it for our libido also? And if you do it for two or three months like I did you might start to see a trend. And if you’re journaling about other things that are happening in your life, you might be able to link either the decrease in libido or increase in libido, to outside factors or to factors like diet, rest, sleep, etc. So libido is definitely something that we should pay attention to, but it’s not something that is static and stays in one place all month long.”
“Lastly, Angelica, what advice would you give to women who have really long menstrual cycles on building and maintaining intimacy and sexual intimacy? How does this affect them and their relationship?”
“There are many women who experience menstrual cycles that are up to 15 days in length every month. I have one client that I worked with and her menstrual cycle is 10 to 12 days every month, and she’s a newlywed. Of course, this has an extreme effect on her relationship. Her ability to be physically intimate with her partner. And like I always do, I don’t start with the man, I always start with the woman. How is she feeling in her body? What does she think about herself? And she noted that she felt dirty. She felt that she wasn’t attractive, she definitely didn’t feel sexy and all of that – you guessed it, led to a decrease in libido, so she found that during the times of the month that she wasn’t bleeding and she wasn’t experiencing the symptoms of restoration, she couldn’t get herself quite into the mood.
So we talked about the fact that intimacy, physical intimacy, sexual intimacy is bolstered by other types of intimacy.
There’s experiential intimacy. The act of experiencing something with a partner, going skydiving, going hiking, taking a cooking class together. There’s spiritual intimacy – praying together. After he leads you in Salah, you make dua, practicing your tilawat together, reading Qur’an to each other.
There’s intellectual intimacy. Engaging in healthy debates about political or social situations, reading a book together, reading books of poetry to each other.
There is also emotional intimacy. Being vulnerable, being safe enough to talk about your feelings. I found that if couples focus on two or three types of intimacies that are non-physical, they can absolutely help to both support and supplant physical intimacy when sex is not possible. And then there are lots of other things, lots of non-penetrative methods that men and women can use within the marriage. that still allow intimacy, arousal and connection to happen without penetration. So there’s deep throat kissing, there’s fondling, there’s massaging, there’s all types of sex play – what people normally call foreplay. I don’t necessarily call it foreplay because foreplay (the term) tends to make one believe that this is something that happens before sex, but sex play is a thing. Sex play does not always have to end in penetration. So finding different ways to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s bodies and the pleasures of each other’s company is very important, but it all starts with self. Your period, your menstrual cycle can make you feel the exact opposite of desirable.
So making sure we have good body positivity. We have good body image, making sure that we’re taking care of our bodies and that we’re not using the menstrual period as a time to let ourselves go, spiritually, emotionally and physically, knowing that the very act of menstruation is sexy, in and of itself, because this is a part of the life-giving force of a woman and this is celebrating that. During ovulation and menstruation, women emit certain pheromones that make them more attractive to the opposite sex, so while we may not feel attractive, we may appear attractive to our partners. So building on those other types of intimacies and also building in non-penetrative physical touch is a great way to keep the relationship strong, keep the passion going even, during times when sex is not possible.
I also wanted to jump in really quickly, I know there wasn’t a specific question about this, but shame is ruining marriages. The shame that we bring with us into marriage, the trauma embodied trauma, the racialised trauma, the spiritual trauma, the religious traumas that we bring to our relationships, are ruining marriages, because we don’t know the source of that and a lot of it is intergenerational right. It comes from mother to daughter, and it just extends across generations, so if you have the 25 year old woman, she could still be carrying within her very DNA, the sexual shame, the cultural dramas that were voiced upon her great, great grandmother. It’s really serious, and until we get serious as Muslims and ask women about really truly learning our religion. Learning what it says about sex, learning what it says about pleasure, learning what it says about women in sex, learning about the women of Ansar and how they would go to the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, looking at the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, as an example, not just for how he treated the poor and how he treated orphans and how he established this religious community, but how he was as a husband, how he was as a lover. That is a part of the Seerah also, that is part of the sunnah, making sure that that pleasure is centralised. You cannot go out and fight the daily battles of life, and get entangled in the systematic progression that we deal with as women and have no outlet.
We have to start looking at sex as a divine and sacred, right, not a privilege. It is a right. And it is a responsibility of our husbands, it is our responsibility as wives to make sure that our marriages are equitable places of pleasure for both partners, not just for one.
There are so many women who have no problem. Entering into a sexual episode with their spouse, and knowing that they’re not going to have an orgasm.
But I can almost guarantee that there are almost no men who would enter into sex with their wives, not expecting to have an orgasm. That is the expectation. The expectation is that the husband will be pleased, the husband will have an orgasm, the husband will have an evacuation and, maybe, the wife might get hers too and if he gets his first, there’s just this, “just wait, just wait, just wait…”. Because men have this refractory period that women don’t, and a lot of women are just left waiting, waiting, waiting. And it’s not minutes, it’s not hours, it’s not days, it’s not weeks – it’s months and years that sisters are being sexually starved. And some of it, e’re complicit in! Sometimes we’re complicit in our own sexual oppression, because we do not communicate.
I know it’s difficult, I know it’s hard. I know talking about sex and asserting your rights and asserting your needs, expressing your needs is very challenging, very difficult, but it is so important.
We have become focused on Islamic doctrine, and not Islamic practice, and part of the practice of Islam as a deen, as a way of life is understanding how we are to deal with our partners sexually. There is nothing shameful about fully living out your deen.
I just wanted to add that part because it was on my heart and I just needed to say it. There are so many sisters who have come to me over the past few days in my inbox, asking questions, talking about this shame and from the first time that they start talking I can tell that they’re speaking from a place of trauma.
I talked to a sister for two hours yesterday. And from the minute, within 30 seconds of her talking. I said, she’s speaking from a place of trauma.
And sure enough she was.”
“Hey everyone, thanks for reading this week’s episode of Light’s On! with Angelica Lindsey-Ali on the Amaliah podcast. We’d love to get your feedback about what you liked or took away from this episode, so hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Instagram here and on twitter, here! If you enjoy our episodes and want to support our production, you can click here! Like, share, subscribe and we’ll see you on the next one!”
*End of Episode*
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By The Amaliah Podcast
By The Amaliah Podcast