I don’t know if I said this before but I have searched high and low for the Muslim story. Not just any old story but the Muslim virginity loss story. It’s a tall order and I’ll tell you why. Muslims probably have just as much sex as anyone else but there’s a big difference: they don’t talk about it. (Asides from this lady – very interesting article from last weekend’s Observer).
I’m down with that. Not everybody wants to talk about their private lives and when it is ingrained into the very fibre of your being not to do so, who am I to insist that you do?
However, for two reasons, I continue to search for this story. One. I am nosy and two. It has always been my intention to represent everybody. This was always supposed to be a book/blog about everyone…not just a bunch of people who are the same as me. We all have different backgrounds, cultural, religious or otherwise. I want to see this reflected in the stories.
At the beginning, I used to stand at the counter in my local post office and fight the urge to blurt out to the helpful head-scarved ladies ‘Would you consider telling me your virginity loss story. Assuming you have done it. And I promise that I will preserve your anonymity and not tell anyone who you are’. Whichever way you look at it, this was obviously a really bad idea. You will be glad to know that I managed to fight the feeling.
I also joined the City Circle, a group for young, professional Muslims in London and spent several happy years attending a number of fascinating talks and events. I had many interesting conversations and made some lovely friends including the very fabulous Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, author of groundbreaking tome ‘Love in a Headscarf’. But I still didn’t get the story I wanted. Generally speaking, when I broached the subject of virginity loss at the City Circle, I found that people would start to back away from me. Albeit in a very friendly manner.
And then I did get the interview that I wanted. Or at least the interview that I thought I wanted. After much covert emailing, texting, snow covered mornings waiting for my contact in the Elephant and Castle only to be blown out, re-scheduled and then finally, finally the moment came as me and the young woman I’d waited so long to meet sat down in a friend’s flat and she told me the story that I’d wanted to hear. But my bubble was soon burst. I realised that I couldn’t publish it.
Afsana (not her real name), was twenty-one years old. She was due to get married but her virginity was long gone. I don’t stand in judgement. I simply don’t want to misrepresent a healthy slice of this country’s population. We often assume in our secular society that holding onto virginity must be a real fag for Muslims. And maybe it is but if one has faith, in the literal sense, then perhaps there is a purpose, a rock solid reason to hold onto virginity.
It is all too easy for us to judge a woman – or a man’s - life lacking somewhat if he or she cannot have sex before marriage. I personally would not like to marry someone I have never had sex with but I cannot make the assumption that is the right decision for everyone. In the same manner that I cannot assume that arranged marriage is a travesty for anyone who has found a life partner in this manner. There is no doubt that this cultural practice, as any other, is open to malpractice and abuse but I also cannot condemn it just because it is outside of my own personal experience. And so it is that I will never publish the Muslim story that I have until I have the other side of the story to balance it out. The woman – or man – who decided to wait for marriage.
Besides anything else, it wouldn’t be that interesting to publish Afsana’s story. Western culture knows more than enough about pre marital virginity loss because we are not encouraged to keep it. Once again, no judgement, its just the way things are. It would be far more interesting to hear about young men and women who are similar to us in so many ways except in one exceptional one– they will have no idea what its like to have sexual intercourse until their wedding day.
In today’s society, this is an anomaly. Taking into account the amount of sex that surrounds us, on the television, in magazines, on the internet, whichever way you care to look, it is an astonishing feat of control, faith and optimism that two people who love each other could manage to hold onto themselves so to speak, until ‘the right time’ comes. Now that is a story.
I live in hope. If anyone would like to share this story with me, either by writing it or telling it to me yourself, I am all ears. Anonymity, as with everyone else on this site, is guaranteed. I shan’t hold my breath but if anyone wants to take a leap of faith of quite a different kind, if anyone one wants to help me balance out this rather uneven version of events, please be my guest. Write, call, send a carrier pigeon or alternatively email me on email@example.com. Salaams to you all.