It's Time to Unlearn What We've Been Taught About Sex


In our part of the world, a young woman’s understanding of sex before marriage is either minimal or negative. Or both. In an attempt to protect us, the lack of conversation and education around sex ends up leaving women in the dark, extremely unprepared for sexual relationships and oftentimes fearing them.

woman in the sea

We grow up learning that a woman's virtue is inextricably linked to her virginity. So, we're burdened with carrying our family's honor on our shoulders – or, more precisely, between our legs. This belief makes way for practices like hymenoplasty, “virginity tests,” and even punishments enshrined in the law of many Arab countries that allow for honor killings to happen to this very day. Although sex is a very private matter, society treats it as part of the public discourse.

We grow up being told, “keep your legs crossed,” “don’t use tampons,” “stay away from boys,” “keep your gaze down,” “don’t touch yourself, ‘“ou3ik”. We are not taught to use the correct names of our genitals and are discouraged from exploring them.

Fast forward a few years, and these same girls who were raised with negative beliefs around bodies, desire, and sex are about to engage in their first sexual experience. They’re suddenly expected to flip the switch on their sexuality and rid themselves of the years of social conditioning and anxieties around sex and penetration. Sex is just as much a mental, psychological act as it is physical. The brain and the vagina are essentially one network, or “one whole system”. As much as women might feel physically prepared and desiring sex, it’s equally important for them to be mentally ready.  

As reported by many gynecologists and sexologists in the Arab world, women on their wedding night often face difficulties in having sex with their husbands due to mental blocks and fears around sex. As Dr. Sameena Rahman, an OBGYN, says, some women will engage in “a lot of outercourse, maybe oral relations, but when it comes time for penetration, the great wall of vagina is formed. [They] are then reassured that this is normal, sex hurts and it’s okay.” 

But this is not normal. Sex is not supposed to be painful. Sex is about pleasure, desire, warmth, affection, arousal, touch, and intimacy.

Sex is one of the most intimate acts that you can experience with another person, and the first time is and can feel very sacred. We are not suggesting that anyone change their values, nor are we encouraging pre-marital sex; we are asking that we change the way in which we talk about and therefore think, feel, and have sex.

Knowledge = Power.

Knowledge turns the tide. 

The more informed you are, the more prepared you will feel and the more your mind and body can relax into it and enjoy it. All outcomes are expected and normal, just like the first time you did anything else. 

There is nothing wrong or 3eib in learning about sex, in asking all your questions and getting the answers you need to feel informed and ready. On the contrary, the more we know about our bodies and the bodies of others, the more equipped and able we are to create the sex lives we both want and deserve.

So, wherever you are on your journey – whether you’re newly married or not, or whether you’ve engaged in other non-penetrative sexual acts before – we hope our resources will provide you with some of the information and reassurance before your first experience with intercourse.

“Teach your daughters that it's normal and healthy to feel attracted. Teaching them that it is shameful, 3eib, or wrong is doing them a disfavor, potentially resulting in conditions like vaginismus. We need to educate and prepare our daughters and teach them that it’s normal to feel these things. Otherwise, they end up in my office later down the road, crying and saying they can’t have sex.”

 Dr. Deemah Salem, OBGYN

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