In a recent survey it was revealed that there is a significant difference between attitudes towards sex and sexual behavior in Arab and Western cultures. In Arab nations sex outside marriage is viewed very differently compared to that in the west, where it is considered socially unacceptable. Sex in these countries is not only limited to pre-marital sex but also extends to anal and oral sex, and even penetrative sex. This has a significant bearing on women’s position in society, as traditional gender roles are discarded in favor of individual expression. According to a UN report, child marriage is the most widespread and frequent form of forced marriage in the Middle East and a significant contributor to the lack of social awareness and protection from forced marriage.
Despite the fact that Islam stipulates that a woman should be adequately covered in order to avoid being exposed to evil, Arab women still face a great deal of pressure when it comes to their sexuality. Young men often believe that it is more acceptable and socially acceptable for a young woman to be sexually active than a man. This often leads to a situation where young women are married to much older men, with the result that they are subjected to sexual abuse both physically and emotionally.
A more pressing issue that relates to women’s sexual happiness in Arab countries is the lack of education and knowledge regarding safe sex practices. It is widely believed by many that it is more acceptable for young men to have sex with multiple partners, both orally and vaginally, in order to avoid contracting STD’s (STDs are diseases that usually strike men who are sexually active). This strategy is however, not recommended when practised within a country like Morocco where the social norms are so conservative. Young women are therefore advised to abstain from having sexual intercourse until they reach the age of marriage.
While attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour have undergone major changes in many Arab countries over the past few decades, the situation for women within the home is still very traditional. Many younger men often feel pressure from their elders to engage in sexual activity before they are ready to do so. Young women are therefore told that it is wrong for them to enter into sexual activity before they are ready. They are also told that they must remain virginal until they get married.
It is not uncommon for a young woman to be told that she is not allowed to have premarital sex, as this would ruin her chance of being married and bringing up a family. In some Arab cultures, pre-marital sex is even considered to be adultery. This is despite the fact that many other societies and cultures around the world have no problem with it. The consequences of having an affair outside marriage can range from serious problems such as financial loss, to more petty issues such as one partner leaving the relationship. These consequences often lead to ostracisation and depression in young women.
Sex education is not commonly offered to young women in the Arab world, even though knowledge about sex is important for all individuals to have. Some cities in the Middle East have schools that offer classes on sexual health, but many do not. Sex education is also not a topic that is taught in mosques, though most mosques will usually encourage adults to talk about sex. There are no courses on sexual health specifically offered to Muslim women, even though many schools do teach moral and healthy values to their students.