Considering the recent outbreak of several secret Facebook groups tailored for women in Egypt, conversations about relationships and sex have been initiated between strangers for the first time in at least a decade.
These groups shook the country. The idea seems revolutionary, a much needed breather. In reality though, without proper sex (positive) education and guidance, these groups seem to have taken a judgmental, misinformed, and overwhelming turn.
To a professional researcher and psychologist, these secret groups can serve as a representation of the multi-diverse yet complex Egyptian population. There are common cultural or social patterns shaping, and misshaping, sex. Here are the most recurring issues that Egyptian women face when it comes to their sex lives.
No Professional Sex Education
A population lacking professional sex education relies on media, social talks, and porn. Misinformed and incorrect education can be dangerous. A group of women trading incorrect information based on what they have heard here and there doesn’t only reinforce similar patterns, but also puts them at risk for acting out on incorrect information, especially if these women are newlyweds.
“There are many reasons that trigger painful sex. Misinformation, not enough foreplay, “dutiful” sex without enjoyment, thoughts that sex is sinful, female genital mutilation (FGM), or forced interactions”
Painful sex, either due to organic or psychological reasons, is a common complaint. Vaginismus is a condition I see in 97% of women in therapy. There are many reasons that trigger painful sex. Misinformation, not enough foreplay, “dutiful” sex without enjoyment, thoughts that sex is sinful, female genital mutilation (FGM), or forced interactions are several important factors that trigger pain during sex. It is worth noting that forced sex when you don’t want it is not sex, it’s rape.
There is a large gap between healthy sex and today’s reality. Pleasure for women is a nonexistent and sinful thought. Any slight indication of liking sex is met with an attack, religious opinion, or judgment. Sex should only be enjoyed by husbands, and is part of a wife’s duty. Sex becomes a manipulative card to avoid divorce or affairs.
Traditional gender roles are reinforced through daily conversations and whispered tips. Actions, solutions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles outside the gender norm are not tolerated. “Shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” take over most of the discussions with no space for questioning ideologies. Most discussions will state that “a man needs to pay for everything” and “a woman should take care of housework”, completely neglecting the fact that different couples have different dynamics.
“We teach our children to avoid insulting and name-calling others when we, as adults, seem to easily do the opposite, forgetting everything we know about tolerance and acceptance”
Judgmental Attacks and Slut Shaming
Groups that were initially created to form a safe space for women to talk about the most intimate and private parts of their identities and experiences, connect, and support each other have become a platform for slut shaming and vicious attacks. We teach our children to avoid insulting and name-calling others when we, as adults, seem to easily do the opposite, forgetting everything we know about tolerance and acceptance. A woman confessing something in her past knows that the comment section will be bombarded with other women harshly judging her.
All the previous problems stem from the stigmatization of sex, and the misinformation about it. This is why women aren’t enjoying their sex lives, and this is why when they speak up about making their relationship healthier, they’re attacked. Women in Egypt aren’t desperate housewives by choice, they’re desperate housewives because they know no other way.
Consultant/Clinical Couples and Sex Psychotherapist
The HealthQuarters Polyclinic
Tueny Bldg, 1st floor
Beydoun St., Nasra Area
Ashrafieh, PO Box 11-80 Riad El Solh