Islam, Women, and Their Sexuality

A group on Facebook, The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, recently caught my attention. The page is a call to action for men and women to join together in order to fight the oppression of women in the Arab World and grant women the rights guaranteed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It features pictures of Arab and Muslim men and women representing different aspects of the oppression of Arab women that they want to see changed. The subjects that are discussed range from pressure to get married  and desires to have careers to families ashamed of the female relatives just because they are women and honor killings. One topic that reoccurs frequently and that interests me is the Arab woman and her sexuality. The pictures below represent different ways that women feel their sexuality is oppressed.

Refuses to be Held to a Higher Standard Than Men
Tired of being Objectified
Will not Stand for (Legal) Marital Rape
Does Not Want to be Ashamed of Her Body

No Women (Especially a Child) is Responsible for the Harassment of Men, 
“I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world so women get transformed from a piece of meat to a garden of roses”

These are just a few of hundreds like them. It is not uncommon in any large religion for sexuality in general to be oppressed but where did this concept of a women’s sexuality being worse than a man’s come from? Does a heterosexual man not need a woman in order to have sex? Is a man not responsible for his own actions?

This idea of a woman’s virginity being sacred and women being responsible for controlling sexuality is not a strictly Muslim or even Arab concept. Here in America, women have fought for sexual freedom and in many ways still fight for it today. What disturbs me about these images is the intensity of the sexual oppression. These women are not saying that they want to be promiscuous or even that they want to have sex. They simply want the right to embrace and be proud of their female bodies, they want to be respected by men, and protected from sexual harassment and violence as opposed to being blamed for it. To me, these seem like very basic, positive aspects of sexuality.

“I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it is allowed by law to rape me when I am a child in the name of marriage.”

I am also disturbed by the theme that women are nothing more than sex objects for their husbands. The image above brought up the issue of child-marriage along with marital rape. I understand that different cultures have different idea about the age marriage is appropriate, but to me this is nothing more than pedophilia. Just because you are married to a child does not make a little girl any less of a child. I do not understand how fathers could allow this to happen to their daughters. In my culture, most men would rather kill a man than let him touch their child.  Adult women should have the right to choose who they marry and when or if they want to have sex. In a class I took last year, I learned that Islam also condemns  men for sexual acts outside of marriage and holds women to the same standards as men. Women cover their bodies in order to be modest but men are expected to be modest as well. In the cases of stonings and honor killings, the man is considered just as responsible as the woman and should be punished the same way. When a woman is unfairly punished, it goes against Islam. So, where do these ideas come from? Are they supported by religion or culture or both?