The cover of the Wall St. Journal today had a fascinating article about an Arab sex therapist who is gaining quite a bit of attention (both negative and positive) by combining a correspondence class in Sex Therapy with teachings from the Koran. As an Islamic woman, Mrs Heba Kotb is taking on the gigantic task of “lifting the veil on a touchy subject.” If that is not the understatement of the year…
Mrs. Kotb’s challenge of providing sexual education in a culture where sex is forbidden outside of marriage, and female circumcision is still widely practiced is nothing short of heroic. And while reactions to her work are mixed, there is a surprising following and support as she is directly addressing the problems of many troubled Muslim marriages and a rising divorce rate which are being quietly acknowledged as related to sexual problems.
She is able to build trust in her listeners by combining quotes from the Koran with her information. Apparently the prophet kissed his wife before leaving and upon returning home, so she says what excuse could you have- being too busy to kiss your wife- the prophet wasn’t too busy. Her information becomes reliable when it is taught in this context. Surprisingly, she is even being asked by parents to teach their teenagers. On her first radio show she interviewed a Muslim preacher, who said that her work was “a great mission” – He referred to the “dire need for a religiously correct way to strengthen family bonds and protect our youth from harmful ideas…”
So there it is, the problems of bad sex, no sex, sexual frustration are even coming out of the closet in places where sexuality barely exists. I think it’s high time to lift the veil, and I salute the courage of a woman like Heba to do it.
The truth is that we all need love, yes physical love, the sexual kind. I look forward to the day when our religious preoccupations celebrate the gifts we were given in sexual consensual love. Here I go again on my soap box, but there is no place closer to the sacred than in the arms of someone you love, loving you. Embracing the deep transformative pleasure of loving your partner could be the single act which awakens us to our humanity, our goodness, our ability to love.