Intimacy Matters with Haleh Banani, Umm Reem Saba Syed and Hena Zuberi | Part 3:
Video for Part 3:
Faulty cultural beliefs are not just limited to the East, unfortunately, there are many European cultural beliefs and paradigms that have caused the same damage about female sexuality.
Hena: What is the androcentric model of sexuality and how does it not adequately represent the experience of women?
Saba Syed: Androcentric concepts of sex and failure to recognize female sexual desires—specifically female climax— was quite common in Europe and then in the United States. Beliefs like:
- Intercourse is pleasurable only for men and merely a duty incumbent upon women.
- Good women with noble character don’t ask for sex, they don’t desire intimacy
- Only prostitutes actually enjoy intimacy
- Women are incapable of reaching climax
These fallacious ideas were quite rampant up until 1950s. There is an excellent article in New York Times (chapter one of the book by Rachel Maine from John Hopkin University) “The Job Nobody Wanted”.
Basically it discusses how Western society was so androcentric that the ability of women reaching climax was termed “hysteria”— a disease of womb from the time of Hippocrates, the Greek physician. Only in 1952 American Psychiatric Association dropped this term and acknowledge the desire and the ability of reaching climax as a normal function of women’s sexuality!
Hena: In your experience what type of damage have you noticed in a marriage because of these androcentric concepts? How are these concepts harmful psychologically?
Haleh: Women may feel that something is wrong with them for wanting physical intimacy. For example a sister in a halaqa asked the female instructor about wanting to get intimate more than her husband and she was completely shamed. The sister turned beet red because the instructor was so appalled at her question. Sometimes there is tremendous guilt and shame associated to wanting physical intimacy. This guilt eventually erodes women’s self-esteem.
Another way it damages marriages is that it prevents women from initiating physical intimacy – they don’t approach their husbands – they are shy to express their desires and remember initiation from the wife is one of the top 5 needs of men.
What happens when women simply see physical intimacy as a duty?
Haleh: When talking about duty of a wife we need to first discuss the psychology behind obligations versus desire. When you feel you should do something out of obligation you either won’t do it or if you do then you will not be completely present or responsive during the act. If your heart is not into it you will avoid physical intimacy or just go through the motion. When you desire it you will be engaged and want to take part in it.
Hena: It is almost how we think of a religious obligation like salah, do it out of sense of obligation, we can do it with khushu and wanting it. So when we are enjoying salah, we increase the amount and the quality, its not just going through the motions –
What would you say are pointers in having a quality physical relationship?
Haleh: Couples need to understand that Intimacy needs to be enjoyable for both of them. If both husband and wife enjoy it then they are more likely to engage in it.
If it’s frustrating, uneventful, or worse painful for women they will avoid it at all cost.
In a healthy relationship:
- Men don’t demand intimacy from their wives –
- They don’t threaten them with angels cursing them all night
- They romance their wives in such a way that she will be a willing & happy participant.
Also, in a fulfilling marriage:
- Women are mindful during the act
- They are present mentally
- They are present emotionally
- They participate physically
- They do not think about their to do list!
Fake Orgasm is never Encouraged:
Although it’s common for women to fake their climax it’s not encouraged for a healthy physical relationship because it will give the wrong message to the husband. Truthfulness is not only in speech but in actions.
How do you think overall these androcentric paradigms are harmful Islamically and have affected marriages?
Saba: There are different paradigms to this.
On one side we have those women who were raised with these ideas and actually programmed their minds to believe that they are not supposed to have sexual desires or enjoy intimacy. So they end up dealing with intimacy with an aversion, they don’t anticipate it, they don’t participate, they don’t even dress up for their husbands. In some cultures, it is considered ‘ayb (shameful) to dress up for the husband, and wearing lingerie is equivalent to prostitution. So obviously with these kind of mindsets and attitude, intimacy becomes a source of frustration.
On the other side, there are those who were not necessarily raised with these beliefs, or they overcame these beliefs but people around them haven’t. SO these beliefs are always thrown at their faces making them feel ashamed or too “masculine” for having a high desire or even a normal desire for intimacy.
We have to understand that these androcentric beliefs that intimacy is pleasurable for men and a duty for women is not even Islamic because Islam doesn’t ordain an act enjoyable for one spouse and not for the other. In Islam, the act of intimacy is pleasurable for men and pleasurable for women, it is a duty of a wife as much as it is a duty of a husband.
Our Muslim brothers, on the other hand, knowing that it is their right and having the need for intimacy become overly demanding, and sometimes unjust to their wives because they feel it’s the wife’s duty to comply and it’s his right to seek pleasure. So there is an obvious imbalance caused by these faulty cultural beliefs, which are destroying marriages.
It is interesting though that there are sisters who didn’t grow up with these fallacious beliefs or they were able to correct their perception about sexuality but their husbands didn’t or their husbands had these androcentric ideas that good wives don’t ask for intimacy or climax is only a man’s need not a woman’s.
SO the husband has these misconceptions, and in that relationships, the wife really suffers, because again not much has been said about women’s sexual needs–not emotional– sexual needs. There is not much recognition, there’s hardly any acknowledgment and also because women are naturally shy(er) so they feel hesitant in approaching a male shaikh with specific details. So in the process, it is assumed that such issues don’t exist among women because they never complain about it.
Hena: It is not true because MM has opened up an opportunity for those sisters and we have received several comments about such situations:
A typical comment left on Muslimmatters.org:
“I never knew till some 4 years of marriage that there is something called ‘orgasm’ for females. When I realized and discussed with my husband, he too was surprised. Till this day he isn’t keen on satisfying me though I do my best to be proactive and attractive before making love. I also approached for divorce, but due to family pressure I had to retract. Though he fails every time to satisfy me in bed, he expects his food, clothes etc. to be ready on time. If not, he really gets mad. But he is Allah fearing, well behaved and a good person. He has fulfilled basic needs like clothing, accommodation etc . I am grateful to him for his spending on us. May Allah reward him for his goodness and guide him for his ignorance. Aameen.
I simply cannot explain the emptiness it leaves when he just sleeps calmly leaving me aroused once he is done. He feels hurt when I say I too want to be satisfied. I have taken it as Allah’s will to continue in this relationship for the sake of Allah, kids and family…
for this Duniya was not meant to be Jannah. I will try my best till my death to keep him happy in bed, though at times I wonder if my days in this duniya will ever come to an end.. It is far better to remain a spinster than to live in a hollow, lonely and unsatisfied marriage.”
Females do have strong sexual appetite. There might surely be ups and downs in that depending on the circumstances, hormonal levels etc.
Our request to our brothers in faith…Don’t be selfish no matter how tired you are. If you want to be satisfied every single time of making love, make sure so does your wife too. Remember before she is your wife, she is a Muslimah. And it is your duty to fulfil the right of another Muslim’. Your wife will never be emotionally attached to you if you do not satisfy her with your own love and willingness in bed.
May Allah grant us all righteous, loving spouses. May He keep us chaste.
The Hyperactive And Inattentive Child | Dr. Hatem Al Haj
Some kids are fidgety and hyperactive, as if they are “driven by a motor,” constantly moving around, bouncing off the furniture, and unable to stay still and quiet. They may be also quite impulsive, so they can’t wait for their turn, blurt out answers before you finish your sentence, and intrude in on others. Others are inattentive and out of focus – almost always. They are disorganized and forgetful, and they lose their things regularly. These criteria could be bad enough to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, which is Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Some may have the inattention alone, others the hyperactivity alone, while a third group has both.
This spectrum of disorders may lead to poor performance in school, inconsistency in work, emotional immaturity, and social difficulties, but let us not forget that these kids may have some special strengths as well, such as their boundless energy, enthusiasm, humor, and creativity.
The diagnosis of ADHD will need a specialized health care provider to make, but the following tips will be helpful for kids who share some or all the aforementioned criteria, whether they have the disorder or not.
Since a big part of the problem that will lead to most of the difficulties in schooling is the disorganization and lack of focus, it is recommended that we help those kids stay organized and on task through the following measures:
o Consistent schedules and having daily routines even when it comes to the waking up rituals: going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. (Older kids should have prayed fajr before sunrise.) Have the schedule on the refrigerator or bulletin board in their study or bedroom. (Don’t forget to schedule time for play and wholesome recreation.) Let the child be part of the planning and organizing process.
o Keep in the same place their clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Use notebook organizers and color-coded folders. If you homeschool, make the day structured and buy them a desk where they can put their belongings, and if you send them to school, make sure they bring back written assignments.
o Decrease distractions as much as possible. If you home school, then I suggest for you to keep a quiet environment as much as possible and avoid excessiveness in decorating your house (particularly their study place) with knickknacks and pictures. Maybe this would provide us a reason to try (and hopefully appreciate) minimalism!
o TV and videogames are bad for all kids, and even worse for kids with ADHD, except when permissible programs are watched in moderation. See the AAP’s guidelines for “use in moderation.”
Some tips for parents and guardians
- Consistent rules must be in place. Rewards must be given to the children when they follow them, and punishment must be judiciously used when the rules are broken.
- Kids with this condition may have low self-esteem, and it is detrimental to their welfare to further lower it. Thus, praise good behaviors frequently even if they were little and expected, such as putting their shoes where they belong.
- Do not be frustrated with the inconstancy of the child’s performance. He may get a 100% on one test and then fail the next. Use the first to encourage them and prove to them that he can do better.
- One on one teaching/tutoring may be needed to enable the child to keep up with the schoolwork.
Should we use medication?
Medications are sometimes needed. You must consult your doctor regarding their use.
Here are my non-professional thoughts:
- Prescribing those medications should never be a kneejerk reaction. First, we must be confident of the diagnosis, then, try all other modalities of therapy, and finally, entertain the option of pharmacological intervention.
- Medicating the children should never be for the interest/comfort of the parents or teachers; it should be only for the interest of the child.
- Medications should be tried if the child is failing to keep up with learning knowledge and skills s/he will need in their future, and other therapies failed to help them
Loving Muslim Marriages Episode 3: Are Muslim Women Becoming Hypersexual?
Are Muslim women with sexual demands becoming “hyper-sexual,” being negatively influenced by life in a Western, post-sexual revolution society? Allah made both men and women sexual, and the recognition of a Muslim woman’s sexual needs is a part of the religion even if it seems missing from the culture. This segment is a continuation of the previous week’s segment titled, “Do Women Desire Sex?”
To view all videos in this series, as well as an links or articles referenced, please visit www.muslimmatters.org/LMM
How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.