|Muslim women (ABC News/AP)|
"I know of young women who have been returned to their families by their husbands because, as you say, they did not bleed on defloweration," Shereen El Feki tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
El Feki, the author of the new book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, spent five years traveling across the Arab region asking people about sex: what they do, what they don't, what they think, and why.
Her ambition was to learn about the lives of young single people, married couples, gay people, and sex workers, and how the sexual aspects of their lives reflect larger religious, cultural, and political shifts.
What she learned, she says, is that "the patriarchy is alive and well in Egypt and the wider Arab world," and that women, too, "are some of the staunchest upholders of patriarchal attitudes."
Women, for example, decide whether or not to circumcise their daughters and granddaughters.
- [MGM: This torment is visited upon males in the Western world, where women are also the primary decision makers guided by men and male priests -- following an archaic Jewish custom shrouded in the language of "hygiene," aesthetics, and religiosity; it removes the most sensitive part of a male's body at birth, a portion of skin which, like the clitoris, is far more sensitive than fingertips.]
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Men are not traditionally part of the decision-making process when it comes to female genital mutilation (FGM).
"[Women] are making the decisions about their daughters' well-being and FGM, to cut or not to cut," El Feki says. "They are making these decisions based on faulty information... LISTEN
SEX AND THE CITADEL is a groundbreaking examination of evolving sexual attitudes and behavior in the Arab world by an award-winning Economist journalist links sexuality to regional politics, economics, social trends, and religious changes to explain how sexuality is reflecting the conditions linked to recent uprisings and imminent reforms.