Islam, Patriarchy And The State: How Sexual Repression Corrupts Society

Op-Ed: Moroccan author and political scientist offers a subtle thesis: sexual repression is a gateway to corruption and political repression.

Secret love in Marrakesh (Emanuele UbO)
Secret love in Marrakesh (Emanuele UbO)
Omar Saghi

CASABLANCA - The link between sexual repression and political repression might seem like a stretch. And yet there is a clear connection between the two, and subsequently, between sexual and political liberation.

Before being comfortable with his body and his relationships, a teenager goes through a few months or years of transgression. He hides, lies and sneaks out of the house. He seeks out healthy confrontations with his peers, as well as parents, teachers, and others – all of which will help him grow into someone important.

But with society and the State allied in the promotion of abstinence, and with the ever rising average age of marriage, young men and women are forced into hiding. This clandestine sexuality is informal, rushed and anguished. It survives and endures under repression like grass under cement, twisted. Early on, teenagers learn to plead, corrupt and negotiate with the figures of authority that have caught them walking side by side.

Lies instead of abstinence

But if you need to corrupt a policeman to hold hands, during the 10 or 15 years before you get married, what will happen when it is time to invest, pay taxes or buy a house? If you have to negotiate and cheat just for a kiss, what will you do when it comes to power, politics and voting?

A society that punishes sexuality, one of humanity's fundamental dimensions, and does so not for a few months or years, but for decades; a society that pretends a 20 to 25 year-old man or woman has no sexual life - is a society that condemns itself to secrecy and its people to a world where it is OK to be less than transparent.

Those who, at the barely conscious age of 16, have to beg a policeman not to arrest them for holding hands, because their family's wrath is just as repressive and brutal as the police State - these children are getting ready to live life under a dictatorship.

In this life, every vital right is banned or controlled by laws – and the only and accepted way around these laws is corruption or private networking. Sexual repression is legalized by the State as an extension of the patriarchal family's repression, thus sowing the seeds of authoritarianism.

Denial, fraud and avoidance

One could argue that this has always been the case in Islamic countries. But remember that back in the 1920s, the average age of marriage was very low. Barely nubile girls were wed to young boys, who had already spent a few years frequenting brothels. Demographic structures have evolved (the average age of marriage has increased by a dozen years) but mentalities haven't moved an inch; they've actually hardened.

In 1920 you were considered a teen at 15, but today it's as if you are still one at 25. There is a definite disconnection between today's modern economic and industrial infrastructures and defensive mentalities that hail from medieval times.

Don't be surprised when you see Moroccan drivers running a red light, corrupting a State employee, lying or standing you up at the last minute. Teenage years filled with lies makes us prematurely old and devious, like grass growing under cement.

Read the article in Le Soir in French.

*Omar Saghi is a political scientist and author.

Photo - Emanuele UbO

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