Samira and Firas are a Muslim couple married in August 2009. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been watching the TLC program, Strange Sex (also available on Netflix.) For Firas and Samira, it was love at first sight. One week after meeting, Firas asked Samira’s father for permission to marry. Muslims have even stronger prohibitions about premarital sex than Mormons. Samira stated that
“In the craziness of the wedding planning, I knew that I had to go to an OB-GYN to get a birth control prescription because me and Firas didn’t want to get pregnant right away. I didn’t tell my mom only because she told me that if I went to an OB-GYN they ‘d do a PAP smear, and a PAP smear makes you lose your virginity.”
Muslims also believe that tampons destroy a woman’s virginity. What happened at the doctor’s office surprised both her and the doctor.
When the doctor tried to insert a speculum for a pap smear, Samira’s vagina reflexively tightened up and wouldn’t allow penetration. The doctor tried for 20 minutes, to no avail. Concerned that it was some sort of psychological issue, the doctor referred her for counseling. It appeared to be a condition called vaginismus, an involuntary panic attack in the vagina. Samira and Firas were married for nearly a year, but were not able to consummate their marriage. Samira was devastated. “This is what you get for being such a good girl”, she cried emotionally. “Why did I go through all of that trouble?” She considered suicide and offered her husband a divorce.
As she did some research on the condition, she learned about a possible treatment with a sex therapist, but it was expensive. Without the money for treatment, she went to her father. She asked , “how do you talk to your family about sex? It was my last resort.” She told her father that “We’re not married” despite the ceremony. Her father agreed to pay for the treatments.
Her therapist said “Our treatment will be direct hands on, hands in, if you may.” During therapy, I was astonished to hear that she had never looked at her vagina or touched it. It took several months of therapy, but she and her husband made a breakthrough the following May. The credits showed that she was pregnant.
While I think Samira’s reaction is definitely extreme, I think that many Mormon women can have a similar reaction because we don’t talk about sex openly, and don’t discuss problems that can occur on the wedding night. I remember talking with a few newlywed women, and they explained to me that sex was so uncomfortable for them on their wedding night, that they would have preferred to have waited a few days instead of consummating the marriage on her wedding night. I’ve also talked with others that had very uncomfortable wedding nights (one women even ended up at the doctor, concerned she had some sort of cancer.) In another case, the man was so rough that she was injured, and they couldn’t have sex for a few weeks until she healed.
I would consider Samara and Firas as much more moderate Muslims than we often stereotype. (What other Muslims would even appear on a show like this?) Still, I was interested in her final comments. “There is a phrase in Islam that there is no shame in knowledge. Now I understand that. I shouldn’t have been ashamed. I should ask questions. When I raise a child, I’ll share my experience with them, and I want to help them because they shouldn’t be afraid of something that is so natural.”