Sexual health, Jordan, and a few words specifically on abstinence

Naseem recently published a great post about the AIDS awareness campaign in Jordan – and the debate has been interesting.

One issue that has come up several times is the idea that the promotion of abstinence is an integral part of Jordanian society. I believe that it is an integral part of Jordanian society on the surface. I think the reality is different.

I am writing an article on similar issues at present, but without giving too many details away, I want to say:

Guys, come on. I’m a blond, foreign woman in Jordan. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been propositioned. I’m not talking about street harassment, something that I focus on regularly on this blog – I am talking about specific situations wherein men, both single and married, have pursued me as part of common, daily interaction.

Abstinence is the farthest thing from their minds. Because I am a foreigner, and therefore assumed to be “easy,” I run into this on a regular basis.

When you dig deeper, you realize that it’s all around you. A friend of mine recently went through it with her (now former) landlord, a man old enough to be her grandfather. Another friend went through it with her (now former) boss.

Foreigners talk about it more, since we don’t have the pressure of upholding the family’s image – but have a few honest conversations with Jordanian women, on an anonymous basis, and the same exact issues pop up.

Just because it isn’t talked about, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

You might say, “surely, these men aren’t really getting laid. They’re just trying.” It’s true that the male capacity to exaggerate their so-called conquests is limitless. But the men I interact with are not blushing virgins – they’re old hands at this sort of thing. They act friendly and approachable and normal and then bam – they go in for the kill. If they’re not paying for the sex, they are coercing/raping/seducing or, in the best case scenario, they have clandestine relationships with women who *gasp* desire them back.

We can talk about whether or not blunt, clinical language in regards to AIDS awareness is helpful (I say yes, but that’s just me), we can talk about different approaches, be they religious or secular, but if saving lives is a priority, let’s admit that condoms are going to do a whole lot more than merely insisting people stay “pure” until marriage.

The entire social framework of Jordan insists just that – and it isn’t working.

P.S. Of course, you can lay the blame solely at the feet of the women. You can say – “Natalia, people like you tempt these good men with your very existence, so they veer off the straight path and wind up in the ditch of debauchery. If it wasn’t for evil women, walking around, all desirable n’ stuff,  the men would flutter through their lives like angels with not a single feather in their wings out of place.” And I will laugh and pinch your widdle cheeks.

The Vajayjay, the Womb, the AIDS test, the Eternal Battle

In a last-minute dick move we may as well have expected from the Bush administration, newly introduced regulations mean that basically anyone can refuse a woman health services now, for as long as their decision is based on nebulous “beliefs.” As Jill points out over on Feministe, this is being framed as an abortion issue, but the fact is, that’s total crap. Legislation protecting medical professionals unwilling to perform abortion already exists.

The vague new regulations essentially mean that anything from receiving emergency contraception to getting rid of a dangerous ectopic pregnancy is now under threat.

Then again, for some of us, this issue is already pretty old. I remember that when I tried to obtain emergency contraception back in Charlotte, North Carolina, about 6 years ago, I was refused at two hospitals. At the first hospital, a nurse called me a “slut,” and at the second hospital, I was told that I needed to claim I was raped in order to get help.

I took my chances. I still remember the morning I went to meet an old teacher of mine for coffee over at a bookshop a few weeks later, and triumphantly announced, “I’m not pregnant!” The woman at the table next to us gave me a dirty look. I scowled right back. I was so happy. I wasn’t going to treat an unplanned pregnancy as anything other than an unplanned pregnancy. The possibility of it was not “joyful” to me, and I was not going to pretend otherwise.

I wonder where the dirty look woman is in the world today. I wonder about the nurse that called me a slut. I wonder why it was so damn important for these two individuals to show their disapproval, try to keep me in line, try to make me feel ashamed: I was not their daughter, I was not even the daughter of a friend. They didn’t know me.

Of course, what they did know is that there were certain roles that women were expected to fulfill – I bet neither one of them had ever asked for Plan B, or was publicly excited at the prospect of not being pregnant. Or, if they had, I bet they had a talk about it with a pastor or another person they trusted, and decided to repent. And who the hell was I, then? Did I think I was better than them, or something? Did I think I could change anything?

You know what I hate about being a woman? Continue reading