The post-mortem virginity tests on the bodies of honour crime victims are just another kind of violation, methinks. It shouldn’t matter if a woman was having an affair or not. Her precious life was deemed worthless, and that’s the only thing that matters.
Jordanian society is lopsided to the point of deformity. Men have freedoms that women simply do not, and they act upon them with impunity. Even when they are at a disadvantage economically. I mean, how many Jordanian guys who sleep with sex-tourists in order to get by fear getting stabbed to death by their family members? No matter the guilt and shame that some of these guys obviously feel, their lives still hold fundamental value.
Women, on the other hand, are treated as walking support systems for hymens. After being violently purged from this world, their memories are further sullied by the “did she or didn’t she?” inquiries.
So what if she did? What if she even enjoyed it? She at least partly deserved it, right? Women should expect to be violently punished for acting upon their desires. They are not allowed to learn from experience.
It’s not a mentality confined to Jordan. Up until recently, it was the sexually active girl who was stabbed to death in horror films, while the virgin outwitted the serial killer (a stretched or broken hymen automatically renders one into a complete idiot who runs upstairs instead of out the front door, it’s practically a scientific fact, right?). Even rape victims are routinely expected to take “the honourable way out” and die.
In Jordan, there’s nothing abstract about these ideas. The violence is right there, in your local paper.
It was a huge wake-up call to me when I realized that the guys who sexually proposition me have nothing to fear. The conservatism of Jordanian society only extends in one direction. It doesn’t serve as any kind of deterrent, in this case. At most, they have something to fear from my male relatives (of course, being blond and foreign, you are assumed to be “of no tribe” and hence fair game).
For men, family serves a different function altogether. Family is their place of support. In most cases, their choices will be upheld or at least forgiven. Women often have to deal with an entirely different set-up.
Last year, I was in Amman, talking to a friend about how weird it was for him to have to run into the uncle of his ex-girlfriend.
(A vast amount of dirty language follows. Don’t read if you think you might be offended.)
“I just want to tell him sometimes – I fucked your niece. I fucked your niece!”
I told him I had similarly weird feelings about running into the father of an ex-boyfriend of mine back in the States.
“It’s not the same, it’s not the same at all,” he said. “You didn’t fuck him. He fucked you! You’re the… girl.”
I made some harsh comments about how I’m not some passive receptacle. He just gave me a weird look. “You’re the girl!” He kept insisting. “You don’t fuck. You get fucked. And when you’re getting fucked, your entire family is getting fucked too… and it’s weird. Like, I fucked her, it’s like a fucked him too. I fucked him! Haha! She was a slut too, she liked it.”
I told him I felt sorry for him. If he saw sex as some sort of brutal conquest, he probably had issues. Judging a woman for responding to you sexually is a sure sign that the child ain’t right, as we say in the south. There’s a deep psychological complex there.
“I can’t help feeling it, I’m a man!” He kept insisting. “I’m a man!”
“You’re a boy,” I said.
We left it at that.
I’m not bringing this conversation up because I think it paints an all-encompassing portrait of Jordanian society (let’s start with the fact that a big percentage of Jordanian men would never feel comfortable discussing what we had just discussed, and with a woman no less). But the hatred, the glee, and the disgust with which he spoke of – I see the same hatred, and glee, and disgust in the eyes of men who harass women in Jordan. The same hatred, and glee, and disgust is injected into the conversation on sex. I see it in Nas’s famous “Sex in Amman” thread. I hear it when men begin discussing me in Arabic without realizing that – holy crap – I can understand some of what they’re saying.
Of course, this immaturity is just part of the puzzle. But it’s a big part, methinks. How many men do, in fact, feel like they themselves have been violated when a female relative somehow ends up with a reputation that doesn’t exactly paint her as a blushing virgin? Where are the tools to help them deal with those feelings without erupting into grisly violence – especially when they’re part of a community that practically urges them on? Surely there are some, as not all men turn into frothing-at-the-mouth violent perps.
But in order for this debate to become legitimate, it must no longer hinge on the woman’s hymen. Seriously, there are far more important parts to a person than their sexual organs – such as their brains, such as their souls.
And, once again, please don’t tell me that all problems will end the minute that all members of Jordanian society are transformed into angels and all sexual indiscretions, real or imagined, miraculously cease. We’re all corporeal beings, and live in the real world, last time I checked.