West Bank and the Women's Body

M Johannes, July 2010, Nablus WB

She tells me about her relationship with a man, a very religious man, who encountered deep moral struggles due to the physical desire in their relationship. Sexual feelings outside marriage were regarded as 'haram' according to his religious beliefs, a sin which he thought Allah would punish him for. This did not, however, stop him from being with her, alas, his sexual desire was indeed stronger than his fear of God. The excitement- gulit spiral that he became encaptured in, did however, always leave her with a feeling that her body was being degraded, that is was unpure; the site and cause of 'haram'. It caused him regret and suffering, and both of them were captured in the destructive rollercoaster of pleasure and pain. She told me about this dicotomy between the 'holy' and the 'unholy'; on the one hand, 'Allah o akbar', and the opposite: the woman's body as low as you could get, the site of unimaginable sins and actions which cannot be resisted still.
Such was the view of the woman's body in the eyes of the man she was painfully in love with, as well as other religious men like him; they regard it in terms of the patriarchical postulations of a religion where the female body is often portrayed as seductive, inferior and sinful. The female body should therefore be covered up, hidden from the male gaze.
It was deeply unsettling for her to experience how her physical beeing was causing such confusion and grievance in a man's mind, due to his aversion yet desire to touch her body, and thus to commit a sin. She tells me that after a while she started to see her body in the same ambigious way that he did, and she noticed how her self-confidence and joy was vanishing at the same time.

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