Mariam Raymone puts names and stories to the girls who’ve faced slut shaming and being taken advantage of for defying cultural norms and having premarital sex in a controversial country like Egypt.
The spiral of silence is one of those few philosophical theories that truly represent Egyptian culture. The theory implies that every time an opinion is voiced in a majority, the opposing voice of the minority is further oppressed. Such behaviour can be exhibited in, for instance, our social scene where people are abundant only if they voice a certain opinion about certain topics (such as sex or religion), but those that do not share the opinion of the majority are pressured into silence gradually and systematically. However, we’ve decided to break down the walls that prohibit us from talking about certain topics. Although diverse beliefs are abundant among the youth, self-expression is not a walk in Al Azhar Park in our society. In this article I’ve interviewed a few girls that have lost their virginity before marriage to shed light what it’s like in a society like ours.
Marina*, 25, Marketing Executive
I lost my virginity when I was 16. I thought it was love back then; it was more of an infatuation. I was with someone for three years which I considered to be a long time, we were pretty serious and I was hoping we would make it as a couple. Basically I was juvenile to think that we would be together until we get married and so it was okay to lose it. I expected it to be the best experience ever but really it just hurt the first time and I didn't even know if I was doing it right or not. Through the years it improved though.
I think a lot of the guys I know will disrespect me and look at me as an easy hook up because I'm not a virgin. Many of my childhood friends will judge me and talk about me behind my back and a few will probably give me the cold shoulder.
I don't regret it now, though I did regret it earlier on in my life since I had believed that now that I'm single no Egyptian guy would ever be serious with me if they knew so I was afraid and depressed, especially because I felt that I couldn't talk to anyone about it for a while. Now I absolutely don't regret it, I would probably have lost my virginity either way sooner or later. I suppose getting married as a woman who's not a virgin would be difficult in the sense that most of the men of our society shun women who lose their virginity, so now there are only very few men who would agree to marry me but I've come to realise that I will not be with someone who doesn't understand that this does not define me. Fortunately, I found someone who gets that; we’re very happy together and we got married last year.
Hana, 22, Student
I was 14 at the time, so I thought having sex would make boys like me more. They did like me a whole lot more of course, but as I grew older I understood that it was for all the wrong reasons. I don’t regret it at all. While I'll admit it wasn't the most well thought out decision, it has changed me a lot and made me the person that I am today. Expectations-wise, I didn't really expect much, but thankfully the guy who was my first was someone I was actually dating and he cared about me a great deal. He made sure it was a pleasant experience for me and he never pressured me into anything at any point. He was also understanding of any concerns I had, and encouraged me to always communicate with him openly. If it weren't for him, I think I would've had a very hard time accepting my actions on the long run.
I know I'd definitely be judged for not being a virgin before marriage. I'm not exactly concerned about that. I don’t this will be an issue when I get married, but even if it is, I would rather remain unmarried than marry someone who is incapable of accepting my past, lifestyle, and way of thinking. I think sex is a very private matter that should generally not be discussed with just anyone. It really isn't about fear of judgment for me; it's about keeping private matters private.
I was 21 when it happened. I was falling for the guy it happened with but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was in love and obviously I was curious - who isn’t? But it wasn’t the reason I took the decision to make it happen either. I can control my curiosity. I didn’t really have high of expectations because it kind of just happened, there wasn’t a whole build up beforehand. It was an in-the-heat-of-the-moment type of thing. When I choose a life partner, I will make sure he is the not the type of guy who would judge me based on my virginity otherwise I wouldn’t want to even marry him in the first place.
Do I regret it? Yes and no. Yes because I would have liked to wait until after marriage, not because this is the way I was brought up by my family, religion, society's norms and all of that, but simply because I would have liked it to be with someone special, someone I knew wouldn’t turn their back on me once they got what they wanted out of it. But then again, I don’t regret it because one, it doesn’t define who I am as a person, and doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) change how others view me. Two, people end up waiting until after marriage only to sometimes have abusive marriages, or end up getting divorced; I think this is a lot more harsh.
Nadine, 26, Teacher
I was 18 at the time. I didn't really have any expectations; my experiences were all pleasant. My first time wasn't something I had planned for, however; it’s human instinct and you act on it, based on the circumstances you’re in. I don’t think that I should have friends who judge me. I don't keep friends or stay in circles that that would judge me in any way. It’s no secret, I don’t mind telling the people around me. I would never end up with someone who has different ideas, and marriage shouldn’t be an issue; I don’t regret it. If I get married and have kids I would be open to talking to them about the subject if they’re at the right age.
Salma, 25, Writer
I actually don't know when exactly I lost my virginity. I found out at the age of 19 that I was not a virgin. I came to believe that I lost it while making out with my ex at the time. It was definitely out of love. I was with my partner for about a year and a half when we did it and we dated for five to six years. While we were making out one day, he said that he doesn't think I am a virgin and so we went all the way. It didn't hurt and there was no bleeding; I don't actually remember what my expectations were at the time but I cannot deny I enjoyed it.