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Let's talk about sex

Don't get too excited, it doesn't happen here - sex talk that is. I have been grappling with this cultural difference, unsure of what, if anything I think about it. It seems that not only is premarital sex a taboo, but talking about it is frowned upon as well.
Granted, I have many friends in the states with whom I discuss politics, weather, what we've been doing, and lots of other family friendly topics. However, there are certain circumstances in the U.S. that bring out the raunch in almost all girls, such as when three or more of us are together and there is something to tell. Here this doesn't happen - girl talk is all about familial pressure, school pressure, how to best apply make-up, hair styles, movies, books, cultural nuances, cooking tips, embarrassing stories from the past, music; there is never a shortage of conversation. I am not bothered by this lack of coverage, just mystified.

Now bearing this in mind, let us discuss a different culture that seems to have the same views about this topic: Arabic culture. One friend is dating a man from the middle east and wanted to hook up his friend with our friend. She has been working at this matchmaking for awhile and last night the two potentials finally started talking amongst themselves. The rest of us busied ourselves with our own conversation, giving them the tiniest bit of privacy.
However, after the boys left we discovered our girlfriend was appalled because the potential boyfriend had asked her home, to spend the night!
"He thinks I'm a slut!" She cried, sure that somehow her reputation was ruined.
Trying to get to the bottom of this, our friend called her boyfriend to ask what his friend had been thinking, asking a girl something like that.

It felt like a really strange game of telephone.

The boyfriend felt insulted that we would ever accuse his friend of having such disrepectful thoughts. He insisted that the boy just wanted to get to know the girl better, verbally.

Um, yeah.
To our American minds this seemed ludicrous - when does a boy ever ask you home to talk, alone? It didn't seem to fit in well in the Arabic or Indian world either, where "individual dating" (versus group dating) is strongly discouraged before a couple is engaged.

Thinking about all the cultural differences, and the fact that the man we were discussing seemed to be shy, polite, and respectful during all of the four months we have known him, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My opinion however, isn't the one that counts.
Looking at the facts and resources available, this is one cultural mystery that may never be solved.

Posted by miriam holsinger on 1/23/04; 11:43:00 AM archived under

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