My Take on Moroccan Modesty

So I’m back from my adventures.

Over the last 2 weeks, I kept writing down things on scraps of paper, trying eagerly to remember all the great inspirations I had for writing. I would run into a thought process and say, “Ah! That’ll be a good blog post.” But I now have so many different thought processes that I don’t know where to begin.

I could wax romantic about how beautiful the scenery was in Spain, and especially Morocco. (It was.)

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I could talk about the cultural differences that I encountered and how two very religiously polar countries actually have more in common than one might think. (They do.)

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Or I might want to say how extremely grateful I am for America. For toilet paper, running water that’s clean, hot showers, and food that I cook. (I swear all they eat in Morocco is bread for breakfast. About 2 loaves of it.)

But what I actually feel really compelled to write about is sexuality. Exploring other cultures and their perspective on gender was really enlightening. Apart from Catholicism, Islam is the only other religion that is against contraception. I got to talking with some people over there about it, and was surprised to hear how similar Islam sexual theology is to Catholicism’s. They both want to honor the woman’s body and celebrate the gift of fertility, for those who do have it. Motherhood is cherished in Islamic culture and deemed a very important job with the highest respects. Very interesting, I thought. Did you take a hint from JPII’s Theology of the Body? Cuz you’re ringing pretty true to it…

Although many women no longer wear headscarves in Morocco, there is still a certain modesty amongst the women there. I talked a little bit with my host sister’s friend about it. She was beautiful with elegant skinny jeans and a fitted blazer, heels about 5 inches tall. (The heels were absolutely wild over there. I can count on one hand the amount of flip flops I saw in Spain. 3. And I think they were tourists wearing them.) She was talking about the American artists they listen to. Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna. “But Rihanna, especially, is so dirty. She is almost too dirty for me. American artists can be too sexual, you know? They leave no privacy for their lover.” She claimed, as she wove in and out of crazy Marrakesh traffic. Others had told me that pre-marital sex is illegal there. Culturally it’s just something you don’t do. Drinking? If you are really loyal to your faith, you don’t do it. And there’s no scandal over it, you just don’t do it. And that’s that.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily call this a purely American concept, I feel confident in saying there is a trend of sex becoming more and more distanced from biology. (I still don’t understand why people are surprised when they get pregnant from sex.) I’m not making any declarations on how this affects the state of humanity, I’m just saying it’s there. And the Islam culture recognizes it too -they’re just doing a better job of avoiding it than the rest of the world.

On the flip side of Moroccan modesty, I had the great delight of going to hamam while in Morocco. Which is a public bath house. Yes. You bathe with total strangers. In fact, if you pay a few duram, a stranger will bathe you. From a woman’s point of view, it was fascinating to experience this. Although women are mostly modest on the streets, there is no shame in the public bath house. Everything is completely bare to the world (or at least the women in the room) and everyone is just so…comfortable. There are women of all shapes and sizes, grandmas, moms, daughters. It’s almost a social scene, women gossip together and spend a good hour making sure they are spick and span clean.

I don’t know about you – but at my gym, there’s no naked gossiping in the corner. You keep your eyes to yourself, you scamper from the shower to your locker and you clothe yourself as briskly as possible. So you can imagine what a culture shock this was to be completely undressed in a room full of other completely undressed women.

Maybe I’m romanticizing the whole thing because it’s easy to do that with other cultures.  But I really took away appreciation for the way they treat sexuality and femininity. I shudder sometimes at the vast, empty sexuality our media endorses. I recognize I might just be super old-school, but I like to be appreciated for my inherent biology and the power of life I have the potential to create.

 

 

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4 responses to “My Take on Moroccan Modesty

  1. The same is true for guys. In the US, older guys are a lot more comfortable around each other at the gym.

    http://theoatmeal.com/pl/minor_differences2/locker_room

    I’m pretty sure Bad Catholic wrote an article about this, but when culture turns the body into an object for sex, then you always have to keep your guard up.

    There should be no reason why any guy would have to cover up in a men’s locker room or why a woman should feel shame in a women’s bath. But we’re so on guard, we’ve forgotten how to relax and that’s not healthy.

    • It makes sense. When bodies are objectified, we are quicker to judge ourselves for them. I think it’s interesting how people think comfort with nudity = progress. (I think America is fascinated with European nude beaches.) When in reality, it’s a much bigger picture than that. Comfort with nudity would go hand in hand with a society that doesn’t objectify the body.

  2. Love this!! Thanks for sharing your reflections on the similarities of Islamic and Catholic views of sexuality! It’s so interesting! I work with several Muslim doctors and we’ve shared our views before and I always find it both interesting and even comforting to have them ‘get it’.

    • I was blown away so many times there! I had done some reading but gained a whole new perspective in communicating with locals about Islam theology. It’s quite similar to Catholicism. I definitely got a “get it” feeling from them.

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