“Is masturbating haram?”
That was the question whispered to me by my red-faced fifteen year old cousin, awkwardly avoiding eye-contact. I was of course taken aback and I was further thrown for a loop with her follow-up question.
“Is it wrong to watch porn?”
To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about the issues of sex before. The way I was raised, the adults emphasizes the fact that babies are gifts from God, and not much explanation was given as to how they came about.
The only time I could remember ever hearing any resemblance of the “sex talk” was on the night before my sister’s wedding. All the aunties were gathered in my sister’s room and I sneaked in to eavesdrop.
Of course I was subsequently caught and reprimanded but I remembered hearing my grandmother patiently telling my cousin that she was required to do the ritual washing (called the Ghusl) each time she had copulation, and to remind her husband to do the same.
I was twelve, and hearing that they had to take the ghusl each time they had sex, left me with the impression that sex must be a very very lewd act. At that time I was already having menses and was obligated to do the ritual washing each time my period ended to cleanse myself.
The ritual washing is tedious and I hated doing it. In Islam, the ablution becomes mandatory for any Muslim; after having sexual intercourse, any occurrence of sexual discharge, completion of the menstrual cycle, giving birth, and death by natural causes.
Anyway, after composing myself and getting over my initial surprise, I calmly explained to my cousin all about puberty, hormones, and gave her the summarized Planned Parenthood version on masturbation.
It was difficult to make her feel comfortable to talk and ask other questions, but after sharing my own personal experience, she felt better about confiding in me. Though when I was a teenager, I never really had moments when I felt guilty about my sexuality, I didn’t bother keeping tabs on which sins I’m accumulating and what was halal (allowed) or haram (forbidden).
By the end of the conversation, I wondered what other Muslims felt on the topic of masturbating and pornography, so I dug around the good ole’ Internet. This of course led me down this road where I’m up at 4 in the morning, reading on porn and Islam.
Officially, according to the Quran, it is haram for Muslims to masturbate. I found countless Islamic sites condemning the act and commenting on the perversion of pornography.
On a contradictory note, according to Google trend, out of the top ten countries searching for sex-related sites, six were Islamic countries, with Pakistan winning the number 1 spot. Egypt settled for a 4th place, followed by Morocco, Indonesia, and Malaysia consecutively, ending with Turkey in number nine.
This is both ironic and hilarious. Further hilarity ensues when I tried my luck with “ass sex”. The top five countries for that particular interest are Muslim and the top language used to search was Arabic. Furthermore, what is mind-boggling is that in these countries, pornographic sites are blocked.
In Indonesia, a popular singer was sentenced to 42 months of jail and fined 27,500 USD because his sex videos were leaked to the public (compare that to the notoriety and celebrity status of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian after their sex-tape was released). This is also the same country that reprimanded girls for wearing mini-skirts which it was deemed too obscene and therefore pornographic.
In Egypt, porn is blocked because it has “destroyed morality, corrupted youth and spread obscenity, family problems, rape and divorce.” Is your teenager being unruly and rebellious? Blame pornography. Is your marriage failing and falling apart? It’s all because of PORN.
I am neither an expert on pornography's efftects on society, nor am I a fan of porn's usual depiction of women, but what I do know is that you can hardly blame your legitimate social issues/problems on internet pornography.
Amidst all these, I wondered why the Google trends results are that way. The Psychological Reactance theory states “reactance can provoke behaviors that oppose the rules or courses of action that were imposed and encouraged”. This is when an individual engages in a prohibited activity in order to deliberately taunt the authority that prohibits it.
Is this why six Islamic countries made it on the world wide "top ten" list? Since the Quran prohibits masturbation and pornography, do Muslims get more gratification from the act?
I don’t know. There has to be a reason why those countries tops list, I'm just not sure what it is.
Islam (and almost all religion) have strict rules on what you can and cannot do. But if those rules infringe with what you deem is your personal freedom, you'll most likely disregard that rule and do what you want to do anyway?
I feel thoroughly confused, so I’m opening this up to the internet. So go forth and multiply!