Sex and the Citadel

When it comes to sex, or at least talking about it, there is a momentary pause…sometimes even a ‘pregnant’ pause. But we can talk about it albeit awkwardly at times. It is hard for me to imagine being afraid for my life because of the socially constructed rules around sex, but there are parts of the world where this is true for people – particularly women, but not exclusively so.

A Citadel is ‘stronghold or fortified place’ a place of refuge. There are countries where there are no refuges for women who do not conform to the expectations tightly wrapped in cultural, political, religious and social ideology. But even in societies where these influences are somewhat watered down we are confined to gendered expectations its just that we buy into them through carefully crafted illusions of desire and success – for example Sex And The City.

Here in the cultural melting pot of New Zealand we are on the fringes of this map – both literally and figuratively (in fact sometimes we don’t even appear on a world map!). We like to perceive ourselves as being relatively progressive and shake our heads in disbelief when we hear of ‘honour killings’ – a term I still can’t quite comprehend on any level. But change is happening from within – and the people daring to talk are the likes of Shereen El Feki http://www.ted.com/talks/shereen_el_feki_a_little_told_tale_of_sex_and_sensuality.html

There is a temptation to see only extreme versions of belief as harmful or restrictive. The fact that people are killed for loving in a way outside of a set of values is extreme – it doesn’t get any more dangerous than that. But ‘West is not best’. Women torture themselves and die in order to conform – slow – but just a deadly. Where is the honour in that?

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