Guest post by Br00ke Benoit who is an artist, mama to six, writer, editor, Islamic fiction champion and frequent baker living a greenish life in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco
(CC photo credit: Eleaf)
~Could It Be Islamic And Erotic? Muslims are advised to “not be shy” about delicate particulars, so why can’t we, in moderation of course, read some halal erotica, like Papatia Feauxzar’s novel Between Sisters, SVP!? While working with a group of Muslim writers to flesh out a thorough definition of what Islamic fiction is, we had plenty of disagreements about what could be included and what was beyond the fold of the literary category, except for one detail: Islamic fiction does not include depictions of sex acts. In hindsight, maybe we didn’t all agree about that one, but at that time I sat quietly on the fence pondering the possibility of Islamic erotica. Why would it be ok, even encouraged, to read non-fiction, didactical Islamic sources about sex, but not fictionalized ones which aimed to present only halal sexualities? This just didn’t gel well with me, but aside from flowery old poetry I couldn’t find any examples what would constitute Islamic erotica. It wouldn’t simply be Muslim-written erotica devoid of any depictions of Islamic spirituality and especially not erotica featuring Muslims but not written by Muslims and likely lacking in factual depictions of Islam (we call that Orientalism). I imagined that Islamic erotica would be not too unlike what many real Muslim lives are like: we work, go to school, eat, have sex, shop and in between it all we pray and strive in the deen- all within our individual means, abilities, and preferences. And that is a very brief summary of the lives of the characters in Papatia Feauxzar’s Between Sisters, SVP!, though they do a bit of traveling and courting too. In the prologue to SVP, Feauxzar warns that “it has a strong adult content” and she even told me directly that there is “copulation material” in the book, yet when I came upon that first graphic sex scene I was still rather shocked. SVP is Feauxzar’s self-published debut, likely a first of its kind, and where the novel reveals her novices it makes up for it in humor, provocativeness and pluck. SVP is an enjoyable read, provoking a myriad of emotions from its readers, and potentially inducing a need for ghusl as well. Our heroine Aida aka DeeDee has recently relocated with her newish husband and job to Dallas, Texas where she spends the course of the book meeting up with her lifelong non-Muslim friend Nellie. Over frappes, the two plan to catch up on the years they have been apart, but the conversation becomes fixated on Aida, her new husband Mussa and his other three (also new) wives. It’s hard for Aida to avoid the common curiosity of the how’s and why’s of polygyny, and during the course of the old friends’ afternoon together we get several graphic peeks into the family’s private affairs. Remember, this is a fictional family, so there is no backbiting here. Aida describes Mussa as a “hardcore” Muslim and that is likely how many would see him, though they may call him worse for some of his seemingly hypocritical choices. Many of the interactions between Mussa and his wives are their giggle-inducing to infuriating discussions and arguments over various aspects of the deen (which he seems to think that he knows front to back), from giving salams to non-mahrams, to aspects of women working and their dress, to quibbles over madhab eating issues. SVP is a fairly informative and well written read in this respect. Feauxzar quotes and refers to Quran, hadith and even tidbits from contemporary scholars throughout the piece making it an easy inclusion for the Islamic fiction category. And personally, I didn’t find SVP preachy at all, which Islamic fiction is often accused of being. It’s a believable depiction of one big ole Muslim family, including in-laws and very literal battles with some of them. While Mussa may get a few eye-rolls for some of his interpretations of the deen, he is surely following the sunnah of the bedroom in a way that most sisters would fully appreciate. Feauxzar’s use of polygyny as a plot device is saavy as it allows Feauxzar to depict Mussa and his wives in a variety of “sex-capades.” In case you have the same hard-headed doubt I had, I will just reiterate now, there are graphic depictions of sex in SVP! Plenty of them. One friend of mine uffed, and said they wouldn’t want to read “sex with hadith and Quran thrown in” or maybe it was not to read “Quran and hadith with sex throw in,” but isn’t that latter version how we read Quran and hadith? Perhaps I am being overly pragmatic, but there is sex depicted in both the Quran and hadith. We are encouraged to say dua before initiating our own sexual activities, and don’t we copulate in between reading holy texts and reciting sacred words? Between committing acts of ibadah? Am I unaware of a time frame in reality between how soon we can shift between the sacred and the, oh wait, isn’t sex sacred too? Just as good literature can enrich us and further our understanding of the world, Islamic erotica seems like an ideal way to further understand and imagine our own sexuality. The one thing I disagree with Feauxzar is in her prologue to Between Sisters, SVP she explains “…the intended target for my novel is strictly and exclusively women.” Really brothers need to be reading some how-to’s about pleasing their wives just as much as many of us read about how to be their ideal Muslimahs. A little out loud reading between spouses might even be a good thing. I believe I am finally off the fence about whether or not a little halal sex between the pages is a good thing. ~
Bio: Brooke Benoit is thankful for the miracles of technology which allows her to pursue her passion for reading in numerous books and articles written by Muslims all over the world while sipping tea in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
You can follow her blog at http://sheerfluency.wordpress.com/
January 13th, 2014 (Originally posted on http://www.djarakitabs.com).