Sex as Ibadah: Religion, Gender, and Subjectivity among South African Muslim Women
This paper explores complex and ambivalent religious discourses that inform Muslim women's understandings of sex and sexual praxis. Presenting the experiences of a group of contemporary South African Muslim women, the authors examine the various ways in which religious sexual imaginaries are negotiated, contested, and embodied in a particular context. Drawing on their narratives, we highlight how dominant religious concepts of sexuality intersect with marital dynamics to produce particular forms of female subjectivity. Women's notions of the self are informed by gendered understandings of the God-believer relationship, including notions of what constitutes worship or devotion (ibadah ). Many of these women understand marital and sexual relationships to constitute part of their larger service to God. As such, women sometimes appear to prioritize male sexual desires. At other times, they reconfigure the dominant sexual paradigm by demanding full recognition of their sexual agency and equal personhood and stressing ethical ideals such as mutuality and reciprocity in marriage.
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