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Cultural Relativism, Sex, and a Whole Lotta Other Thoughts.


Here I am, after taking two Tylenol and half a wine cooler for pain (whooo... partyyy), thinking some odd thoughts. You know how that is. I've been reading on Eileen's blog about a marriage and subsequent divorce of a little girl:

She was eight when she was married. Apparently in some Middle Eastern countries, girls can commonly get married when they're young and have sex with their husbands when they are older:

"There is a a great MISPERCEPTION in the West that Middle Eastern men are pedophiles. This is not true for the great majority of Middle Eastern men, any more than it is in the West. Generally speaking, in the past, when some girls were married off at really young ages (like four or six), this did not mean they were living as a “wife.” They were growing up in that household, and sometime after puberty took up wifely duties."

The early age of marriage prevents a girl from getting into trouble on her own and losing her honour. It also helps the parents to be able to care for the other siblings in the home as having the daughter married off means one fewer mouth to feed. Apparently, usually these young girls are just brought up in the home of the fellow and are expected to have sex when they are older. Their relationship together would necessarily be unequal, with the man having a degree of authority and headship unusual to us here in the West.

Eileen also goes into a little about the protracted adolesences of the Middle Eastern male in her post about why young girls marry older men as well:

I'd highly recommend reading her blog on a regular basis. Eileen is an American living overseas and I think able to "translate" some of the more unusual customs into terms you and I can understand. Mind you, that doesn't mean I AGREE with these customs. Please don't think that for even a milli-vanilli second. Just more that I can see some logic behind it.

And I see some logic behind it when I look at the absolute depraved CRAZINESS here in our own country. Oh, my word, what do you think men in the Middle East are thinking when they pick up their papers and read about pregnancy pacts, stars showing off their privates for little or no financial incentive and/or having babies as fashion accessories, and the general dress of women in our society?

I'm scared to death of ladies in the full-0ut burquas. I admit it. They kind of glide along like the Grim Reaper without the sickle and I want to literally scream and hide. I'm sure they dress that way to scare the crap out of innocent bystanders, because everyone knows that good old-fashioned "modesty" means covering your legs while your boobs are pushed up and made to hang out of a low-cut, tight dress with a corset. But in any event, it would be nice to see more modesty by almost any standard. It would be nice to see fewer American 13-year-olds getting pregnant and/or being offered birth control at their local school. There is a connection, you know. And by that I don't mean that "birth control" prevents pregnancies.

But anyway (what was I talking about? oh, yeah..), we like to get hepped up about news stories like this:

Sex at nine? It's just fiiine because Mohammed said so. Plus it gives those young girls something to do besides cook dinner.

OK, a little wack. But with a bit of cultural relativism, it's something you'll be accepting and soon. We can accept little girls dressing like harlots, little girls being married at extremely young ages, and men sexually preying on little girls. Somehow we need to accept everything and anything and we're culturally biased if we don't. Um, and that includes some of the outrageous stuff going on in our own backyards as well. Live and let live, judge not and all.

But the fact of the matter remains that girls do grow up. What do we expect of them as they do, and what parameters are we REALLY placing on their behaviour and that of those who interact with them?


  1. Dear Mrs. C.,

    Wow, thanks for reading my blog so regularly!

    I would just like to clarify one point. Muslim culture does NOT believe in sex (even married sex) before puberty.

    In the rare instances where a girl child is "married," it is NOT considered OK to have sex with her before she reaches the age of menstruation.

    As a non-Muslim, what I think about the Muslim prophet Mohamed and his wife Aisha, was that Aisha must have reached puberty at the age of nine (and if I am not mistaken, I think she was "married" at the age of six).

    I did not reach puberty until fourteen (I was adopted), but my mother started to menstruate at age nine. I think it is a bit rare, but it is certainly possible. I am a third-grade teacher and have had occasional students in my class menstruate at that age.

    Even so, we in modern society do not believe sex should start at this age (menstruation). But as a student of history, throughout ancient times girls were being married off any time after menstruation.

    In the areas where this is continuing to happen, it is mostly in societies that have not yet modernized their customs from ancient times. I do not like it, or agree with it, but it is probably continuing in areas such as where the Taliban are, and in societies like that.

    It is not ISLAM which is saying to marry young girls--it is an ancient PRE-Islamic custom, which you would probably find in most ancient societies around-the-world.

    This is happening less and less. In my own Muslim country, the marriage age has been raised to 18. Don't forget that even in America, girls can be married as young as 13 (with parental consent, in places like West Virginia, unless the laws have been changed in the last 30 years--if you have an almanac, I think marriage ages of various states are listed in there).

    Best regards,
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas, in the Middle East

  2. Another great well worded post from you. I always love reading your insight on things like this. I totally agree with you in many aspects. Another thing to think of is if we did this we may not have such a high rate of divorce because people "fall out of love" or as a tween starlet said the other day, "A relationship should not be work." She is sure in for a rude awakening along with giving other girls who admire her a bad example to follow.

    Anyway I had to giggle at your "not for a milli vinilli second" comment.

  3. Thanks, Eileen!

    BTW, I don't know if this is true or not, but I had heard various estimates of Mary's age being about 14 or 15ish. Hardly six years old, but certainly not the usual norm for today.

    I suppose there are various "Christian" traditions in different parts of the world that can be misinterpreted as well. I meant my post in that "area" to mean, wow, Muslim guys overseas must look at our culture and be shocked that "Christians" allow their kids to pierce their bellybuttons and flash their breasts about... let 'em get pregnant at 13 out of wedlock... shocking.

    I have a hard time reconciling Muslim beliefs vs. Middle-Eastern or Wahabi beliefs just as I'm sure folks over there have difficulty reconciling with the idea that "Christians" over here allow their girls such license.

    As always, I appreciate your viewpoint and your bloggy friendship. I am learning so much from our discussions!


  4. Mrs. C.,

    We have all heard about some men from the Middle East who have immigrated to Western countries, yet either marry their daughter off at a young age (14-16) to a guy of 30, or take their daughter to the Middle East to marry her off.

    What is driving these guys is exactly what you mention--the shock over how girls behave licenciously (sp?)in Christian culture, or the fear of their unmarried daughter having a "boyfriend."

    What you imply above that they think about Christian culture is exactly RIGHT.

    Now imagine if someone were to say that it is the Christian RELIGION which promotes this behavior (and that is what SOME Middle Easterners think).

    Of course that is NOT true, but now turn it around. To judge Islam by the behavior of SOME Middle Easterners (who are not really behaving in the way their religion said, any more than many "Christians" are behaving in the way their religion says), is to make a mistake.

    Best regards,
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  5. It was a very interesting read. Thanks for the info.

  6. I feel badly for that girl. No one else will marry her now, according to what I read from Eileen's blog-and her whole family is apparently doomed as well, since none of them can get married now either,

    Although, maybe Nujood no longer wants to marry after what she's been through. Beaten and raped by a husband who promised not to do that to her-I can see how that would turn off a child from marriage forever.

  7. Mrs. C.,

    I was reading the LA Times this morning and came across the following statistics, which I just thought would be interesting to post here in light of the discussion:

    "In most Middle East countries, the 15-to-24-year-old age group has grown to make up about a third of the population, but the percentage of early marriages is dropping. In Egypt, only 10% of 15-to-19-year-old females were married in 2003, down from 22% in 1976."

    The article is about he rising number of (illegal) abortions taking place in the Middle East among single, unmarried women. It continues,

    "As young people wait longer to marry, they're increasingly engaging in premarital sex."

    So, I would just like to point out that from point-of-view of both poor and rural Muslims in particular, early marriage is designed to avoid these sorts of problems.

    If anyone is interested in the article, it can be seen at:,0,7331820.story?track=rss



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