“Sex and Lies, Sexual Life in Morocco” by Leila Slimani [Review]

Recently, with an Amazon gift card from a generous employer, I purchased the $40.00 book Sexe et Mensonges (La Vie Sexuelle Au Maroc) by the slender and sexy author Leila Slimani (there should be an umlaut in her first name), published in 2017.  I expected it to be similar to Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Faki, but with a Moroccan flavor (El Faki’s book focused on Egypt).  I wasn’t wrong: Slimani even references the book.  Since Sex et Mensonges is unnecessarily expensive in the States and – as far as I’m aware – not available in English yet, I wanted to give a sort of overview of the book, since there’s no description on Amazon.

Sexe et Mensonges didn’t really provide me with any information I didn’t already know about the sexual double standard that exists in predominantly Muslim or highly conservative states.  Like I said, it’s basically is just a Moroccan version of Sex and the Citadel.  I’m sure Slimani, El Faki and many others would give me many reasons why it isn’t, but frankly I don’t care – I stand firm.  But, I will admit, that Slimani’s book is better…and that Slimani is far more attractive (Google her).

When I think back to reading Sex and the Citadel, I remember laying on my bed trying to burn through the chapters simply to finish what I had started.  It wasn’t terribly compelling and I was tired of the theme of how women are treated differently or expected to be chaste, blah blah blah.  To be sure, the same thing happened to me with Slimani’s book, but it didn’t happen until I was nearly finished – actually that feeling didn’t set in until the conclusion.  With El Faki’s book, it set in at about the halfway point.  Slimani’s book is more gripping and interesting mostly because it is told through the voices of the women of Morocco.

Each chapter is, for the most part, a large block of italicized print, quoting the words of women she had interviewed.  Some chapters are entirely the words of one of these women with a small introduction from Slimani explaining who the woman is.  I believe there are only a few chapters that are mostly the words of Slimani, explaining the circumstances of Morocco.  One chapter even features an article she wrote for some publication about an event in Morocco when some gay men were chased by a mob, beaten and arrested.  Such chapters like these also feature quotes film directors, activists and researchers that she had interviewed, as well as some numbers on things like abortion in Morocco.

The women interviewed come in all types: prostitutes, divorcées, young professionals, mothers, wives, singles, lesbians, well-known writers and even her maid.  One chapter is an interview with a retired, male police officer.

The most interesting to me was the 28-year-old Zhor, probably because of her candor.  She is described as a “young woman with very short hair, dressed in the latest fashion.”  Zhor had been raped by a group of three men when she was 15.  Now she is single and she has had relationships with several men.  This leads me to the main themes of the book:

Well, the themes here are nothing new: women are not treated equally; Morocco is ‘schizophrenic’ because even though sex is supposed to be almost a taboo to talk about and take part in casually, everyone thinks about it all the time – even the religious people; Moroccan couples, young and old, are forced to find secret locations for romantic trysts and often are hassled by the police who will leave them alone for a bribe (class comes into it because those with money are able to do what they want and lead a more liberated sexual life); women are sexual objects for men, not really enjoying sex and not having orgasms (if a woman demonstrates prior knowledge of sexual acts, a husband may get mad, thinking her a slut: Where did you learn that?!); women offer their anus instead of their vagina in order to maintain their hymen and their ‘virginity’;  homosexuals are looked down upon and mistreated, etc.  Slimani also links sexual liberation with political liberation.  Early on, she writes:

“In a country like Morocco, on could venture that there are many other fights to pick: education, heath and the war on poverty come before individual liberties.  But sexual rights are part of the rights of man; they are not accessory rights, little extras that one can simply pass over.  To exercise one’s sexual citizenship, to do with one’s body what one wishes, lead a sexual life without risk, a source of pleasure and free from all coercion, are all fundamental rights and the rights which should be inalienable and guaranteed for all” (p. 19; my translation).

Anyone interested in reading Sexe et Mensonges should do so: it’s not too long and it will support the lovely Leila Slimani.  But I suggest reading something else in tandem or right afterwards, something like Libido Dominandi by E. Michael Jones, or Le Métaphysique du Sexe by Julius Evola to be more well-rounded.  We don’t want to be in an echo chamber, do we…?

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