Whether in Iran and Saudi Arabia, where women’s dress is government enforced, or in Syria and Afghanistan, where Islamist terrorists seek to enforce it, or across Muslim-majority nations more generally, sexual expression has fast become a dividing line for fundamentalists harboring presumptuous assumptions about a “pure” East and a “promiscuous” West.
Oddly, hundreds of years ago it was the opposite. A Europe in the Dark Ages, plagued by the Inquisition and conflicts caused by religious intolerance, placed a similar premium on sexuality. Back then, it was the East that European Orientalists fetishized as overly “promiscuous,” while the West valued its prudishness. The one common factor is a correlation between the rise of theocratic demands anywhere, and restrictions on sexuality.
In this way, sexuality has become the axis upon which enlightened values and progress have pivoted between nations. Sexual freedoms have become a litmus test between open societies and closed ones. The drug that dogmatic ideologues are usually addicted to is control, and the thirst for control almost always manifests itself in sexual control. This is why the subject of sex among women, gays and “unmarried” youth fascinates extremists of all bents. And it is why—regardless of our gender or sexual orientation—the struggle against controlling sexuality should preoccupy us all.