While relationships between the sexes are matters of personal choice for Westerners, within most Muslim communities such relationships are permitted or proscribed according to a different rationale.
It comes as a bit of a shock when we discover that many of the people publicly demonstrating for a return to more traditional customs have been women. The demands of group identity is such situations easily override any inclination towards personal freedom and choice.
What then does group identity so strongly demand? What ordering of male and female universes is required at all costs?
Above all, the ‘group’ prizes men. What the ‘group’ prizes in women is chastity.
After marriage, a woman maintains her husband’s honour by living above all reproach. Access has therefore to be carefully controlled so that no such threat, real or imagined, could become a reality.
In developing marital relationships, sexuality is usually understood in terms of male fulfillment. The male response to any hint of female involvement in extra-marital relationships can be very severe. The rigid code of sexual mores carries far more power than any concept of ‘love’ or ‘freedom’ or ‘individual rights’. What the ‘group’ primarily prizes in wives, therefore, is their support of their husbands.