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The walled garden
We may have fascinations and fantasies about being attracted to a stranger, but doing anything that could lead to an affair will inevitably harm relationships with your spouse, family, and God. It is also easier to fall into an affair if your relationship is faltering. The innocent kiss or hug from a co-worker who listens to your marital problems can lead to infidelity. Not all affairs are strictly physical. Sometimes the emotional affairs you have with another person, such as a friend of the opposite sex, can damage your relationship. Finding solace in another person has its boundaries. Being dishonest with your spouse is the best way invite dysfunction into your home. In this chapter, we shall discuss why we think affairs are related to the advent of prescription drugs used for sex. We will continue our discussion of consumerism and mass marketing by focusing our attention first on the proliferation of performance enhancing drugs. Fast Sex Nation
In March 1998 the FDA approved Viagra as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED). “Ask your doctor if Viagra is right for you,” was a common advertisement on television, and perhaps you remember contemplating the use of this drug to see if sex was better. The sales were sensational. In the first year, three million men were treated with Viagra, translating into 1.5 billion dollars in sales. By 2003, six million men were taking Viagra and sales rose to 1.7 billion dollars. With the introduction of Levitra and Cialis, the drug industry estimates the potential market for these drugs to be around 30-40 million men in the United States alone. Dr. Leonore Tiefer investigated the “McDonaldization” of sex in his 2004 book Sex is Not a Natural Act. In an essay, Tiefer describes how the drug industry has purposefully expanded the definition of ED and encourages the use of these drugs as an enhancement to sexual pleasure, relationships, and more women.
So what is the issue? Sexual dysfunction has a physical cause, but Viagra isn’t purely the fix for most people. Erectile dysfunction has psychological, social causes, and emotional causes that go beyond the physical event of an erection. The reality is that the definition of ED is used too vaguely. Any problem with an erection is
The Veiled Garden
accepted as cause for a prescription. Corporate messaging sells insecurity to sell you a product. We get sound bites about sex that tell us we are inadequate if we do not perform in specific ways. Tiefer argued that the sexual-medicine industry has a lot of parallels to the fast food industry. There are four principles of a fast food society: efficiency, numbers game, predictable, and cookie cutter diagnosis. This has kick-started a new sexual health industry, which works with the help of the media to tell us we need to buy and use certain goods. The media is only really interested in a narrow and mechanical view of sex which then becomes the norms for magazines, books, and sex advice columns. Most situations represented in these media outlets are not based on real people or real experiences. On a daily basis we see ads like “Ten sex tips to drive your man or woman wild.” The new sexual health industry is not doing its work through science, sex research, or sex education. We see ads for many things, but many of these ads are franchises that focus on building anxiety. When you go to health clinics, you may get expensive genital tests that look very scientific, for example blood flow measurements. And most likely, nine out of ten times the patients get prescription for Viagra or other sex drugs. Just like the fast food industry, big pharma-corporations focus on four things: efficiency, numbers game, and predictable cookiecutter sex. Big pharma messages tell us, “You need to have routine ‘perfect’ sex and a regular desire for sex and
orgasm.” Or, “If you’re not having pitch perfectroutine sex it is a medical condition. You should correct your problem by taking something like Viagra at ten to fifteen dollars a pill.” This is not a cure, but a campaign that is purely profit motivated. An occasional failed erection can be caused by stress, alcohol, fatigue, recreational drugs or relationship problems. The message that these folks need to be given: “It’s okay to have one failed sexual encounter!” Why? Because sex can mean so many things. It is not a perfect, routine, regular enactment of someone else’s script. The question to ask yourself is, whose script do you want to follow—yours or a stranger’s? Viagra is acceptable in the cases where a serious medical problem is addressed. When appropriately used, and diagnosed after consideration of many factors, it can be helpful to some people. But that eliminates the majority of people who take it. According to a Case Western Reserve University writeup, “Are We Being Over Diagnosed?” the author mentions that the threshold of what constitutes an illness continues to be lowered, so much that a large part of the population is considered at risk. Viagra should come with a warning. It is serious medication that interacts with other medicines and could leave you taking pills for the rest of your life. If you are taking Viagra ask yourself basic questions: Why am I using Viagra? Is it to get an erection? How good or bad was my erection before? What is the source of this problem? Is it more than just physical? Should I get a second opinion?
The Veiled Garden
There are no drugs for making love. Love is neither science nor art. It is a myth that sex has less to do with feeling and more about function. Ads pertaining to sex never connect cultural diversity to sex or validate changes in body over time. Ads have a universal one size fits model routine—standardized sex which they call it “real sex.” There is no real sex. Perfect sex is a social construct. There is no one single, real sex. We need to come back to our own definitions and discover what sex is through our experiences with our partners. What if took you a different approach? What if you didn’t approach sex like it is a competitive performance sport. Our job is to avoid being gullible. We need to learn to adapt to circumstances, and there are no drugs for selling or adapting. We are all embodied spiritual beings. We are all sexually different. Our capacities for pleasure are different. You have to work this out and negotiate with your spouse. Sexuality should be a lifeaffirming source of pleasure intimacy and playful regression. Perfectly normal couples might like to do without sex at times and do other things to build intimacy like cuddling. Pleasure isn’t restricted to genitals. Satisfaction is the successful achievement of expectations. Open your minds and hearts and souls about sexuality at a new level. Adultery The most common emotional needs in marriage are admiration, affirmation, affection, commitment and safety, honesty, openness, gentleness, respect, honor, feelings of inclusion, and humor. Along with these there are physical attraction, sexual fulfillment, financial security, and support. When these needs are unmet,
whether they are intellectual, emotional or physical, people sometimes turn toward affairs to fill the voids. Affairs are a form of adultery, and are considered a sin by all major faiths. Few people plan to have an affair, yet it is one of the main causes of the breakdown of marriages. It often occurs when a person is distant from God and faith. Who are the most common affair partners? People you and your spouse know—mutual friends, co-workers, and other couples you spend time with. They can also be supervisors, schoolmates, sports teammates, and travel companions. They can even be relatives of your spouse or strangers. The most common circumstances that surround an affair are the sense of a void in the relationship that makes you to desire to fill it outside of your marriage. It may start with innocent non-physical emotional involvement, then goes on to flirting and crossing the physical line into touching and kissing. Once the spark is lit, unless there is significant remorse or guilt, it is nearly impossible to turn back. Protecting Yourself from Adultery from the Muslim Perspective There is only one acceptable form of sex in God’s eyes: physical intimacy between a man and a woman within the God-given safety and security of the covenant of a marital relationship. A saying of Muhammad is, “If an unrelated man and woman are alone in a room, the devil is the third with them.” Never be alone with a member of the opposite sex who is ger-Mahram (not related to you). Think of the punishment of the adulterer. Even if the society or community around you has lower morals, think of your reckoning with God.
The Veiled Garden
No man or woman is worth going to Hell for and facing God’s punishment. Remember how temptation attacks us: when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Envious, Discouraged (HALTED acronym). Guarding against Adultery 1. Accept your own mate as God’s provision. 2. Pray together. 3. Manage your mind—it all begins with your thoughts and attitudes. 4. Know your needs and communicate them; know your spouse’s needs and meet them every day or take a step toward their needs. 5. Monitor your media intake of shows like Desperate Housewives. 6. Pick your friends carefully. 7. Minimize the opportunity to fall. 8. Establish boundaries by joint agreement on things like time for family, travel, hobbies, and work. 9. Magnify the consequences and minimize the benefits of unfaithfulness. 10. Be careful of social environments that encourage flirting. 11. Diffuse electric situations that may be misconstrued. 12. Keep your eyes in check, and do not hunger for the attention of others. 13. Be careful of inappropriate dress and inappropriate invitations. 14. Avoid lingering touches. 15. Do not indulge in or give ear to complaints about your friend’s spouse if that sets too high of an expectation.
16. Never travel or spend leisure time alone with someone you might be attracted to. Forbidden Fruits in Islam Sex is the ultimate expression of love and is a total physical and emotional encounter. In a brief but beautiful expression the Quran refers to this relation between husbands and wives, saying: "They are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187). In Islam, intercourse is prohibited during the following times: - During menstruation* - During the post-natal bleeding called Nifas - During daytime (while fasting) in the month of Ramadan - When a person is in Ihraam during the pilgrimage to Mecca * The prohibition of sex during the periods is limited strictly to sexual intercourse; other intimate contact (with the exception of the vagina and anus) is allowed. However, it is better not to play with her body between the navel and the knees. If a person who is engaged in sexual intercourse with his wife discovers that her period has begun, then he should immediately withdraw from her.
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