The sex lives of people in Morocco are shaped by cultural forces—and also the penal code. Sex outside marriage is illegal, and so is abortion in almost all cases. Adultery is punishable by prison time. And as for violating Morocco's cultural laws—those punishments fall mostly on women.
The French-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani explores the places where desire, intimacy and the patriarchy collide in her new book, Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women's Intimate Lives in the Arab World.
As a girl and then a teenager, Slimani says, "I always heard people speaking about girls as dangerous. The fact that you can be raped, that you can be attacked. And also that being a woman was being a temptress. So I've always had this idea that I had something in me that was dirty, that was not pure, and everyone was talking about the good girls. You know, this ideal of the good girl who is pure, who is, of course, a virgin, who is going to sacrifice herself for other people. And I could feel, even as a very young girl, that I was not this kind of girl. So I couldn't feel pure, and I felt that I was going to disappoint my whole society."
On Morocco's unofficial motto for sex: Do what you wish, but never talk about it.
It means that the big problem now in Morocco is that the penal code lays down imprisonment of up to a year for anyone engaging [in] sex before marriage. Two years for adultery and three years if you are homosexual. Abortion is illegal. But, of course, as you can imagine, everyone is having sex in Morocco like everywhere else. But if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can always be arrested, or you will have to give some money to a policeman or to someone if you don't want to have a problem. So everyone is telling you, okay, do whatever you want, but lie all the time. And especially women—for a woman, it's very difficult to live openly and to speak with honesty of your sexual life. People want you to be a hypocrite and a liar and to hide yourself.