‘Good Girls From Good Families Don’t Write About Sex’


In the Pakistan I returned to, control was focused on preventing the unmarried from gaining sexual knowledge or having pre-marital sex. Because sex outside wedlock is illegal in Islam, Pakistanis—Muslims everywhere—form entire morality enforcement industries to make sure the genders are kept separate in order to avoid temptation. Thus the “concerned citizens” telling me to wear long-sleeved apparel only and cover my chest with a dupatta. Everything is everyone’s business, and those of us girls who were curious about sex were suspect because good girls from good Muslim or Pakistani families do not even think about sex. And they certainly do not write about sex.

One day in the late 1990s after I’d married and moved to the U.S., I was reading a short story in a literary journal when I came upon the word “vagina.” I slammed the journal down. My stomach churned, my cheeks flushed, I was dizzy…

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