cover image Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World

Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World

Leila Slimani, trans. from the French by Sophie Lewis. Penguin, $17 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-14-313376-6

In this powerful collection of first-person testimonials, French-Moroccan novelist Slimani (The Perfect Nanny) exposes the “systemic hypocrisy” of Moroccan attitudes toward female sexuality. On tour to promote her novel Adéle, whose title character suffers from sex addiction, Slimani heard from Moroccan women about their own experiences of adultery, abortion, rape, and marital abuse in a society where strict laws and “cult of purity” concepts govern public life, yet actual behavior follows the principle “do what you like, but do it in private.” She also interviews a Casablancan prostitute and an unmarried doctor, and brings in the perspectives of a female Islamic scholar and the host of a sex advice radio show. Slimani asserts that limited sexual education—for both boys and girls—perpetuates misogyny and gender discrimination, that draconian yet widely disregarded laws create a risk that authorities will discover illicit sexual behavior and use it as a way to exercise control over women, and that the antisexual attitudes of political Islam do not match the eroticism of the Koran. Balancing potent anecdotal accounts with incisive cultural analysis, Slimani makes a persuasive case that breaking the silence around sexuality is essential to advancing Muslim women’s social and economic rights. This eye-opening account strikes a resounding chord. (July)