Men, after a certain age — as nature seems to have intended to preserve the human race — are often sexually attracted to women. Women, similarly, are often sexually attracted to men, even if many cultures try to keep that proclivity a closely-guarded secret.
Different cultures handle human sexuality in different ways, presumably to avoid the potential social disruption it could create. This control has traditionally been affected by religious doctrines, laws, and patriarchal priests, ministers, rabbis, muftis and other clergy. In the West, women’s dress, behaviour, and rights to autonomy have been freed from religious control only in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the rise of the suffragettes, feminism and the availability of safe contraception.
Judaeo-Christian culture has involved restrictions of this kind, with monogamy enforced, adultery condemned, divorce often hard or sometimes impossible to obtain even for women suffering physical and psychological abuse, a lifetime of childbirth and nurturing, often while turning a blind eye to men’s sexual independence. Changes that have taken place in Western culture for the past century are unlikely to undergo much reversal in the years to come. Most women today in the West dress as they choose, some modestly, others in inviting ways. Women insist on civil rights, play increasingly important roles in politics, business, the military, education, and all professions, and there are even female members of the clergy in many churches, such as the Anglican Church and the synagogues and temples of the Jewish Reform and Conservative movements.
This is the new, Western world in which immigrants from other cultures now live, some with relief, others too bewildered to find safe pathways through which to negotiate their way between our freedoms and their inherited assumptions about women, their place in society, and their sexuality. Nowhere is this dilemma sharper than between Muslim immigrants in the West and the democratic values they encounter.