I was looking at Al Arabiya recently, when I came across an article on child prodigy turned sex-worker, Sufiah Yousof.
Now, I am well aware of the fact that prostitution is frowned upon in all major religions, but the wording of this story, and many of the comments following it, struck me as cheap and exploitative. Let’s weep crocodile tears for Sufiah Yousof while enjoying the furtive thrill of seeing a good girl from a Muslim family go bad! What could possibly be wrong with that?
It’s easy to reduce Ms. Yousof to a two-dimensional caricature, but I suspect that her story is as complicated as any story of lived experience. Of course, a nuanced portrayal most likely means that you do not get to make a buck and/or a self-righteous fuss over the matter at hand.
Allowing people to make choices means that, every once in a while, they will do things that go against one’s ideology, perhaps even against one’s spirit. This is why people everywhere (not just in the Muslim world) are so fond of making examples out of women who stray from the fold. Women have long been regarded as property in many societies, and, in many cases, have been taught to regard themselves, their daughters, and sisters as property as well. And who wants “damaged goods”? Right?
In many ways, Sufiah’s story reminds me of the story of Britney Spears, another “good girl” gone “bad.” I am old enough to remember the days when Britney’s much-publicized virginity was the stuff of hotly-traded soundbytes and teasing magazine spreads. We just love to watch those good girls come tumbling off their public pedestals, do we not?
Let me state this loud and clear: a woman’s sexuality is not public property. What she chooses to do with it is between herself and God, if she believes in God, that is.
Using another person’s private life as a chance to score a cheap point about “the loose morals of today” or what have you is, at the very best, cruel.
I do not wish to speculate too much on Sufiah’s upbringing and the reason for her lifestyle choices. She was a prodigy, and such gifts come with all sorts of string attached. Her father was recently arrested on charges of sexual assault, and one has to wonder if assault is something Sufiah has had to endure as well, but ultimately, this is a matter that only she can testify to.
Perhaps she is happy doing what she does. Perhaps she is not. Either way, it is up to her to decide where to go from here.
She does not need to explain herself to the gawkers who have, with predictable relish, piled onto this story. She does not need to explain herself to me or you. No one is entitled to hear her version of events, lest she chooses to disclose them.
Move along now. There’s nothing more to see here.