“In the Middle East, there is this misconception that girls really should not see the gynecologist until they get married,” she said. “Many go years without visiting one — if at all — over fear that undergoing a pelvic exam would lead to a loss of virginity.”
Women and girls send her questions over Instagram, and while she cannot give treatment or diagnoses over the app, she offers general advice, knowing that many of her correspondents may never visit a clinic.
Another common problem she has found is that the emphasis on celibacy before marriage, often instilled through fear, can carry over into the marriage. A virgin suddenly finding herself lying next to her husband on her wedding night, she said, may be overcome with fear and discomfort, which can manifest physically in vaginismus, a condition in which vaginal muscles involuntarily contract during penetration.
For some women, the new platforms have changed their lives in small but powerful ways.
Salma, 32, an Egyptian high school teacher who preferred not to use her last name, said a class she took with Ms. Emam left her feeling more comfortable about her body.
When she gets her period, for instance, she no longer feels the need to conceal a pad on the way to the bathroom. “Because why do I have to hide?” she said.
She has found her body to be a source of pleasure.
“I used to feel like masturbating was something shameful,” she said. “But now I know that it’s normal and natural, something to do and enjoy.”
And she knows the name for it in Arabic.
Mona el-Naggar reported from Cairo, and Sara Aridi from New York.
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