Queer Virginity: Leïla Maraoune’s La Vie sexuelle d’un islamiste à Paris
AbstractThere is something deceptively binary about Leïla Marouane's novel, The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris: her male protagonist is a forty-year old virgin who wishes to "conquer" Western female bodies for whom procreation, marriage and commitment are (he hopes) irrelevant. At the same time, he does not seem able to break free from supposedly traditional Muslim values. And he is obsessed by an overpowering mother does not stop pressuring him into marrying a young Muslim virgin and having children as soon as possible. One of the possible interpretations of The Sexual Life of as Islamist in Paris is the protagonist slowly becomes mad because he is torn between two worlds and two cultures. The narrator has supposedly inherited a very precise cartography of bodies and gender that separates the world into penetrable and penetrating bodies. The trouble with that interpretation however is that it presupposes that Marouane accepts that Maghrebi sexual discourse is monolithic, opposable to a just as monolithic Western norm. Upon close reading, it becomes apparent that The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris is just as provocative as its title seems to promise but for reasons that have nothing to do with the reiteration or inversion of clichés. Rather than presenting a simple reversal of stereotypes (Mohamed is the male virgin and the Arab women he meets are sexually liberated), the novel complicates the construction of virginity and penetration and presents the narrative voice as an inextricable web of male and female threads. Presented as a double of the author herself, it turns the novel into a space where the construction of masculinity and femininity escapes the opposition between "the Maghreb" and "France," a space where critique has find its own parameters through practices of constant disaligning and disidentification from gender and ethnic or religious norms.