The wild claim made by Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan is so absurd, all we can do is make a joke of it and hope it goes away
If you want to stop a child doing something, sometimes you have to lie to them. Don’t want them to stand on the seats on a train? Eventually you will tell them that the train guard will throw them off if they don’t stop. It was an evil genius parent who first told their child that the music playing from the ice-cream van means they are out of ice-cream. Now it seems that Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan has tried to apply this logic to the women of Saudi Arabia.
The ruling elite have run out of reasons to stop women from driving cars in the kingdom and so have resorted to the “kiddie lie”; driving harms women’s ovaries. He used his best authoritative parental voice, claimed that there was medical evidence of this and then walked away whistling hoping no one would realise how ridiculous it sounded.
Women not being able to drive in Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. They are not officially banned, but they are not able to get a driving licence, and can be prosecuted and imprisoned for driving without a licence or participating in the protests that women have organised there against the ban. But ridiculous behaviours need ridiculous justifications.
The Vatican didn’t want people to use condoms so propagated the myth that HIV can pass through tiny holes in them. Polio vaccinations in Nigeria have been called a western plot to make people infertile. Men were told that they would have to start helping with raising their children when women got the vote. OK, that last one was true.
In general, religious zealots are not the most clued-up on current sexual health advice. People like Sheikh Lohaidan and Todd Akin in the US, who when he was a congressman claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”, seem to take fertility and sex information from idiot 13-year-olds. The ones at school who used to state with considerable authority that you couldn’t get pregnant if you did it standing up, you could get pregnant by French kissing, or you would catch Aids from the toilet seats in the gym.
In Saudi Arabia, women have also been restricted from sport and exercise because they could break their hymen and thus lose their virginity. Defining virginity by a broken hymen rather than, you know, having sex, manages incredibly to separate sex from virginity. Your hymen can break for a hundred different reasons; exercise, riding in a car over cobbles, walking. If these things are to become the definition of sexual intercourse then Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s column is about to become a whole lot more weird.