Finding My Sexuality After Leaving My Husband—and an Islamist Cult
Illustration by Niallycat
My First Time is a column and podcast series exploring sexuality, gender, and kink with the wide-eyed curiosity of a virgin. We all know your "first time" is about a lot more than just popping your cherry. From experimenting with kink to just trying something new and wild, everyone experiences thousands of first times in the bedroom—that's how sex stays fun, right?
When I start something new in my life, I just jump straight in. I don't check the temperature—I just go for it.
My dad is from Afghanistan and he tried to impose his strict religious beliefs on my mom, who was quite Western. We ended up joining an Islamic cult when I was 11. I left school at 13 and became a disciplined, religious, practising Muslim.
You never believe you're in a cult, when you're actually in a cult. People ask me where I was radicalised—"was it in Afghanistan?" And I'm like, "no, it was in east London!"
We thought we had the truth and we couldn't stop until we implemented sharia law in London. It was about living what we thought was a utopian lifestyle. It was isolating. Other Muslims didn't see us as Muslims, and you could literally only mix with members of your immediate family and women. It was very fear-based: there was one guy at the top, and every day he'd change his mind and we'd have to abide by his rules.
I got stuck in this identity, and lived like that for many years of my life. I was married in my early twenties and had children and thought, this is how my life is going to be.
When I was 25, I started to outgrow it all. I stopped being so scared of going to hell and committing sin. I lost the fear. I became less codependent on my husband.
I told my husband I was a lesbian during a fight. At first he tried to convince me that it was a phase; he asked me if we could just have a threesome. I had to be very bold and say, "I don't want to be in this anymore. This isn't what I want."
It didn't go down well. He was shocked, but I guess he also saw how my sexuality was like the missing piece of the puzzle; the reason we never clicked sexually. He freaked out: I understood. It's a lot for a Muslim man to take. I wanted to leave my religion and take my hijab off. It was overload.
Me, being the person I am, I didn't sit with these feelings for long. I literally went out, took my scarf off, and headed to a gay bar called the Candy Bar. I loved that place. It was heaven for me—a bar full of women, where I felt safe.
I had no idea how to chat women up! I thought that if you spoke to someone, you got married. I didn’t realize that you take a phone number and don’t text them for a week. It was a new world for me. I had to discover it all on my own—even how to dress—because I didn't have any friends. My first proper encounter with another woman was with a girl I met at the Candy Bar. I was drunk. I'd never drunk before, so everything was new to me—half a beer, and I'd be done.
I've always had a fetish for older women. I remember, when I was at school. I had a crush on my teacher. I'd find ways to speak to her and write her love letters.
I'd been going to a woman-only gym for a while—from when I wore a hijab—and there was a woman there who had the androgynous, manly look that I was into at the time. She was a fitness instructor who worked out a lot and her body was quite androgynous. I was attracted to her because she was comfortable with her sexuality.
I had a massive crush on her! We were both so shy that nothing happened for months, even though there was this sexual energy between us. Also, she was naughty—she didn't tell me that she had a girlfriend.
We'd have to do all this planning, because I would only have a few hours in the afternoon before I'd have to collect the kids, and she'd have to go back to her girlfriend. We'd drink wine. There were all these times where it wouldn't happen because we were shy.
When I finally consummated things with her, it was amazing. It was everything I thought it would be. The very fact that I was naked with this woman, and there was all this gentleness. It was different. I knew it was what I wanted.
I'd fantasised and imagined what intimacy with a woman would be like. I remember everything standing still and I was able to really look at her, and see what it looked like when two women were together, and it was so beautiful. It was so what I wanted. A kiss on the neck was like heaven. I had no idea that my neck was the most sensitive part of my body, I had no idea that somebody could kiss me on the neck and it would feel that way.
She was the one who led things. It was really slow; there was a lot of kissing me from head-to-toe, taking the time to see how I liked things. It was all new to me. I remember she had tattoos on her arms and short hair and I just found it so sexy. It really heightened it for me.
Because it was all so new for me I didn't orgasm, because there was so much intensity—I have to feel relaxed and safe with somebody, to be able to orgasm. We just kissed a lot. I think I was pacing myself into it.
With women it's a whole new ball game. It's so different to being with a man. I was so scared of not being able to give oral sex to a woman. It freaked me out. It took me a very long time to be able to do that, and I had to be wasted.
The funny thing is, my next girlfriend was a dominatrix. So with her, I got into the whole being tied up, slave thing. So I went from this sweet, gentle, love-making experience, into a hard-core dominatrix relationship for four years. She fucked me with a strap-on; she had this power over me when I wasn't with her. I was constantly turned on by her. It was very unhealthy, but an experience I'll never forget.
Looking back now I see how much I've evolved. It all builds up to this bigger picture of me learning about myself. All of these experiences I've had make me see the world differently. Not many people have had the back story and life I've had.