Document Type


Publication Date


Published In

Reproductive Health Matters


This paper looks at the notion of rabt [tying], the inability of the groom to engage in penetrative intercourse on the wedding night, to explore the relationship between masculinity, embodiment, and sexual performance. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt between 1993 and 2015, this paper explores the notion of groom rabt, how it is socially defined and managed. After presenting my conceptual framework for the study of sexuality and embodiment, the paper moves to discuss the meaning of the wedding night; the social clues people draw on when they identify rabt; how these clues relate different events to the (in)abilities of the groom; and how women, particularly mothers, work to protect and heal their male relatives from this affliction. To understand moments when individuals are unable, or “fail,” to produce desirable physical and social effects, it is important that we do not exclusively consider the individual sexed body – the body that is clearly defined, bounded, and invested with unique desires and feelings. We must also consider the broader configurations that connect different bodies, endow them with certain meanings, and produce their materiality. My discussion shows that our understanding of sexuality and reproductive health will continue to be limited if we consider only men or women as separate individuals or as autonomous couples. Exploring moments of biological-social vulnerability, such as rabt, and how they relate to broader projects of gendering helps us understand issues linked to reproductive health and sexual rights in a deeper sense.


Embodiment, masculinity, sexuality, new materialism, Egypt

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


This work is freely available under a Creative Commons license.

Included in

Anthropology Commons