21. Adolescence in a Moroccan Town by Susan Schaefer Davis and Douglas Davis
Adolescence in a Moroccan Town is in many ways a companion to Schaefer Davis’ monograph on women’s roles in Patience and Power, and in fact, the same town is featured in both books. This study takes a similar form to Patience and Power, but focusing on the stage of adolescence in semi-rural Morocco. Adolescence in Morocco is a murkily defined term, without a clear equivalent in Moroccan Arabic, and without any rituals to mark its significance. Davis and her husband undertook a broad study of the hopes, dreams, daily routines, sexual behaviors, and ethical and moral standards of a wide range of teenagers in one Moroccan town.
I realize that this book would most likely not be interesting to most people, and I would even recommend reading Patience and Power over this study – although I think that the section on adolescent sexuality, chapter 6, would merit a good reading – but I’d like to leave anyone reading this review with a few facts and observations that the Davises note in their interviews. Although many Moroccan girls reported being extremely close with their mothers, almost none of the girls interviewed learned about their periods or about sex from their families. The taboo of incest prevented any cross-gender discussions about sex, and even when teenaged girls are clearly showing interest in boys, their mothers often feigned ignorance, stating that a girl’s husband would initiate her sexually, and there was no need for earlier discussion. Unfortunately, these attitudes and lack of access to birth control (attitudes towards premarital sex are harsh, and unmarried women purchasing birth control at a pharmacy would potentially face community repercussions or social stigma) lead to unplanned pregnancies with no legal way out.
The research for this book was conducted later than that for Patience and Power but I felt like it was less applicable to today’s Moroccan adolescent population. The prevalence of technology and Western media influence was just beginning in the early 1970s, and was nothing compared to what it is today. Although a lot of the insights presented in the book were important, it was slightly less revelatory than my first reading of Patience and Power. However, I found the section on adolescent sexuality particularly interesting – although it’s highly relevant to my research, I was mentally comparing the sexual behavior of young Moroccans in the 1970s to those today, versus the hook up culture that is so frequently discussed in Western media.
A discussion of American and Moroccan teenage sexual behavior isn’t really the point of this review, even though I would find it exciting, but it is worth noting that Moroccan teens are just as curious and sexually interested as Americans, but that energy was and is expressed in completely different ways aligned with cultural norms and ideals.