“There is a misconception in the Middle East that girls really shouldn’t go to a gynecologist until they get married,” she said. “For many years, they have not visited a single – if at all – for fear that undergoing a gynecological examination will lead to the loss of virginity.”
Women and girls send her questions via Instagram, and while she is unable to prescribe treatment or diagnose via the app, she provides general advice, knowing that many of her correspondents may never visit the clinic.
Another common problem she found was that the often fearful emphasis on celibacy before marriage could extend to marriage. A virgin who is suddenly next to her husband on their wedding night may experience fear and discomfort, which can physically manifest itself in vaginismus, a condition in which the muscles of the vagina involuntarily contract during penetration, she said.
For some women, new platforms have changed their lives in small but powerful ways.
Salma, 32, an Egyptian high school teacher who chose not to give her last name, said the lesson she took with Ms. Emam made her feel more comfortable in her body.
For example, when her period begins, she no longer feels the need to hide the pad on the way to the bathroom. “Because why should I hide?” she said.
She found her body to be a source of pleasure.
“I used to think it was embarrassing to masturbate,” she said. “But now I know that it is normal and natural to do something and enjoy it.”
And she knows its name in Arabic.
Mona el-Naggar reported from Cairo and Sarah Aridi from New York.