When I was growing up, an only child in a Pakistini Muslim family in Halifax, sex was a taboo subject. Although sex was inferred all the time through dictates about correct behaviour, it was never discussed openly. I never had the 'birds and bees' talk from my mother, and the only time sex came up was when girls went 'bad'. Girls who were found to have boyfriends were quickly married off before they could do anything to dishonour the family name. And in a world where the hymen was so crucial, even tampons were suspect – a woman's honour was quite literally located between her legs.

At first, this culture at home seemed diametrically opposed to what I was experiencing at school – many of my friends either had or wanted boyfriends. Despite this, I could see many of the same values inflected through slightly different prisms – boys wanted notches on the bed post while girls were obsessed with being fun without being 'easy'. Double standards for the sexes were embedded in both cultures, with women being an easy target for denigration. Through school, university and in my professional life I became increasingly conscious of the wider impact of the differing narratives about men's and women's interactions.

Read the complete original version of this item...