"You Make Me Wanna" is a column celebrating pop culture-fueled sexual awakenings.
There was no such thing as sex in my world. Touching, yes. Warm hugs from aunties, handshakes, and maybe a high-five were all fine. Anything else, though, was a no-no.
Born to Syrian immigrants, I went to a Muslim school. I wore a hijab and prayed five times a day. Muslim culture emphasized many great things—charity, kindness, devotion and faith—but it was sexless. I rarely saw parents kiss, and even when I did it was a quick peck goodbye. I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys, or even look at them. I had to turn my face away whenever kissing came up on TV.
I secretly knew that there was something different about me, some feeling I had that no one else seemed to show. It wasn’t until I saw the face of Tuxedo Mask, the heart-throb hero in the Sailor Moon series, until I realized what that feeling was. Despite never having talked to a boy I felt lust in my 12-year-old heart. I wanted to be touched by Tuxedo Mask, the mysterious masked man who stole my heart every afternoon.
Sailor Moon is a Japanese anime TV series that aired in the 1990s. It followed the adventures of Sailor Moon and her fellow Sailor Scouts: guardians imbued with magic powers to defend the earth against evil. They were aided and abetted by Tuxedo Mask, a mysterious figure that always appears in Sailor Moon’s hour of need.
By day Tuxedo Mask is a regular 17-year-old known as Mamoru. But by night, he’s a cloaked hero who protects his love Sailor Moon (aka Usagi) from the aliens that continually invade earth. His feeling for her are so powerful that when a wish at the end of Season 1 resets everyone’s memories, Tuxedo Mask's love for Sailor Moon becomes a sentient life form of its own. His desire to protect Usagi causes his memories to leave his body and assume physical form as the Moonlight Knight, who exists independently from Mamoru, but continues to protect her all the same.
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Watching Sailor Moon, I’d ask myself: what is it about Usagi that makes her worthy of Mamoru’s love? Usagi isn’t an exceptional beauty. She’s lazy, accident prone, shouts rather than speaks, and has a voracious appetite. Her friends are always poking fun at her, asking her why she’s such a cry-baby, or how she could eat so much food. But she’s still the unyielding object of attention for Mamoru.
Watching Mamoru’s love for Usagi, I realized for the first time in my life that beauty was about more than just looks. When he overhears Usagi fretting about becoming a model in the Season 1 episode “Usagi’s a Model: The Flash of the Monster Camera,” he offers some wise advice. “Honestly though people these days have it all wrong,” he begins. “They believe that simply having good looks is what makes a girl beautiful. But what actually allows a girl to stand out from everyone else is far more than just her physical appearance.”
As someone who had spent her whole life hiding my body this quote stayed with me. Until then, I’d believed that women had to have long hair, makeup, and an hourglass figure to be worthy of love. Perpetually buried under layers of clothing, I felt ashamed for being so different to my mostly white, high-school peers. I believed that no one would ever look at me the way Mamoru looked at Usagi. I just wasn’t good enough. And yet every day I could tune in and fawn over this perfect gentleman who would look past shallow exteriors into someone’s soul.
The idea that a man could love someone for being brave or kind rather than beautiful, changed me. I was a 12-year-old with acne who was horny for the first time in my life and didn’t know how to handle it. I’d hump pillows and eye the detachable shower head with more interest day after day. Mamoru had sure made me awful thirsty.
And Mamoru did more than just desire Usagi: he was forever encouraging Sailor Moon to be the best version of herself. Every time he enters battle on-screen he’s rallying for her. “Look into your heart and find the warrior within you, Sailor Moon!” he says. Growing up in an abusive household, I often felt like Sailor Moon growing up. Like her, I was forever calling out injustice whenever I saw it, a habit that would often earn me a beating. Every man from my stepfather to ex-boyfriends had something to say about my pesky habit of speaking up. “You talk so much,” they’d say. “Why do you care so much?” Back then, I didn’t have an Usagi to urge me on. I felt alone. But when I met my future husband, Arthur, that changed.
Arthur never shamed me for being who I was. He inspired me to be my most authentic self, just like Tuxedo Mask did for Sailor Moon. He appreciated me, encouraged me, and admired the parts of my body that I hated. His non-judgment inspired me. With Arthur, I asked myself for the first time: why was I so judgmental towards myself?
Tuxedo Mask, and Arthur’s love, showed me that instead of wishing I looked differently, all I needed to do was find the beauty within myself. All of the things I had once thought of as negative qualities were actually what made me special: a warrior princess of my own. I began to worry less about what others thought of me and revelled in being my most silly self, and found some peace at last—all thanks to a Japanese anime series and one exceptional man.