Whole families can be disgraced if one member — particularly a female — is seen to have stepped outside of society’s strict social norms.
Fadila, 29, an accountant, has been looking for love in all the wrong places since she was a teenager.
Early on, her beguiling smile had boys asking for her telephone number.
“Change has come to Saudi Arabia.” Much of Waleed’s "love relationship" with his girlfriend has taken place online.
The pair finally met in person in Egypt, where gender mixing is more accepted than in Saudi Arabia, long dominated by a puritanical form of Islam that has been challenged recently by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's push toward a more moderate interpretation of the religion.
Lulwa, 27, bridles at a deep-seated sexism in Saudi society that she says reduces women to their reproductive functions, even among some members of her liberal circle in which the genders mix and alcohol is sometimes served at parties.
“You were born to give birth — that’s your mission in life,” she says.Secrecy is the norm, particularly when it comes to sex.“The elephant in the room is that everybody engages in it, but nobody talks about it,” says Lulwa, an aspiring filmmaker who wears bright red lipstick and lets her headscarf slip off when she thinks she can get away with it.“Our culture here, they make love a sin,” Waleed said.Because sex and romantic love remain highly controversial subjects in the kingdom, interviewees spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, and pseudonyms have been used.Then she channels her father and says: “Why would you date — where does this go?