The stomachache of Turkish women: virginity, premarital sex and responses to ongoing vigilance over women's bodies
Ellialtı, Tuğçe (2008) The stomachache of Turkish women: virginity, premarital sex and responses to ongoing vigilance over women's bodies. [Thesis]
Official URL: http://192.168.1.20/record=b1266249 (Table of Contents)
This research offers an ethnographic study of 17 young, single, professional metropolitan women, who represent a new sociological class in Turkey. Indepth interviews empirically depict the group’s attitudes towards virginity loss and premarital sex, attitudes most particularly revealed in their narratives of sexual experiences. Women’s discourses on virginity, premarital sexuality, single womanhood, as well as patriarchy and feminism underscore both their resistance towards ongoing vigilance over female virginity within a Turkish context and their struggle to challenge ‘patriarchal’ codes of modest demeanor. However, although the results make a strong case for the significance of women’s ‘relative’ empowerment vis-à-vis gendered patterns of sexuality and show women’s determination to re-define the boundaries of ‘proper’ sexuality, findings nonetheless suggest that women still negotiate the limits of sexual permissiveness on the basis of moral concerns/judgments. That is to say, young women predicate premarital sexual activity primarily on love and committed romantic relationships. The author argues that the ‘legitimization of virginity loss’ by single women points to a continued ambivalence on the part of Turkish women seeking to ‘justify’ and ‘idealize’ their premarital sexual experiences at the cost of social exclusion. She discusses how women frame premarital sexuality as a moral issue through recently formulated discourses/phrases that invent new definitions of ‘rational’ and ‘conscientious’ morality around female virginity. Interviews also reflect the social vulnerability these women face in this process, particularly in light of the pervasive stereotypes of single women, as selfish, career-driven women and/or as spinsters. Further exacerbating the situation for this group of single, sexually active women are negative attitudes towards the women’s movement and, ironically, the women’s own rejection of feminist ideology. Their annoyance at ‘being seen as sexually available’ by men increases their difficulty in negotiating female body boundaries. 1 "Stomachache" [Karın ağrısı] appropriates the expression women themselves commonly use in discourse to describe the pain of maintaining an ongoing vigilance over one's body and sexuality. (The significance of this term is explored in the thesis.) This difficulty is further compounded by this group’s criticism of feminism as radical and extremist, instead of viewing feminism, as the author argues, as an empowering resource for these women to not only escape prejudices about single womanhood, but more importantly, to assert control over their bodies, thus liberating themselves from social criticism.
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