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Über dieses Buch

This book is a social critique of the cultural taboo of the female virginity in the Middle East. It highlights the unobtainability of this cultural myth and its multilevel destructive influences on various aspects of social life.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
Virginity is simply a demarcation line between sexual experience and naivety. However, virginity in Middle Eastern context has a different connotation. It is an index of honor, modesty, and a mode of social existence for a female living in these societies. An entire cultural and social system has been constructed around the concept of virginity and female chastity. The honor of men is principally related to the sexual conduct of women. Virginity is significant in the Middle East to the extent of forming a cult around the hymen and hymeneal blood. This virginity and hymen veneration condition how romance, sexuality, honor, social life, and gender relations and roles are performed and perceived in society.
David Ghanim

Chapter 1. Incarcerating Honor

Abstract
There is a strong preoccupation with the sexual purity of girls in Middle Eastern societies to a level of obsession developing into a cultural and social cult of virginity. Abu-Odeh argues that the discourse on gender and the discourse on virginity in Arab culture crisscross so intricately that they are hardly distinguishable.1 Bouhdiba states that virginity is the object of a veritable cult and an essential element of Arab Muslim erotic life.2 The virginity cult is deeply ingrained in cultural practices in the region.
David Ghanim

Chapter 2. Virginity Cult

Abstract
Resilient cultural taboos mark reaching the age of puberty as the beginning of a process of strict regimentation and signal the start of a life of anguish for a female in Middle Eastern societies. Cultural taboos single out and overburden girls with societal fixation with female chastity. This obsession is reinforced by a strict regime of control and restrictions regarding the conduct and mobility of females. This control conditions the life of a female to a negative and constrained social existence. All the resources of the family, whose honor is at stake, are alerted and mobilized to guard the virginity of the female. Every male relative and every senior woman is concerned and involved in protecting her reputation. Paradoxically, the female herself is an active participant in this order through self-control, self-policing, and the women-dominated culture of gossip.
David Ghanim

Chapter 3. Internalizing Shame

Abstract
Shame and guilt are two intrinsically human emotions often manifested in social interaction. These emotions are important emotional components of psychological development and are positioned in a relationship with the self. They coexist within the cognitive faculty of the individual and reinforce each other. They are interrelated, and one triggers the other. They are not mutually exclusive, in the sense of either/or, but rather intertwined. It is difficult to dichotomize these two emotions because they are constantly shifting and overlapping and are always in relatedness with cognitive thinking.
David Ghanim

Chapter 4. Hymen Mystique

Abstract
The term “hymen,” meaning membrane, is of Greek origin. It is a thin membrane found at the opening of the vagina. This membrane exists only in women, with no apparent anatomical function. However, the uniqueness of the female hymen has sparked the imagination of men to invent a biological function for it—linking the hymen to female sexuality. Men socially construct the function of the hymen in ensuring female sexual purity, honor, and virginity. Apparently, according to t his conceptualization, all of God’s creation is perfect and God creates everything for a purpose. Therefore, proving female virginity should be perceived as the function of the hymen, and men have discovered that purpose.
David Ghanim

Chapter 5. Virginity Hypocrisy

Abstract
The virginity cult insists on making an artificial linkage between unbroken hymen and anatomical virginity and honor. Artificial virginity is a natural outcome of this fallacious connection. Insisting on female sexual purity would surely produce virginity and blood, but only as faked. Social construction of virginity is not only unrealistic and unattainable but also sexist, hypocritical, and conducive to a thriving culture of deceitfulness. While two wrongs do not make a right, both wrongs are part of the same quixotically constructed gender reality concerning female sexuality, virginity, and honor.
David Ghanim

Chapter 6. Virginity and Body Discourse

Abstract
Far from being an expression of her respectability, a woman experiences the virginity cult as an unjustified heavy burden on her life. It practically signifies a strict social regimentation and denial of her body. Rationalized by the honor code, controlling female sexuality inevitably embodies controlling her body. The family and community appropriation of the female body leads to a bodily denial of an autonomous existence in expressing the self and subjectivity. Mackenzie argues, “A person becomes an object for herself when she experiences her body as alien to her subjectivity, rather than as the direct expression of her subjectivity.”1 Best adds, “When women are perceived solely as objects of the male gaze, when their bodies are so regulated and culturally controlled, they are robbed of their subjectivity, of their identity, and, ironically, of the very sensuality for which they are imprisoned.”2
David Ghanim

Chapter 7. Virginity and Body Mutilation

Abstract
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation (FGM), often referred to as “female circumcision,” includes all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and any other injuries to the female genital organs, whether it be for cultural, religious, or other nontherapeutic reasons. There are several different known types of FGM practiced today. The most common are: Type I, Excision (removal) of the clitoral hood, with or without removal of part or all of the clitoris; Type II, Removal of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora; and Type III, Removal of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening, leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow (also referred to as infibulation).1
David Ghanim

Chapter 8. Virginity and Asexuality

Abstract
One of the most serious consequences of the asexual world of the virginity cult is fixing society to its very antithesis, sexuality. The high regard for preserving the female virginity where almost every family is alarmed and mobilized to ensure the expected compliance with the strict code of virginity and honor would inevitably fixate society sexually and make this fixation omnipresent in society. The honor code that is exclusively related to female sexuality succeeds in mesmerizing the society to the issue of sex, ironically the very issue that this code intends to limit.
David Ghanim

Chapter 9. Virginity and Premarital Intimacy

Abstract
The highly venerated cultural cult of female virginity and its concomitant process of desexualization strongly affect how men and women approach and relate to sexuality. Gender differences in premarital sexuality are pronounced and unambiguous. A study on university students in Turkey reveals that the rate of engaging in premarital sexual intercourse was only 4.3 percent among women compared with 44.2 percent among men.1
David Ghanim

Chapter 10. Ritual of Defloration

Abstract
In Middle Eastern cultures, the focal point of marriage is the wedding night where def loration, dukhla, takes the form of a ritual. It means the entry and signifies the consummation of marriage by the double confirmation of the female virginity and male virility, an indispensable condition for living a marital life together. In Oman, they build a honeymoon hut, kille, for the newly wed spouses at the groom’s home, consisting of one room, richly decorated by the groom’s female kin. The bride and groom spend seven days, in solitude, with no chores except defloration, and when this is over, the hut is torn down.1
David Ghanim

Chapter 11. Rewarding Virginity

Abstract
The sexual encounter between the bride and groom in the defloration ritual is crucial in defining the nature of their future relationship. In marriage, the wedding night is a decisive moment for both partners not only as a test of virginity and virility but also as an incident of renegotiating and redefining the rapport of power between the newly wed partners.
David Ghanim

Conclusion

Abstract
The virginity cult is one of the many taboos still dominating social life in the Middle East. It is intensely entrenched in the cultural practices of the region. Virginity is a supreme social norm strongly related to the sexual purity of the female and the social construction of family honor.
David Ghanim

Backmatter

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