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Navigating virginities: enactment of sexual agency among Arab women in the USA.

Authors
  • Abboud, Sarah1
  • Lanier, Yzette2
  • Sweet Jemmott, Loretta1
  • Sommers, Marilyn S1
  • 1 University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
  • 2 New York University College of Nursing, New York, NY, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Culture, health & sexuality
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2019
Volume
21
Issue
10
Pages
1103–1116
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2018.1539249
PMID: 30646837
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

People interpret virginity in a variety of ways with different implications for sexual identity and behaviour. In Arab societies, heterosexuality and compulsory virginity before marriage are traditionally understood as ideals for a 'good' Arab girl, a 'good' Arab family and, consequently, a 'good' Arab society. In this study, our goal was to gain an in-depth understanding of the enactment of sexual agency and decision-making around virginity from the perspectives of Arab women living in the USA. We conducted a qualitative phenomenological study involving interviews with ten women whose accounts could be grouped into three distinct types: 'For me, it's the person you marry that you will be doing these things with'; 'I want to wait until marriage but I know there might be a possibility where I'm not'; and 'I started dating this guy, and I did lose my virginity to him'. The life stories of the women illustrate different ways of enacting sexual agency that are strongly influenced by socio-cultural norms and contexts. Our findings have important implications for future research to better understand decisions and behaviours about virginity and how Arab women in the USA enact their sexuality.

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