"We are Arabs:" The Embodiment of Virginity Through Arab and Arab American Women's Lived Experiences

Title"We are Arabs:" The Embodiment of Virginity Through Arab and Arab American Women's Lived Experiences
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAbboud, Sarah, Loretta S. Jemmott, and Marilyn S. Sommers
JournalSexuality & Culture
ISBN Number1095-5143 (Print)1095-5143
Accession NumberPMID: 26865811
AbstractVirginity is part of our existence in the world as embodied sexual subjects. While many meanings are associated with virginity, in most of the Arab world virginity relates to the presence of a hymen and extends to encompass the honor of the Arab community, and virginity loss commonly relate to first vaginal intercourse. This study explored the meanings of virginity from the perspectives of Arab and Arab American women. A qualitative phenomenological approach, informed by the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, was used to conduct in-depth interviews with ten women. We identified one over-arching theme Virginity as Identity, and two major themes Embodiment of Virginity and "We are Arabs." To reach an embodied virginity, participants went through a disembodied virginity process, reflecting society's perceptions and values of virginity related to anatomical presence of a hymen and society's honor. "We are Arabs" describes the ways women identified with the Arab ethnic identity as a shared overall identification, but differed from one lived experience to another, and influenced how participants embodied virginity. Our participants provided a better understanding of the diverse meanings of virginity that move beyond the binary of virginity and virginity loss, and into a spectrum of embodied meanings. Findings suggest the need for future research around sexuality in Arab Americans with attention to socio-political contexts in order to understand the nature and context of sexual initiation and its impact on sexual behaviors and well-being.