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Title: The social risks of premarital sex among university students in Beirut: strategies and negotiations
Authors: El Hajj, Taghreed
Supervisors: Demir, Ipek
Sanchez Taylor, Jacqueline
Award date: 1-Sep-2016
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: This thesis examines the social risks university students in Beirut associate with premarital sex, as well as exploring the various strategies they employ when dealing with these risks. Based on 34 in-depth semi-structured interviews with 18 female and 16 male students, this study contributes to sociological research in two main ways. First, it goes beyond the sexual health-risk paradigm, which dominates academic scholarship, and instead enhances our understanding and conceptualisation of ‘sexual behaviour’ and of ‘risk’ by addressing the issue of premarital sex from a ‘social risk’ perspective. Second, it explores premarital sex in a religiously and demographically diverse, yet relatively conservative and patriarchal context. It does this without merely focusing on ‘Muslim women’ and ‘honour killings’ – two of the most featured aspects in the literature. The thesis also draws on Mary Douglas’s socio-cultural work on risk, along with sociological work on gender and power. The findings indicate that decisions about engaging in, or refraining from, premarital sex are shaped by social pressures and control, and dictated by social norms and moral values. Transgressing the latter imposes social risks, which were perceived in three main ways: Moral risk, where one’s respect and reputation might be jeopardised as a result of transgressing social expectations and moral boundaries; Shared risk, where one’s loss of moral reputation might expose one’s family to social shame, blame and dishonour; and Future risk, where women might become ‘unmarriageable’, once they lose their virginity (intact-hymen) or reputation. The findings also reveal that students negotiate their sexual lives and respond to these risks using various strategies, including: a) negotiating non-vaginal-penetrative sex and intimacy, b) undergoing hymen reconstruction, c) performing purity and chastity and d) negotiating temporary religious marriages. The findings demonstrate that, although sexual behaviour can lead to social exclusion, students manage these risks carefully to protect themselves and their families.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Dept. of Sociology
Leicester Theses

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