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.
- Arab women
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health