Shifting subjectivities, cultivating safe spaces: Mothers' perspectives on virginity in contemporary Turkey
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Following Ozyegin’s (2015) work on Turkish youth and virginity, this study considers Turkish mothers’ negotiations of the Turkish discourse of virginity. We define the discourse of virginity in Turkey as the historical, cultural, political, and religious ideologies surrounding women’s chastity, which sustains asymmetrical gender relations. Via interviews in 2016, we aimed to understand how seven members of one urban social circle interpret the role of virginity in their lives and the lives of their adult children. The participant mothers, aged 47- 59, were all heterosexual college-educated Muslim women with white-collar careers. Participant mothers discussed virginity from what we interpret as three “tactical subjectivities” (Sandoval, 1991, 2000): modern women who believe in women’s rights, modern mothers who respect their children’s choices regarding premarital sex, and caring mothers who worry about social ostracism from such choices in a society that demands chastity for unmarried women. Tactically shifting among these three subjectivities, participant mothers talked about communicating survival strategies to their children while cultivating safe spaces that empower them to subvert what participant mothers view as repressive aspects of the Turkish discourse of virginity. We frame our analysis with third space feminism understood as subtle practices of resistance emerging from interstitial social locations, such as the participant mothers managing modern secular lives in a religiously conservative society.