The War on Female Sexuality

Here’s a fascinating and thoughtful article on the role of women’s bodies in traditional “honor societies” as opposed to modern globalized and globalizing societies.

In patriarchal honor societies, “rape is the violation not of the woman but of another man’s ownership of that woman”, according to David Jacobson in his new book, “Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict.”

Here Tracy Clark-Flory interviews Jacobson for Salon:

The war on female sexuality: Is globalization to blame?

Women’s bodies have become a global battlefield. The brutal New Delhi gang rape case, and the fierce protests it sparked, is just one example. From education of Afghan schoolgirls to veiling in France, female sexuality and freedom has come to symbolize a global conflict “over the nature of the self,” argues David Jacobson, a University of South Florida sociologist, in “Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict,” which comes out later this month. It’s chiefly an ideological divide of “honor” versus “self-possession” — or, as he puts it in the book, “who owns and control’s one’s body, especially when it comes to women: is it the individual herself or the community, through enforced practices of honor, virginity, veiling, and marriage?”


“For many individuals across the world today the other side of it is that the woman controls her own body. She controls the right to sell her labor power, to sell her intellect on the job market, to go to school or university, to choose whom she shall marry. So you have this principle of honor on the one side and self-determination on the other.”

Read the full interview here.

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