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Pain as performance: re-virginisation in Turkey
  1. Hande Güzel
  1. Correspondence to Hande Güzel, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1SB, UK; hg401{at}


The literature on pain has so far been primarily interested in chronic pain, medically induced pain and pain as an unwanted experience. However, pain is a more complicated experience and the lines between pain and pleasure are blurred in different contexts. In this paper, these lines are explored within the context of re-virginisation in Turkey by taking to its centre the meanings attached to pain through women’s online and offline narratives. Re-virginisation refers to the process women undergo in order to reclaim their virginity due to the expectation that women should be virgins at the time of marriage and to the persistence of the myth that virginity can and should be proved via bleeding during or right after sexual intercourse.

Based on semi-structured in-depth interviews and phenomenological and post-structuralist discourse analysis of online data, I argue that pain in the process of re-virginisation (1) is desired and sought-after and (2) is a gendered and temporospatial performance. Within this performance, pain manifests itself as a functional experience as well, especially as a marker of having been operated on, of having had a successful operation, as a reminder of this operation, and finally as an experience around which a community can be formed. Although pain can be functional at most stages of re-virginisation, when, where, and how it can be performed is determined intersubjectively.

  • pain management
  • gender studies
  • surgery
  • performance
  • sociology

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  • Contributors The planning, conduct and reporting of the work described in the article has been solely carried out by the author.

  • Funding This research was funded by Orient Institut Istanbul; Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge; and Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Cambridge Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.