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Pain as performance: re-virginisation in Turkey

Abstract

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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