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ProQuest Information and Leaming

300 North Zeeb Raad, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 USA
Rape perceptions and the impact of social relations:
Insigbts from women in Beirut

by Samantha Wehbi
School of Social Work
McGili Univenity. Montrea.

October 2000

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requiremeats of tlle degree of Pb.D. in MlCiai work

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Table of Contents

• Abstnct


Acknowled....eats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v

Chapter 1: Perceptions of rape: Tbeoretical and empirical esplorations

1. Introduction .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2. Research rationale 3

3. Dissenation overview 6

4. Feminist theorizing ofrape 9

4. 1 Public perception of tape as an indiyidu" isolated problem 9
4.2 Egulljoa tape witb SCJ 12
4.3 Womcn' $ rc1uctlOcc to label tbor 0WD expericoces as tape . . .. 15
4.4 Femjoisl tbeorizina ofrapc' An imcmal critique 17

• 5. Perceptions of rape: Empirical scholarship

The use ofphYsjcal force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 23
Alcobol coDwmptioQ
The R'ationshjp bctween the aetors invo'yed . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 2S

5.4 A womao' $ actions 26

Chapter %: Perceptions of npe: Eumining the impact of social relations

1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 28

2. Theoretical approaches to the study of rape 28

2.1 Ibc addjtiyc IIIPrQIÇb : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 29
2.2 The iptcncc;tjonallDDmeçb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 33

3. Arabie feminist scholanhip: Applying intenectionality 37

3.1 RcprCfiCDWiops of Arabjc womcn's 'P".Ij\)' 37
3.2 The family u a basic sgcjaI uojt 41
3.3 The importIpCC ofvirainilY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 44

Cbapter 3: Methodology

• 1. Feminist framework: epistemological tenets and methodological tools . 48

The ajtuatedness o(lrnowlediC

ExpJorioa tbe connedion bctwccn [CWrçbcr and panjcipant .. 57

Women' $ liyes as a stanina point· Gcnder and imer5CCtionality . 54

2. Qualitative grounded methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 58

3. Data sources and collection methods 60

3.1 Samplina 61
3.2 Aççouots ofwomcn in Bcjrut 62
3.3 Accoums of LCRYAW yolumeers 66
3.4 Accoums of key informants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
3.5 Participant observation 71
3.6 Ncwspaper articles and journal emries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 73

4. Data Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 74

5. EthicaJ dimensions 75

6. Terminology and translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 78

6. 1 TennioolQIY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 78
6.2 Translation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 80

Cbapter 4: The LebaneseIBeinti context

1. Introdue:tion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

2. Five aspects orthe BeirutiILebanese context 85

2.1 Hist0rical Overvicw 86
2.2 WK 88
2.3 Rcliaious divmibfsctarianjmJ 91
Eth' di
4 . l' . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
2.S Economic situation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
2.6 Marri
_Ile m . the
_ LebaneseIB"
e l D 1 t l COmcxt . 100

Chapter 5: The CODstruCtiOD of Dlarriage
l. Introduction " 105

2. mustrating the importance of maniage " 106

2.1 MauiliC as a diyjocly ÇQntro"e4 ncceuilY 107
2.2 Marri. U an unwcd woman' 5 ccntpl conccm 109
2.3 Pressure to let married " 112

3. Exploring the importance of maniage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 114

3.1 The relationsbjp bctwCCQ marriue and WPDlCD' s aexuality .. " 114
3.2 Economje factors 116

4. Conditions ofacceptability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 118

4. 1 AcceptabililY of a marri,&«! union 118
4. 1. 1 Religionlseclarianism......................... 120
4.1.2 Race/ethnie relations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 123
4.1.3 Relalions across socioeeonomic sloms 127
4.2 AcceptabililY of potential marrialc panners . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 129
4. 1. 1 Age....................................... 130
4.1.2 AUlonomy . . . . . . .. 131

5. Chapter Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... " 134

Cbapter 6: Perceptions of consensual ses

1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 135

2. The relationship between love~ consent and rape 136

3. Consequences ofconsenting to sex 138

3.1 Consequenccs Qf conscpt· Reputation. vU:PlY aod marriUpbility
................................................ 142
3.2 B)JJminl tbe conYQuCQccs' The case of alrpdy unmarriasub1e
WOIDCD '.' " 146

4. Chapter Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 152

Cbapter 7: Perceptions 01 npe
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 1S4

2. What counts as rape? IS5

2. 1 The use Qf physjcal çoercion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 155
2.2 Stranller mpe 159
2.3 Cbjld rage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 161
2.4 Arranlled marriaaes " 163

3. The more ükely vietim 167

4. The more ükely rapist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 169

5. Chapter summary . . . . . . . . . . _. . . . . . .. 173

Cbapter 8: Key findings: Implications lor tbeory, researcb and practice

1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 174

2. Conceptions of women's agency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 176

2. 1 ImplicatiQDs for theo[)' 178

• 3.

3. 1
Implications for practiçe

Implications for tbCQ[)'

Implications for praeticc ....."
17 9
ImplicatiQns for researçb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 180

Impact of social relations 182

3.3 Implications for researçb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 187

4. The line between consensual sex and rape " 189

4. 1 Implications for tbegty 191
. 1.mp_catlons
li . ~ .
lor practlce . . . . . .. 193
4.3 Implications for rCY'rçb 194

5. Concluding thoughts " 196


• Appendix A: Map of contemporary Lebanon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 198

Appendix B: Summary Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 199

Appendix C: Pamphlet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 205

AppendixD:~oductionleneB 207

Appendix E: Interview Guides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 209

Appendix F: Consent form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 213

References 214

List of Tables

Table 1: Selected charaeteristics ofthe women interviewecl 63

Table 2: Selected charaeteristics ofthe volunteers interviewecl . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 68

Table 3: Selected charaeteristics of key informants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 70

Table 4: Translation of selected terminology used in various data sources. . . . .. 79


• Conducted within a feminist ftamework and guided by the principles of srounded

theory methodology~ tbis dissenation reports on the findings of a study ofwomen's rape

percept~ undenaken in Beirut~ Lcbanon. The study relied on 38 interviews. participant

observation. and a review of newspaper anicles (1996-1999) and orpnizational doaunents.

ln Ibis dissenation. 1 argue that perceptions of rape ref1ect, reinforce, and are

supported by dominant social relations based on elements ofsocial location such as gender,

religion., socioeconomic status~ dislability~ ethnicity and race. More specifica1ly, 1 maintain

that the relationship between perceptions of rape on one han~ and social relations on the

other~ is mediated by the œntraIity of marriage. This Mediation is reflected in two processes.

First, social relations lad to ditTerential constructions of womanhood and perceived

• maniageability, wtùch in tum play a large role in shaping perceptions ofwhat counts as rape.

Concretely, tbis impacts on wbieh women are perceived to be eonsenting ta sex and those

perceived to be rape vietims.

Second social relations œMtruct a marriage that adheres to specifie conditions as the

only acceptable union between a man and a woman in Beinati society. In consequence~ these

constructions of acœptability shape wbat COUDts as 46rea1" tape versus consensual !eX.

Concretely, this means that reIationships tbat faIl outside this construction of acceptability are

more readily labeled as rape.

In the tint four chapters ofthe dissertatio~ 1 provide background information about

the study' 5 theoretical fi'amework, location within the broader entpirical scholarsbip on rape

perceptions, and methodology. 1 aIso provide detaüed infonnation about the BeirutiILebanese

• comm. Chapters S, 6 and 7 are empirical chapters relating sorne of the tindings ofthe study

as they relate to the centrality of marriage and perceptions of rape and consent. Chapter 8

concludes the dissertation with a discussion of the themes of women's ageney, the line

between sex and rape, and the impact of social relations. Through this discussion, 1 ofJ'er

concrete insights for the further development oftheory, research and praetice with the issue




Cette thèse offie un compte rendu d'une étude entreprise auprès des femmes à

Beyrouth au sujet des perceptions du viol. Cette étude qui a été menée dans un cadre

féministe et guidée par les principes de la méthodologie "grounded theoryt't, s'est fondée sur

38 entrewes~ l'observation panicipante, et une analyse des articles de journal (1996-1999)

et des documents organisationnels.

Dans cette thèse, je propose que les perceptions du viol reflètent, renforcent, et sont

supponées par des relations sociales de pouvoir situées à l'intersection des éléments tels que

le genre, la religio~ le statut socio-économique, la condition physique, ainsi que

l'appartenance ethnique.

Plus spécifiquement, je maintiens que le rapPO" entre les perceptions du viol et les·

• relations sociales est négocié par l'importance accordée au mariage. Ceci est reflétée dans

deux processus. Premièrement, les relations sociales mènent aux constructions différentielles

des femmes et des possibilités de mariage; ces constructions jouent à leur tour un rôle

important dans la formulation des perceptions du viol. Ceci détermine quelles femmes sont

perçues comme consentantes au sexe versus celles perçues comme victimes de viol.

En second lieu, les relations sociales construisent un mariage qui adhère aux conditions

spécifiques comme seule union acœptabIe entre un homme et une fèmme. Cette construction

d'aœeptabilité est à la base du disœrnement fait entre le '~" viol et le sexe consensuel. Ceci

signifie que les rapports sexuels qui tombent en dehors de cette acceptabilité sont plus

facilement perçus comme du viol.

Dans les quatre premiers chapitres, je présente le cadre théorique et la méthodologie

de l'étude; de plus, je discute la littérature empirique sur les perceptions de viol. Je fournis

également des informations détaillées au sujet du contexte sociopolitique du Liban et du

Beyrouth. Les chapitres S, 6 et 7 exposent les résultats de l'étude en mettant l'accent sur

l'association entre l'imponance du mariage, et les perceptions du viol et du consentement. La

thèse conclut avec le Chapitre 8, où je discute l'autonomie des femmes, le discernement entre

le sexe et le viol, et l'impact des relations sociales. Ce chapitre propose des enjeux pour la

théorie, la recherche et la pratique au sujet du viol.

• iv

• It is with quiet joy that 1 pen these acknowledgrnents: As oftoday~ tbis dissertation

is ready for submission. This work bas been rny Ulabor of love" but bas al50 been guided~

shaped and transformed into its present state through the caring, loVÎn& supponive

contributions ofmany~ many women. First and foremost. my deepest appreciation goes to Dr.

Julia Krane, my thesis advisor. Julia, 1 hope you realize that the amount ofwork, energy,

patience and support that you invested ioto our professional relationsbip in the past couple of

years bas greatly enriched my doctoral experience and in panicular Ibis dissertation. May you

receive back even one ounce of the caring and love lhat you put into my work.

Al50 important to mention is the generous contribution of my co-advisor ProreslOr

Ann Piquet-Deeby (Université de Montréal) and committee member Dr. Marie-Natbalie

• Leblanc (Concordia University). Their timely feedback and hours of discussion about my

research were great sources of suppon and inspiration. Dr. a.rabra Nicbols., my tirst

advisor also provided much needed encouragement in the initial phase of my doctoral studies

before her retirement.

There were also other great contributors to my work. My fiiend Katberine Moules

provided financiaI support but more imponantly the needed encouragement for me to pursue

doctoral studies. Katherine, you wanted me to he your voice; here it -is. My ooly regret is that

you are not with me to witness the fiuition ofthe seeds you planted. May you be restins in

peace and may your encouragement continue to guide me.


The acknowledgment section would not be complete without much thanks and

appreciation to HiDd 8araIœb, Lina Abul-N.r. Sylvana Al-LaIddJ. Buda Ka...... and my

mother Roulde (tani, who provided the biggest suppon in Beirut. They helped me find study

panicipant~ kept me updated on current issu~ introduced me to the right people at the right

lime. brainstormed with me about my findings, and gained me acœss to organizations and

conununity clrcles. It warms my han to realize that generous people such as you exist; you

truly gave with no expeaation of anything in retum.

It goes without saying lhat much gratitude and appreciation goes to the women and

men who look pan in this study, inclucling those aetivists who are ceaselessly fighting to rnake

Lebanon a safer place for women. Your open feedbacl honesty and courage in speaking

about a still-taboo issue bas made this dissertation what it is today.

1 end this section with much gratitude for my dad and my brother whose continued

emotional suppon have pushed me to achieving great heights. Last but not least. 1 owe a

great debt of gratitude to my fiiend S.S.B., who made my doctoral joumey more than an

academic exercise. Patience. perseverence, fait~ and humility are a few of the lessons you

taught me in one of the most imponant spiritual adventures of my shon life. 1 look forward

to more lessons.


Ch.pter 1

Perceptions of rape:
Tbeoretical and empirical explorations

"{The Scarborough bedroom rapist] possibly lias Q girlfriend or Q wife-

since, Qccording 10 FBI research, lhe majority of rapists are involved in
cOluensuai relationships al the lime ofthe;r crimes"(Anderssen, 1999. p. 24).

1. IDtroduetion

In September 1999, the Globe and Mail· featured an article about the "Scarborough

bedroom rapist" suspected of having carried out eight Ontario rapes of women in their own

bedrooms (Anderssen. 1999). Based on the opinion ofFBI research about seriai rapists, the

joumaJjst, Erin Anderssen. noted that the Scarborough bedroom rapist was probably involved

in a consensual relationship at the time ofhis crimes. 1 read the story with fear, sadness and

anger gripping my heart; something about it gnawed al me. Not only was 1 disturbed that he

was still on the loose, 1 was also distressed that tbis girltiiend or wife was assumed to be

engaged in consensual sex with the Scarborough bedroom rapist simply by vinue ofbeing in

a relationship with him. In other words, being in a relationship is equivalent to giving consent.

ln 1982, Canadïan law changed to ret1ect the understanding that a husband cao

aetuaDy be charpd with the rape ofhis wife; being in an intimate relationship, even one where

the partners are married, no longer implied automatic consent to sex within the relationship.

Yet, the Globe and Mail story perpetuates the notion that beÎng in an intimate relationship

The Globe and Mail is a national Canadian newspaper.


implies engaging in consensual sexual relations. Within C~ the
C'girlmend or wife )

United States and the United Kingdo~ persistent perceptions about rape, such as that

illustrated in the Globe and Mail article, have been at the heart of a continued interest taken

by theorists, researchers and aetivists in examïning sexuality, rape, and Perceptions ofboth

(Day, 1994; Grif6n, 1979; Harvey" Gow, 1994; Lewis and Clark; 1977; MacKinnon, 1995).

Unlike Canadian. American and British contexts, there are currently no published

works on rape within Arabic countries. Indeed, writings about rape, as weB as other issues

touctùng women's sexuaIity-e.g. consensual heterosexual sex, lesbianis~ masturbatio~ etc.--

have been quite invisible and taboo. While women's sexuality bas long been a site of struggle

and contestation in societies across the globe, its ÎmPOnanee bas been relegated to a

seeondary, aImost non-existent, status in feminist analyses of women's lives within Arabie

societies (Akkad, 1990; Memissi, 1996; Sabbagh, 1996). Yet, as Mernissi (1996) reminds us:

Sexuality is one of the most malleable of human charaeteristies, and societies

have always made use of this faet in arder ta hamess it to their ends,
sometirnes at the cost ofenonnous damage. (p. 37)

At the hean of tbis dissertation is a concem about the darnaging uses of sexuality, and more

specifically about rape within an Arabie context. Condueted within a feminist &amework and

relying on grounded methodology, the present study set out to explore bow sesualïzed

violence ÎI conltrueted by wo.en iD cODtemponry Beinati ~iety. Constructions of

social phenomena are complex Uld inelude perceptions, beliefs, definitions and personal

experienœs. Considering the taboo nature of sexual issues, data for this study coUected tram

interviews, participant observation and a review ofwritten documents, consisted primarily of

wornen' s perceptions with rare disclosures of personal experïences. Therefore, in tbis

• 2
dissertation, 1 have ehosen to focus on one aspect of the construction of sexualized violence:

• perc;eptÎons of rape. 1 al50 address perceptions ofconsensual ~ but these are discussed to

shed more light on perceptions of rape.

2. Research ratioDate

The curreot study' 5 rationale is multidimensional. On a theoreticaileveL this study

responded to the concems expressed by Arabie 1 Third world feminists about the dearth of

researehlscholarship by or about Third world women (Bannerji, 1993~ Joseph, 1983, 1993;

Kadi. 1994; Mohanty, 1991b~ Naray~ 1997). Given that researeh on rape perceptions bas

been condueted with supposedly senerie women-white, middle--elass women--while assumed

to represent the reality of ail women (Landrine, 1992; Trotman Reid &. Kelly, 1994; Wyatt,

1992), this study aimed to contribute to the active process offeminist theory-building about

the issue of rape, by exploring perceptions of tbis phenomenon in the lives of a group of

women living in an Arabie society.

In tenns of practice, the present researeh aimed to respond to the concems expressed

by recently-nascent Lebanese and Arabie women's organizations dealing with the issue of

violence against women. The "Women's Coun: The Permanent Arab Coun to Resist

Violence against Women2", established in 1996 with the aims of breaking the süence about

the issue of violence against women in Arabie societies, considers the suppon and

encouragement ofreseareh studies on tbis issue to be one ofits main objectives. Similarly,

The Arab Women's Court is a pan.Arab women's organization specifically addressing issues
of violence against women. The Court bas spawned the development of aftiIiated
organizations working on local issues within most Arab countrïes.

• 3
the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LCRVAW), established in 1997 in

• Beirut a1so calls on researchers to break the silence about violence &gainst women by

condueting studies about tbis issue. While breaking the süence bas become somewhat ofa

cüché in what bas been referred to as Western contexts (Kelly, Burton &. Regan, 1996), it is

very much a necessary step in the cunent process of conftonting rape in Lebanese society.

Hence, the curreot study aimed to contribute preliminary information helpful in guiding and

providing support for the intervention and prevention eirons of women' 5 organizations

addressing the issue of rape.

This study was condueted in Lebanon for two main reasons. First, as Hopkins and

Ibrahim ( 1997) have indicated, Arabic societies are currently undergoing significant changes

in family structure, class relations and gender roles, and Lebanon is no exception. One

example of these changes is married wornen's increased labor force participation. Another

signifieant change is single women's greater freedom of ehoice in selecting a husband.

aJthough many still confonn to famiJy pressures about such selection. At the core of these and

other such changes is a concem voiced by women' s groups about women's life conditions.

Rape bas long been a feature of women's lives but bas not yet received any serious

examination within the Arab world.

Second, the Arab world is currently witnessing an increase in mobilization about

violence against women, as evidenced by the establishment oforganizations such as the Arab

Women's Court. More specifica1ly in Lebanon, the end of the civil war in the carly 1990'5

heralded a new era of reconstruction which included the development of organizations such

as the LCRVAW, Ut afIiIiate of the Arab Women's Court. Hence, changes in the Arab world

• 4
coupled with the increasing mobiIization about violence against women and the end ofthe civil

• war in Lebanon. have created a momentum for social change that must be fully taken

advantage of to explore the issue of rape.

Within Lebanon, the selection of Beirut as a specifie site for the present study was

chosen as it is the home of 4()D~ ofLebanon's population and is the city with the greatest share

of DÙgratiOn. As weIL the ethnie and religious diversity of Lebanon is represented most fuUy

in Beirut. FinalIy, Beirut bas historically been and continues to he the center of active

organizing on women' 5 issues. Most Lebanese and regional women' 5 organizations are

located in Beirut. For example, the founding conference of the Arab Women's Coun took

place in Beirut, and the curreot coordinator of the Court is a woman based in Beirut.

Aside from the academic impetus just presented, personal queries about rape

motivated the present study. Having fimetioned as a counselor/activist in the oRly women' 5

shelter in Yellowknife, Nonhwest T erritories, and having coordinated a rape crisis center in

CornwalL Ontario, with Francophone, Anglophone and Mohawk populations, 1 had extensive

exposure to violence against women. Couple<!. with my human rights work in Burundi.,

Rwanda and Zaire, 1 pined firsthand knowledge of issues of ethnicity, race and culture.

More important1y, 1became deeply concemed with IWo issues. First, 1 became aware ofthe

operation ofracism and edmocentrism witbin women' 5 organizations and community groups.

More specificaUy, 1 began to understand how racism and ethnocentrism in the fonn of cultural

stereotypes and exelusionary service deüvery and hiring practices contributed to limitîng the

acœssibility and iDcIusivity ofwomen's services. Second, 1began to note the marginaJization

of npe support services witbin the broader lOti-violence movement. This marginalization

• 5
contributed to funher limiting the accessibility and etfectiveness of services to women trom

• ethnoracial minority groups.

1 also began to question the theoretical models that were guiding our front-line work.

For example 1 questioned whether cultural sensitivity would he adequate in addressing the

many difficulties in practice between workers tram predominantly-white feminist organizations

and Native women or women from other marginalized ethnoracial minority groups. 1 also

wondered whether service-delivery policies such as separatism-i.e. women-only

organizations-were culturally appropriate in non-white contexts. These questions were to

later fonn the basis of my personal interest in pursuing a doctoral degree.

3. Dissertation ovenriew

ln tbis dissertation, my central argument will be that perceptions of rape ret1ect y

reinforce, and are supported by dominant social relations based on elements of social location

such as gender religion, socioeconomic status ethnicity and race. More specifically, 1 will
y y

argue that the relationship between perceptions of rape on one band, and social relations on

the other, is mediated by the centrality of marriage within Beiruti society. This Mediation is

reflected in two processes. First, social relations lead to difFerentiai constructions of

womanhood and perceived marriageability, which in tum play a large role in shaping

perceptions ofwbat counts as rape. Concretely this impacts on which women are perceived

to be consenting to sec and those perceived to he likely rape vietims and thus not consenting

to !eX.

Second, social relations collSbUet a rnarriage that adheres to specifie conditions as the

only acceptable union between a man and a woman in Beiruti society. In consequence these y

• 6
constructions of acceptability shape what counts as real rape venus consensual


Concretely, this meaI1S that relationslips tbat ran outside tbis construction of acceptability are

more readily labeted as rape.

The remainder ofthis chapter focuses on the substantive area ofrape. 1 begin with an

examination ofcommon concems that have dominated feminist discourses on rape, foUowed

by a discussion of the main themes that have emerged trom empirical inquiries ioto

perceptions of rape. Due to the lack of scholarship on rape within Lebanon and the Arab

world~ the literature reviewed in tbis chapter is to a large extent based on the works of

researchers in Canadian.. American and British contexts, where extensive work on rape bas

been undenaken.

Cbapter 2 presents two theoreticaJ frameworks.. additive and intersectional~ that have

been used to guide explorations of rape cross-culturally. In this dissenation, 1 employ an

intersectional approach given the importance it accords to the context and the social relations

embedded within. The chapter concludes with an examination of sorne thernes from Arabie

feminist writing that could potentially be usefut in guiding explorations of rape within the

Beiruti context.

In Cbapaer 3, 1 turn my attention to the methodologica1 aspects of the study. 1 begin

with a brieC discussion of sorne pertinent feminist epistemological tenets and methodological

taols. 1 then discuss grounded methodoIogy, foUowed by an examination ofdata sources and

coUection method~ data anaIysis procedure, elhical issues, and the issue of translation.

ln Chapter" 1 begin my examination of the specific LebaneselBeiruti conteX!.

Through • CÜSCllssïon of the key contextual features of the war, sectarianism, ethnie diversity,

• 7
economic situation. and marriage, 1 aim to provide the reader with relevant background

• information neœssary to understand the general context within which the study was

conducted, and to better be able to situate the findings provided in subsequent chapters.

My aim in Ch.pter S is to estab6sh the importance of marriage and marriageability

within the Beiruti contex!. Based on analyses ofmy data. 1discuss the current construction

of marriage and marriageability. 1 then illustrate the ünks between social relations and

constructions of acceptable marriage unions and potential marriage partners.

In Ch.pter 6, it will become apparent that what counts as consent is far from being

solely shaped by the actions of the man or the woman involved in a sexual incident, or by a

woman's individual choices and desires. Rather, 1 demonstrate how perceptions of

consensuaJ sec are heavily shaped by the CUITent construction of marriage and marriageability

within Beiruti society.

• Building on these themes, Ch.paer 7 focuses on perceptions of rape. Here, 1 argue

that these perceptions are largely shaped by the curreot construction of marriage and

marriageability, as opposed to the nature orthe sexuaI aet itself 1rely on the themes ofrape

involving physical coercion, rape inftieted by a stranger, child rape and rape within arranged

marriage, to illustrate how perceptions of rape are strongly shaped by the socletaJ acceptability

of relationships and potentiel panners.

Cbapter' concIudes the dissertation. 1revisit the current scholarship on perceptions

of rape in 6gbt of the findings of this present research. Through a discussion ofthe tbernes

ofwomen' 5 agency, the üne between sex and rape, and the impact of social relations, 1otTer

concrete insigbts for the further development oftheory., research and praetice with the issue

• 8

• 4. FelDiDis. 'heoriziDI 01 npe

In presenting the rationale for this study~ 1 briet1y alluded to the deanh ofempirical and

theoretical scholarship on the issue of rape within Arabic contexts. Indeed, a perusal ofthe

vast scholarship on rape reveals a clear emphasis on the realities of women and men in Nonh

American and European contexts. A review of this scholarship alsa highlights the absence

of unified theory on the issue of rape, but indicates three key common areas ofconcem that

have been addressed in feminist theories and that are of most pertinence to this dissertation:

the public perception of rape as an individual problem; the equation of rape with sex; and

women' s reluctance to label their own experiences of unwanted sex as rape. These areas of

concem have been responded to by femini~ theories that have on the whole adopted a gender-

centered anaIysis, the limitations of which are also examined in tbis section.

• 4.1 Public perceptions of ope as an indjvidual jso1ated problcm

Prior to second wave feminist theorizing about rape, il bas been argued that early

perceptions ofrape were sexist (Connell &. Wilson, 1974; Russell, 1975; Searle &. Berger,

1996). Public perceptions bIamed women for their experiences and minimized the prevalence

and psychological impact of this form of violence. Moreover~ these perceptions over-

emphasized the impact ofindividual factors such as the rapist' s deviant psychological make-up

or impaired judgement due to aIcoboI or drug consurnptïon. According to Russell (1975) and

Searle and Berger (1996), the resuIt of this over-emphasis in public perceptions was the

construction of rape as a personal problem touching the private lives of a few isolated

individuals-see Sommers, 1999 for an example of this type of anaIysis. These restrictive

• 9
perceptions of rape began to he cha11enged with the advent of the second wave of Western

• feminisrn in the earIy seventies (Donat Il. D'Emilio, 199211997), and are still beÎng challenged,

two decades later (Crenshaw, 1995; Radford, Kelly" Hester, 1996).

In challenging these public perceptions, carly feminist constructions of rape shifted the

emphasis nom individual characteristics and psychological discourses to socio-political

analyses of the phenomenon (ConneU &. Wilson, 1974~ Ellis, 1989~ Jackson., 1978/1995~

Q'Toole" Schiffer, 1997; Schwendinger" Schwendinger, 1983; Searle" Berger, 1995).

These theories proposed that rape needs to be understood in Iight of oppressive gender

relations which operated on personal and institutionallevels.

Moreconcretely, authors such as Griffin (1979), Guillaumin (1978) and MacKinnon

( 1981) 5Uggested that rape needed to be understood in relationship to the sexist gender

relations inherent in structures such as the family or marriage. According to these authors,

gender relations have been oppressive to women, as they have restrieted their aeeess not ooly

to cenain spheres of life, such as the paid labor market or political office, but have also

constrained them within pre-defined gender roles. As a key element of oppressive gender

relations, these roles have stipulated codes of behavior that define women as passive and

submissive by nature. Women's etrons to assen themselves or to demand their righls in ail

spheres oflife have been perœived u infi'actions to these codes. These infractions have often

been costly for women. As Donat and D'Emilio (199211997, p. 188) contend~ rape is a

A prime exampIe ofthese persistent sexist construe:tions is the "Faise Memory Syndrome" that
comiders recovered memories ofchild semai abuse and the disclosure by adult survivors as
no more tban '6false memories" trigered by sul8estïve feminist therapists.

• 10
consequence of wornen' s refusai to "behave", by refusing to ~'accept traditional feminine

• roles" that require submissiveness or passivity.

Early feminist writings also introduced a elass analysis to understanding tbis

domination. For example, Guillaumin (1978) proposed a theory ofappropriation in whieh she

compared the appropriation of labor found in slavery to the appropriation of womeR, the

latter of whieh is charaeterized by more than the owning of someone else's labor. She

proposed that rape, as weil as other forms of control of wornen' s bodies, is one of the tools

of appropriation. Other feminiSls (e.g. Crenshaw, 1995; Hill CoUins, 1990; books, 1981;

Spe~ 1988) have challenged sueb notions of appropriation in that comparisons between

the oppression ofwomen and the oppression of "other minorities" do not account for wornen

who are also from these minorities. This critique is examined more fully later in tbis section.

ln addition to arguing that rape was lied to oppressive gender relations, sorne feminist

theories have proposed that rape needs to be understood in relation to other fonns of violence

against women. In this construction, fonns of violence can he ~'general as in the case of

murder and rape, or culturally specifie, as in dowry deaths in India" (Ramazanoglu, 19898,

p. 66), but they are aU related in their funetion to maintain gendered patterns of domination

(Conseil, 1994; Searle Il. Berger, 1996).

A gendered anaIysis bas bad an imponant impact on naminS. the specific reality of Ibis

phenomenon-i.e. that the vidims of rape are mostIy women. Rape is therefore no longer seen

as a private problem of a few isolated individuals, but as a fonn of violence targeted at a

specifie group ofthe population (Baron Il. Straus, 1989; ConneU Il. Wdson, 1974; Ellis, 1989;

Jackson, 1978/1995; O'Toole et SchifFer, 1997; Regroupement Québécois des CALACS,

• Il
1991; Schwendinger &. Schwendinger, 1983; Searle &. Berger, 1995). This construction

• sought to remove the burden ofblame &am survivors ofthis crime, white acknowledging the

active contributions ofwomen to the eradication oftbis problem (ConneU &. Wilso~ 1974;

Regroupement Québécois des CALACS, 1991).

4.2 Equatioa rape witb scx

Another ooncem oonunon among feminist theories is the trivialization of rape and its

consequences for women. Perceptions held by the pubüc and by helping and legal

professionals equated rape with sex. translating into the belief that wornen enjoyed heing

raped (Donat Ir. D'Emilio, 199211997; Gri~ 1979; MacKinno~ 1995; Snider, 1992). The

prevailing perception that women enjoyed heing violated is a key aspect in the construction

ofrape as a form of sexuaI pleasure. Feminist responses to this construction have primarily

taken the form of debates about the links between sex and violence (Day, 1994; Harvey Ir.

Gow, 1994; Kelly, 1988; MacKinnon, 1981, 1995; Patton &. Mannison, 1998).

Most feminist efforts have tried to dissociate sex trom rape, equating the former with

consent and the latter with violence (Snider, 1992). At its most descriptive level, ripe is

understood to be an ad ofnon-consensual sex, sometimes viewed to be limited to intercourse.

Lewis and Clark (1977) otrered lhis definition of rape:

an unprovoked attack on their (women' s] physical persan and as a

tran5(p'eSSion oftheir assumed right to the exclusive ownersllip and control of
their bodies (pp. 166-167).

In this definition as with many otbers, the emphasis is removed trom the sexuaI aspects of the

aet and plaœd on the assauIt. As Donat and D'Emilio assened, within feminist theories, rape

.4 was recognized as an ad ofviolence, not ofsex" (p. 188). In consequence, there have been

• 12
increasing efforts to abandon the use of the term rape and to rely on terms such as semai

• assault or sexuaI violence which al50 denote the existence of a broad spearum of aets of

violence of a sexual nature, not just rape involving intercourse (Donat Il. D'Emilio.

1992/1997; Snider. 1992). These efforts for changes in nomenclature are apparent in the

adoption of the tenn sexual assauIt instead of rape in the Canadian criminaI code. Moreover.

in Canad~ these efforts have al50 been translated into aetivist-Ied awareness-raising

campaigns under the banner of"no mans non and "sex without consent is rapen.

However. MacKinnon (1995) and Jamieson (1996) both concurred that this strategy

of dissociating sex ftom rape bas not been without distressing consequences. This strategy

hides the raet that the boundaries between sex and violence may not always be 50 discrete,

SimiIarly. Harvey and Gow (1994) DOted that while in Western thought sexuality and violence

are seen as opposing relational modes, sexuaIity itself cao be seen as inherently violent because

• it involves penetrating another's boundaries--e.g. body space,

Moreover, dissociating sex trom violence bas led to the false assumption that sex is

not violent, thereby autornatically associating sex with consent (MacKinnon, 1981,1995;

Jamieson.. 1996). Consequently, in claiming that tbey have been raped, women have had to

prove that they were not consenting to set, in other words, that they were 5Omehow

physicaUy coerced iota having!eX. While sbe does not elaborate fulIy on tbis point..

MacKinnon (1981, 1995) contended that women are coerced most often not by means of

physical force, but by tbreats based on "love or economics'''. She argues that very often..

women experience sex as a violation,. but are unable to label it as rape.

Accordïng ta MacKinnon (1981.. 1995), because oppressive gender relations are

• 13
played out in intimate relationships, !eX between men and women is never really a free choice

• but rather it is part of heterosexual obligations (MacKinnon, 1981, 1995). Similarly,

Jarnieson (1996) rnaintained that beca,lse ofthese oppressive gender relations, women are still

unlikely to challenge the authority of men prior to or during se~ thereby reinforcing the

inegalitarian nature of heterosexual sex.

MacKinnon (1981, 1995) funher criticized the usefulness of the concept of consent.

Not only is consent often problematically equated with the absence ofphysical coercion, but

as MacKinnon rnaintained, sex cannot he wholly mutual and really dissociated ftom violence

when the implicit understanding in most relationships is lhat men initiale and women consent.

She argued for the replacement of consent as the indicator of non-violence with the concept

of mutuality.

Thought-provoking and controversial, the works of MacKinnon and Jarnieson are not

shared by aU feminists. As Sabbagh (1996) observed, wornen are not "docile non-entities"

(p.xvi) but active agents who panicipate fully in shaping gender relations, a viewpoint a1so

shared by Scully (1990) and Lather (1991). Lather further noted that feminist theorizing of

oppressive gender relations bas robbed women ofa sense of agency. While not minimizing

the oppression Iived by women, Bannerji (1993), Kanuha (1996) and Mohanty (1991a) caUed

for more complex theorizing ofoppression in order to avoid the dic~otomization of oppressed

versus oppressor that bides the intrieate nature of women' s experiences. Ind~ MacKinnon

(1995) herseif recosnized the importance of exploring the meanings and labels tbat women

and men usign to their experiences before peremptorily deciding that rape is about violence,

not about !eX. ft is tbis tyPe of exploration tbat is al the center oftbis current study.

• 14
4.3 Womcn' $ reluetaoce to label tbcjr 0WD apcricnccs 1$ tape

• As aUuded to previousIy, another area ofconcern within feminist scholarship on rape

is women' s inability to label their own experiences of unwanted sex or sexual attention as

violation (Bergen.. 1996; Jackson, 1978/1995; KeUy, 1988; Patton" Manniso~ 1998). ln

addition. when violation is acknowledged. anything short of intercourse is either not

considered to he senous. or is not perceived as real rape.

It bas been argued that women' s reluetanee to label their own experiences ofunwanted

sex as violation results trom patriarchal constructions of sexuality. Patriarchy. a system of

domination based on oppressive gender relations, bas construeted heterosexual sex in a way

that assumes force and aggression on the man' s pan and submissiveness on the woman' 5 part

(Grant. 1993; Jackson, 1978/1995; Jamieson, 1996). For example, based on research with

married and separated women, Bergen (1996) found that women were reluctant to detine their

• experiences of unwanted sex as rape because they assumed sex to he a part oftheir marital

obligations. Meanwhile. common societal constructions of rape detine it as a rare violent

encounter with a stranger. Together. it becomes clear how women misht rerrain trom

defining their experiences of marital sexual violation as aetual rape.

Moreover. as MacKinnon (1995) suggested. patriarchal constructions of sexuality

stipulate that vaginal intercourse is a key component ofthe sexual act. Henee, the presence

ofintercourse in unwanted sex leads it to he more readily labeled as serious or rai rape. In

contr8St. unwanted sexuaI lets that do not involve intercourse are not seen as serious or as

real letS ofviolation.

In resPQnding to concerns about women' 5 retuetance to label their experiences of

• 15
violation as rape, feminists such as KeUy (1988) have long argued for an understanding of

• sexualizal violence in tenns of a continuum. This concept seeks to shift the emphasis ftom the

varied nwlifestations of sexlIa1ized violence, such as harassrnent, rape, pomography, incest,

to the recognition ofthe commonality among these forms: the idea tbat violence or the threat

ofviolence is a means of exercisins oppressive gender relations (Guillaumin, 1978; McKinnon,

1981; Regroupement Québécois des CALACS, 1991).

In addition, placing aàS of sexual violation on a continuum sought to remove the false

distinction between "serious" or ·'real" sexual violence and acceptable "everyday" semai aets

(Kelly, 1988; Panon &. Mannison, 1998). Panon and Mannison (1998) observed that

conceiving of sexualized violence on a continuum bas had a great impact on wornen' s

perceptions of their own experiences:

The concept of a continuum assists wornen to identify links between typical
and aberrant behavior, and enables wornen to locate and name their own
experiences (p. 31)

Feminist concem with wornen' s inability to label their own experiences of violation

as rape raises an imponant point with regards to research. As Lather (1991) and

RamazanogIou (1989b) rnaintained, in an effon to name and challenge oppression in women's

lives there bas been sorne tendency in feminist research to interpret wornen' s experiences in

ways that may DOt be consisIent with women's own interpretations.. Lather observed that tbis

tendency to privilege the researcher' 5 interpretation OV« that ofthe participant' s amounted

to saying that the researcher as an expert held the truth while the participants were in false

consciousness about their own lives. Ramazanoglou provides a concrete example ftom ber

own ethnographie research in a workplace setting, where !he interpreted some incidents as

• 16
sexuaI ~ whereas the study's participants were remetant to do 50. Rer strategy was

• to present both interpretations in subsequent writing about the research. By doing so, she was

able to highlight. if not resolve, the tension that existed between her interpretation of events

as a feminist researcher and the women's own interpretations of events in their lives.

This point is of particuIar reIevance to this dissertation. As will he seen in subsequent

chapters, 1 have attempted to highlight, if not resolve. the tension that arises in the few cases

where my interpretation is divergent fto~ or critical ot: interpretations put forth by the

study's participants. In doing so, 1 was guided by the study's main aim of arriving at an

understanding of how women themselves understood rape. In Chapter 3. 1 retum to my

strategy for dealing with tbis tension in terms of data anaIysis.

4.4 Feminist tbeoriziPi oCrape' An internai critique

Alongside feminist theories focusing on rape in the context of oppressive gender

• relations., there bas been a developing feminist critique. This critique addresses three pertinent

issues: the assumed commonality of experience among wom~ an assumed commonality in

women's experienœs ofoppressive patriarchal relations, and the reliance on gender as a single

category of analysis.

To eIaborate, sorne feminists have begun to recognize lhat these analyses of rape have

been based on the experiences of one group ofwomen in Western contexts-white, middle-

class, etc.-but have been assumed to apply universally (BrancL 1993; Clark Mine, 1989;

Johnson-Odim, 1991; Smith, 1990). This commonaIity bas generated solutions that have been

assumed to he universal but which have failed to live up to that promise-e.g. npe crisis

centers in Canada that are beginning to acknowledge the inaccessibility of their services to

• 17
women trom minority ethnie groups, and have yet to address tbis issue. As Harvey and Gow

• (1994) sugested 4'both sexuaIity and violence are culturaUy embedded concepts whieh do not

necessarily have commensurable salience cross-culturally" (p. 12). Indeed, Spelman (1988)

bas contended that while women may have commonalities in their ecperiences across contexts,

this cannat be assumed and must be empirically ascertained.

Secondly, feminist analyses of rape have tended to locate it in the context of

oppressive patriarchal relations. This context bas been assumed to rnanifest itself in similar

ways across cultures and rime periods. This bas amounted to the theorization of patriarchy

in universalistie terms. CODCretely, this means that patriarehy bas been constructed as a statie

concept that does not change across time and place. The emergent feminist concem is that

this construction bas rendered invisible the complexities of patriarehy (KeUy, 1988; Sabbagh,


• As Kelly (1988) and Sabbagh (1996) have argued, patriarchyas a concept has been

developed based on the experiences of white middle-class women in Western contexts, but

bas been assumed to manifest itself in similar ways universally. This universalization is

problematie because it conceals the panicular construction of patriarchy specifie to each

sociocultural context. While patriarchy bas been defined as a system of domination based on

oppressive gender relations, Joseph (1993 )otrered another definition based on ber research

in Lebanon:

1 use patriarchy in the Arab context to mean the dominance of males ove.-
females and eiders over juniors (males and females) and the mobilization of
kinship structures, moraIity, and idioms to institutionalize and legitimi.ze these
fonns ofpower. (p. 459)

Evident in this definition ofpatriarehy is the intersection ofgender and age as key elements

• 18
in determining oppression and privilege in social relations. Such a definition is most pertinent

• in societies where the extended family with its broad range of inter-generational relations is

the noon. 1retum to a detailed disœSSÎon ofthe importance ofthe extended family al a later

point in Chapter 2 when 1 discuss pertinent aspeets of Arabic contexts.


A third limitation of gender-centered feminist analyses of rape is the reliance on

gender as a single eategory of anaIysis. Wbile not denying the importance of a sender anaIysis

of the phenomeno~ feminist authors such as Brand (1993)y Clark Hine (1989), Crenshaw

(1995), Hill Collins (1990, 1993/1997, 1997)y hooks (1981)y Johnson-Odim (1991), Moore

{l994)y Q'Toole and Schiffinan (1997), Smith (1990) and Wriggins (1996) called for a

multiple-category analysis ofrape. They maintained that it is important ta take into account

the impact of race and cIass, and their links to the broader social context, on the construction

of the phenomenon. Fraiman (1994) and KeUy (1988) concurred that while male control of

women's sexuality as a manifestation of oppressive gender relations bas been assumed to be

the central shapinS concept in constructions of rape, placing oppressive sender relations as

the root of women's problems negates the impact of raclsm, classism and other systems of

domination in shaping women Ys experiences. As Baines (1997) proposed:

Although women of diiferent races and classt.s IlliIY experience similar trauma..
the meaning accorded ta these experiences differs greatly, depending on the
wornan's location in the matrix of domination (p. 306).

For example, books (1981) noted that women slaves were appropriated by white men

in ways which difFered trom the appropriation of Black men's labor, and trom the

appropriation ofwhite women. Authors such u books observed lhat the intersection of class y

gender and raœ bas created udift"erentiated womanhoods" which imPOsed ditJering

• 19
experienœs and origins of rape according to a woman's social location. Sirnilarly, Brand

• ( (993) arsues that Black women's experiences of rape cannot he understood without an

understanding of the history of slavery which continues to mark their lives. Under the

institution ofsJavery, Black women were construeted as sexuaUy available and as possessing

voracious sexuaJ appetites, wlûch meant that they couId DOt logically he sexually violated -i.e.

be vietims of a violation in which consent is of prime importance.

Racist constlUCtions ofBlack women's sexuaJity are not historical flets which ceased

to exist with the disappearance ofslavery, but continue to affect women's experiences and

perceptions ofrape to this clay (Brand, 1993~ Hill Collins, 1990; hooks, 1981). For example,

the constnJetion ofBlack women as sexually available undennines their credibility as vietims

ofrape. As Wyatt (1992) proposed, Black women in the United States have ~~intemalized"

tbis construction ofthemselves which leads them to cast doubts on their own credibility and

• perceptions oftheir own experiences of sexuaJ violation. In consequence, they often hesitate

before reporting assault.

ln short, constructions of womanhood and ensuing experiences are not universally

similar and are best understood within the particu1ar context in which they take shape. In faet,

there bas been much feminist exploration of the construction of womanhood and gender

relations within Arabic contexts. In Chapter 2.. 1examine more specifically key aspec:ts of tbis

scholarship as they relate more elosely to perceptions of rape and women' s sexuality. Here,

1 wish to add to the concreteness of the above-discussed critique, by highlighting Arabie

feminist writinp on the more general themes of constructions of womanhood and gender

relations. In tbis regard, tbis scholarship appears to be dominated by two main themes: the

• 20
influence of Islam., and the impact of nationalist struggleslwar.

• The Arab world and Lebanon is no exception, is predominantly Muslim in


composition. Islam bas been examined in its complexity by severa! Arabic feminist authors

who point to its influence on women's lives (Afldwni, 1995; Afshar, 1993; ~ 1996~

Birr y 1996~ E1-Nunr, 1996; EI-Solh & Mabro, 1994~ HeUal 1997; Kandiyoti 1991; Memissi,
y y

1996). More specifically these authors have maintained that an understanding ofwomen' s

lives and constnlctions of womanhood in Arabic societies cannot be achieved without

accounting for the impact of Islam.

One of the impacts oflslam bas been the reinforcemem of the imponance of the farnily

as the basic social unit. Under Isl~ women's raies in the family have been given a higher

value than their raies outside the famiIy. Women's education and employment are encouraged


in but mostly as a way of strengthening the family unit: If tbey are educated and are

comributors to the survival of the famiJy, then tbey are better rnothers and wives. In faet,

another related impact of Islam bas been the construction of women as wives and mothers,

raies in which women are most valued. 1explore the importance of the family and women' 5

raies within it as weil as the impact of Islam in more detail in Chapter 2, as tbey relate more

specifically ta women's sexuality and perceptions ofraPe.

Another related aspect hishlishted by Anbic feminist authors is the close Iink between

the construction of womanhoocL gender relations and nationalist strussJes (Akkad, 1990;

Cooke, 1993; Dajani, 1993; El Saadawi, 1986; Hat~ 1993; Kandyoti, 1991; M~

1994). Whether in reaction to imperiaIism, civil WII', or regionaI armed confticts, women have

played active rotes in these strugIes. Their active participation in these strugles bas shifted

• 21
gender roles and COnstnletions ofwomanhood.

• A owch citecl example is the Intifadah which bepn in 1987. Here, Palestinian women

played an active role in the struggle for independence in Palestinellsrael. Cooke (1993)

pointed to the changes in social nonns tbat resulted &om the political upheaval instigated by

the lntifDdah and which pernûtted women to enter into areas of life previously restricted to

men. such as the public space of nationalist struggle. Another much cited example is the

Lebanese civil war and its impact on women. 1 retum to tbis example in Chapter 4 when 1

address more specificaUy the Beiruti/Lebanese context and other aspects of tbis context wbich

May have a bearîng on perceptions of rape.

S. Perceptions of rape: Empirical scholanhip

To date, there exists an extensive body offeminist theorizing on rape. However, very

few empirical explorations ofthis issue have adopted an explicitly feminist framework. In this

section 1 summarize dominant western scholarship on rape in order to familiarize the reader

with the current state of knowledge on the subject. As will become apparent in this sectio~

most studies on perceptions of rape have sought to explore the impact of individuallsituational

variables (Bourque, 1989). More specificaUy, my aim in tbis sec:tion is to hishlight the

foUowing variables that have an impact on Perceptions of rape, and in tum on perceptions of

the credibility of the victimlwoman: the use of force. alcohol consumption by the

womanlvietim, and whether the incident involved strangers or acquaintances. A much less

frequent yet al50 explored theme is the impact of a woman's actions on perceptions of rape

and ber credibility.

• 22
5.1 The use ofpb.vsical force

• By tir the most prominent theme to emeI'ge trom research on rape perceptions is the

use ofphysical force (e.g. Berg~ 1996; Day, 1994; Kanekar, Shaherwalla, franco, Kunju

&. Pinto. 1991; Roberts, Grossman &. Gebotys, 1996; Sawyer, Pinciaro" JesseU, 1998). An

incident is more likely ta be perceîved as rape or as consensual sa depending on whether

physical force was used by the aggressor/man or not. For example, Bergen's (1996) study

based on in-depth interviews with 40 married and divorced survivors of rape in the United

States. found force to he an important element in shaping perceptions of consent within

marital relations. While rnost women perceived their marital sexuaI relations to be consensual

--even though these relations were unwanted-the use ofphysical force during an incident was

a pivotai factor in shifting women's perceptions to labeüng their experiences as rape. Kanekar

et al. (1991) concluded a simiJar tinding in their study of acquaintance rape condue:ted in

Bombay, India. Based on responses from 3,060 undergraduate male and female university

students, subjects were more ükely to perceive an incident to he rape if the woman in the

vignettes was physicaUy hurt by the man.

Another study undenaken in Londo~ E~ was based on in-depth interviews with

sex trade workers (Day, 1994). A similar finding emerged in tbat, among other factors, the

use of force was an imponant variable in shaping their perceptions of what counted as rape

in their inlimate and professional sexuaI re1ationships. The use of physical force automatically

excluded the possibility of IabeIinS event as consensual. In discussing her findings, Day

cautioned that the tendency to perœive sexuaI com.et involving physical force as rape or as

~~serious violation" works to conceal other fonns of tape tbat occur without the use of

• 23

physical force. Echoing some of the ideas put forth by Mackinnon (1995), Day suggested

that the impact of the use of physical force on perceptions is largely due to the nature of

sexual relations in general:

GeneraIIy, sexual relations are seen to unfold or happen; notions of consensus

remain implicit and assumed... Since the basis of consensual sex was never
explicitly negotiated, its breach must be 50ugbt in sorne incontrovertible
evidence; in physical nature; that is, in the body, and in a form that permits no
argument (p. 173).

5.2 Alcobol coWiUmption

Another extensively researched variable is a1cohol consumption (e.g. Abbey &.

Hamish, 1995; OeSouza, Pierce, ZaneUi &. Hutz, 1992; Norris at al., 1996; Scronce &.

Corcoran, 1995). Briet1y stat~ a woman's consumption ofalcohol prior to a sexual incident

results in greater attributions of blame by both male and female observers. For example, in

their focus group study with 66 young college women in the United States, Norris et al.

(1996) found that participants believed that their own alcohol consumption placecl them at

greater risk of heing raped. Consequently. in hypothetical rape situations involving alcohol

consumption, they were more likely to attribute blame to themselves.

Similarly in their study of perceived sexuaI intent with 400 American and Brazilian

panicipants in the United States and BraziL DeSouza et al. (1992) found that a wornan's

consumption of alcohol prior to a semai incident resulted in ber being more Iikely to be

blamed for heing raped. However contrary to previous research, a wornan's wilIingness to

go to a man's room wu judged ta he more an indicalor of consent to §eX than ber alcobol

consumption. In explaining their findings, the authors proposed that there is a Iink between

alcohol consumption and sex that varies according to context. In other words, male-female

• 24
interactions, such as dates or get-togethers, involving alcohol consumption are more likely to

• be viewed as sexuaI in the United States than in Brazil. Within the latter context. alcohol

consumption is associated with a broader range of social aetivities.

S.3 Tbe rclatjonWp bctwccn the actor. jnyolycd

Another mucb researched theme is the difFerence in perceptions between situations

involving acquaintances and those involving stranger5 (e.g. Bell et al., 1994; Hammock"

Richardson.. 1997; Johnson &. JacUoI1y 1988; Johnson &. Russ, 1989; Kanekar et al., 1991;

Kopper, 1996). The most typical finding is that the closer the degree ofacquaintanceship, the

more ükely that an incident would be perceived as consensual set by observers. For example,

in a study of 160 American university students, Johnson and Russ (1989) found lhat stranger

rapes were more likely to be perceived as "rcal'· opes as opposed to situations iovolving

acquaintances which were perceived to he either of less gravity or to be consensual.

Another example cornes from the aforementioned study by Kanekar et al. (1991).

Results indieated that participants were more Iikely to perceive a situation to he rape the less

acquainted the actors involved. Scenarios involving married or en8l8ed couples were more

likely to be perceived as consensua1 than scenarios involving strangers or those with a tùrther

degree of acquaintanceshiJ)-e.g. neighbors, colleagues. In concluding their article, the

authors briet1y stated tllat tbis finding reinforces the sociaIlegitimacy and primacy pen to

marital relations over otller types of relationships. SimiJarIy, u mentioned in an earlier

discussion. Bergen (1996) maintained tllat the results ofber studyon marital rape indicated

that women were reludant to label their experiences as rape because of the SOCÎetai

expedation that marriage includes a sexuaI obligation on the wife' 5 part.

• 25
5.4 A woman' s actioQs

• Less ftequent. yet also explored, is the effcct of women' 5 actions before a sexuaI

incident on perceptions ofrape or consent to sex (Abbey & Hamish, 1995; DeSouza et al.,

1992). As aUuded to earlier, a woman's willingness to accompany a man to bis apanment is

imerpreted as consent to!eX. Similarly, a wornan' 5 alcohol consumption is also perceived as

indicative ofbeing sexuaI and tIws to a wiJIinsness to engage in SR (Abbey & Hamish, 1995).

Other studies have demonstrated that a woman' s actions after a sexual incident are

also closely tied to perceptions of rape (Kanekar et al., 1991; Schneider, 1992). More

specifically, in a study that included 557 panicipants, Schneider (1992)found that vignettes

indieating that the woman reported the incident to the police were more likely to be perceived

as rape scenarios and the woman was more likely to be perceived as a credible rape vietim.

Furthermore, as Kanekaret al. (1991) f~ an incident which includes a wornan's reporting

• is more likely to he labeled as rape, even if the situation involved acquaintances.

ln sum, studies of rape perceptions have adopted a focus on individual/situational

factors such as the use of force on the pan ofthe perpetrator/~ alcohol consumption, the

relationship between the actors involved and the woman' 5 actions prior to or foUowing an

incident. While some authors aUude to the impact of social relations on perceptions of rape

in their studies--such as the social expectation that consemîng to sex is a wife' s marital

obligation, as in Bergen's (1996) study-their expIicit focus is not on understandins how these

perceptions are shaped by social relations. Moreover, studies that attempt to draw links to

social relations, such as the studies by Day (1994) and Bergen (1996), Cocus solely on sender


• 26
The almost exclusive focus on individuallsituational variables bas been criticized for

• paying cursory, if any, attention to the impact of categories of anaIysis such u gender, race,

ethnicity and religion, that may shape perceptions of rape (Bourque, 1989; DiMaria "

DiNuovo, 1986; Wyatt, 1992). Whether directly or indirectly, many researchers have

responded by adopting an alternative Cocus on these categories in research about rape

perceptions. 1bese explorations of rape have adopted additive or intersectional approaches,

to which 1 now tum.

• 27
Chapter 1

• Perceptions of rape:
Examining the impact of social relations

1. Introduction

ln the previous chapter, 1 pointed to the limitations oftheoretical approaches tbat

focus solely on gender relations in attempting to understand rape. 1 also highlighted the over·

emphasis within empirical explorations on the impact of individual factors in shaping

perceptions of rape. 1 argued that perceptions of rape are best understood by adopting an

approach that examines the impact of a multiplicity of categories ofanalysis such as gender,

race. sexual orientation and dass.

ln lhis chapter, 1 examine the additive and intersectional approaches, that have been

adopted in attempting to ascenain the impact of gender, race, ethnicity, class and others, on

perceptions of rape. Employing an intersectional approach to understanding rape in tbis

thesis. 1 will also elaborate on some of the main themes trom Arabie feminist scholarship that

when adopting Ibis approach might be relevant in understanding rape perceptions within

Arabie contexts.

2. Deore1ical .ppro.cha 10 the Itudy 01 rape

Relying on two ditferent approac~ additive and intersec:tional, sorne researchers

have attempted to understand when a sexuaI incident becomes defined as '~rape", "sexua)

assault" or ~~sexuaI barassment". by explorinS the links between these perceptions and

categories ofanaIysis such as race, class and gender (Bourque, 1989; DiMaria &. DiNuovo,

1986; Freetly" Kane, 1995; George, Wmfield, & Blazer, 1992; Giacopassi" Dun. 1986;

• 28
Giuf&e Il. Williams; 1994; Radford, KeUy &. Hester, 1996; Johnson cl Jackson. 1988; ~

• Mathie &. Torgler, 1994; Kopper, 1996; Mori, Bernat, Glenn, SeUe Il. Zarate, 1995; Sanday,

198111997; Wtllis, 1992; Wyatt; 1992). As will become apparent, only the second ofthese

approaches bas attempted to draw links between elements of social location and broader

social relations.

2. 1 The additive IDproacb

ln the additive approac~ categories such as gender, ethnicity and religion play a

merely descriptive role in that they are seen as referents to an individual identity. The focus

in this approac:h is usualJy on evaluating ditferences and commonalities in perceptions of rape

among participants belonging to different social groups assumed to be homogenous and

discrete (e.g. Gubennan &. Hum, 1994; Giacopassi &, Dun, 1986; Mori et al., 1995).

Typically, investigations using this approach rely on categorizations assumed to ditrer

• according to gender, race or class, among others. Thus, researchers ask questions such as:

"Are women Jess acœpting ofrape myths than men?" or "are Asians more likeJy than \\bites

to bJame vietims of sexual assauIts for the crime?" ln these studies, groups such as Asian",

·"White", "men" and ""women" are considered discrete, fixed, homogenous categories which

require no definition and which are tben auributed dift"ering attitudes towards u rape myths",

"4 rape acknowJedgment" or '~etim blamins attitudes". The main thrust is on discovering

differences between groups that have been defined Q priori as hOlDOgeneous. Sorne anempt

is usuaIIy made., al the end of the article to address possible diversity within the categories, but

this is simply mentioned as an aspect ofthe study limiting its generalizability.

This approach is evident in the study by Mori et al. (1995). Rere, the researchers

• 29
compared the attitudes towards rape of 302 male and female Asian and Caucasian coUege

• students. Panicipants completed several scales evaluating their acculturation level~ their

attitudes towards women, and their attitudes towards rape. The findings were consistent with

the hypothesis set forth al the beginning ofthe study lhat bath male and female Asian coUege

students would hold more negative attitudes towards rape victims and would be more likely

to believe rape myths than their Caucasian counterpans. The authors proposed that tbis

finding is important because it 5Ugested that:

Asian females may be likely to under report sexuaI assault due to a possible
failure to recognize rape as 'rape' (i.e. sexual attack) and/or due to fear of
negative repercussions and self-blame (p.464465).

The authors concluded with a recognition of the non-generalizabüity of the results to Asian

groups living outside of Orange County, Califomi~ where the study was condueted, and

called for additional studies into tbis area of differential rape perceptions.

• The kind ofapproaeh ernployed by Mori et al. (1995) bas been amply critieized for

two reasons. First.. in dûs approach social groups are considered to be homogenous with iittle

exploration of diversity within groups of wom~ ethnie groups, or other social groupings.

This assumption of homogeneity is problematic in that il bas tended to reinforce and

perpetuate commonly-heId stereotypes and essentialized accounts about social groups (Said..

1978; Abu-Lughocl 1991; Mohanty, 1991b; Narayan,. 1997) which have been counler-

productive for practice (DwnbriD el Maïter, 1996; Hester et al., 1996; Marna, 1989; Mtezu~

1996). Looking back at the study by Mori et al., "Asian" is a broad, inadequately-defined

category. Ac:cordïng to the authors, only 360/. of their sample gave a detailed ethnic

identification beyond "Asian". Yet, the assumption of homogeneÎty apparently justifiai

• 30
drawing generalizations about a category such as 44Asiann • Put ditferently, based on an

• essentialized notion of identity, this homogeneity results in generalizations which are said to

be charaeteristic to Asians".

Concretely, tbis study ret1ects and reinforces the problematic dichotomy of

traditionallmodem with the tint part ofthe dichotomy being attributed to Asians" and where

this implies negative attitudes towards women. Indeed., the study hypothesized and confinned

tbat the higher the acadturation scale score for Asian students, the more ükely it is that their

responses resemble thase of Caucasian students. Implied in this dichotomy is lhat the more

one resembled Caucasians in herlhis attitudes, the more modem one is, and the more likely

il is that slhe held positive attitudes about women. Despite its aims to further our

understanding of rape across a.aItures, this study bas its limitations by virtue of reliance on the

additive approach. Failing to problematize the dichotomy oftnditionallmodem couId easily

• lead to simplistic equations such as: The closer one is to an assumed essentialized white

standard--whatever that may be--the more positive are one's attitudes towards wom~ an

equation proven false by the wide prevalence of white male violence.

A second limitation of the additive approach is its linear conceptualization of gender.

etlmicity, and others, as fixed and static variables which cao simply be added on to each other

to account for ditTering perceptions and for the double and triple oppressions of various

groupsofwomen (F~ 1989; Kaminsky, 1994; Russo, 1991; Spelman, 1988). To continue

with the example of the Mori et al. (1995) study, gender lJld ethnicity are added on to each

other to account for differiog perceptions. '4 Asian" is added to umann to account for a

woman-blaming attitude, while "Caucasian" and "femaIe" are added on to each other to

• 31
aœount for a less woman-blaming attitude. Yet, as several authon have not~ the additive

• approach bas failed to account for the "contextual" and "interactive" nature of ethnicity,

gender and others (Andersen, 1993; Bilgé" Aswad, 1996; Creese" Stasiulis, 1996;

England" StielJ, 1997; FuS$, 1989; McCready, 1983; Naraylll. 1997; Ragin" Hein, 1993;

Renzetti. 1997; Stanfield IL 1993).

A peninent example of the complex nature of elements of social location cao be

confirmed by Iooking Il studies on Lebanese people. For example, white differences between

Muslims and Ctuistians have been highlighted by many researchers. others have looked at the

ditferences within Christian groups or Muslim groups (McKay. 1985) or at the similarities

between Musiims and Christians (Wolfe &. MourribL 1985). McKay (1985) concluded a three

generational study of'·Syrian-Lebanese"Christians with the finding that "religion cao divide

more than ethnicity cao unite" (p. 327). Other authors have highlighted class difTerences as

• an issue which bas divided women and bas been one of several reasons which have weakened

women's movements in Lebanon (Makdisi, 1996). Other writers point to regional difFerences

(Faour. 1995; Sha'aban, 1988), and Iink rural contexts to higher rates ofilliteracy and poverty.

as weB as a lengthier history ofwomen's political aetivism. Generational difTerences among

Lebanese people living in the sante city (Batrouney, 1995; Jabbra, 1991; McKay, 1985) and

difrerellces in Lebanese·~ cultures" trom one country to another (Humphrey, 1986)

have also been researched. In shon., drawing Seneralizations based on an assumed fixed

idenrity aeates stereotypes wbich do DOt account for the complex realities of people that vary

according to context and to the interaction ofelements of social location.

• 32

2.2 The intersec1ioDai approacb

Responding to the limitations of the additive approach. a very minuscule body of

research on sexualized violence has relied on an approach referred to by sorne authors as

intersectionality (Hill Collins. 1990. 1991~ hooks. 1981 ~ Yuval-Davis. 1998). This approach

which has not been restrieted ta analyses of rape. is characterized by two main tenets. First,

intersectionality considers categories such as gender. etbnicity. religion and sexual orientation,

not as individual charaeteristics or variables, but as categories of analysis which signitY "social

locations" in society, and which are continuously being negotiated and shaped within everyday


While several terms are used ta refer to these categories of analysis--e.g. social

factors. identity charaeteristics, social structural variables, social variables, social locating

variables, categories ofbelonging, status indicators. identity categories. etc.--femi ni st authors

relying on an intersectional approach have tended to utilize the terms "elements" or "factors"

of social location or position interchangeably (Baines, 1991~ Haraway, 1990~ Hill Collins,

1990, 1991~ hoo4 1981). For the purposes ofthis dissertation. the terms social location and

elements of social location will be relied upon. This choice is intentional in that it aims to

steer clear ofterms such as "variables" and .. indieators", both of which are heavily relied upon

in studies relying on additive approaches and invoke static conceptions of race, gender, and

class, arnong others.

While the term element may appear to imply a variable that cao be unproblematically

seetioned off trom other variables, these elements are understood to be interactive and

contextual and are oot seeo as discrete and immutable. ln the intersectional approach, the

• 33
interlocking categories ot: for example, gender, race and religion, as opposed to a single

• category, determine one's social location. Funhermore, social locations are not seen to he

solely imposed by society or structures external to people's experiences, but are understood

to be reinforced and negotiated in everyday reIationships (Butler, 1990; Devor, 1989; Moore,


The second main tenet of the intersectional approach is that these social locations

reftect and reinforce the operation of power within social relations embedded in a particular

social context. Indeed. the choice to use the term "location" retlects the understanding that

elements such as race and gender are located within a specific social context. Within this

comen, power is understood as a tluid dynamic that operates in everyday social relations at
the intersection ofvarious dements of social location Cereese &. Stasiulis, 1996; KeUy, 1988;

Mohanty, 1991a; Moore, 1994; Naray~ 1997). Power operates in such a way as to

• reinforœ dominant relations of oppression and privilege, and these impact on the constNction

of social phenomenon such as rape (Saines, 1997; Hill Collins, 1990, 1997; books, 1981;

Moore, 1994). However, this does not imply that aU women sharing the same social location

will share similar experienœs or perceptions of a phenomenon. Instead, what is implied is that

examining individual wornen's lives Pr0vides an insight into the operation of power in the

construction ofphenomene in any given social context. By adoptins the latter exploration as
the fOQlS of social sc:icnœ inquîry. IllICh cm be leamed about how oppression is construeted..

lived and cbaD~ and this is sem as a first and necessuy !tep towards changing oppressive

social reIatïons(Andersen, 1993; Bannerji, 1993; Harvey &. Gow, 1994; Kelly, 1988; Lather;

1991; Mohanty, 1991b; Nanyan., 1997).

• 34
An illustration oftbis approadl is evident in the study by Giuffi'e and Wdliams (1994).

• The authors explored the gap between experiencing and labeling behaviors as "sexuaI

harassmentn • The study, conducted in Texas, was based on interviews with a sample of 18

restaurant employees diverse in terms of semai orientation, race, ethnicity, class and gender.

The results indieatecl that tbere are ucomplex double standards" as to when the same behavior

Îs perceived as sexua1 harassrnent and when it is not. The general finding was that a behavior

is perceived to be semai harassment if it takes place between co-workers in similar

hierarchical positions but who ditTer in terms of ethnicity, race, class or sexuaI orientation.

The authors drew links between titis general tinding and "the dominant social construction of
pleasure , which defines only heterosexual, intra-racial relationships as acceptable;

relationships that fall outside the bounds of this acceptability are more likely to he labeled

~~sexual harassmentn .

• A study by George et al. (1992) arrived at similar theoretical conclusions. In an

attempt to assess the impact of social relations on perceptions of sexual assault, the authors

compared two representative samples of 1,1 S7 women in rural and urban regions of the

United States. Their tindings indicated that there were clear ünks between women' s

perceptions of sexuaI assault and the geographic region within which tbey üved. They

concluded tbat:
[S]ociocultural facton may help account for ditTering definitions of sexuaI
assault and ditrerent correlates of acknowledged vs. unacknowledged rape.
This issue clearly merits additional research" (p. 122).

FinaUy, a study by Wyatt (1992) explored the impact ofraœ, class and gender on

ditTerences in perceptions of rape in a sample of SS Black and White women living in Los

• 3S
Angeles. The researcher concluded that socio-poütical elements IUch as the present clay


impact of a history of slavery in the United Stat~ play an important role in womenYs

perceptions! experience5 of rape and access to services such as rape crisis centers. Ta

elaborat~ Wyatt suggested that racism bas constnJeted BIaclc women as usexuaUy voraciousty.

ln tum, Black wornen are not seen as credible rape vie:t~ in that tbey are perceived to

always he willing to engage in !eX. This construction which bas ilS roots in the bistory of

slavery undermines the credibility of Black women vietims of rape. Wyatt's anaIysis leads

her to urge other researchers to consider the impact of racism on women' s perceptions and

experiences of rape.

ln sum~ as previously noted, most research on perceptions of rape bas focused on

individuallsituational variables, offering minimal allusions to broader social relations. ln

panial response to a critique of tbis focus, sorne research has examined how perceptions of

• rape are impaeted on by elements ofsocial location such as race, class and gender. This body

of research bas adopted either an additive or an intersectional approach, the laner of which

is relied upon in the present study because it explicitly focuses on the links between

perceptions and social relations.

ln shon., in the intersectional approach, interlocking elements such as race, gender and

class are understood ta refer to a persan' s location in a social context ret1ecting the operation

ofpower within soçial relations. Crenshaw (1995) bas argueel that wbile feminists have long

recognized the importance of considering the intersection of ~ class and gender in

wornen' s experiences of rape., there bas been a lack of in depth investigation ioto what tbis

mans in aetuaIïty. 1Ddeed, as demonstrated in my review ofthe empiricaI scholarship on rape,

• 36
• despite recognition of the importance of intersectionality, there is a dearth of research

adopting tbis approach. As a result. most writings on intersectionality have been theoreticaI

in nature, offering little, if any, empirical illustration. Hence, in adopting an intersectional

approac~ this study attempts to provide a concrete illustration of the theoretical tenets of

intersecrlonality. To be more specific, this research airns to move beyond Mere documentation

of rape perceptions. to arriving at a concrete understanding of the processes by which rape

perceptions are shaped by social relations within the LebaneseIBeiruti context.

3. Arabie fe_inist sebolarship: Applying intenectionality

While there are no documented Arabic ferninist theories on rape or other forms of

sexuaiized violence, in this section 1attempt to illustrate how intersectionality could be applied

within an Arabic context. In Chapter 1, 1briet1y discussed two issues trom the Arabic feminist

scholarship related to constructions of womanhood and gender relations. Here, 1 focus more

specifically on key issues that may have a bearing on perceptions of rape. Despite the lack of

writing on sexualized violence, rape or otherwise, there exists a limited body of scholarship

dealing specifically with issues deemed by Arabic feminist writers to be related to women' s

sexuality. [n tbis section. 1 highlight three of these key issues: representations of Arabic

women's sexuality, the family as the basic social unit, and the imponance ofvirginity.

3.1 Representations of Arabie womep' s SCXUality

It has been suggested that explorations of any aspect of Arabic women' s sexuality

need to take into account the histories of colonialism witbin Arabic societies (HeUal, 1997;

Mehdi~ 1993; Sabbagh, 1996; Said, 1978). Mehdid (1993), Hellal (1997) and Said (1978),

for example, have traced the histories of French and British colonialism and their impact on

• 37
women in Arabie societies. WhiIe Mehdid and HeUai devoted considerably more attention to

• the issue than Said, aU three authors have concurred that one of the legacies of colonialism

bas been the creation of a lasting image of the ~~oriental" or "Eastern" woman. In this image,

bat depie:ted by French and British writers of the 19'* and earIy 2()111 century, Arabie women

are construeted as exotie, sexuaI objects, residing in seclusion within the walls of imaginary

harems. As Mehdid observed, il is highly doubttù1 tbat these male writers were pennined

aeeess to a harem; she adds that their knowledge of Arabie women was most probably

restrieted to prostitutes and entenainers. Moreover, Mehdid noted that these representations

of Arabie women's sexuaIity have 1eR a deep impact on the perceptions of Arabie wornen not

ooly in these writers' societies, but alsa within Arabie contexts.

The representation of Arabie women as exotic sexuaI objects bas been joined in more

recent years by a representation of Arabie wornen as etemal vietims of a ~'culture ofmisery"

• in whieh their sexuaIity is vehemently repressed by totalitarian Islamic regimes (HeUaI, 1997;

Sabbagh, 1996). Islam, the predominant faith in most Arabie societies, bas been blamed for

the relentless oppression ofwomen (BiJgé " Aswad, 1996; EI-Soth &. Mabro, 1994; Sabbagh,

1996; Terry, 1986). This perception of Islam is presented typica1ly in contrast with

Christianity, associaIed strongIy with the "West" and modernization, in whieh wornen's rights

are upheld (Akkad, 1990; Hamilton; 1994; HeUaI, 1997; Teny, 1986). This cultural and

relisious dichotomization is problematic for many rcasons.

To eIaborat~ cultural dichotomies are based on the assumed homogeneity ofsocieties

which are lumped under categories such as East and West. In reality, societies are

increasingIy diverse; their members are of variaus edmicities, socioeconomic classes, religious

• 38

sects and other social groupings (Moore, 1991). For example as EI-Soth and Mabro (1994)

sugested, there are as many operationalizations of Islam as there are countries where Islam

is the predominant religion. In consequence, women's experiences and relationships to Islam

will differ depending on the context and on women' 5 social position.

As weU. Jumping societies on opposite sides ofthe cultural dichotomy of East/West

disregards not only the diversity existent within those soc:ieties, but al50 the migration and

other connections which exist among them (Abu-Lughod, 1~ 1; Moore, 1996). As Moore

( 1996) notaL societies around the globe are no lon8er insular and do not exist in isolation of

one another.

Another problematie aspect of the dic:hotomization between East and West is the

wholesale equation of the former pan of the dichotomy with traditionalism and the repression

ofwomen' s sexuality and the latter part with their modemizalion and sexualliberation. While

not denying the repression of women' s sexuality within Arabic/Muslim societies, Sabbagh

(1996) suggested that an anaIysis of this repression must not be based o~ or result in,

generalizations; an exploration of women's sexuality needs to take ioto account social

relations specifie to each Arabie society, as gender, ethnie, and clus relations will düfer from

one cont~ to another.

Moreover, suc:h dichotomization of sexuaI repressionl1i~tion etJectively renders

invisible the açtivism and many stNges of women and femioists about issues of sexuaIïty,

including sexuaI violation, in so-caIIed Western as well as Eastern contexts. In faet, as early

as 1978, Guillaumin highlighted the tendency to attribute repression to the lives of'~omen

of the Orient" partly as a strategy to avoid discussing the violence apinst women occurring

• 39
in Western societïes. In addition, rareIy are Arabie women presented as active agents in thar

• own lives:

Althaugh Arab wa~ üke their Western sisters, are vietimized by male
ehauvinism and prejudice, they are by no means as subjugated or oppressed as
most popular Western literature would îndieate. Women's roles in Arab
society vary greatly and ret1ect the geographie, economic and social
complexity of the society at large. It is also important ta emphasize that
women were extremely active in the Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist
movements orthe twentieth century (Terry, 1986, p. 26).

Speaking specifically about women in Lcbanon, AUthon such as Badran and Cooke (1990),

Makdisi (1996), Mosf1adam (1997) and Sha'aban (1988, 1993) have ail pointed to women's

lengthy historical and current political and civie aetivism.

Finally, the equation ofthe West with modemizationlliberationiChristianity and the

East with traditionalismlrepressionlIslam bas specifie rçercussions for the lives of women in

Lebanon. Makdisi (1996) noted that Lebanese women are perceived as more modem than

other Arabie women because of the long history of association with the West--e.g. through

French protectorship. This will he discussed in Chapter 4. Makdisi noted that tbis modemity

is assessed accordins to standards of dress and speech. where usuaUy Christian. middle and

upper-class women who speak a language other than Arabie and who wear Western dress are

considered "modem". However, tbey are still ponrayed as viClims of religiously fanatie

Islamie laws or tribal actions sucb as ~4crimes of honour'J4. by vinue of tiVÎDg in an Arabie

society. This in itself creates a differentiation between Muslim and Christian women living in

Influenced by the work of Moghaizel and Abdel-Sater (1999), 1 use quotation marks when
referring to "crimes of banOUf", to imply that there is nolbing honourable about killing a
woman for loss of virginity or other reasons.

• 40
the same context.

• Henee, within Arabie societies, women's perceptions of their own sexuality includinS

aets of sexual violation.. might wcU be afFected not ooly by gender relations assumed to be

operating in vacuum trom other social relations, but al50 by the intersection of sender

relations with a history ofcolonialism and race relations, as weU the role of religion specific

to the contex! under examination.

3.2 The funib' 1$ • hui, lOci" unit

Based on a survey of the literature, Tueker (1993, p. 198) describes the Arabie family

in the Middle East region as:

an extended family of patrilinea1 descent that preserved its integrity at least

panly thraugh the amnged marriage of young women, often to their cousins.

Khoury (1996) descnbed a similar structure when defining the family in Lebanon. However,

• according to Tucker (1993) this image of the family may be more of an ideal than a historical

and contemporary reality. Based on her own researc~ she bas maintained that the fanùly in

Arabie societies is not a static monolithic structure, but bas varied across time, country and

social class. Moreover, women's position in the family bas been variable across these same

dimensions. For example, according to the author, women in lower..income families tended

to exercise more control than other women, over their personal propeny in 186 and 1CJ't

century Egypt.

ln shon, il is not possible to draw a universal pieture of the Arabie family.

Nonetheless, Tucker bas concurred with other Anbic scholars that it is not the individual, but

the &miIy in its many variations over the years that is the basic social unit in Arabie societies

(Batrouney, 1995; EI-SoIh" Mabro, 1994; Joseph, 1983, 1991, 1993, 1994; Sabbagh, 1996).

• 41
More specificaUy, within Arabic societies, the family is seen to "hold special significance for

• women' s roles and power' (Tucker, 1993, p. 196). While acknowledging the abuses that

women may incur Il the bands oftheir family members the famiJy bas long been a source of

economic. emotional and social support for women and men. 80th Sabbagh (1996) and

Joseph (1994) maintain that the family serves funetions similar to those undertaken by the

state in the West:

[T]he extended famiJy ot1"ered each individual ail the amenities that the state
currently otren ils citizens in the West...Unemployment benefits, health
insurance. and protection against ail fonns of disaster were and continue to be
offered to women through the extended family (Sabb~ 1996. p. xv)

Sabbagh's observation is echoed by Khoury (1996)who points to the primacy ofthe

family over the state in Lebanon, where the decimation ofthe raie of government caused by

the war reinforced the importance of the extended family as a source of support. More

• specificaUy within Beirut, this reliance on family members for basic support bas led to the

development ofwhat Joseph (1983. 1991. 1993, 1994) referred to as "connectivity'\ astate

ofbeing where the selfis defined in relation to others. Joseph observed that this connectivity

is patriarchal in nature. reinforcing inegaIitarian relations across age and gender. where women

and youths are on the disadvantaged side of these relations. She maintained that the high

value placed on connectivity is, to a great extent, responsible for the importance placed on

marriage and motherhood as women's ultimate roles in the Beiruti context.

Both Joseph (1993) and Sabbagh (1996) have adclressed the critique raised apinst

connectivity and the primacy ofthe family in Arabic societies. They criticized the view that

the imponance placed on family relationships is • vestige of traditionalism that must be

replaced with hcalthy, independent and modern ways ofbeing. Similarly, Narayan (1997)

• 42
proposed that mos! so-caIIed traditional aspects ofwomen's lives in Third World contects

• serve modem-day fùnctions. Dy dismissing the importance placed on marriase and the family

as traditionaJ aspects that belong in the put, the conlemporary imponance ofthese aspects

in wornen's lives is concealed. Speakïng about critiques of Arabie women's "traditional"

reliance OD the family, Sabbagh (1996) made the foUowing point:

When Western women ait the implied question, "Why cao't Arab women be
more Iike us?", they mean why can't Arab women be individuals as opposed
to being pan of an extended famiJy system...Figuratively, the question al50
impües the recommendation that Arab women should jump out ofan airplane
without the benefit ofa paradarte. Until such lime as the Arab world reaches
a state of developrnent that cao otTer wornen education. guarameed
emplo~ benefits...wornen will have to accommodate as best they cao to
the patriarchal Nies of the extended family, while fighting for a greater
cornpliance with their needs (p. xv).

Considering the imponance of the family in providing for both wornen and men' s

sociaL emotional and economic needs, Sabbagh (1996) assened that wornen's primary roles

• as a wife and mother are "protected by men" (p.'CVÜ). The author added lhat "control over

wornen"s bodies" (p.xxiv), including their sexuaJity, is an imponant way for men to protect

the sanctity of the family, and women's roles within. Hence, an exploration ofrape within

Arabie societies needs to he accompanied by an understanding of the imponance ofthe family

within Arabie soeieties. As Crenshaw (199S) noted, current European and Nonh Americao

feminist constructions of rape and sexuaJity which focus on the individual, choice, consent,

body, lIId physiasl boundaries, may not adequately speak to women' s everyday experiences

in contexts where the family, and not the individuaL is the basic social unit.

• 43
3.3 The importance ofviœinitY
• Arabic feminist authors have ail pointed to the importance placed on the preservation

of unwed women's virginity in Arabie socieries (Abu-Odeh, 1996~ 'Atawi~ 1999~ Badran,

1993; EI-Solh and Mabro. 1994; Makdisi. 1996~ Memissi. 1996). This importance bas been

attributed to a biological concem with women' s reproductive capacity (Karmi, 1996;

Memissi, 1996). As Karmi (1996) observed, the safeguarding ofwomen' s virginity prior to

rnarriage wu necessary to ensure the ascendence ofpatrilinea1 over matrilineal heritage. Abu-

Odeh (1996) eIaborated by stating that within Arabie societies, women's biological virginity,

in the fonn of an intact hymen, is joined by IWO other faeets of virginity that necessitate

safeguarding: bodiIy and social. BodiIy virginity refers to a style ofdress and a way ofmoving

that connote demureness and chastity; social virginity refers to women's segregation in

specifie social spaces where contact with men is minimîzed.

In order to preserve ail three faœts of virginity and in tum, the sanetity of a system of

patrilineal heritage, women's acœptable sexual aetivity is restrieted to the bounds ofmarriage.

For examp~ within Lebanon and other Arabie countries, extra-marital set (zina) is punishable

by civil and religious laws, carries a prison sentence. and is considered haranf, a crime &gainst

God. In contrast, sa within marriage is revered (E1-501h &. Mabro, 1994) and this

priviJeged position is most aptly illustrated by the religious laws on nushou:.

Nushouz is a concept that literaUy naos "going out oftune". The charge of nushouz

Haram literally mans impermissable. While this word bas religious origins, it is commonly
used in colloquial Arabic, sometimes lightly as a way of saying "too bad". For example:
"Haram, sbe lost ber job".

• 44
• can be applied to men who are not upholding their family responsibilities, such as failing to

financially support their wives and/or children. However, when applied to women, tbis

concept refers to a wife's disobedience and refusai to ~'surrender herself' to her husband's

rights under marriage (AI-~ 1989; Birr, 1996). One ofthese incontestable rights is access

to sex. For example in Islamic religious courts--referred to in more detail in Chapter 4...- a

woman who refuses to have sex with her husband is considered nashiz (adjective of nushou:)

and the man bas a right to divorce her should other ways of remedying her disobedience fail.

Interestingiy, the refusai ofa husband to sleep with bis wife is considered in religjous laws to

be a form of discipline for a wife's disobedience in other areas of life. In Christian courts, a

woman who is ,rash;: can be deprived of the custody ofher cbildren (Vounan, 1998).

While sex in marriage is bighly revered and holds a privileged place in religjous laws,

pre-marital sex leading to 10ss of virginity has dire consequences ranging from non...

marriageability to becoming the victim of a "crime of honour" . Loss of virginity prior to

marriage can carry with it the cost of being killed at the hands of a male relative enraged at

the thought of the loss ofhis and bis family' s honour (Abu-Odeh, 1996; Mernissi, 1996). As

Memissi 50 aptly phrased it: "[t]he concepts of honour and virginity locate the prestige of a

man between the legs ofa woman" (p. 34). Honour...killings belie two important issues. First,

it is women who are held responsible for maintaining aU three facets of their virginity. Whether

tbey lose their vaginal virginity willingly or through coercio~ and whether they ooly lose their

bodily or social virginity, they place themselves at the risk ofbeing killed.

Second, as the quote from Mernissi ilIustrates, a woman' s virginity is not simply a

question ofher own sexuality or her own body. Rer actions hold consequences for the men

• 45
in ber tàmily. A first consequence relates once again to the economic and social value of the

• family as a basic social unit (Mernissi.. 1996; Sabbagh, 19%). More specifically, the

consequence ofhaving a daughter, sister or cousin who bas lost her virginity prior to marriage

can strain relationslips with other &milles which. as previously explainecl. are an essential pan

of a persan's network of support. Hence ~~crimes of honour" cao he seen as measures to

regulate women' 5 sexuaI behaviour partly sa that strain-&ee relations could be maintained

with other familles in one's community.

Moreover, anothet consequence of 1055 of virginity relates to the construction of

masculinity within Arabic societies (Abu-ode~ 1996~ Mernissi. 1996). As Abu-Odeh (1996)

noted. a man is eonstrueted as "that persan whose sister's virginity is a social question for

him... Ifa man doesn't intervene by kiDing bis sister once she bas shamed hi~ he sutrers a 1055

of gender" (p. 152); consequently, "honour is not only what women must keep intact to

remain alive. but what men should defend fierœly 50 as not to be reduœd to women" (p. 154).

ln this ~ women's virginity serves as an imponant market of the boundary between what

it means to be a man or a woman. 50 important is this market, that its violation is punishable

by femicide.

Sabbagh (1996) bas observed that while femicide in the form of~~crimes ofhonour"

is &equentIy cüscussed in relation to the lives of women in Arabie societies.. these crimes are

rare occurrences. A more &equent consequence of a woman losing ber virginity is her

becoming unsuitable as a marriage panner (Davis. 1993; Memissi. 1996; Sabbagh, 1996).

Once again. considering that the family is the basic social unit, unmarriageability bas dire

consequences for women because they would he cast out ofan important system ofeconomic

• 46
and social support.

• Wrth changes in economic conditions compel1ing many more women than ever before

to enter the often-desegrepted (mixed-gender) labour force and educational system., the

imponance of family and the centrality of marriage may he wanÎng (KhaIa( 1998; Memissi,

1996). Women are more &equently in contact with men and hence have more opponunities

to explore their sexuality outside the bounds of marriage.

However virginity remains bishly valued. For example, for women of the wealthy

social c~ cosdy hymen restoration operations are available prior to marriage (Memissi,

1996). According ta Memissi, the bigh value placed on virginity and the consequences ofits

1055 implicitly belie the perception that pre-maritai sex invoMng coercion or otherwise, is seen

as udefilement". In consequence, tbis perception of pre-marital sex as defilement may

engender violence. Memissi' s observation ret1ects western critiques that !eX bas ail too often

• been faIseIy dissociated from violence (Harvey &. Gow, 1994; MaCKiMOn, 1995). Hence in

Arabie contexts, an eumination of rape needs to he accompanied by an understanding that

in and of itsel( pre-marital sexuaI aetivity is considered defilement and cao be accompanied

by violent consequences. The demarcation line between sex and violence (rape) is not 50

much dependent on a woman' S consent but more 50 on the possible consequences of ber

sexua1 aetivity.. i.e., death or ulUll8JTiageability. Concretely, tbis implies that an examination

of rape within Arabie contexts needs to be undertaken conjointly with an understanding of the

importance pIaœd on viqpnity, marnage, and the distinction between pre-marital and marital

!eX. In ChIpIer 4, 1 take my examination of rape and marriage to geater depths u 1 address

more specificaUy relevant aspects of the LebaneselBeiruti context.

• 47
• Chapter3


1. Feminist framework: epistemological tenets and methodological tools

This study was conducted within a feminist framework following the principles of

grounded methodology. As has been weil documented~ there is no unique method that can

be characterized as feminist nor are there fixed criteria that can determine whether or not a

study is feminist (Allen & Baber, 1992; Cook & Fonow, 1986; Stanley & Wise~ 1990).

However. there is some consensus that the study's underlying epistemological tenets and

methodological tools render it feminist research.

Epistemology has been defined as "a theory of knowledge which addresses central

questions such as: who can he a 'knower', what cao he known, what constitutes and validates

knowledge, and what the relationship is or should be between knowing and being"(Stanley

& Wise, 1990, p. 26). There are three main types of feminist epistemology: empiricist,

standpoint and postmodem (Allen & Baber, 1992; Harding, 1987a; Hawkeswonh, 1989).

However, as McLennan (1995) indicated, these distinctions are not as clear-cut as initially

fonnulated, and serve to obscure the similarities among these epistemologies. Funhermore,

Smith (1997) emphasized the need to speak of standpoint theories in the plural in recognition

ofvarious versions. This contestation is highlighted here to underscore the position that there

is no unique methodology for feminist inspired research, a point maintained by Many feminist

writers (Cook and Fonow, 1986; Gilbert, 1994; Harding, 198780 b; Smith, 1997; Stanley &

Wise, 1990; Thompson, 1992). These same authors ail agree that the development of

feminist epistemologies bas been prompted by a RaCtion apinst traditional modes of scientific

• reasanins and inquiry. In tbis regard, 'ttempts have been made to outline basic tenets of

feminist inspired epistemologies and to oirer methodological tools to operationalize these


Three lenets of feminist epistemology that are of panicular relevance to tbis

dissenation are the situatedness of knowledge, women's lives as a starting point ofinquiry,

and the connection between the researcher and research participants. Each of these tenets is

associated with one or more methodological tool5, elaborated on below.

1. 1 Ibe situated0ess of know1cdac · PQsjtiggaljty rcf1exjyjty and power

Reaeting against the traditional scientific idea that there is a discernable truth which

couId be arrived al thraugh "gorous, detached, objective inquiry, feminists have insisted that

knowledge is situated and does DOt exist in a pure, Imowable fonn Hout there". This challenge

to traditional positivist thinking bas included dÎIOJlWODS ofpositionality, reOexivity and power

(Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement ofWomen, 1996; Harding; 1987a; Kohler-

Rei~ 1994; Lather, 1991; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada,


The epistemological stance of the upositioned investigator" bas been 5Ugested as a

substitute for the positivist stance of~4detached knower" (Andersen, 1993; Kohler Rei~

1994; Smith, 1997). Positionality bas evoked much diSQlssion about the importance of

recopizing one's positionaIity DOt ooly as a potential source of bias but also as • usetù1 taol

in the raarch process. The tenn "positionality" bu been used to refer to the social location

ofthe researdler and ils relation to the abject of study. Harding (1987, p.9) sugested that:

• 49
[t]be cIass, ~ culture, and gender usumptions, beliefs, lDCl behaviors of the

• researcher her/himself must he placed within the frame of the picture that
shelhe attempts to paint. This does not mean that the first haIf of a research
repon should engage in souI searching... Instead, (we should be told) how
she/he suspects lhis bas shaped the research project.

As 1 will show tbroughout this dissertation.. my positionality as a single woman of marrying

age and as a mughtaribé6, tikely had an impact on the research process. For example, my

marital status generated many unsoIicited observations from men and women in my own social

circle as weB as the men and women whom 1 interviewed. These observations form an

integral part of the findings discussed in later chapters.

Reflexivity bas been identified as an imponant methodological tool enabling the

researcher to explore the impact of positionality on the research process (Harding. 1987b;

Kohler-Reissma~ 1994; Latber, 1991; Roberts, 1981; Thome, 1994). Retlexivity bas been

defined as uconsciousness about being conscious; thinking about thinking" or '"he capacity

• of any system of signification to tum back upon itseU: to make itself its own object by

referring to itself subject and object fuse." (Myerhoff & Ruby, 1982, p. 1-2).

1 made il a reguJar practiœ to ret1ect at severa! intervals about issues or feelings that

were being raised for me by the research process. More often than not, this ret1ection process

pernùtted me to pin insights that clearly spoke to the research at band. For example, at the

beginning orthe study, 1 experienccd a sense offtustration. Upon ret1ection 1 came to view
my tiustration as $lemming trom an inability to recruit Christian women to interview. Seing

ofMuslim backsround myseJf and Iivins in a predominandy Muslim and Druze neighborhood,

Mughtaribé üterally means a woman who bas lone West. This tenn refers to people who
have emigrated ftom Lebanon to various pans of the world.

• 50
it became apparent to me that the fiustrations associated with reauitment had less to do with

• my abiIities u a researcher and more to do with current sectarian relations in Beirut in which
relationshipslneighborhoods are still mostly organized along religious lines. This realization

helped me to overcome my frustration and prompted me to employ more aetïve methods of

reauitment such as giving introduction lcuers to a priest to pass on to women in his parish.

Related to positionality is the caU for the recognition of the power relations involved

in the production of knowledse: If ail knowledge is situated in concrete socio-historical and

cultural locations and is produced by socially-positioned investigators~ then the power which

charaeterizes these situations is also ret1ected and reproduced in the research process

(BanneljL 1993; Mohanty~ 1991,b; Moore~ 1991). For example~ authors such as Trotman

Reid &. Kelly (1994) and Landrine et al. (1992) have maintained that research bas traditionally

retlected the racis~ sexism and classism present in society.

Not only have feminists assened and demonstrated that research ret1ec:ts power

relations. they have insisted on politicizing the research endeavor as a means of redressing

some of these power imbalances (Cook" Fonow. 1986; Gilbert. 1994; Lather. 1991;

Mohanty~ (991b; Ramazanoglou, 1989b; Srnall~ 1995; Trotman Reid &. Kelly, 1994; Worell

&. Etaugh, 1994). Hence~ feminists have demanded that the potential political nature of the

research aet he recopized and that research serve to change these power relations.

The research process is considered by feminists as an opponunity to provide

panicipants with information to which the)' may not have had acce5S. This infonnation might

assist them in reconceptualizing their situation in empowering ways. For example, Opie

(1992) disa'ssed the potentiaI usefidness of interviews in breaking the isolation ofwomen and

• SI
providing validation oftheir experïences. In my research interviews, many women expressed

• appreciation for being able to discuss issues tbat tbey may never have spoken of previously.

The research pracess had an impact on many women in my personal circles as weU. My

fiiends and acquainIances bepn to disclose experiences of violence in intimate relationships.

One fiiend in particuIar, came to reftect on ber own intimate relationship with ber panner and

rename what !he had DOt previousIy considered to be abusive-e.g. a strangIing episode among


Lather (1991) and Gilben (1994) have expressed caution around the empowerment

effects of research. They argue that tbis outcome assumes that the researcher knows better

than participants about their own lives. As mentioned previously, this is especially true when

panicipants do not label their experiences as oppressive while the researcher does. In such

cases, Rarnazanoglou (1989b) and Allen " Baber (1992) suggested that it is imponant to

balance respect for wornen' s understanding of their own lives with the researcher' s

interpretations, and to present both versions in the final research produet. 1 rely on tbis

approach in my discussion of the study' s findings.

It has also been recognized that by virtue of its political nature, feminist research

works towards social change (Allen" Baber, 1992). A methodological principle which bas

been advanced is the need to view the products ofresearch as tools for social change (Altorki

" EI-Solh. 1988; Hill Collins. 1997; Lather, 1991; SmaIl, 1995; Swigonski, 1994). In

comributing to the proc:ess ofsociII chanae, it bas been noted that research produets must be

made accessible to reacb an audience broader than academics or other rescarchers (EnsIin,

1994; Roberts, 1981). Roberts (1981) sugested that researchers might procluce two separate

• 52
documents, targeting academic and lay audiences. This thais bas already served four non-

• acadernic purposes, detailed nex!.

First, 1 have provided summary repons (Appendix B) to volunteers of LCRVAW

highlighting the main findinss of the study and how these couId be used to strategize for social

change. Second, preüminary findings have also served the purpose ofequipping LCRVAW

volunteen with infonnation about myths conœminS rape which will be used in awareness-

raising educational sessions facilitated in schools by volunteers and through educationaJ f1yers

that have been mass-distnbuted in Beirut and Tripoli. Thirel, ID.Ich of the data ooUected in tbis

thesis about the CUITent nature of aetivism and perceptions of raPe bas served the purpose of

enriching a volunteer training program developed for the volunteers by myself and the

LeRVAW' s social worker at the request of the Coordinator and the volunteers themselves.

Finally, 1 have produœd Ut awareness-raising pamphlet (Appendix C) based on the results of

the study conceming perceptions of rape. This pamphlet bas been sent to the LeRVAW to

be used for their own purposes.

ln contributing to the process of social change, 1 am aware tbat my positionality bas

played an important raie. Being a mughloribé plaœd me in a sometimes troublesome position

with regards to making recommendations for social change: While it wu acknowledged that

1 have information that 1 could contribute to aetivists working on vjolence against women in

Beirut. 1 was also perceived to be a ImIghlarlbé who may not be as familiar with the context

as those living in Lebanon. Responding to simiIar concems in ber work with women's

organizations in N~ EnsIin (1994) recommended coUaboration witb local organizations as

a means of ensuring that research information is usefùl to those living within contexts not the

• S3
researcher' S own. 1 have lOught to ensure the usefulness of the research infonnation by

• collaborating closely with the LCRVAW, the only specialized organization working on

violence against women in Lebanon.

1.2 Women' $ lives as a stanina point. Gcnder and interscctjonaJilY

In this study, 1 have chosen women's lives as a starting point for two ressons. First,

according to feminist authors such as Smith (1997), Hansock (1987), Thompson, 1992 and

Hill Collins (1990, 1997), one of the contributions offeminism to social science research is

the epistemological adoption of women's lives as the startins point offeminist inquiry. This

stanins point is a panial response to the androcentrism of the social sciences; as several

authors c~ and!oœllb'ÎSm bas created a body of social science knowledse that bas ret1ec:ted

and validated a select group of men·s concems but bas been assumed to be universally

applicable (Code, 1995; Hartsoc~ 1987; Hin Collins, 1990, 1997; Smith. 1997).

This assertion is equaUy valid when applied ta research that bas been conducted with

Lebanese people or people in Lebanon. As Joseph (1983) noted, much of the research

undenaken with Lebanesc people bas assumed the Seneric people while really beÎnS about

men. The exœptional rcsearch that bas been conduc:ted with women at its centre bas tended

to be about mothers, dausbters and wives rarely exploring constructions of womanhood and

the conœms ofgroups ofwomen beyond these specifie roles-wit~ the exception of studies

by Cooke (1988), Khalaf(1998)and Joseph (1983, 1993).

Second, il bas been sugested that the ArIb world is WMtersoing fundamental changes

in ils social structures, and that women are at the heart oflhis chanse. Hopkins and Ibrahim

(1997) confirm that women,

• 54
more than any group in society, pay the physical, ernotionaL and social priee

• oftransition. By focusing on them we may see the dil~ the pain, and the
unfolding drama, IlOt onIy of the Arlb family but of the entire Arab society as
weil (p. 177)

Hill Collins (1997) and Smith (1997) took this type of argument tùrther by assening that

women's lives reveaI DOt only the pain of transition, but al50 active stratcaies ofdea1ing with

or initiating change. This is equaDy true in exploring the issue ofrape. Centering on women's

accounts provides not ooly access to unclerstanding bow rape is perceived, but also otrers

insight into the coping strategies that women use to deal with this issue. Knowledge of

women' S perceptions and their coping strategies is important in working towards the

eümination of rape.

Inherent in staning with women's lives is the recognition that women are not a

homogenous group. In the last decade, some feminist scholars have pointed out that most

• theorizing about women's lives or women's experiences bas resulted in essentialized,

universalist accounts ofwhat it means to he a woman (Bannerji, 1993; Crenshaw, 1995;

Hec~ 1997a; Hill Collins, 1990,1997; hooks, 1981; Fu~ 1989; Landrine et al., 1992;

Mohanty, 1991~ RamazanosIou.. 1989a; Riley, 1990; Trotman Reid" Kelly, 1994). These

accounts have lypicaUy retlected the concems of white, middle-elass, heterosexual wo~

but have been assumed to apply universaUy. As Speiman (1988) stated,

[m]ost philosophica1 accounts of~man's nature' are not about women at ail.
But neitber are malt feminist accounts of 'woman's nature', or 'women's
experiences' about ail women" (p. 6).

In order to address the problematic tendency of homogenization and essentialization

in research and tbeory, femiDist authors such as those just cited have proposed three possible

• 55
rll'St, that the düferences between women need to be

strategies. as much a centre of inquiry

as the similarities among them; second, that the focus of social science inquiry needs to he

centred on the constructions of womanhood as opposed to an usumption that women exist

in some pre-determined state. In takiftg these two points into consideration, it bas been

suggesaed that feminist research needs to recosnïze that while gender is an essential tool for

anaIysis, an examination of ils interaction with othe!' elements ofsociaJlocation is necessary-

i.e. intersectional anaIysis discussed previously (Ander~ 1993; FI~ 1990; HiU Collins,

1990, 1997; Kohler Reissman, 1991; Ramazanoglou, 1989a).

In addition to these two strategies, Abu-Lughod (1991) and Marcus (1992) both

5Ugested that in working against essentializatio~ a researcher auempts to find connections

between the "particular" and the "general". SimiIarIy, Smith (1997) noted that an examination

ofwomen's lives must iDclude an understanding of the links between tbeir individual realities

and the social context within wbich these are embedded. To elaborate, the author proposed

that an examination of women' 5 lives begin with the "local panicularities of the

everyday/ever)'Dight worlds" (p.393). However, such an examination is not intended to stop

at tbis descriptive level, nor to produce generalizable, essentialized ICOOUnts of women's

realities. lnslead, examinïng women's specific ~·everyday/everynight worlds" otfers an entry

point into understanding the workings of soc1a1 relations within the broader context.

Adopting the sttItegy proposed by Smith, Marcus and Abu-Lughod concretely means

tbat statements about women, the Lebanese, or otber groups, neecI to he placed witbin their

broader socio-political context. This methodological strategy is adopted tbrougbout this

dissertation wherein observations ti'om the data are linked to polici~ laws and state practice5

• 56

in the LebaneselBeiruti context.

1.3 Eç1ori0a the c;onocctjon bctwccn rncerçhcr "'" participant

The final epistemological tend discussed here caI1s for exploring the connection

between the raarcher and participant as a source ofknowledse. Feminists have asserted lhat

the &Ct of research is a social aetivity cellb ed around a reIationship between the researcher and

panicipant (Cook &. Fonow, 1986~ Worell &. Etaugh; 1994; Gilbert, 1994; Kohler·Reis~

1994; Latber, 1991; Ramazanoglou. 1989b; Smith, 1987; Thompson. 1992). They have

advocated for a dismantling of the objective/subjective divide whieh die:tates that the

researcher be detaehed frOID participants in arder to ensure that the process of research is ftee

from bias. For example, Smith (1987, 1997) argued for the recognition that the researcher

eàsts "on the same plane" as the participants; in other words, both are socially located heings

• anchored in the "everyday/everynight worlds". This is contrary to the idea that research

participants are subjects aeted upon by liCe, while the researcher is a neutral observer removed

trom the same processes.

While this desire to explore the <:onnection between rcscarcher and panicipants is not

always easy to achieve in practice (Gilben, 1994) it forms a staninS premise for knowledse

production. This bas pronlpted askins questions such u: "How did the relationships between

researcber and resarched contribute to the Imowledge that emerg~?" (Thompson. 1994, p.

10) and tbis bas encouraged letting the "self' back into the research procas by considering

the role of positionality in the research relationship, as mentioned earlier.

Throughout this dissertation. my relationship to study participants sbaped the

knowledge 1 createcl. A specifie example is my relationship with the volunteers of the

• 57
LCIlVAW whom 1interviewed for this study. As 1 will elaborate later in tbis chapter, my

• panicipation as a volunteer in the orpnization helped me to build masting rappon with

volunteers and employees. Having met with me on more than one occasion and worked

closely with me on a variety of projects, volunteers and staff bad opportunities to sbare

personal information and opinions that tbey had not otTered during our initial, fonnal


2. Qualitative IroUDded metbodology

The feminist fhunework lhat guided tbis study is coupled with a reliance on some of

the principles of grounded methodology. Grounded methodology, pioneered by Glaser and

Strauss in the 1960s (Glaser&Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corb~ 1990), aims not to verity

theories but ta generate theoretical concepts and build theories from empirical data. Brietly

• stated. relying on data coUected through methods such as participant observation and

interviews. qualitative grounded rnethodology does not begin with pre-established hypotheses

but aims to puerate concepts and thernes which are used to generate fonnal and substantive

theories. Substantive theories relate to the aetual object ofthe study, whiJe formai theories

exlrapolate nom the object of the study to describe and explain broader social phenomena.

In order to arrive al formai theory, a researcher needs to test substantive theories generated

while studying one phenomenon by conduetins similar investiptio,!, in other settinss and on

other phenomena.

WhiIe 1 did DOt aim to test a hypothesis or veritY a theory, and while Ibis study did not

generate tbeory per se, 1 sought to understand and to illustrate how current theories about

rape could he rendered more complex. Dy exploring women' 5 constroctions of sewalized

• 58
violence in a context whcre sueh exploration had not been previously undenaken, and by

• according attention to the impact of social relations which bas not often been the focus of

sexualized violence researe~ 1 sought to uncover tbeoretical concepts, ~ and linkages

between the two in ways tbat illustrate, modify, or confirm existent theories about this fonn

ofviolence. Bence, while this study cannot be credited with the development ofthe theory

that perceptions ofsocial phenomena are ünked to social relations, one of the study' 5 unique

contributions lies in providing an empirical illustration of the procas by which this linking

occurs in a specifie socio-political context.

Grounded methodology was deemed to be appropriate for this study because no

research on rape bas been condueted with women in Lebanon, thereby permitting the

coUection ofconcepts usefuI for building funher quantitative or qualitative explorations. As

feminist researchers.. aetivists and praetitioners have long insisted, the credibility of rape

survivors bas always been in question. Thus, methodologies that work to validate

panicipants' experiences and perceptions are best suited for this type of research (Bergen..

1996~ Davis &. Sriniv~ 1995; Dutton, 1996).

While grounded methodology is suited for working with bath quantitative and

qualitative data, 1chose to rely on qualitative methods for several reasons. Fint, qualitative

methods are usefuI for exploratory ItUdics examïnina new areas o( investigation such as tbis

one. Second, as Dutton (1996) recommended, studies which attempt to engage in a

comextual anaIysis must be qualitative in order to account for the complexity of. situation

in which perceptions are as important as the events tbemselves. FinaUy, as Davis and

Srinïvasan (1995) maintained, qualitative iDquiry provides a place for women's expressions

• 59
of their experiences in their own words.

• Grounded theory metbodology bas been criticized by thase who maintain that it is

almost impossible for a researcher to begin a study with a theoretically clean s1ate

(HammersIey &Atkinson, 1995). ~ the two previous chapters have been devoted to an

examination of the theoretical considerations which have influenced this present study.

Hence. while it may be somewhat unrealistic to expect that 1 entered the field settinS with no

preconceived theoretical notions about rape, 1 did not anempt to directly test a panicular

theory or a specific hypothesis. Instead. the broad research question and data collection

methods aIIowed me the greatest latitude. In consequence, while the initial research question

was focused on the Seneral area of sexualized violence constructions. 1 chose to extract trom
the data information penaining to rape perceptions, a focus that wu not pre-planned before

entering the field.

3. Data sources and collection metbocls

Formai data collection took place between the months of May-August of 1999 in

Reirut; informai data coUection was undenaken in October and November of 1998 on a

previous visit to the research site. 1 coUected data trom various sources to pennit

triangulation and enable me to arrive at a complex understanding of constructions of

sexualized violence. The principal sources of data were: account~ of women in Beirut. not

formaUy engased in aetivism about the issue of 5e'Qlalized violence; accounts of volunteers

of the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LCR.VAW) located in Beinat;

and panicipant observation in a variety of settings described below. These primary sources

of data were supptementect by a review of newspaper anicles. as weB as meetings with key

• 60
infonnants such as locaIlawy~ academics, aetivists or helping professionals.

• Interviews were transeribed verbatim and excerpts translated for inclusion in tbis

dissenation. Facial gestures, body language, and verbal communication other than words,

such as laughter, were al50 noted in the transcripts. Participant observation incidents were

recorded on a daily buis in my research journal.

J. 1 Samplinll

ln terms of interviews, choice of sample size was guided by McCraken's (1988)

suggestion that in qualitative studies relying on in-depth interviews. "Iess is more" (p. 17).

The author suggested eight as an ideal sample for most research explorations. According ta

Glaser and Straus (1967), sampHng in qualitative grounded methodology comes ta a closure

when thernes become apparent in the data (Glaser" Strauss, 1967).

• 1 relied on snowball sampling to generate interviews with key infonnants. More

commonly, 1 employecl purposive sampling to select interview panicipants. This method of

sampling ensured heterogeneity of the sample which was essential for embracing the

complexity of the phenomenen under study (Glaser" Strauss, 1967; Gubennan" Hum,

1994~ McCraken, 1988; Sayi~ 1998-1999). As mentioned previously, the sample was

diverse in terms ofreligion and ethnicity. In addition, 1 relied on theoretical sampling, which

concretely meant examining certain dements of social location that ~ to be theoretically

significant but which were Dot initially pursued in my sample. For example, it became

apparent that marital status wu an imponant dement 1bad not attended to in initial sampling.

HaJfway through the study, it became cleu through pre1iminary reflection on the data that 1

needed to speak to women nom a diversity of marital status backgrounds, at which point 1

• 61
retied on purposive sampling to ensure that the group ofwomen being interviewed included

• married, single, separated and enpged women.

J.2 AçmyNS o(wgmcn in BcjOlt

The tint source of data is derived &om guided interviews with 13 adult women who

were DOt fonnaUy engaged in Iâivism on the issue of 5e'Qlllized violence. The age range wu

pre-selected to be between 21 and SO, the age group ofadult women most likely to repon

raPe (LCRVAW. n.d.). This wu. highly diverse group o(women &om various ethnicities.

educational backgrounds., physical abilities and religious backgrounds (see Table 1). While

all the panicipants resided in a diversity of neighborhoods within Beirut at the lime of the

interviews, they were originaDy &ont mous geographical backgrounds within Lebanon. Four

of the women had lived outside Lebanon in Arab or other countries for varying periods of

lime trom a (ew months to a few years.

Despite the diversity of tbis group of wom~ there were at least two aspects of

homoseneity. For one, while most ofthe participants did not explicitly identify themselves

as hetero~ they aU made references to male panners. In additio~ with the exception of

Mervat (EW4) and Layai (EW13), this group ofwomen shared a privileged socloeconomic

status. Such homogeneity implies that the undentanding of rape articulated in tbis

dissen.tion is predominantly based on the accoums of women &9m these social locations.

1 retum to how this homogeneity may bave influenced the findinss al a laler point in the data


• 62
.' ....doaym

Table 1: Selected ch.ncteriltia of the womeD iDterviewed




Muslim Sunni


l.amecs(EW2) 34 Palcstinian Musiim Sunni SI B.A. Rec:ruitmeDt


I1bmI(EW3) 38 Lcbuese Muslim Suϕ M Visual BauD Bank c:lm

(vciJed) (GnldeJ2)

Mavat(EW4) early SyrUm/ Muslim Sunni M clementary Sales clerk

30's EBYPtiaD sc:hool

Samia(EWS) 30 Leb8Dc:se Muslim Shiile SI MOlor BaccI Unœlployed

(GradeJ 1)

Loubna(EW6) 25 Leb8Dcse Unkno\\n SI Motor Unknown Fashion


Josephine( EW7) 43 Armenian Christian SE Baccn ~.

Catholic: (Grade 12)

Zeina(EW8) laIe Lcbenc:se Christian E Collqe Public:

• 20'5 diploma relations


Sa1ma(EW9) arly LebBDcse Christian SI B.S.W. Social Worker

)O's Roman

Magida(EW 10) 40 Lcb8nesc Christian SE Unknown ESL tacher


Maha(EWll) 33 Palcstinian Muslim Sumli SI B.A. Marketing


Gbada(EW12) 31 Lcb8nac Muslim Shüte SI B.A. Ardùvist

Layal(EW13) 24 Lcb8Dcsc DnIze M ~. Homcmakcr

ET = EtbDic:ity
RE = Religion
MS =Marital 5IatUs: M :;:: maried. SI =siDIlc~ E :;:: q""'. SE =ScJ-ated
DI = Disability. if declared by s-tic:ipat
En =Lest cduca1iOlll1lcvcl c:omplcted
OC =Sclf-reportcd oa:upmion

• 63

Initial panicipant reauitment took into accouRt the need for a heterogenous sample

as weil as the necessity of safeguarding confidentiality. As a first step, 1 asked my relatives.

tiiends and neighbors to inform women in their networks about the study by gjving them an

introduction letter (Appendix D). The introduction letter explained the purpose of the research

and invited women to contact me or to pass on their phone number to me in order to arrange

for an interview. For ethical ~ 1 did not contaet women ctirectIy until they had indicated

their interest in participating in the study. In order to safeguard confidentiality, 1 did not ask

my personal connedions for the names of women whom they were referring to me.

ln order to avoid pre-defining wornen s constructions of sexualized violence, and as


a way of minimizing the social desirability bias, guided interviews explored the broad topies

of sexuality, intimac:y, violence, and male-female relationships in the workplace, family and

• school (see Appendix E for interview guides). Throughout the interviews, the focus was on

understanding what women themselves perceived to be unaeceptable or acceptable

relationship~ and expressions of sewaIity and intîmacy. In keeping with the guidelines agreed

upon during the ethies review, the focus remained on perceptions and not exPeriences of

sexualized violence. While many more may have been victims of violence, ooly four disclosed

unsolieited personal incidents. Magida (EW10) spoke of ber experiences of physical,

ernotional and sexua1ized violence; bath Josephine (EW7) and M~ (EW4) related incidents

of physical abuse; Salma (EW9) disclosed an incident of sexuaI barassment.

In addition to explorations of relationships, interviews al50 included several prompts

(McCraken, 1988) tbat elicited discussions of sexualizecf violence in relationships. The tint

prompt was a vignette based on an Arabie movie &am the 1960'5. The foUowing journal entry

• 64
describes the vignette and how 1came to choose it:

• Yesterday 1 saw an oId Arabic movie with rny mom. A young woman (19 or
20 years old) falls in love for the first time with her neighbor. Their
relationship involved no more than the OCC8Sionai holding ofhands until one
day when the woman' s parents are out of to~ and she goes to visit him in
his apartment. He lives on the roof and 50 she climbs up to see him but bas
not entered his apanment yet. He invites ber in and she declines al which
point he tells ber IlOt to be afi'aid because he loves ber. She declines his otrer
again. He tries to kiss ber and she puUs away. He tries again and meets with
a simiIar ractïon. Sile begins to fee) cold on the roof 50 he invites ber in and
this time she accepts. He tries to kiss ber again and sile accepts and we see
him closing the door behind them. My mom' s immediate reaction to tbis
panicular scene was ~'be raped her!n. 1 asked ber why sile said ifs rape and
not making love. She answered that the girl was illllOœllt and naive and
wasn't truly consenting because she isn't aware of the consequences ofher
actions: her becoming unmarriageable (Journal entry: May 22, 1999).

1 chose this vignette because it came trom a popular and widely accessible mediu~

television, and beause il captured the essence ofambiguity between raPe and consensual sex.

• ln the interviews. 1 presented the vignette and then said that the persan 1was watcmog the

movie with exclaimed that uhe raped her". 1 followed this comment with the question: Wbat

do you think happened? In most instances, the women voiced their reactions prior to my

funher inquiry.

The second prompt was based on the story of a 19 year-old university student in

Tripoli who was kidnaped by her cousin/fiancé. He raped her, held ber captive in a secluded

house, and then forced ber to marry him. This story, which was in the press and other media

for a Ions lime lut year, is commonly known u SoIine's story. 1 recounted Suline's story

and asked women for their comments. 1 chose this particular story because it WIS the first

case in Lebanese history on wbich women' s groups, such as LCIlVAW, mobilized against the

issue of tape. A vietim' s side ofthe story was heard for the first lime quite loudly in public,

• 6S

and 1 wondered how women reacted to tbis rare public disclosure.

3.3 Accouais of LCRYAW voluDleers

Sïnce August 1997, LeRVAW, a non-govemmental organization run almost entirely

by women volunteers, bas oifered the counseling services-mostly legal counseling-and bas

been quite vexai in the media about the issue of violence against women. In addition to legal

and social counseling including court representation and accompaniment, LeRVAW bas an

active public education commiuee. One example of the commiuee's work is the production

of three information commercials about violence &gainst women. Moreover, LeRVAW

considers research on the issue of violence against women ta be one of its central mandates.

This organization is unique as it is the only formai, direct and specifie response to the

issue ofviolence apinst women in the Lebanese context. Indeed, its Mere existence provides

• social confirmation that violence against women is a problem in the Lebanese context, and

that tbis problem is not a private issue but one that deserves public attention. The work of

LeRVAW bas been mostIy supported through international cooperation grants, mainly from

Canada and the United States'. The organization's work bas al50 been aetively supported by

local and regional women's groups but bas been met WÎth sorne resistence from the public al

large and trom state officiais. This situation is slowly changing as witnessed by a reœnt

collaboration between LCR.VAW and Iaw enforcernent officiais: sensitivity-traininS session

oifered by LCRVAW volunteers and the poüce depanment. Moreover, during my stay in

While 1 do not aIIot much discussion to tbis point in my dissenation, il is nonetheless
imponant to note that as with any other organization acœpting international aid, LCRVAW
oeeded to adhere to fimding sripllations that may bave infIuenccd ils choice of aetivities. This

is not a point thal 1 explored in my research, but one which begs future exploration.

• Beirut, 1 witnessed a promising collaborative effort to build a wornen' s shelter spearheaded

by LCRVAW and the recently founded National Council for Lebanese Wornen, a

govemmental body concerned with the status of wornen.

An understanding of how rape is perceived ofby LCRVAW volunteers was arrived

at through interviews about their general comprehension of sexualized violence, their views

of the cases they have handled, their views of their work in general, and any personal

experiences of sexualized violence that they wished to share (see Appendix E for interview

guides). Once again, the interviews focused on perceptions and not personaJ experiences of

sexualized violence, and ooly one volunteer, Fitnat (LC7) disclosed an incident of sexual


ln order to recruit research participants trom amongst the LCRVAW volunteers, the

coordinator of the organization was given a letter asking for her permission to soHcit

interviews trorn volunteers. Having granted me permission to interview her and the

volunteers, 1 asked her to distribute a short paragraph describing the study. Interested

panicipants contacted me directly; they were selected based on availability and willingness to

partake in the study. In total 1 interviewed nine volunteers, eight wornen and one man (see

Table 2)

ln addition to interviews, 1 examined written LCRVAW documents at the

organization. These included two television infomerciais produced by LCRVAW, the text of

LCRVAW's Web site, ten newspaper articles (press releases, interview~ events, etc.) research

and legaJ reParts, and other organizational documents such as brochure, mission statement,

constitution and bylaws.

• 61

Table 2: Selected cuncteriltia 01 t.e volu.teen mte"iewed

"'d.,. AIt ET IΠVI' VI OC

Rima (LCI) 26 L Christian 1.' yrs. Social seniccs comm. Social
Roman Onbodox Worker

ZAJya (LC2) early L Cbristian 2 yrs. CoontiDalor Lawyer


Gcorge(LC3) 31 L Christian 1 )T. LcpI œmminee Lawyer


Nila (LC4) 31 A Christian Catbolic 1.' YJS LepI conuninee Lawyer

Rita (LC,) 26 L Christian 1 yr. Lep) commîftee Lawyer

lahra (l.C6) early L Muslim 2yrs Social senices comm. Aceountant

40's (answer5 botlinc)

Fitnat (LC7) mid L Muslim Sunnï 2 yn. Media œmmittcc Ptofcssional

30's visual anist

Graœ(LCI) laie L Druze 2yn. Executive comminc:e Unknown


• Mouna(l.C9) laie
L Dnazc

ET = Ethnic:i~·: L = 1 ebaDesc+ A = Armenian

RE = Religion

VI' = lengtb oftime as a volunte:er: CœnciI was cstabIisbed in 1997

Executive comminc:e Unkno\\ll

VI = Position or commiltCC iovoIved in al the COUDCiI

OC = Sclf-reponcd occupation

WhiIe coIIecting data, the Coordïnator of LeRVAW asked me to become a volunteer

with the orpnizatïon. This involvement scemed to enhance trusting and respectfuI relations

with the volwtteers and gave me III indepth W'Ida standing ofaetivism on rape and otller fonns

ofviolence against women within Beïrut. 1 wu remiDcled of the wards ofEnsIin (1994) who

spoke in favour ofaetivism on the part of. feminist researcher through direct involvement

with the orpnizations bcing studied.

• 68

It must be emphasized that volunteer accounts were considered as examples ofanother

source of rape perceptions held by women in Seirut, and not considered to he of more

intrinsic value than the accounts of other women not involved in fonnaUy orpnizing about

this issue. Moore (1991) cautioned apinst the dichotomy oflocaJ versus expert knowledge

which bas Iegitimized sorne fonns ofknowledge production and DOt others. In this case, while

LeRVAW volunteers shared the saDIe privileged socioeconomic status as the otber women

interviewed.. their predominantly professional and Lebanese composition may confer upon

their knowledge a position of dominance over the knowledge ofother women. Nonetheless..

these volunteers differed nom other women in the Beiruti context in lhat lhey were aClively

engaged in publicly construeting a new meaning to rape that challenges curreot constructions

of this phenomenon as taboo.. or as simply non-existent within Lebanon; thm unique

contribution clearly merited exploration.

3.4 AçÇQunts of KY inf0rmantS

The final set of interviews was condueted with key infonnants (see Table 3). This

group included several women who had been at the forefi'ont of organizing about the issue

ofviolence against women prior to the establishment of LeRVAW; these panicipants might

he considered less directly involved in the issue ofviolence apinst women.

This group of participants wu quite instrumental in arranging funher interviews for

me with other key informanlS. 1became awm'e that this process was reaching a certain degree

of satw'8tion wben 1 began to be referred to the same people throogb dift'erent unreIated key

informants. The aim in interviewing this group wu to get an idea of the broader societal

context within which sexualized violence occumd (see Appendix E for interview guides).

• 69
• Key
Table 3: Seleded charaeteristia 01 key Înlo......nts

ProIeuioBIOrpaizatioll AdIvm. _ 11'_'.

(II applieable)

Kil (W) Clinical psycbologi51l University professor violeuœ apinst women

Kl2 (W) RetirecI scbool principal (27 yrs: aII..gir1 public scbool)

Kl3 CM) SbeikhlDirecIor of Islamic Studïes iDstitide iD a


Kl4 (W) CoordinalorlPresidenl of grassroots organization for righls of women wim

the ripts of people wim disabilitics disabiülÏes

Kl5 CM) PriesllDirector of a social senice organization

KI 6 (W) Social workcr (orpnization ofrmn! scn;œs to low·

income womcn beads of bouschold)

KI 7 (W) Social woner (orpnizatioD offering senices to low·

income womcn beads of household)

Kl8 (W) Coordinator ofa women's program in a regional violence against women and

Cbristian ccumenical organization tbechun:h

Kl9 (W) Human Rights Lawycr rights of migrant domestic

workers. crimes of "honour"

KIlO (W) R.etired University Profcssor of Arabie literature violeuce agaiDSl women

KI Il (W) Coordinator of an organization ofl'ering services 10 violence against girls and

female '"victims of prostitution" women

KI 12 (W) Psycboanalyst (private practice working primarily wim

children and women vietims of violence)

KI 13 (W) Writcrllslamic Studies scholar Vr'ODICIl 's ripts in Islam

Kl14(W) Chair of a university Public: Healtb Faculty

KI 15 (M) MOflütar (public SCI'viœ)

Kl16(M) 1D1ema1 5ecurity Fon:es ofIicer (1aw enforœment)

• 70
3.S Participant obscryation

• An important pan of data coUection consisted of observations tbat 1 had recorded

throughout my visits to Reirut within the foUowing settings: social places or gatherings;

community organizations; and semi-public transponation. It is imponant to mention lhat

panicipam observation settings were not restrieted to one part ofthe city or to one group of

people. 1 &equented settings which put me into contact with people trom diverse social

classes~ ages.. religio~ ethnicities.. and lire trajectories.

ln terms of social settings.. 1 was often in the company of fiiends and relatives. In

additio~ because 1 went to Beirut with my mother, the general expectation was that as an

unwed wo~ 1 would accompany ber on her social visits. This put me ioto contact with

people trom older age groups and diverse life trajectories and greatly enriched the data that

1had gleaned trom my OWll social visits with people in my own age range and with similar üfe

experiences. In general, data resulted from two types of situations: tint.. situations where

people were aware of my research topie promptÎng them to open a discussion on the issue;

second. situations where people were not aware of my research tapic but would

spomaneously get ioto discussions ofviolence or women' s issue~ for example, in raction to

newspaper articles or television shows.

Through my involvement u • volunteer, 1 al50 undenook participant observation in

a range of community organi71ltions. These included two communily organizations tbat

worked on issues relatcd to women's tishts, a srassroots organization tbat addressed the

rights ofpeople with disabilities, the National Commission for Lebanese Women., the Institute

for Women's Studïes in the Arab WorId, the United Nations Volunteer Department including

• 71

the Gender Advisory, and the Women' s Program in an interdenominational Christian


As a participant observer, 1 went to meetings, assisted on a variety of projects, and

sometimes just dropped in to share a glass of lemonade with other members of these

organizations. 1 realized that while 1had not intended my involvement to assist me with the

research. it was helpful in giving me a more in-depth perspective on Beiruti society and it

facllitated my meetins with several key aetivists in the community with whom 1was able to

discuss rape and violence against women on an informai buis.

Another important participant observation setting wu the senti-public transponation

known as the '"service". Ghossoub (1998, pp.41-42) aptly described the importance of


• Thousands of pm.te cars, capable of taking up ta five passengers apieu,

circulate on routes whose lagic is not immediately apparent. The cars stop ta
pick you up in the same way that a taxi would, and they drop you off wherever
you want...The imponant thing here.. .is the microcosm of life inside these cars
over the distance of a few kilometres. People of difFerent clus, !eX and
geographical origin are obliged to share a narrow space...Traveling a few
kilometres in one of these cars one lcarns a great deal about one' 5 own

Having no access to a private car during my time in Beirut, 1 spent much of my rime

in service comnuting &am one interview or meeting to anatber. It is worthwhile ta mention

that the fàre is not exorbitant by any means-St-$2 pel' trip-aIIowing people of various classes

and occupational backgrounds to come ioto contact with one another. Tbroughout tbis

dissenation. 1 relate incidents that occurred in this fonn oftransportation and that gave me

in$ights into issua related to the research topic.

• 72
A final source of data came &om reactions to introduction letters. As 1 mentioned

• above, reauitment ofwomen not formaUy engaged in aetivism took place via an introduction

letter that 1gave to men and women in my immediate circle of fiiends, relatives and neighbors.

Though 1 had imagined that my acquaintances would pus the letters without hesitation., the

actual handing over of the letters senerated hour long discussions about rape, male-female

relationships and Lebanese society. Their reactions proved to be equaUy interesting sources

ofdata. For example, a mid-twenties. MusIim Lebanese man who is the son of a close ftiend

of the family commented that in Canada or in Egypt there is a higher prevaJence of violence

against women but in Lebanon it is extremely rare. According to him, women just don' t get

beaten up in Lebanon and date rape is an unlikely occurrence. Comments such as tbis one

enriched data gleaned trom other sources.

3.6 Newsg• • articles and journal emrics

Other sources of data included newspaper articles on violence against women that

were colleacd by the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World (lWSAW), lacatcd

at the Lebanese American University. The anicles were dated trom 1996 to July 1999 and

were colleeted &om two Arabic dailies (AI-Nahar and AI-Charq) and one English claily

newspaper (Daily Star) aU ofwhich were published in Beïrut.

The final source of data is my own research journal which J have been keeping since

January 1998 wben 1 began to put together the cuneot study. The journal contains my

participant observation notes, reflections on the research proœss and my positionality, u weil

as emcrging anaIysis.

• 73

4. Data Analysis

As is usual in research relying on grounded methodology, data collection and anaJysis

were undenaken simuItaneously (Glaser &. Strauss, 1967). As mentioned in earlier chapters,

the research aimed to mave beyond mere documentation of raPe perceptions, towards gaining

an understanding of how these perceptions are retlective of the operation of current social

relations within the contemporary Beiruti context. To this end, the analysis process was two-

rold. The first step was descriptive, in which the aim was the extraction of main thernes and

concepts salient in accounts of rape. Concretely speaking, 1 read through the interview

transcripts, newspaper articles, journal entries and LCRVAW documents. 1 then went

through the material again and coded the teXls with emergent concepts. In this stage 1

extraeted emic concepts, that is. 1 drew out concepts ftom wornen' s own words. The next

• step consisted of cutting up the texts and grouping together aIl information relating to the

same concept. At this point in the process, 1 began to identify thernes which guided funher


The second phase of data anaIysis concemed understanding how the descriptive

concepts and themes ret1ected dominant social relations within the Beiruti coRtext. This step

consisted of attentpting to find links between the various thernes. While 1 was able to

gellerate many possible themes &om the data, 1focused on how m"ltiple perceptions of rape

concretely ret1ect, reinforœ, and are supported by dominant social relations embedded within

the broader Beiruti/Lebanese context.

Retuming to the issue ofinterpretation briefly aIIuded to in Chapter l, while 1 initially

relied on women's concepts, there were instances where my interpretation of events was

• 74

eritica) of, or divergent &o~ women's interpretations. For example, many participants

considered the use of physical eoercion to be an essential ingredient in perœiving a sexual

event as rape. My background as a feminist researcher and social worker in women's

organizations alerted me to the limitation inherent in Ibis perception. Instead of eliminating

this theme ail together thereby negating women's interpretations, and instead of negating my

own experienœ, or simply providing a critique based on my professional background, 1 relied

on acc:ounts &om other data sources to iJlustrate that incidents of rape may in sorne cases not

involve physicaJ coercion. In a sense, 1 created a dialogue between different sources of data,

highlighting divergent opinions. In the rare instances where no other data was available to

suppon my own interpretation in cases where it differed ftom wornen' s own interpretations,

1 did provide my anaIysis while highlighting this divergence of interpretations. While tbis

• strategy may not have resolved any tension that exists between emic and etic interpretations

of data. it does highJight such tension in ways lhat do not negate wornen' s own


5. Etbical dimensions

Deiner and Crandall (1987) emphasized the imponance of condueting ethical research

within the social sciences. The authors asserted that "ethical guides are not sirnply

prohibitions; they also suppon our positive responsibilities" (p. 3). In this study, issues of

consent, confidentiality, and the etTects of interview paniciPation were closely examïned.

In general, ail partic:ipants were given an easy to read consent fonn in the language of

their ehoiœ (Appendix F). This fonn explained that while the identity of the participant will

be kept anonymous, information pined through the study will be made public in the form of

• 75

presentations, journal anicles, doctoral dissertation, etc. In one œse, the panicipant was

praeticaUy illiterate and asked me to read the fonn to her. Another participant wu visually

impaired and aIso asked me to read the fonn to her. 1 then signed bath fonns myself adding

an explanatory note'. The consent fonn also explained that participants could request that

recording be paused at any time. This occurred twice during the interviews: First, a priest

whom 1 had interviewed requested that the tape-recorder be paused in order that he may feel

free to provide me with sensitive politicaJ information. Second, a volunteer with the

LeRVAW requested that recording be paused in order for him to feel more at ease in sharing

intimate personal information.

As mentioned previously, the interview recruitment strategy safeguarded

confidentiality by ensuring that potential study panicipants only became known to me once

• they had indicated their interest in participating. Interviews were condueted in a location

selected by the panicipant, often their residence or place of work. 1 tape-recorded all

interviews and transcribed them verbatim. 1 assigned a pseudonym to each panicipant, and

omined identifYing material trom the transcripts. 1 gave panicipants the option of revieWÎng

the transcripts to ensure accuraey, but no one took advantage of this option. Tapes were

destroyed foUowing transcription9 .

In terms of participant observatio~ confidential information or identifying

This was the procedure agreed upon in the ethics review.

This was the procedure agreed upon in the ethics review.

eharacteristics of organizations10 or individuals were omitted before heing recorded in my

• research journal. In sum, in safeguarding œnfidentiaIity and anonymity, the research foUowed

the guidetine that information pined through interviews or participant observation could not

be traced back to its original source.

The final ethical issue addressed concemcd the effec:ts of interviews. Work of any

kind involving the topie: of rape needs to take into acœunt the possible effects of merely

discussing this topie. Disclosure of put experiences of rape cao he Û'aUght with emotion.

While research interviews are not therapeutie in nature, tbey cao be experienced as sueh

especially by participants who may he discussing their experiences for the tirst time (Bristow

"Esper, 1988). Cume and MacLean (1997) noted that interviewers working on the issue

of rape have the ethical responsibility of beïng prepared to deal with the possible eft"ec:ts of

• disclosure on researe:h panicipams. Priar to undenaking this researeh, 1 indicated in the ethies

review submission that my put professional experience in providing crisis eounseling services

to survivon of sexualized violence would enable me to identify emotional distress during an

imerview. 1 indicated that should sue:h emotional distress arise, 1 would provide the

participant with the opportunity to stop or redirect the interview. 1 would al50 provide the

panicipant with infonnation about resourœs and suppon available in the community.

In general, there were no intense emotional reactions duripg the interviews. This is

partIy attributlble ta the fact tbat the interviews did DOt ask participants to speak about rape


The one exception was the referenc:e made to LeRVAW. Because this is the only
organization working on the issue ofviolence against women in Lebanon and the region, it
would remain rec:ognizable to anyone famiIiar with community organizing iD Lebanon and

many pans ofthe Arab world.

should they choose oot to. A1so, while the interviews included prompts, these were non...

• intrusive and fimctioned to enable women to comment on "stories" of violence that were not

their own. At no point in time did 1 ask any panicipant to disclose personal information

related to violence. Focusing on relationships and violence in general provided participants

with the option of either engaging in or avoiding discussions of rape. Nonetheless, women

disclosed personal stories of current or put physical abuse, rape or sexuaI harassment.

6. TermiDOIOl)' and tnD.latioD

6. 1 TerminolollY

ln tbis dissenation 1 relyon two tenns: sexualized violence and rape. l'he issue of

naming, labeling or defining ads of violence bas been at the formont of Western feminist

treatment of social issues (Dominelli, 1997; KeUyet al., 1996). The choice to employ the

• term sexualized violence is intentional~ it is becoming increasingly popular in Canadian

feminist praetice senings (Crosbie, 1996, personal communication). This term refers to a

spectrum of forms of violence of a sexuaI nature and is not limited to rape. For example,

SCX1aalized violence also includes sexuaI harassment. obscene phone caUs, and pomography.

The tenn sexualized violence reflects a panicular feminist orientation espoused in this

dissertation; it is a reminder tbat this fonn ofviolence is a tool of comrol and domination and

Dot a crime of passion between individuals.

1aIso reIied on the tem sen..lized violence throughout the research process because

while ils denotative meaning may be clear in Arabie, the connotative meaning is missing and

the Arabie equivalent ('OIInj jinsy) is not commonly used. ReIiance on this term wu an

imentional strategy on my pan; during tIne pilot interview condueted with Lebanese women

• 78

in MontreaL 1 observed how my use of the tenn sernatized violence pemüttect the participants

great latitude to speak about • broad range of issues related to sexuality and violence. 1

wanted to carry dûs latitude ioto my BeinJt interviews. Henee, sexu.1ized violence served the

purpose of being an ambiguous term that aIIowed me to describe the Seneral object of the

study to panicipants, without unduly intluenc:ing their ractions and comments.

When referring to their own perceptions Uld experiences in response to my queries

about sexualized violence. participants in BeiNt reIied most often on the tenns rape (ighlisab)

or sexual assault (i "lido' jinsy). Inftequently, panicipants usecl other terms (Table 4)

depending on the panicular context of the discussion. For example, three participants relied

on the tam ~'sexuaI harassment" (tahashour jinry) to refer to specifie incidents that happened

to them at work. Very few others relied on the term sifah aJ-kourba in their accounts of

• Table .: Translation of selected terminolOl)' ased in v.rious da.. lOurces

/stigh/a/ (jinsy)

(scxual) exploitation

Sifah al-kourba

19htisab rape

Tolteesh verbal c:omJDCIItS usuaIly or a sexuallflinatious


TallMItoflr fjinsy) (scxuaI) banssmcnt •

'Ounfjinsy sexuaI violence

l 'tida .jinsy sexuallSSluit


• 79
îneest. Throughout the data collection phase and in writing this dissenation 1 chose not to

• focus on an in-depth examination ofthese less ftequently used tenns. Instead~ my attention

was overwhelmingly drawn to the repeated use of the terms rape and sexuaI assault, as they

appeared ta he the terms ofchoice ofthis study' 5 panicipants.

During interviews and throughout my participant observation incident~ 1 noted that

rape and sexuaI assauIt were used interchangeably~ sometimes by the sune person. However.

in this dissertation, 1 have chosen to rely on the term rape~ panly for the sake ofconsistency.

More imponantly, 1 reIy on the tam rape because il is a Hteral translation of ightisab, the term

used in the Lebanese Penal Code. Ifthis study is to he peninent within the Lebanese context.

then 1 must reIy on terminology that is understandable and fi'equently used within that context.

6.2 Translation

Throughout the process of data collection and data anaIysis, 1 have had ta contend

with the issue of translation, as most verbal and written data were in Arabie. A review of the

empirical and theoretical literature on cross-cultural qualitative researeh revea1s that

translation is considered an important )'et problematic ara in relation to data anaIysis and data

collection (Chamîe.1977; Matsuoka, 1993; McKay, Breslow, Sangster~ Gabbard~ Reynolds,

Nakamoto &Tamai,I996; O'NeiI,1989; Saito, Nonaua. Noguchi&Tezuka, 1996; Tyler. 1985).

In terms of data coUection, il bas bcen argued tbat it is imponant to ensure that

surveys and interview guides are translated appropriately, that is, in a way tbat is culturally

relevant and not simply linguistically competent, because some tenns lose their connotative

meaning if translated Iiterally (Saito et al., 1996). Funhermore~ sorne tems have no

equivalent in another language.

• 80

As for data anaIysis, it bas been argued tbat it is important to engage in culturally-

sensitive translations of data, as opposed to verbatim translations, in order to ensure that we

aœurately understand the meaning that people are assigning to their experiences (McKay et

al., 1996). In this regard, it bas bcen suggested tbat conceptual translation be relied upon as

opposed to literai translation in cases where the latter does not adequately convey the

connotative meanïng expressed by participants.

In keeping with ethical considerations regarding confidentiality and anonymity, 1 have

translated the researeh material myself' 1, relyins on a combination of both literai and

eonceptual translation. Interview guides were written in English in fulfillment of the

requirements of the ethies review, but were later translated into Arabie. In translating the

interview guides, 1 relied where possible on literai translation into colloquial Arabie.

• Throushout data collection and anaIysis, literai translation was forsaken for conceptuaJ
translation or transliteration in IWO types ofsituations. First, there are tenns that, if translated

literally, lose their connotative meaning. A lypical example is the distinction made in

coUoquiaI Arabie between the terms ~~girl" (bint) and "wornan" (maTa). The fonner mers to
a female child, but is also used to denote a female of marrying ase who is a virgin. Woman

is used to denote a non-virgin. lllllTied or not, and is sometimes used pejoratively. Henee, in

dealins with such terms, 1 have provided the literai Arabie tfa!ISIation coupled with an

explanation ofthe connotative meaninS.

The second eategory ofterms that are not translatable literally are terms that have no


Consent fonns and introduction letters were translated into Arabie by a Lebanese penon
familiar with both the Beiruti context and the issue of sexualized violence.

• 81

equivaJent in English. For example. the term '''mukhl~ refers to a panicular type of public

official responsible for the maintenance and updating of census files. the iSsWng of identity

cards, divorce eenificates, binh œnificates, etc. These public officiais are based in

neighborhoods in BeiNt and throughout Lebanon and play a pivotai role in neighborhood Iife.

In cases where a term bas DO EngIish equivalent, 1 oft"er an italicized transliteration based on

the guidelines set by the International Journal oC Middle Eastern Studies. The transliteration

is coupled with an explanation ofthe word' 5 meaning.

Having discussed the study' 5 methodology and theoretical &amework. and situated

my exploration of rape within the broader sc:holarship on rape perceptions, 1 now tum my

attention 10 a more specific examination ofrape wilhin the Beiruti contex!. ln Chapler 4. 1

begin tbis examination with a survey of available literature on relevant aspects of the

• BeinatiILebanes context. My aim in this regard is to set the stage for latter chapters, where

1 focus on the study' s 6ndings.

• 82


The Leb8.eseIBeiruti cODtest

1. Introduction

A review ofLebanese newspaper repons of violence against women over a one year

period (1993-1994), illustrates that rape was the most frequently reponed crime against

women., compared to Icidnapin& battering, mugging, incest and murder (Abu1-Hus~ 1994).

Rape has captured some media attentio~ but tbis bas been mostly restrieted to coverage of

cases involvioS children or where excessive force was employed.

White there exists a handful of newspaper anicles and fietional depietions of rape in

novels, authon and aetivists have begun to caU for empirical investigations as not much is

• known about this and other fonns of violence against women that are increasingly heinS

reponed in Lebanese society (Abu-Habib, 1998;

CounciJ to Resist Violence against Women., 1997~

Abul-Hu5~ 1994; Faour, 1995; Lebanese

Maksoud. 1996; R.S., 1997; Tabbara &.

'Assayran, 1994). As AbuI-Husn (1994, p.24) noted: "[t]here is an evident shortage in valid

and reliable data needed to endorse and produce action'" on the issue of violence against

women includinS rape.

In addition to this Iack of research, there are currently no state policies that deal with

rape or other forms ofviolence against women. However, unlike domestic violence, there is

a Iaw on rape cowred under the chapter on "crimes against public morality" of the Lebanese

Penal Code. Ofparticularrelevance in this chapter are anicles 503-S06 and articles SII-SI2

(Qassim, 1999). Under the beadina ofightisab (rape), anicle S03 which is the nucleus ofthe

• 83

law states:

A penon who forces by use of physical force or tbreats someone other than
his spouse to have sex with him is punished by bard labour for a minimum of
five years. The sentence shaU not be less than seven years if the vietim is less
than 15 years old. (Qassim, 1999, p. 78)

As cao be observed trom article 503~ sentences vary according to age ofvietim and identity

ofaggressor-articles S04-506 and S) 1-S 12 detail specific sentences. It is wonh noting that

the law on rape does not acknowledge marital rape.

As weil as laws against rape, medical and law enforcement systems are part of the

social response to such aUegations. A woman who bas been rapeel cao seek assistance at her

local police station where her testimony is tsken. The $late's forensic medical examiner~

responsible for coUecting evidence of the crime is called to the police station by the officers

taking the testimony. The medical exam costs approximately 150 USS and is paid by the

• woman before the exam is condueted.

In addition to the prohibitive cast ofthe exam. making it out of reach for most women

in the middle and working classes not to mention migrant domestic workcrs, medical and

police practices have been criticiz.ed on two grounds: fiest, the woman who chooses to repon

has been known to he treated Iess than courteously, sorne would even say in humiliating ways,

by police ofticers; second, the exam is condueted in less than ideal conditions tbat do not

respect the privacy of the vietim (Abi Samra, 1997). Despite these criticisms of state

praeti~ there appears to be no aetivism effons specifica1ly targehng the issue of r&pC.

With the exception of one law. sorne state responses and the oecasional newspaper

repon, an exploration of rape in the Beiruti context is clearly wanting. Throughout the

• 84
preœding ehapters of this dissenation. 1 have argued that sueh an exploration is best

• undenaken in light of the broader comm. To reiterate 1 brietly mentioned how perceptions

of rape are impacted on by social relations manifested in ways specifie to eaeh socio-political

context. In order to examine this impact within the Beinati context 1 argued for the adoption

of an intersectional approach. In adopting the intersectional approac~ importance is accorded

to the paniadar socio-poütical context within whieh rape occurs. Thus while 1 cannot offer

the reader detailed information about the treatment of rape within Lebanese soc;iety7 as sueh

information is lacking, 1 tum my attention in this ehapter to key aspects of the context that will

better situate the exploration of rape oiTered in tbis dissertation.

2. Five upecu oltbe BeirutilLebanele contea.

Sayigh (1998-1999) suggested that an examination of Lebanon' s soeio-politicaJ

context focus on Lebanon's history, culture politieal. legaJ and economie systems. not in a

fonnal sense. but as a way to situate women's diverse experiences of any social phenomenon

under study. More specifical1y in this chapter. 1 examine the LebaneselBeiruti context within

whieh experiences of rapelsexuality take shape. 1 discuss five main aspects of the Beiruti

context: war. ethnie diversity, sectariani~ economic situation and marriase.

The selection ofthese aspects is purposefùl. For one, they closely ret1ect the thernes

regarding women' s sexuality that bave been 5Uggested in the Arabie feminist scholarship

reviewed in the pnMOUS chapter. Second of ail, !bey provide the rader with a glimpse of the

social relations embedded within the Beiruti context. As Sayigh (1998-1999) propo_ il is

important to begin with an uncIerstanding of sender 7 religio~ elass and ethnicity as central

elements of the Lebanese context. Wrth this context in place, 1then proceed to a discussion

• 8S
of the study' 5 finding5 in the remaining chapters of the dissertation.

• 2.1 Distança) OvmiCW12

Lebanon is a smaU (10,452 sq.km.) republic bordered by Israel and Palestine to the

south. Syria to the cast and north. and the Mediterranean sea to the west (see Appendix A).

As mentioned previously, Seirut is the capital city and home to approximately 4()OAt of the

nation's population (Sayigh. 1998/1999). In flet. according to recent World Bank figures

plsted on the orpnization's Website (www.worldbank.org), 8904 ofLebanon's population

resides in urban centres. Arabic is the ofticiallanguage in Lebanon. but French and English

are also taught in public and private schools.

Before becoming an autonomous nation-state, Lehanon was pan of the Ottoman

empire for approximately 400 years untiJ Turkish occupation ended in 1918. During Turkish

occupation., many of contemporary Lebanon's regions were under the jurisdietion of Syria.

At the close of World War n. Lehanon became part of the Sikes-Pico Accord that

carved up the Middle East and assigned different nation-states to beçome protectorates of

other European powers. In the legal and political sense, protectorship bas the meaning of

guardianship or advocacy, in which one party asks another to take care of its atTairs or to

speak on ils behalf(Jiba et al., 1973). As Jiha et al. (1973) argued, this definition was far

ftom rea1ity: European powers IUch as Great Britain and F~ imposed their own


In providinl this brief historica1 overview, 1 have relied on the work ofTIha, Baalabaki and
Othman (1973). As witb any other work of history, this tex! represents one version of
Lebanon's history. 1 chose this tex! because it is the official tex! taught in scbools and cu
be said to represent the official story of Lebanon s history.

• 86
protectorships on countries su~h as Syri~ Lebanon and Palestine, without having been

• requested to do 50 by the countries themselves.

ln the case of Lebano~ Fren~h protedorshïp wu declared in 1918. It must be noted

that bath Turkish and French ocaJpation were resisted by residents ofLebanon ftom the very

outset. However, this resistence typicaUy resulted in the execution, imprisonment or forced

exile of aetivïsts. In addition to these resistence-aubing measures, French protectorship wu

enforced in four ways (ftha et al., 1973): first, throup official military rule (1920-1926) and

other fonns of military coercion; second, by taking control of principal political and economic

institutions; third, by hand-pi~king loyal officiais to administer its rule; and finally, by

supporting pre-existent divisions such as those based on sectarianism. This latter point is of

panicular interest to tbis dissertation.

Concretely, French authorities in Lebanon provided suppon and special rights to

residents of Mount Lebano~ the predominantly Christian region 13 that initiaUy formed the

borders ofLebanon. In 1920, French authorities in Lebanon declared the formation ofuThe

Great Lebanon Republic". This declaration added a number of cities to Mount Lebanon:

Beirut, Baalabe~ Sido~ Tyre and Tripoli, ail ofwhich were predominantly Musüm regions

thet favoured Arab rule over that of the French. Borders of current-day Lebanon still

correspond to these changes.

Despite undeIground resistence, Fren~h protectorship wu to Iast for decacles until a

tuming point in laie 1943. At that lime, the Lebanese parliament declared amendments to the


Whilc a majority in Lebanon, Cluistians werc, and still are, an overwhclming minority in the
predominantly Muslim region of the Middle East.

• 87
constitution. eliminating any references to protec:torship and to France. This declaration.

• publicly made avaiJable on a mass scale, was met with the French authority's decision to

applehend the Lebanese President and several of his cabinet members. These apprehensions

instigated massive civil unrest that was panly tùeled by the etrons of youth and women' s

movements. Following many independence battles and mobilizations, the last French soldier

left Lebanon in 1946. This signitied the end of French protectorship and the beginning ofa

new era of Lebanese history.

Two aspects of the legacy of the 26 year French protec:torship are of particular

relevance for this dissenation. First, as mentioned above, already existent sedarian and

regional divisions were intensified. For example, by gjving select self..government powers to

the Christian Maronites ofMount Lebanon. tension was created betwecn them and members

of other sects living outside thal region. Second, the creation ofthe Great Lebanon Republic

changed the demographics ofLebanon. Whereas Christian Maronites were the overwhelming

majority in 1 Lebanese stlte composed of ooly Mount Lebanon, the new republic relegated

them to the status of a relative majority, with the addition of several Muslim sects. This

change in demographics and intensification of sectarian and regional divisions were to many

years later play thernselves out in the civil war (1975-1990), to which 1 now tum my attention.

2.2 Wu:

ln 1975, civil war erupted in Lebanon and lasted WItiI 1990. Without entering into the

dizzying poIitical debates lhat attempt to expIain the causes and origins of the war, suftice it

to say that much emphasis bas been given to religious 5eCtarianism and tense ethnic relations.

Other poIitical analyses indieate that religious sects bave been pawns in the bands ofgreater

• 88
world powers who supplied arms, ammunition and a cause in order to inflame already existent

• tensions (Baaklini~ 1983). In addition to massive losses of life and heavy migratio~ the civil

war destroyed much of Lebanon' s infrastructure and economy, atTecting ail regions of

Lebanon but mostly those that had been highly urbanized such as Beirut.

Though the civil war is over, the South ofLebanon below Tyre is still occupied by

Israeti anned forces. In 1981 ~ Israel invaded Lebanon, bombing several pans of the already

war-tom country. FoUowing several months of occupation, the Israeli anny retreated to the

South ofLebano~ where it bas remained. Since the early 1980's, there have been several air

raids on Beiru~ located al the centre ofLebanon. In June of 1999~ the violence escaIated and

Israeli forces attacked Beirut again destroying imponant infrastructure elements such as

electricity plants and bridges.

• While a difFerem type ofwar is still raging in the South ofLebanon, the end of the civil

war has heralded a new era of social and economic reconstruction. This era is marked by the

proliferation ofbuman rights groups. For example~ Lebanon will 500n he establishing its tirst

chapter of Amnesty International. Reconstruction bas al50 included the establishment of new

women's groups (i.e. the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women) that work

alongside human rishts groups. The end of the civil war bas concretely meant that the issue

ofviolence against women can DOW he accorded sufticient interest ~ governmental officiais.

During the war, any issue that wu not considered to he related to the survival of the nation

was deemed Jow on the scale of priorities (Akkad. 1990).14 Moreover, women's

1 experienœd this de-prioritization firsthand when 1 conducted the present study. FoUowing
the June 26~ 1999 air strikes, 1 wu reluetant to continue interviews. ft seemed that the Jack

• 89

organiDtions active before the war shifted their emphasis trom working on issues related to

women' s ri~ sucll as chaIIenging sexist laws, to providing basic emergency relief and social

services (KhaIaf, 1993).

In addition to the de-prioritimtion of the issue ofviolence against women, the war bas

had a great impact on women's lives in other ways (Al-Hamidi, 1996; Cooke, 1988;

"Lebanese women breach taboo tapie ofwife..beating", 1997; Makdisi. 1996; Maksoud, 1996;

Tabbara & 'Assayran, 1994; Sayi~ 1998-1999). Maluf(I993) observed that:

The war that ravaged Lebanon for 16 yan forced the Lebanese to re-question
many of their traditional values, and the country today is in the midst of
redefining its identity (p. 4)

Abu Nassr (1996), Khalaf(l993) and Faour (1995) addressed more specifically the changes

that occurred in women's roles as necessity forced them to move trom the private to the

• public sphere. Many women who had been homernakers entered the workforce due to

economic necessity. As a result of the devastation ofwomen's usual network ofsuppon, the

extended family, married wornen in the middle and working classes found themselves

increasingly in the role of main breadwinners. Moreover, for single women in villages and

urban centres, manll8e became a distant or delayed option due to the scarcity of men. This

situation bad the impact of encouraging women to pursue secondary and higher education,

postponing or etiminatins ail together their aœess to the mies of wife and mother. In addition

to increased aa:ess to the Iabor market and educational oPPOnunities, the WU" also propeUed

ofelectricity, drinkins W8ter, and far oftùrther strika were people's sole priorities. In fact,
some women who bad previously asreed to panicipate in the researeh, indefinitely
rescheduled interviews for a calmer time.

• 90

women ioto the political aren8. This is especially troe in Southem Lebanon, where women
have joined an active resistence movernent against Isneli occupation (Sha aban, 1988). In

sum.. the war changed women 7 5 roles in ways that encouraged their entry into the public

sphere in unprecedented numbers and in previously difficult to access areas such u higher

education and the labor force.

11üs chlnge in women's lives due to the war bas been tied to the issue ofrape. Faour

(1995) suggested that the war bas comributed to an increase in rapes. However, Akkad

(1990) argued that having sutTered the violence of the war, Lebanese women are now

rebelling against having to suffer other forms of violence. In tum, they are more ükely to

disclose incidents of rape. On the other band, it may simply he that the war loosened societal

nonns in general as MaIuf (1993) notecf. one of whic:h concems disclosure about raPeS whieh

• in tum contributed to increased reponins. Despite the ditrerent interpretations which cao be

applied to tbis situation, what remains undebatable is that the civil war has been closely tied

to the issue of violence in women's lives in Lebanon.

2.3 Rcli&igu$ djycrSÎty/scqarianjsm

Afarfar (1996) SUS8ested that explorations of women' s lives in Arabie societies need

to take into aœount the pervasive impact of religion. Sinc:e its early beginnings, Lebanon bas

been a haven of religious diversity. Indeed, in ber study of tIae situation of women in

Lebanon, Mansour (1996).-gues tbat any study of the experienc:es ofwomen and ofbarriers

to change must take ioto account the impact of living in a society bullt on religious

factionalism. While religion is a sensitive topie of discussion in a contex! that bas witDessed

wars based on sectarianism (Sayigh, 1998-1999), tbis discussion is essential bec:ause religion

• 91
plays an imponant role in regulatÏDg women' s lives in Lebanon as will be detailed later.

• While Lebanon bas lost sorne ofits religious diversity, fi'eedom ofreligious affiliation

and praetice are guaranteed under the constitution within whieh no one religion is designated

as official. There are currently 18 recognized Mus~ Christian and Druze sects, and in ilS

tirst constitution (1926), Lebanon adopted a "temporary"sectarian-based political system.

This system aIlocated specifie shares of parliamentary seats and access to decision-nl8king

governmental positions based on religious sect. For example, the President of the country

must by law be Christian Maronite, the Prime Mînister, Sunni Muslim and the Speaker Sh'ite

Muslim. This allocation is by no means arbitrary. ft was set up to ret1ect the population

figures that each sect eJaùned 15. This allocation al50 sought to take into account the minority

status of some sects within the region of the Middle East, for example, Christian Maronite.

Being in a position of power was intended to provide each of such sects with a sense of

security against sectarian persecution. This supposedly temporary sectarian arrangement is still

in eftèct in conternporary Lebanon.

In addition to ilS impact on the political system, reliaious sectarianism Blso bas a

bearing on the legaI system. In Lebano~ as with mast other Arabie countries, there are !wo

parallel justiu systems: civil and sectarian. Civil law regulates aU maners between cilizens

and the state induding criminallds, ofwhicb rape and "crimes ofhonour" are examples. The

seetarian justice system reguJates famiIy matters and these are referred to in Lebanon and

There is much intense debate about the veracity ofthe initial numbers on whieh this system
wu founded (BuIdini, 1983). It is not relevant to enter into this deb.te at tbis juncture but
lDJ5t be kept in mind as one of the sources of tension that underlie what same sec as a terribly
tlawed system of power allocation.

• 92

sorne other Arabie countries as upersonal status laws". Marriage, divorce, and chiJd custody

are examples of what is regulated under these laws. There is a religious court for eaeh one

ofthe 18 sect~ lhat hears complaints and lawsuits and renders decisions.

CurrentIy an intense debate rages in Lebanon about ehanging the sectarian system of

power allocation and jurisprudence. Pressures have come ftom interest groups that believe

that tbis system reinforces scctarian discrimination and hatred. As weIL women's groups,

rnany of whom 1 came ioto contact with for this thesis, maintain thet sectarian-based

jurisprudence is discriminatory towards women. More specifically, women's groups, lawyers

and aetivists insist that sectarian personal status laws have been discriminatory towards

women and pose the greatest barrier to women wishing to lave abusive situations (Sida~

1998). This issue was hody debated in a conference held in Beirut on the Iegal position of

• wornen (October 1998) where several Iawyers cited the example of divorced or separated

women who automatically lose custody oftheir ehildren at the ages of 7 for male children and

9 for female ehildren (Hamadeh, 1994; Kabbanji" Attat, 1997). Aetivists contend that these

custody laws have prevented many women tram lcaving abusive marriages. In faet.. one of the

recommendations of the "1995 Lebanese Committee", in preparation for the United Nations

conference in Beijing was to replace seclarian Personal status laws by optional secular laws

(Lajnat 95 aI-lubnani~ 1995).

In addition to political and Iegai implications.. religious scctarianism is alsa PerVuive

in everyday relations in Scirut. Sa pervasive is sectarianism that it can be determined through

a penon's &nt or lut name.. neighborhood, accen~ or region of origin. A concrete example

is the segregation of neighborhoods by religious affiliation. While the end of the civil war

• 93
broke down the physica1 barriers that existed between East (Christian) and West

• (Muslim)Beirut--e.g. checkpoints that regulated entry into either side of the city-on the

whole, neighbomoods ranain heavily segregated. 1 retum to more concrete examples of the

operation of sectarianism in everyday relations and in tum their impact on perceptions of rape,

in the findings section of this dissertation.

2.4 Ethnie djycnjtylmjamiQo

ln addition to religious diversity, Lebanon is weU-known for its ethnie diversity and

long history of emigration and immigration. In recent history, there have been two major

waves of emigration from Lebanon (Abu-Lab~ 1992). The tirst wave occurred al the

beginning of the 20'" century and was mostly economica1ly motivated. These tirst migrants

were mostly Maronite men trom mountainous villages who left in search of new economic

• opponunities mostly in Afiica and the Americas.

The second wave of migration occurred al the beginning ofthe Lebanese civil war and

was characterized by a more diverse group ofpeople. This mosdy fiunilial migration consisted

ofMusiim and Christian enûgrants who by and large Oed the war to the Americas as weU as

to Arab and European countries (Abu-Laban, 1992). Many of these emigrants are now

tinding their way back to Lebanon as the civil war has ended. This is especially true for those

who hId emigrated to Gulfcountries who found themselves once Main in situations of civil


Lebanon is aIso cbaracterized by a high desree of internai migration mostly due to the

civil war and typically from Ntal villaae areas to urban centres sucb as BeiM. Beirut is

currently the city with the greatest share of migration trom within and outside Lebanon

• 94

(Sayi~ 1998/1999). In addition to internai migration, since the end ofthe civil war, there

bas been a drastic increase offoreisn migrant workers trom countries such as Sri Lanka. the

Philippines, Sudan. Ethiopia and Syria. These migrants cao be broken into two main groups:

mostly Sri Lankan female domestic workers and mostly Syrian male meniallaborers.

It is estimated that there are approximately 100,000 Sri Lankans, mostIy wornen live-in

domestic worken in Lebanon, onIy 19,460 ofwhom possess Iegai work pennits (Hannouche,

1998). These domestic workers üve with Lebanese employer-familles primarily in Beirut.

Existing in a lIW'ginaIized position in Lebanese society, these women have been subjected to

racism and to horrendous forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence at the bands

of their employers, in what bas been referred to in the media as "modem-day slaveryn

(Haddad, 1998a; Hannoueh, 1998; Khobeiz, NasraUah &, Khreiss, 1997; Qssaiti, 1998).

• Of particular relevance to this dissenation is a specifie manifestation of racism

reserved for migrant domestic work~ bath males and females: objectification. Abu-Hawach

(1997) observed that migrant domestie workers are treated as objects devoid of feelings and

incapable of love. Younan (1998) bas insisted that inter-ethnic marriage is discouraged by

precisely this fonn ofnasm that construets $Ome men and women as objects, not as feeling,

caring human beings capable of engaging in romantic relationsbips. 1 elaborate on tbis precise

point in Chapter 5 when discussing data regarding racism and the ~nditions of acceptability

of a marriage union.

ln addition to domestic work~ there bas al50 been an increase in the numbers of

Syrian laborers working on construction projects, as street vendors or in other menial

occupations. As aIIuded to previously, Lebanon and Syria share histori<:al and geograpbical

• 95

ties; whüe both countries no longer sbare the same currency.. there is a free-trade policy that

bas fadlitated the migration oflabor since the end of the civil WIf. In addition. Syrian political

and military intervention whieh ended the Lebanese civil war bas reinforced Lehanon" 5

position of poIiticaJ dependency on Syria. For these political and economie reaso~ migrant

Syrian laborers are held in great contempt and are often blamed for taking away jobs trom

Lebanese men.

It is imponant to mention that to varying degrees.. both groups of migrant workers

have been e"pected to be and have been to a large extent restrieted to domestie work and

menial labor. Indeed, in colloquial Lebanese, the term sirilankié--literally meaning "Sri

Lankan wornan" -is equivalent to household servant. no matter what her ethnie origin may

be (Khobeiz et al., 1997). These groups ofmigrant workers exist in a relatively marginalized

• position in Lebanese society, having at best a problematie access to services and Iegai

protection, and at worst no resource but suicide (Haddad, 1998b; Khobeiz et al., 1997).

In addition to migrant workers, Lebanon bas always been home to a diversity ofother

ethnie groups, three of which are imponant 10 mention: Palestinians, Kurds and Armenîans.

AIl three groups have been established in Lebanon for several generations, having tled war-

tom countries or ethnie penecution in their caunlries of origin. These groups differ trom the

migrant workers discussed above in that they are accorded the status of natura1ized citizens--

with the exception of PaJestinians who are considered refugees-and are intcsrated into the

Lebanese worlâorce and Lebanese society in a mucb Jess marginal position than migrant

workers. AU three groups experience racism, if in less subtle ways tban migrant workers. In

additio~ most Kurds and many Palestinians live in situations of poverty in IUD-dOwn

• 96
neighborhoods or refugee camps-in the case of Palestinians.

• Unlike Kurds and Armenians, Palestinians are targets of special contempt because they

are seen by many to be the cause of the civil war and retain para-military presence in Lebanon

to tbis date. Although somewhat debated~ the incident that sparked the civil wu in 1975

involved the shooting down by a Lebanese para-military militia of Palestinian civilians in a

bus. Beirut and other pans of Lebanon have historically been and continue to be a para-

military base of operations ofPalestinian anti-Israeli resistence movements.

As alluded to throughout the previous discussion, tensions exist between ethnie groups

and among migrants. These tensions are most evident in two phenomena: tension between

Lebanese people who retumed to Lebanon after a migration of many yeats and those who

never left the country; and racism against marginalized ethnic sroups. First, the tension

between "retumees" and those who never left Lebanon is most poignantly iIlustrated in the

creation of a self-help group for retumees trom the United States (AI-Awar, 1999). The

Lebanese American Reintegration Society was created to assist retumees to adapt to the

particular fearures of the Lebanese comext. In describing one of those features, the founder

of the society referred to "the closeness of fiuniIy life, where there is a great dealless personal

freedom and where the fiuniIy places pressure on the individual to conform" (AJ-Awar, 1999,


Racism is the second phenomenon that iUustrates the tensions in ethnic relations in

Lebanon. Recause of the bigh concentration of migrant workers and other ethnic groups in

Beirut as opposed to other regions~ raciSlll is of special peninence in the Beiruti c:ontext. In

desaibing tbis l'ICism, Abu-Hawadl (1997) and Najjar (1999) have maintained that in contrast

• 97
to people tram North American and European ethnicities who are venerated in Lebano~

• people ftom Syrian and Palestinian ethnicities as weU u fi'am ethnicities that are concentrated

in domestic work (e.g. Sri LInkan) are treated with great contempt and profound disrespect.

As will become apparent at a later point in tbis dissertation, racism and the tensions

that exist between retumees and those who never left Lebanon bath have a direct bearing on

perceptions of rape.

2.5 Economie situation

The Lebanese economy has been primarily built around three main sedon: services~

tourism and agriculture. AlI three sedors were greatly afTected during the civil war leading

to a sharp decline in the Lebanese economy (Khala( 1998). For example~ prior to the onset

ofthe civil war, one USS was equivalent to three Lebanese Liras (LL). At the height of the

• civil war, one USS became equivalent to 1,000 LL. Since the end of the civil war, the

govemment bas stabilized the c:urrency at approximately 1,500 LL to each USS.

Despite efforts to curb intlation and stabilize the c:urrency, Lebanon is acknowledged

to be undergoÎng a severe economic crisis that began al the time the civil war and continues

to this day (KhaIat: 1998; Sabban, 1986). Sorne ofthose most affected by the economic crisis

are women heads of households-living on their own or supponing their parents and/or

childJen. While current estimates indicate that the average national salary is 15,241,000 LL

(approximateJy 15,000 CONS), 58% ofwomen heads ofhouseholds earn an annual salary of

less than 360,OOOLL (3,600 CDNS) (Kbalaf, 1998, p. 10).

In order to iUustrate the current purchasing power of average income-earners, the

foUowing is a list of the oosts of a few essential items: tuition in public schoals, 700 CDNS

• 98
pel' year; yearIy rem for a one bedroom apartment in an average income neighborhood, 1000

• CONS; average grocery cost per week for a famiIy offour, 300 CONS; bus fare, 2S CDNj.

Currently pressing economic needs, combined with increases in the levels of literacy

and availability ofeduc.ation opportunities16, have boosted women's participation levels in the

Lebanese workforce 17 (Boustani "Mufarrej, 1995; Kabbanji &. Anat, 1997; Khalat: 1998).

While their panicipation bas increased, women throughout urban regions are still mostly

concentrated in the service sec1or, especially education. In rural relions, women's role in

agriculture is of more statistical significance.

In discussing Lebanon's economic context, it is important to mention the absence of

a welfare state and the strong role played by non..govemmental organizations in the provision

of education. heaIth and social services (Al..Bizri &. Beido~ ] 998; Joseph, ] 994). Subsidies

for essential services such as medical care and education are available ta a very minuscule

segment of the populatio~ for example for people with disabilities. Most social services as

weil as subsidies for education or medical treatment are provided by local and foreign non..

&ovemmental orpnizations (NOO's).

In addition to fonnal assistance provided by NOO's, extended family relationships

provide the greatest support in limes of economic and otbet stress. As rnentioned earlier,


Female enfoUrnent in Lebanese schools and universities represems an approximate SOOAa of

total enroUrnent (Khala( 1998).

In 1998, this participation ÎD the formai sector wu estimated Il 21."~ (KhaIat: 1998). While
no accurate figures on women's panicipation in the informai sector exist, a recent study
estimates that 16% ofworking women are part oflbis seetor (Kabbanji &. Altat, 1997).

• 99
Joseph (1983, 1991, 1993, 1994) proposes that the underdevelopment of the fonnal

• govenunental sector in Lebano~ combined with the eft'"ects of the war, have led to a context

in which extended family members are important resources. SimilarIy, other authors agree

that extended timiIy and social networks that sometimes QIt across clas~ religion and political

affi6ation, are important sources of support in situations of stress within Lebanese society (Al-

Bizri & Beidoun. 1998; Batrouney, 1995; Bryce et al., 1988, 1989; Fonin., 1995; Gelfand &

McCalJum. 1994; Sabban, 1986). As will become apparent in the nex! sectio~ the current

econoDÛC situation is directIy relate<! to the important place of marriage, to which 1 DOW tum

my attention.

2.6 Marri. . in the LcbanescIBejDlti comext

ln previous chapters, 1alluded to the imPonance of ll18ITÏa8e and family as basic social

units in Arabie societies and as imponant arenas for the playing out of gender relations.

Similarly in Lebanon, while there is a dearth of literature that directly addresses marriage in

the BeirutilLebanese context, available studies and theoretical discussions coneur that

marriage holds a central place in women's lives in Lebanese society (~AkI, 1999; Kabbanji"

~ 1997; KhaJaf, 1998; Klat" Khudr, 1984; Sabban, 1986). A recent study on working

women in Lebanon ilIustrates tbis importance (Kabbanji "Ana~ 1997). In a diverse sample

ofover 2,000 working women, 25% ofwhom were married, 25% indicated that marriage had

fulfilled ail of their liCe' s ambitions~ over 60'10 indieated tbat marriage had panialJy tùIfilIed

their life's expectations. The study also found tbat over 40010 of umnarried womcn in the

sample saw work as a way of meeting potential husbands.

A study by Khalaf (1998) al50 illustrated the importance accorded to the marital

• 100

relationship: S3~~ of the married women interviewed indicated that they would he wilIing to

stop working should their husbands ask them to do 50. Based on ber many studies on

working women in Lebanon, Khalaf concluded that "family usuaUy bas precedence over

workn (p. 7) for women in Lebanon.

The imponance of marriage is alsa supponed by Christim and Muslim religious

disœurses that tout marTiap as an ÛUpoi1ant part of one's devotion to God (AI·~ 1989;

Birr. 1996). However, a review of the literature illustrates lhat the imponance ofmarriage

is fueled by more than a respect for traditions or religious discourses. As noted in Chapter

1. several Arabie and Third World feminist authors coneur that attempts to understand the

eentrality of marriage or other social phenomenon in Arabie societies cannot be reduced to

referenees to ~'tradition". These reduetive references have obscured the fact that social

phenomena in the Arab world as elsewhere. are continuaUy ebanging and are retlective of

comemporary social conditions (Makdisi. 1996; Narayan, 1997; Tueker, 1993). Henœ. the

centrality of marriage is best understood by examîning the broader societal contex!.

In Chapter 2. 1 referred to Arabie feminist writings that ünked conternporary

regulation of women' s sexuality to marriase; tbis link will become clearer throughout tbis

dissenation. However. a specifie review of available literature on marriage in Lebanon

emphasizes the importance of economie conditions. ft bas been argued that economic

pressures, the unavailability of 80vemmental USÎstance. and social expectations that unwed

women nmt remain in tbeir parents' home. aU lead to a situation in whicb single women are

seen as financial burdens on their familles (Kabbanji "Anal, 1997; Khala( 1993). This bas

meant that tbere is a pressure 00 women to set ~ 50metimes al a very YOUlUJ age. This

• 101

pressure is eased off in situations where unwed women are employed and are supporting

themselves or their familles. As Khalaf (1993) noted.

Less and Iess young Lebanese women are getting married. and when they do.
it is at a much later age. basically because of the extension of the period of
study. the prevailins adverse economic conditions and the misration ofyounS
men Iooking for jobs abroad (...) Thus. in the 25-29 yeu age bracket where
the large majority of women get married. the ceübacy rate jumped ftom 25%
in 1970 to around SOOA. in 1997 (p. 4).

Attempts to understand the centrality ofmarriage in Lebanese society by examîning

the broader context Iead to the important observation that women' s experiences of marriage

differ in Lehanon depending on ethnicity. religion. socio-ec:onomic class and geographical

region. For example in a study ofPalestinian reNsee women in Lebanon. Zakharia and Tabari

(1997) found that these women were more likely to get married at an early age and to have

high fertility rates due to limited access to education and empIoyment opponunities. As noted

• above~ this is not the same trend for Lebanese women who are marrying at a more advanced

age, panly due to their increasing access to education and employment opponunities.

Another dift"erence in the experience of marriage is aIong religious lines. As mentioned

previously, marriage in Lebanon is regulated by reügious courts and civil (secular) marriase

does not exist in Lebanon. This concretely means that women of difFerent sects have ditTering

experiences ofmarriage. For example. while not widely practiced.. polygamy is pennitted in

lsIami<: sect$., thereby enabIing a man to many up to four women at one lime. Mut 'QII is al50

Mul'Q literally means "pleasure and is • tenn that mers to temporary marriages pemùtted
for both men and wornen under certain conditions. mostly in Shiite Muslim sects. For more
detailed information on mul'Q maniages, see Walbridge, 1996 and Haeri. 1989.

• 102
praeticed in some Islamic sects but not in others. Within most Christian sects, a divorce is

• quite difticult, almost impossible to obtain. For many Muslim women divorce cao he

obtained relatively easiIy under certain conditions--e.g. if the marriage contract specifies that

the wife bas the right to initiale divorce proceedings. It is important to mention that the

present study coincided with aaivist effons to institute civil marrÎase in Lebanon. These Iegai

reforms have been met with a great deal of resistenœ especially trom some sectarian


Düferences in the experience of marriage, specificaUy in terms of husband selection,

also exist along socio-economic status lines. Findings trom a recent study demonstrated that

most (66%)Lebanese women trom a variety of ages, regionaJ and religious backgrounds

indicated that they chose thm own husband but ultimately with their parent' 5 approval

(Kabbanji &. Anal, 1997). However. results indicated that women in leadership positions or

in the professions and those with a university education were nwch more Iikely to choose their

own husbands with no parental approval l9 . Kabbanji &. Attat (1997) attributed these

diff'erences to changes in workforce patterns that have increasingly placed employed and

educated women in mixed gender environments thereby facilitating previously restrieted

contact. Furthermore, while not reponed by the autho~ it can be extrapolated trom the

study' s results that this situation is mostly applicable to urban centres such as Beirut, where

there is a higher rate of integration ofwomen in the workforce.

In addition to the increase in marrying age for sorne groups of women in Lebanon,


It is wonhwhile noting that parental approval is legally required only in the cases ofunions
involving men and/or women under 18 years ofage.

• 103

another major change in marriage in recent years bas been in the decrease in the rate of

marriages between relatives for both Christïans and Muslims. In Lebanon as with many Arab

countries. cousin marriages have been encouraged for several, primarily economic reasons

(Klat, 1984)-e.g. keeping the wealth or land in the family. As recently as 1984, cousin

marriages were still quite &equentIy practiced in Beirut (Klat, 1984). However with changios

economic: conditions descnbed previously, it appears that the rate of cousin marriages bas

drastically decreased in more recent years (Kabbanji & Attat, 1997).

With this chapter, 1 conclude the background portion orthe dissertation and prepare

to launch ioto the Findings Section. Beginning with Chapter S, 1 present data examining the

centra1ity of marriage within Beiruti society. This is foUowed by Chapter 6 which focuses on

linking the importance accorded to marriage ta Perceptions of women's consent to sex. ln

• Chapter 7. 1build on the two previous chapters by otrering an anaIysis ofthe ünk between the

centrality of marrilge and women's perceptions of rape.

• 104
• Cbapter5

The constructioD of marriage:

Importance and conditions of acceptability

"Be/ore 1die. leI me see you married""

1. Introduction

The foeus of this dissenation is on the Iink between perceptions of rape and social

relations. As previously stated, the process by which this IïnkinS happens is two-fold: First,

social relations lead to difFerentiaI constructions ofwomanhood that shape who is considered

to be marriageable and who is not, which in tum impacts greatly on perceptions of what

coums as consensual sex or as rape~ seconcl social relations construct a marriage that adheres

to specifie conditions as the ooly socially acceptable union between a man and a woman,

• which in consequence, shapes what counts as real rIPe versus consensual sex. Apparent in

both processes is the centraIity ofmarriage in wornen's lives, the focus oftbis curreot chapter.

In tbis chapter, 1 will argue that marriage is far trom being the IJalUral union that is

assumed to be a resuIt ofa nonna/ attraction that can exist between any man and any woman.

The imponance and conditions of acœptability of a marriage and potential partners are ail

sociaIIy detennined and reinforced within everyday relations. In supponing this observation,

the chapter begjns with an illustration of the importance of marriage, foUowed by an attempt

to explain its importance. The chapta- ends with a disalSSÎOR ofthe conditions of acceptability

of a marriage union and potentiai marriage panner5. This cbapter sets the stage for

explorations into the links between the construction of marriage and perceptions of rape and

• lOS

consensual sex (Chapters 6, 7, and 8).

2. DlultratiDe the importaDre of marri.le

Throughout the research process, 1 was struck by a singular recurring phenomena-

the overwbebning pleoccupation witb marriage. In anaIysiDg my data. 1 began to realize the

links between the centraIity ofmarriage and the object of my study, constructions of rape. In

earlier chapt~ 1 expounded on the importance of marriage in women's lives in Arabie

societies and speàfically in the LebaneseIBeirut context. This importance wu a1so apparent

in my review ofnewspaper anicles and is best exemplified in an anicle discussing the panoply

of abuses that female migrant domestic workers are subjected to al the bands of Lebanese

employers (Khobeiz et al., 1997). Having thoroughly exposed the exploitation of these

wom~ the joumalists conclude their anicle with the following statement:

• And when a Sri Lankan (woman] goes back to ber country trom Lebanon, me
loses all possibility of getting manied and getting respect. For there is a
popular belief in Sri Lanka lhat views a woman retuming trom Lebanon as
having been a vietim of rape (p. 9).

Ret1ecting on this quote, 1am struck by the joumalists' focus on the unmarriageability

oftbese women as a primary consequence ofhaving been rapeel. The psycho-emotive trauma

of rape, the physical injuries and health problems that may have resulted aU appeared

secondary to the fact that tbese women became unmarriageable. Wriling &om witbin a

Lebanese context in which marriage is central to women' s lives, the joumalists ref1ect their

own society' s preoccupation with marriage. As 1 will illustrate, this preoccupation is


• 106

2.1 Mania" as a divinel)' qmtrollcct DCCCSSÎI)'
1bere appear to !le ~hree main themes related to the construction ofmarriage: marriage

as a divinely controlled necessity; marriage as an unwed woman's central concem; and

pressure to get married. In the first theme, marriage is assumed to be a divinely controlled

pan of Iife and a husband is seen as the only source of support for a married woman.

1 curse my unlucky stars these days. (... ) Why should 1 live alone like tbis [as
a separ8ted woman]? A woman always needs a man next to ber. As strong
as sile is, whatever she may be, be it a doctor or judge, she needs a man nex!
to her. That's how God created it (Josephine, EW 7).

"Your husband is the only one you cao count on", he [ex-husband] used to
lecture me "'Your parents aren't going to he there for you, your brother
neither. l'm teUing you: You can ooly count on your husband. (said with
anser] A woman's only support is her husband" (Magida, EWIO).

She [battered woman who caIled on the crisis line] lold me that "a husband is

a woman's support". (...) She can't imagine her life without him. She
considers him ber suppon even though he's kiUing her. Unfonunately, this is
popular education (Zoy&. LC2).

At the end ofmy interview with layai (EW13), she asked me ifl was married.
When 1 lold ber thal 1 wasn'~ sile prayed "May God send you as goOO a nasib
as he sent me". By nasib, which literally means fate/chance, she was refminS
to my getting married (Journal emry: July 9, 1999)

FoUowing an ocean-side supper, nt)' cousin leaves me to go seule the bill. As

1 waited, 1 noticed a woman at the table across from me sitting with an
adorable baby. She asked me if 1 tiked children at which 1 answered
affinnatively. She then asked me if 1 was married. When 1 said "no", site
answered "Inshallah nifrah minnik. ya rabll(}". Now' 1 bave complete
strangers praying for me to get married! (Journal cotry: July 23, 1999).


This is a coUoquiai Arabic expression that translates IiteraUy to: "May you make us happy,
God willing", and refen to getting married.

• 107
Reflected in the above excerpts are two related points. First, marriage is construeted

• as an ocauTenCe that is beyond lIJInan control. References to God, nasib (Cate) and "unlucky

stansn , are fi'equent. Marnage is considered to be the spontaneous work of fate or chance.

ln short, a woman' s marital starus is beyond lIJInan intervention. 1 bave personally negotiated

this constlUCtion in ways that permit me to Qlt short any questioning about my marital status.

My usual response to my heing sinsle is uMa.fi nasib"- ''there is no nasib". This usually

works quite weil at siiencinS inquisitive relatives, acquaintances and neighbours. As will he

seen, tbis strategy is al50 relied upon by other women. Nonetheless, this aspect of the

construction ofmarriage does not work to eliminate the pressure placed on single women to

get married, discussed further below.

Related to the belief in divine intervention. is the view that marriage is a necessity for

any woman. In the above excerpts, a close tink is made between the necessity of marriage•

and the beliefthat il is God-created. In a sectarian society such as Beinat where religion plays

a central role in people's lives, il is perhaps not surprising to find such a Iink. By relying on

beliefs in divine intervention. the neœssity of marriage is reinforced above ail else in a

woman's life. Despite any accomplishments that a woman may achieve, and regardless of

other fonns of support 5he may have in her life, her biggest source of support and strength

cornes from marriage and ftom ber husband; and this is not to be argued with because ta do

50 would he ta contradiet God's wiU.

It i5 important to note tbat two ofthe excerpts present a cballenge ta the belief that

a husband is a woman's primary source of support. Speakîng ftom ber experienœ as an

aetivist on the issue of violence apinst wo~ Zoya (LC2) criticizes popular views about

• 108
• the necessity of husbands; it is such views that trap women in abusive marriages. In fact, in

Magida' s (EW 10) personal experience, it was these sante views that her abusive husband

relied on to prevent ber from seeking support elsewhere. The excerpt from Magida' s interview

fails to convey the anger and intense emotion with which she spoke unfavourably of the view

that ber ooly support need he ber husband. Zoya and Magida' s challenges to such views may

represent the beginnings of a social change in the acceptability of popular beliefs about


2.2 Marriaie as an UDWed woman's central copcem

Not ooly is marriage a divinely ordained and controlled necessity, but it is also seen

as an unwed woman's central concem in life. Other forros ofrelationships., such as opposite-

sex friendships are assumed to be romantic liaisons leading to marriage, otherwise they are

seen as unacceptable or seen as not fulfilling.

Today 1 was at the LCRVAW. Rima (LC 1) and 1 were informally talking
about the myth that violence only happens in arranged marriages at which
point she wondered if these marriages still happen. So 1 gave her the example
of the woman who called my mom a few days aga ta see if she could get me
for her son whom 1 have oever met. Somehow it came out in the conversation
that 1 don't plan on getting ma.. .ried and Rima's face turned pasly. She said
"WeU ofcourse you wouldn't get married in an arranged way'''. 1 said 6'No, 1
Mean in any way". Theo there was a long silence foUowed by Rima's question
'6How do your parents feel about this?"(Joumal entry: July 5, 1999).

1 went with my male cousin to a new cafe that we both wanted to try and we
were having such a great time laughing our heads off at every tittle tbing. At
the end of our time there., the waiter came with the bill on which he had
written 6)OU are a very Rice couple'" (Journal entry: July 5., 1999)

• 109

Our society bas no mercy ( ...). 1 have a tiiend~ more like a brother~ wben
people see us tosether~ !bey say"What do you man 'he's a ftiend', that~s
impossible, there lDJ5t he something going on". He 80t marri~ and he came
to visit me at home one clay and one ofmy woman fiiends was there. She said
to him "Vou got married and you now have children, and you are still chasing
this girl21?!". Can you imagine! (Samia. EWS).

"Fricndly" doesn't exist [in opposit~sex work relations). Talee that out of the
dictionary ofLebanese people. (...) Either he wants to many ber, biddo kheir
fihtr or he wants to have sorne fun, kiss a litt1e~ hold a little (Anna, EWl).

In Seneral~ a relationship between any HUY and any girl stans as a fiiendship
either at university or at work.. or in the neighbourhood. Il stans as a
friendship. There must be something attractive in the SUy or girl (...)
Something that attraets them to each other. Now, in 8eneral~ ifthis evolves,
it evolves, 1 mean that it's worked out and it leads to marriage. Ifit doesn't
evolve, then it ends half-way through (1Iham, EW3).

The second theme related ta the construction of marriage tbat is apparent from the

above excerpts is that women are perceived by themselves or others as having only the

• concem of getting married on their minds. Implicit in this perception of an unwed woman' s

ultirnate soal, is the heterosexist assumption that denies the existence of same-sex

relationships and reduces opposite-sex fiiendships to the status of romantic liaisons. As seen

in the ablve exœrpts, opposite.sex fiiendships or frequentation are boiled down to the status

ofromance.. a romance that is expec:ted to lad to rnarriage. The outright assumption is that

men and women are heterosexual and if seen togetber in public~ must he involved in a


As mentioned in Chapter 3~ "girl" mers to a virgin female ofmarrying age and oot only to
a femaIe chiId. For the sake of consistency, 1 have reIied on the tenn ''woman" instead of"girI
throughout the dissertatio~ except in the excerpts, wbere 1 bave retained the original terms
used by panicipants.

Translated literally dûs expression me8IIS: "He wants goad in ber". The cannatarive meaning

ofthe expression is that he wants to do rigbt by her~ meanin~ marry her.


relationship leadins to marriase. The waiter's note is a poignant example ofthe smaU ways

in which encourasement is given to assumed heterosexual romantic unions.

In addition to the assumption that opposite-sex ftiendships lead to marriage or

involving an element of romantic attraction, another way of reinforcing the importance of

marriage as the only acceptable relationship is through outright homophobia.

The movies [on satellite televison) tbat tbey show after 2:00 a.nt. l've been
told, they're showing girls with girls., just disgusting (Anna., EWl).

A human being steps out of bis natural (peaceful] state of heing for many
reasons. First of ail" because of. hormonal dysfunetion that is curable such
as in the situation of a woman being attraeted to another woman'J or a man
being attraeted to another man (Sheikh., KI3).

FoUowing my group interview with the LCRVAW volunteers., the volunteers

were preparing themselves to leave when Rima (Le 1) mentioned an argument
that she had with another one of the volunteer lawyers. In essence" he was

• telling ber that homosexuality is disgusting and that gays and lesbians need to
be shot. She then exclaimed that this Uignorant guy doesn't understand that
gays and lesbians are born that way and 50 can 'J t change'" and 50 they are
above reproach. Her comment received wide support trom the other
volunteers present (Journal entry: June 30, 1999).

During a dinner pany at the bouse of my newly-wed, young neighbour, the

conversation tumed to homosexuality. This topie generated much disgust
«om the group until my neighbour exclaimed that bis next-door neighbour is
gay and that he doesn"t mind bis company or him beïng gay, because after ail,
he was born that way (Journal entry: May 29, 1999).

R: Ifthey [people who gossip] see a guy with long hair on the street, "oh look
at bim, this fag!"
F: Lite this guy, haram, a thousand stories were spun about him. His name
is (...), and he used to own a very beautifuI store on (downtown street). The
bat goy in f4shion design and very cüdngldsbed. (...) So many rumoun were
c:imJl"ed about bim. So many UllY things were being said, tbat 1 can't repeat.
They used to say tbat he's iD.
R: Haram, there are 50 many cases that we consider deviant but people are

born that way (Rita, LCS " Filant, Le7).


At best homosexuality is considered unnatural yet curable; al worst it is seen as

disgusting and punishable by death. Though there are sorne positive views towards

homosexuaJity, these resuIt ti'om a view or homosexuality as a chemical or innate OCQ1JTenœ

not an individual choiœ. In this regard. activists at the LCRVAW appear to have mixed

views about the issue. Regardless ofone's position on homosexuality, discussion orthe topie

ret1ects and reinforces the importance of marnage.

Positive perceptions of homosexuality based on its assumed innateness reinforœ the

very same foundations on which marriage is built. namely the assumed innateness and

naturalness of heterosexuality. Likewise, homophobie attitudes reinforce maniage; by

condemning homosexuality, heterosexua1 relationships are indirectly upheld as the ooly

acceptable fonn of romantic union.

• 2.3 Pressure to ICI married

The final theme related to the construction of marriage that 1 have selected from the

data is the pressure placed on unwed women to get married. Throughout the preceding

discussion. 1iDustrated how assumptions of heterosexuality indirectly reinforce the œntrality

ofmarriage. 1 would also argue that everyday encoumers such as the stranger praying for me

to get manied, are a way in which the imponance of marriage is reinforced and can aet as a

subtle fonn of pressure. Coupled with these indirect or subtle fo(lllS of pressure, are more

direct pressures to many, placed by family and fiiends.

Here [Lebanon). ifa girl stans daMS, ber goal is maniase. (...) As 500n as
you say to tbat you are dating someone, for example, 1 teU my mother
everything, the first month ortwo, sile doesn't say anything. Later, sbe begins
to ask me "What next?". (...) A girl, and rm no better, thinks about one
thing: "Will he marry me?" (Lamees, EW2).

• 112

1 went out _gain with my tiiend H. and a couple of ber fiiends whom 1 am
beginning to befiiend. As per ususal~ the conversation tumed to marriage~
especiaDy considering that aU ofthe women around the table were single and
in their early thirties. D. is in love with a married man who lives abroad and
a new man bas come to see her family to propose marriage. The otOO two
women spent a great part ofthe evening encouragins her to go out with him
even though she wu completely disinterested in him. They told ber that she
shouldn ~t miss out on the opportunity to let married and that tbis does not
prevent ber &om staying in love with the married man abroad (Journal entry:
July 6, 1999).

My fiiend Z. came to my bouse crying foUowing a heated argument with ber

parents. She bas been dating a man for the past three years and ber parents
gave her an ultimatum: either fix a wedding date or break-up with mm. She
wants to get married but he isn't ready to seule down (Journal entry: May 30~

While love is important, an unwed woman' s central concem is getting married.

Perceiving ils importance as central~ there is considerable pressure on women to get married.

The importance of marriage is reinforced by aspects of the broader context of Lebanese

society, in which women are recognized as full adults only when they have married~ and even

then, they are still recognized only in relationship to another man. A clear example is that in

official Lebanese cen5US and civil records. a woman remains registered under her father' s

name until she gets married. At which point she becomes registered under ber husband~ s name.

In cases where a woman is unwed or does not know the name ofthe father of ber children,

they are legally registered under ber name and the name ofa '~ious" father. Put differently

a connection to a man is essenti~ even iffietitious.

• 113

3• Esplorinl the importaDce of ••male

In earlier ehapt~ 1 argued that the importance of marriage is best understood by

eumining the broader cont~. As previously mentioned. a review ofthe literature indicates

that the importance of marriase in Lebanon is very much linked to economic factors. Data

from Ibis study point to the imponant relationship forged between marriage and wornen' s

sexuaIïty. Moreover.. the importance oflllll'liage al50 appears to he lied to economic factors..

and is also seen to provide protection ftom sexuaI advances ofother men. This latter point

is discussed in Chapter 6.. at which time 1 will explore the impact of marital status on

perceptions of consent.

3. 1 The re1atjooship between maniaae and WODJcn' s sexualiIY

One of the imponant aspects of the centrality of marriage is ilS links to women' S

• sexuality. Within the data, marriage appears to be inextricably linked to expressions of

wornen's sexuality. Briefly stated.. marriage provides an opponunity for women to express

physical intimacy, including sexuaI intercourse. Outside marriage.. wornen's opponunities of

having sex or expressing physical intimacy within a romantie relationship are frowned upon

and are tùrther limited by virtue of the expectation lbat unwed WOIDen should remain in their

parents' home.

These two people were standing here [at night.. in front of my gate] talking
and kissinS. They asked me "Did wc botber you ma'am?'" 1 said ··It's
impossible wbat you're doins! This isn't lovers Jane,..... (...) 1 Ceel that
marriage is more tban this dating. (...) Why not waït, sbe' s going to get
married anyway (Layai, EW13).

• 114
1 joinecl a few fiiends for a trip ta a mountain reson renowned as a tourist

• attraction. In the group of eight men and women., was a 30 year old woman
who had Iived for the put 13 years in Denmark and was visiting Lebanon for
the tirst time since she had emigrated. Upon her arrivai to Beirut, she had
begun an affair with K., a Lebanese man in his mid-thinies. She wu living in
ber parents' old bouse and he was still living at home, waiting for bis condo
to be constructed. Having spent a wondertùl day at the resort, they decided
tbat they would spend the night together in a hotel. Much to ber surprise, the
botel manager refi.ased to give them a hotel room because the)' were not
married and couJdn't provide maniase certificates (Journal entry: June 12,

A girl's lawful place is her parents' home until she sets married. There may
be no laws against it, but society thinks that if she lives alone that' s because
she wants ta have affain (Lawyer, KI 9).

1 am 27 years oldD t there is a sheikh who cornes to my workplace. (... ) He is

tryins to convince me that a girl sbould have a sexual relation, that it is not
imponant that 1 be manied, meaning somethinS caUed moutlQ. Meaning lhat
a girl bas these instincts, that God created them in ber. (...). 1 lold him that
God says that "ifyou do not gel manied then you will not Cee) these instincts".
(...) 1 told him "What ifthere is no nasib does that mean tbat 1 should go to

• the fjrst SUy on the street and teU him to come make me feel my instincts?!"
(Anna, EWl).

Marriage is the most noble of ail relationsbips between two people. Right?
There must be a sexuaI relationship between them or else their maniage is
either annulled or the)' get a divorce. This is the way oflife (NUa, LC4).

As is apparent ftom the above excerpts, sex and expressions of physical intimacy are

closely tied to marrîage. In other words, maniage provides an opponunity for women to

express their sexuality. Also apparent in the excerpts are the pressures plaœd on women to

confonn to this stipulation. Whether il is temporary as in the case of mout .Q, or meant ta be

Anna' 5 reference ta ber age is an indication that sile is close to becoming put the manying
age. This will be disc=ussed in more detaillater in tbis chapter.

• 115

a long-lasting commitment~ marriage is the privileged location of women's sexuaIity. There

also appears to he an association made between sexuality and living at home. An unwed

wornan's lawful place is ber home until she is married. Divergences ftom this unwritten rule

are ftowned upon, as they are likely to be attn"buted to a woman's sexuaI motives-"she wants

to have aft"airsn . In tbis sense~ üving at home ads as a way of constraining pre-marital

sexuality. Not only does a woman wishing to engage in pre-marital physical intimacy

including !eX face concrete restrictions such as Jack of a private space, she al50 faces pressure

from those who perceive that wornen's sexuality belongs in the conjugal bedroom.

1 would propose that these close ties between marriage and the expression ofwomen ~ s

sexuality retlect the religious nature of the BeirutilLebanese comm. As previously mentioned

in discussions of nushouz, sex in maniage is understood to be an integral pan of a maniage

• union; the absence of sex in marriage is punishable through religious laws, and could lead ta

the annulment of the union. 1 refer to these laws in this conteX! not to imply lhat ail Muslim

or Christian married couples adhere to these rules of marital conduet. It does however mean

that the importance of !eX in marriage is supponed by broader societal discourses and is not

simply the per50nal beliefofthe women interviewed.

3.2 Ecooomje factors

As stated al the beginning oftbis section, the Iink between.economic factors and the

importance ofmarriage was al50 apparent in the data.

In tIùs country, parents want their daushters 10 gel married at any priee. They
[parents] need someone to support them [their daughters). They leU their
daughters '1Wore 1 die, let me see you married (Clinicat psychologist, KIl).

• 116

A waman who Imew my mom in elementary school caUed ber today. This
waman wu given my mom's number by my aunt who had told her that 1 was
of marrying age. The tirst thing !he teUs my mother is that her son eams a
respectable salary (800 US$) and that he is looking to get married to a nice
girl who bas an apanrnent (Journal entry: June 30, 1999)

1 ran ioto Ghada (EWI2) unexpectedly todayand!he appeared to he quite

shaken: sile had just had a 6gbt with her boyftiend. He proposed marnage to
her but tald her that because of his financial situation. me would have to
continue to work. She replied that il wouldn't he worth ber while ta marry
because meexpects ber Iuband to support ber (Journal entry: July 28, 1999).

Despite the Q.IITeIIt economic reality of many ~ there is a societal expect8tion that

husbands wiJI financialIy support their wives, thereby taking the burden off parents' shoulders.

As discussed in Chapter 4, the deteriorating economic situation in Beirut cou pied with the

Jack of a social safety net and the expectation that unwed women should live at home

concretely Mean that unwed women ultimately remain the financial responsibility of their

• parents until they are married. While ail these factors suggest that the economic fimction of

marriage ought to be most powerful, references to this function paled in comparison to the

theme of restrictions on women's sexuality. There are three possible reasons for this

outcome, two of which relate to the socioeconomic homogeneity of the study's sample-

discussed in Chapter 3.

First~ the majority of the women interviewed were &om middle class backgrounds

where concem about finances may not be as pressinS as it is for impoverished WOmeft.

Seco~ given that the majority of women imerviewed had at least a secondary level

education and/or were employed at the tilDe of the intervi~ economic func:tion may not

have been as important in terms ofmarriage. As mentioned in Cbapter 4, there is a negative

correlation between the importance accorded to the economic function of marriage and the

• 117

edueationallevel and employment status ofwomen. FinaUy, the study's focus on sexualized

violence and relationships may have skewed discussions away fi'om focus on the economic

aspects of marriage.

4. ConditioDI olacceptability

Close examination ofthe data reveals not only the centrality ofmarriage in women's

lives, but al50 high1ights the conditions that detennine the acceptability of a maniage union

and potential marriage partners.

4.1 Acceptability ofa maajalle ynion

Briefly stated, the acceptability of a marriage union is highJy dependant on current

social relations based on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and religious backsround.

As will be apparent in the next exœrpts, marriages across socioeconomic status, reügio~ and

• ethnicity are perceived in a negative light. The possibility of marriage, the ullimate fuIfilment

for an unwed woman, is forsaken shouId the potential panner be from a marginalized ethnicity

or socioeconomic status. Moreover, men and women who forge marital unions across

sectari~ socioeconomic or ethnic lines are ostracized.

[My cousin who married a mechanic] went apinst the whole family. We lold
her he is ignorant and uneducated. (...) For me, education doesn't matter
anymore. (...) My [separated] husband is alawyer. Anyway, we were aU
against ber. We tried to make ber understand. As 1was sayin& DOW 1 would
marry a suy who works al SuIdeen [sarbage disposai company] ifhe respects
me and treats me weil. My viewpoint is no longer that • woman shouId marry
someone edueated (Masida, EWIO).

The phone rang and my tiiend answered. It wu ber ex-boyfiiend who wu

calling to wish ber • happy birthelay. She seemed to he enjoyÎng the
conversation and wben sbe Iulg up, sile said to me "He's a great IUY, he still
loves me. He's the ooly man 1 dated who aetuaUy cared about me. But 1

• 118

couldn't marry him. 1just couIdn't possibly marry 1 Syrian" (Journal entry:
July 24, 1999).

1 took advantage of a tiiend' s visât ta teU bim about my research and ta give
him sorne introduction letters ta give to the women in bis circles. He engaged
me in an hour long conversation on relationships and violence in Beirut. He
ended the conversation by teUing me thet he knows ofsorne women who may
be interested in participating. He mentioned • Lebanese fiiend of bis who
married an Indian woman, al which point he exelaimed uCan you beHeve what
an oddity that is, being married ta an Indian woman in ReiNt!" (Journal entry:
May 22, 1999).

1 was invited ta go ta my old neighbour's new apanment. 1 have known this

guy since my childhood and he just got married and moved out ofthe house.
He is Druze and he manied a Muslim Sunni woman. This bas infùriated not
only bis parents, who have boycotted bis apanment and bis new wife, but also
the ONze sheikhs in bis village oforigin. Ry marrying a non-Druze woman,
he is automaticaUy etpeUed fiom the faith. In addition, bis father is alsa
ostracized by the sheikhs because ofbis son's actions. His wife bas also been
disowned by ber fiunily for marryïng outside ber sect (Journal entry: May 30,

• 1 spent a relaxing evening with my 33 year old fiiend. She is Sunni Muslim.
We ctiscussed relationships and the fact that she wu still single. She told me
that sile had received a maniage oiTer ftom a man whom she had really Callen
Cor but had broken up with "because he was Christian Maronite and it would
have been too difticult to get married. Our Carnilies would never accept
it."(Joumal entry: May 31, 1999).

In short, for a maniage to be acceptable, it must adhere to specifie conditions.

Concretely, this means that potentiaJ marriages are evaluated not simply by whether the

pannas are mutuaIIy attracted, but by socially determined conditio~ of acceptability sueh as

being fi'om the right socioeconomie status, ethnicity or relisious sect. The existence of these

strict conditions is accompanied by an element of defianc:e, where sorne couples cboose to

violate rules about maniage. However, failing to adhere to these conditions CID, and often

does, lead the couple to be ostracized by their own familles as weB ~ in sorne cases, their

• 119

communities ofhelongins-e.g. religious sect. village oforigin.

1 would argue that these conditions of what counts as an acceptable marital union

reflect and are reinforced by aspects of the broader Beiruti context, beinS

religionlsectarianism., ethnie diversity/migration and economi<: situation. While these

conditions ofacceptability may he applicable across Lebanon, the)' are of most pertinence in

Beirut. given its high rates ofethnie. religious and socioeconomie diversity. In Chapter 4, 1

discussed these as~s of the Beinati <:ontm by relyins on the available literature.

Considering their imponance in shaping the conditions ofacceptability of a marriage union.,

in the next three sections. 1 discuss these aspects of the cantext based on the data; 1 do 50 to

better comextualiz.e the beliefs shared by study panieipants about the conditions surrounding

marriage. 1 win demonstrate that the sarDe sanctions that apply against marriages that cross

• over socioeconomie, sectarian and ethni<: Iines are merely ret1ections of social relations within

the broader Beiruti contex!.

4.1. 1 Religion'5ectarianism

As previously demonstrated. religion is a central element in detenninins the

acœptability of a marriase. The links between religion and marriase ret1ect two aspects of

Lebanese society: the unavailability of civil nwriage. and sectarianism. As explained earlier,

civil marriage does not exist in Lebanon as aU family matters are c;onsidered the jurisdietion

of religious laws specifi<: to each ofthe 18 officiaUy recosnized religious sects.

The unavailability of civil marriage at onœ ref1ects and reinforces the unacceptability

ofinterfaith marriage. For example, couples who marry outside their faith have one oftwo

limitîng options: one of the panners cao change religions, which is not an option in ail sects

• 120

and wben availabl~ is highly discouraged; or, the couple could tly to Cyprus. an island-nation

20 minutes away by plane, where civil marriages are avaiJable. The costs involved in obtaining

out of country civil marriages ümit the availability ofthis option to the aftluent. In addition

to material and JepI barriers., couples who choose to marry outside their raith, face pressure

trom family and community religious figures, as was alluded to in the above excerpts.

Sectarianism is another aspect apparent in the close link made between religion and

marriage. Religion and sedarianism are key features ofLebanese society. These features are

perhaps most highlighted in Beirut, where almost ail ofthe 18 religious sects are represented.

Throughout the research process, 1 became aware of the ment ta which sedarianism is

evident in everyday life. Indeed, religion and sed and are not sirnply aspects of one's own

individual fait~ nor is their impact restrieted to the level of legislation and laws. Rather,

• seetarianism is pervasive in everyday interactions.

Yesterday 1 went with a relative for a walk on the bath. He began talking to
me about retigious prejudice and save the example oftaking the bus with two
older ~4Christian-lookin8women" who were sitting across &om him. When
they passed a mosque, these women made the sign of the cross. 1 asked him
how he knew that they were Christian, before their gesture. He answered that
they were dressed in revealing ways that are not appropriate for their old age
(Journal entry: May 22, 1999).

1 was watching the Asia Cup final basketbaIJ pme with fiiends of the family
and their children. There are IWO excellent Black players on the Lebanese
teanl. As one of these players scored another point, my-parent's fiiend, a
Lebanese man in bis fifties joyfidIy exclaims that .*best players on the team
are MusIim", refening to bath Black playen. This wu perhaps in reaetion to
my mom' 5 earlier comment ·'why is the audience happy tbat these goys are
scoring, they're DOt even Lebanese'9 (Journal entJy: June 1, 1999).

• 121
• 1 was in the service and the driver had an Egyptian Sheïk givins a sermon on
the radio. The front-seat passenger asks uCouldn't you put some music on
instead ofthis sennon?" The driver launched into a discussion about bis belief
that music is eviI. Perhaps based on the passenger's accent, the driver takes
the risk to ask him '4You're Muslim, right?". The passeDger noels and then
asks the driver bis famiIy name.. which leads thern to find out that they are both
members of the Shiite sect. The driver then continues "The sbeik who's
taIking is Swmi but 1 really appreciate what he's saying" (Journal entry: June
10, 1999).

1 went to the premier screening ofa Lebanese film about the civil Wlr, seen
from the viewpoint of three teenagers living in West Beirut. One of the
teenagers plays the role of a Christian girl caught in West SeiNt, the
predominantly Muslim part of the city. After the screening, the fiIm-maker
answered questions trom the crowd. He was very carefid to dodge aU political
questions motivated by sectarian sentiments. At one point someone asked him
about casting. He commented that ''the pan of the Christian girl needed to
be played by someone who was reaUy of that faith because we ail know that
Christian girls have a certain elegance and finesse that can't be imitated by
someone who isn't" (Journal entry: October 25, 1998).

• My ftiend K. came to me and my fiiend H. broken-hearted once again. He bas

jusl been told by his girlfiiend that she wouldn't many him because she is
Christian and he is Muslim. H. teUs him to stop dating Christian wornen
because this keeps happening to hi~ at wbich point he exclaims "It' s not my
fauIt ifthey are more attractive and easier to be with. Christian girls have no
(sexual] complexes." (Journal entry: June 30, 1999)

As cao be seen, these excerpts provide poignant examples of the pervasiveness of

sectarianism in everyday interactions. They were ail taken trom my journal notes, given that

such clear-eut examples of sectarianism did DOt emerge in the intervi~s. 1 speculate that this

finding reftects wariness of expressing sectarian sentiment in the context ofa tape-recorded

interview. In a society where a long civil war wu justified on sectarian pounds, much
censoring of sectarian sentiment is apparent if people helieve that their words cao he traeed

back ta them by those in positions of power and authority.

• 122

Of partiadar interest trom these journal entries is how ditJerentiated womanhoods are

constlUCted aIong sectarian Iines. These excerpts suSSes! that beïng Christian is looking and

acting a certain way, ftom easy-going to elegant, and from devoid of(sexuaI) complexes to

lacking decorum. Wbile lacking adequate data to support ~ 1 would risk the bypothesis

that tbis construction of Christian women retlects previously-mentioned bistorical divisions

and cultural dichotomies in whicb Muslims in Lebanon were mostly supponed by Arabie

nations such as Syria, while Cbristians were supported by French authorities. One of the

legacies ofFrench protcctorshiplcolonialism is the over-valuing and veneration of those social

groups, sucb as Chrisbans, or attnbut~ such as manner ofdress, associated with the French.

As noted in Chapter 4, one orthe aspects ofcurrent-day racism in SeiNt is that the Lebanese

venerate and anempt to imitate in dress and ways of speakin& foreigners who they pereeive

• to be above them in level, particularly the French. This is clearly reflected in the construction

of sorne women as more elegant, easy-going, etc. 1retum to these diff'erenees in construction

in Chapter 7, when 1 discuss perceptions of who is more likely to be Perceived as a rape


4.1.2 Roce/ethnie relations

As with sectarianism.. the ethnocentrism and racism apparent in conditions of

acceptability ofa marriage union are best understood as ret1ections ofbroader social relations

within the Beiruti contex!. These relations are best understood by examinïng state practices

and everyday interactions tbat combine to reinforce the uNcœptability of inter-ethnicfmter-

racial unions.

To eIaborat~ state praetices such as citizenship and naturalization laws ret1ec:t sexist

• 123

orientations that also impIicitly and explicitly discourase inter-ethnic marriages. For example,

the Nationality Law penalizes a Lebanese woman for marrying a foreiper. While she no

longer lases ber citizenship for marrying a foraper, such a Lebanese wornan cannat pass on

ber citizenship to ber cbildren nor to ber busband; the same does not hold ttue for Lebanese

men who marry foreign-bom wives (Mokbel-Wensley, 1996). Recognizing the sexism of

these laws, aetivists have lobbied intensively to eft"ect changes (MogbaizeL 1985~ Mokbel-

Wensley, 1996), but no such questionins bas been undertaken in tenns of the apparent ethno-

œntrism of such laws that limit a woman's marriage options to Lebanese men.

ln addition to citizenship laws that explicitly penalize inter-ethnic marriages for

women, naturalization laws pose others barriers. More specific::ally, under present legislation,

the naturalization process is quite restrictive, not pernütting easy ac::cess to Lebanese

• citizenship. Recause non-Lebanese men are not easiIy acc::orded citizenship, women' s marriage

options are funher restrie::ted: their choic::es are limited to Lebanese men., unless they are

willing to seule for the unpaJatable inability to pass on their citizenship to their husbands or


Coupled with state praetices, inter-ethnicfmterracial unions appear to be aetively

discouraged throup widespread racism.

1 took a night walk with my neighbor, a Lebanese woman.În ber Jate fonies.
As we walked, we were passed by a Sri Lankan man and woman walkïng
closetogether. My neighbor leans towards me Md says with sarcasm: ~Iook
et the lovebirds" (Journal entry: May 31, 1999).

1 went to the café with H. and a few of ber other fiiends. We were seated
when a Sudanese man and woman came in and took a table next to us. This
generated no end ofderoptory ~ grins and staring ftom those whom
1 was seated with (Journal entry: July S, 1999).

• 124
• Today a bank was robbed by two Palestinian men. As 1 sat with H., my
Palestinian friend, and her family, they began to talk about how these two
robbers will DOW be used as scapegoats to say that all Palestinians are
criminals, and to create further discord between Lebanese and Palestinians
(Journal entry: June 16, 1999).

1 was taking the service and there was a man in a wheelchair going in between
the cars asking for money. The service driver says to the passenger next to
hirn "This man doesn't look disabled" at which point the passenger said that
there are Many people from the South who come to Beirut and do this to
make money. So the driver answers '4Why did you say the Sout~ why not say
the Syrians?". The passenger responded "1 was going to say this but we're
scared of talking these days", at which point they both launch into a heated
discussion about "those Syrians" who come here and take our jobs and get
rich off our baeks (Journal entry: June 16, 1999).

1 visited a group of mid-aged., middle-elass Lebanese professional women

(joumalist., dOC1or, teacher, etc.). They began to speak about costly phone
bills, which led to a discussion of their live-in domestic workers who were
described as liars and thieves. 1 was surprised to hear this because these
women are ail poüticaUy aware and are outspoken on women' s rights (Journal
entry: May 25., (999).

As 1 shared the service with a Sudanese man who is a domestie worker, and
the driver, ail three of us entered into a discussion about migrant domestic
workers. The driver noted that nowadays families don't hire white Lebanese
workers anymore because it is a sign of prestige to have a dark-skinned
employee. Theo a discussion ensued about the new law that will attempt to
reduce the number of migrant workers because they are beginning to enter
fields other than domestie work. The Sudanese man exclaimed that this law
would oever pass because the Lebanese need migrant workers "The Lebanese
are too proud to do menial work and to work for sueh long hours". The
driver answered that he works quite hard and for long hours too (Journal
entry: June 18., 1999).

These passages from my journal document racism within the Beiruti context, from the

obvious to the subtle. As was described in Chapter 4, these ethnic groups hold particular

positions within Beirut. Suffice it to reiterate here that political relations historically and in

the present day contribute greatly to shaping these contemporary class and ethnie relations.

• 125

For example, while on the one band, as migrant laborers, Syrians are among the most

marginalized and disadvantaged social classes and ethnic groups in Beirut, on the other band,

they are expatriates of a powerful nation-state that bas explicit and implicit control over

Lebanese politics and key governmental officiais.

Funhennore. two ofthe above-reponed excerpts reflect a particular type of r&eism

reserved for migrant domestic worken, prcviously discussed in Chapter 4: objectification.

This form ofracism construets these men and women as objects. denying them the full range

of human emotions including the possibility and potential of engaging in romantic

relationships. This construction is funher reinforced by current employment conditions that

stipulate that migrant domestic workers come to Lebanon unmarried or without their spouses.

This means that they are not often seen in the context of their marital or intimate relations.

• When they are seen in couple situations. they are looked at in derogatory ways.

Finally, as illustrated in the excerpt presente<! earlier about the Indian wo~ women

ftom certain ethnic backgrounds are not considered to he suitable marriage panners for

Lebanese men. As previously mentioned. these ethnicities are typically associated with

domestic wor~ an occupation deemed to be quite low for both men and women in terms of

status and remuneration (Abu-Hawach. 1997). In tbis example, the intersection of gender,

soc:ioeconomic status and ethnicity are at play in determining JDarT!aseability. 1 retum to this

complex intersection ofclements of social location Iater in this chapter.

• 126

4.1.3 RelDtions across socioeconomic stlllUs

In addition to religion and ethnicity, the acceptability ofa marital union is determÎned

by socioeconomic status. Much like racism and sectarianism rdected in the conditions of

acceptabiIity ofa marriage union, the sanctions against marriage that crosses socioeconomic

lines are ret1ective ofbroader social relations. As CID he seen in these excerpt, tensions in

social relations across socioeconomic Iines are aIso apparent in other types ofinteractions and

not only maniage:

1 don 't mean to he prejudiced but when the Hariri [ex-prime minister] gave
free education., the ditrerent classes came [ta Seirut] tram around Lebanon.,
tbey would never have dreamed before that tbey cou Id go to university

People in Afiica are dying of hunger and people here are building swimming
pools and have Cadillacs and RoUs Royees. Why? 1 prefer that ail people be

equal. (...) Maybe if 1 have more money tben 1 cao help him [poor man] as
much as 1 cao (...) 1 wouldn't look at him as though he is worthless if he were
a janitor or a street vendor. 1 would put limits, il' s nol neœssary that he come
in and out of our bouse, but 1 would talk to him normally, "Good momïng"
(Anna, EWI).

My 75 year oId aunt enpsed me today in a conversation about class relations

in Beùuti society. She remarked that poverty bas increased in Seirut and that
the gap between the haves and have-nots got wider especially after the war
(Journal entry: November 10, 1998).

Here [in Beïrut), 1 fee( that most people think about money. (...). For
exampIe, 1 onIy reacbed Brevet [5* year elementary school], 1dido't complete
my education. 1 would have liked to but a penon sonietimes bas certain
circumstanees. (...) [In this society] how much molle)' [1 penon] bas is
equated to how intelligent he (sic) is. But" maybe the opposite is true.
Because a persan is poor, tbey probably won'. listen to [what he bas to say]
(Mervat, EW4).

• 127

These excerpts illustrate tensions between socioeconomic classes in BeiNt. The

worsening economic conditions have been accompanied by internai migration that bas put

various classes in contact with each other. While the gap between classes bas &lways existed

in ~ recent social changes such as the availability ofuniversity scholarships have meant

that people of middle and upper socioeconomic classes are more Iikely to enter into contact

with members oflower socioeconomic classes in environments that bave previously been off-

Iimits to the latter. Tbese contacts, whether as a result ofintemal migration, scholarships~ or

already existent economic disparities in 8eiNt, are charaeterized by a certain degree of


Within the excerpts, tbis classism is ret1ected in two ways that are lied to the

socioeconomic homogeneity of the study's sample, mentioned in Chapter 3. First, within the

• majority ofexcerpts trom women of privileged socioeconomic status~ classism is ret1ected in

references to the limits that must be maintained between the classes and to the boundaries that

have been broken between them. Second, only Mervat (EW4), one of the few women in the

sample to come trom a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, refers to classisrn by

mentioning the lack of respect accorded to people who are economicaUy disadvantaged.

Even when Anna (EW1) refers to such disrespect, herself a woman of privileged

socioeconomic status, insists on the necessity ofboundaries between classes.

Discussions of socioeconomic status "50 appear to he sendered in nature. A penasal

of eœerpts and journal entries shows that madlCeS Ile typically made to men's occupational

status versus women's, with the exception ofdomestic work. In instanœs where men occupy

low status and poorly remunerated occupations, such men are not considered to be suitable

• 128

rnarriage partners. This gendered distinction is perhaps due to the current division of labour

in which men are still expected to be the main breadwinners. In speaking of wo~ no such

links ue made between theU occupations and their marriageability. Instead, il appears that

the marriageability of women is judged by otber facton to which 1 now tum my attention.

4.2 Arrcptabilib' of potcotjal ""tri.. gvtner5

Perhaps the rnost interesting aspect of exploring the construction ofmarriage is the

fact that implicit rules exist about the marriageability of women. While the conditions of

marriageability that 1 present below are perhaps not exhaustive, tbey nonetheless point quite

clearly to the existence of a phenomenon in which sorne women are branded as

unrnarriageable. In the next two chapters, 1 shall develop how being labeUed unmarriageable

is closely tied to constructions ofrape and consensual scx.

• As has been previously mentioned, women's marriageability is determined by their

ethnicity and socio-economic status, as in the case of migrant domestic workers. In addition

to these two interseeting elements, an examination ofthe data yielded the following conditions

that jeopardize a woman's marriageability: age (being the wrong age); autonomy (being

outspoken or stroo8); marital saatus (divorced or separated); physicaJ disability; sexuaI history

(being raped or suspected ofbeing ra~ or being a non-virgin). In what foUows, 1discuss

age and autonomy. Marital status, physical disability and sexuaI ~story will he examined in

Chapten 6 and 7 which explore the links between marriageability, consent and rape.

• 129
• 4.1.1 Age

Age is a &etor that is clearly tied to the unlmarriageability of women, as iIIustrated by

these excerpts:

My fiiend H. is still single at the age of 33. She is happy with tbis status
because she is in. relationship with a married man and sile doesn't want to
leave bim. She bas reœived muc:h pressure tram ber family to get married.
One day she exc:laimed to me "1 cao't wail til rm 35, then people could stop
asking me when l'm going to set married!" (Journal entry: July 17, 1999).

1 met a guy, arr8Ilged marriqe, he came, 1 saw him, 1 didn't like him at ail.
At aIL at aU. Vou know, 1would look at him and say no way, it's impossible.
Of course, there was pressure trom my parents to the effect of "look at how
old you are now, what do you tbink you're going to do". So 1 said okay
(Lamees. EW2).

In the old days, a girl used to become an old maid at the ase of 14, 15, 16.
TheIl this became 16, 17,20,25,30. We may have reac:hed a stage wbere ifs
DOW 3S and maybe in the future it will be 40 (Rita, LeS).

• The 17 year old daughter of rny cousin who is living in Saudi Arabia is getting
manied to a man in Lebanon. My aunt commented that ''tbey have taken us
quite a few decades bac:kwards. In my clays girls used to go to elementary
school then go sil at home and wait to get married. But nowadays women are
going to sc~ to university, building careers, haram that tbey are doing tbis
to her" (Journal entry: July S, 1999).

Ifa girl doesn't gel manied before the age of 24, 25, that's il, ifs too late for
ber. She bas nowhere to go (Fitnat, Le7).

As CIO be sem. there apPeaJ'S to be a minimal age that is acceptable for marrïage. As

mentioned earlier, civillaws stipulate 18 to he the minimum age at which either women or

men could get married without parental approval. Religious laws al50 establish a minimal

lJ18I'I'YÎI18 age for both men and women, with parental approval. Depending on the sect, this

age ranges ftom 9 to 17 for females and 13 to 18 for males ('Atwi, 1999). As the above

• 130
passages illustrate, there is a conternporary concem that women may be marrying too young.

• Marrying before that age is considered haTam, because a woman' s tùII potential in tenns of

education or career rernains undeveloped. Once again, the homogeneity of the sample in

terms of socioeconomic status is apparent in tbis concern. As noted in my review of the

l..ebanesaIBeir context (Chapter 4), this perception ref1ects the current economic reality in

which women trom aftluentlprofessional classes, and who are the majority of this study's

semple, are delaying their marnages. Put difTerently, because of changing socioeconomic

conditions which have provided women access to education and employment, it may have

become normatively less acceptable among privileged classes for women to marry at a young


A second therne is that women who surpass a eenain age are thought to be

unmarriageable. There are no written rules that stipulate the maximal age of marriage for

women. Women suceumb to the pressure placed by parents to marry men they don't like

precisely because they are nearing the end of the sociaUy acceptable marrying age.

Interestingly, some women negotiate this construction of marriaseability in a way that aIIows

thern to avoid the pressure ofgetting rnarried.

4.1.2 Autonomy

A wornan's marriageability also appears to he lied to ber .behavioun. Women who

are assertive and outspoken are perceived to he unmarriageable, as these excerpts illustrate:

They [men] might discuss the issue and support it [women's Iiberation), but
when it comes back to ~ the)' still pref« a woman who bas a weak
personality9 who is not intelligent, who doesn't argue with them, who does
what sile is asked to do. Thal, in generaJ, is the Eastern male (SaIma, EW9).

• 131

At the end ofmy interview with Grace and Mouna. (Le 8 and 9), they asked
me ifI would come back to Lebanon and many a Druze man and 1 answered
that 1don't have IllY religion preferences in tems of maniage, at which point
one ofthem remarked "AIthough you are feminine and cute, you will probably
scare goys off if you continue to speak about women's rights and violence"
(Journal entry: June 30, 1999).

1 met a man today who told me the story of his fiiend who married bis
Americanized cousin ("sharbéné ""'»'i' amerltd,1A). He described this woman
as controUins and quite outspoken. This is apparently in stark contrast to the
behaviour ofhis fiiend's previous Lebanese fiancé who basically agreed with
everythins he said and would oever raise ber voice to him (Journal entry: July
24, 1999).

1 went 10 the offices ofLCRVAW for a meeting. Visibly shaken, Rima (LC 1)
greets me and begins reeling about what she perceives to be the inadequacies
of ber coUeague Zahra (LC6) who handles crisis caUs. According to her,
Zahra CID't adequately do the job because she one of those staunch feminists
who spend most of their lime volunteering on the issue of violence against
women., and 50 can't!won't get married (Journal entry: July 12, 1999).

It seems that for a woman to be marriageable, she must behave in a way that is non-

assenive. Her femininity is insufficient to make her marriageable if &he is 100 outspoken.

Two key points emerge trom the above excerpts. First., there does not appear to be much

divergence fi'om views about women's assertiveness by LCRVAW volunteers. For example,

while Rima (LC 1), herself a dynamic and outspoken woman., might value women's

asseniveness, she appears reluetant to do 50 if this canfliets with a wornan' s chances of

getting manied. 1 have had the opponunity to develop a close working relationsbip with

Rima (LC 1). 1wu impressed with ber untïring efforts and dedication to the mandate of the

LCRVAW. Throughout our working relationship, sile repeatedly told me that unlike Zahra

Literally, tbis expression means: ~'sbe drank America's water", which means that she bas

become Americanized.


(LC6)~ one orthe few single women volunteers, she herselfvalued marriage and stanins a

fiuniIy above ber work al LCRVAW. Ensaged to be married~ Rima foresaw that ber eventual

pregnancy would hait her involvement with the organization.

A second key point is apparent in two ofthe above excerpts. One excerpt ünks heing

assenive and outspoken to westemization. Anatber links the devaluing of women' s

asseniveness to the "Eastern male7'. While this wu by no means a stroDg theme in the data..

1 mentiOD it hecallse it provides Ut example ofthe dift"erenœ believed to exist between Eastern

and Westemized contexts. Earlier in this ehapter~ 1 pointed to the construction of

ChristianlWestemized wornen as easy-going and devoid of inhibitions regarding pre-marital

set. Building on this observation, 1 would propose that the West and its influenœ in Lebanon

provide an example of a society where women' s pre-marital semality and romantie üaisons

• are not linked to marriage. This is apparent in these two excerpts:

Here [LebanoD]~
outsid~ ifyou
if a girl stans datin& her goal is marriage. 1 mean that
say "1 un datingn, nobody dares ask you where you want to go
with that (Lamees, EW2).

[Marriage is on the decrease because] there is much more direct contact

between them [men and women)~ and too IIIJCh [sexual] fteedom. Everything
bas become acceptable (...). [In this reprd] we are very influenced by Western
civilization (Ilham, EW3).

WhiIe presenting somewhat contradietory perceptions of women in Lebanon, both excerpts

point to a close reIationship between marriage, sexuaIity and the West. SpecificaUy~ Western

and westemized women are perceived to be more sexuaIIy ftee in that their sexuality is not

restrieted to the bounds of marriage. 1 will return to an examination of the relationship

between marriage, senaality and the West in Cbapter 7 where 1 discuss perceptions of women

• 133

more ükely to be considered victims of rape.

ln sum. a woman's unImarriageabiJity is detennined by several factors including her

age and behaviours. As 1disaass other conditions of marriageability in the next two chapters,

il will become apparent how the construction of some women as unmarriageable is closeJy tied

to perceptions of consensual &eX and rape.

s. Cbapter Summary

In this chapter, 1 explored the construction of marriage within the Beiruti context. 1

suggested that while marriage is perceived to he a natural result ofthe normal attraction that

exists between men and women, it's imPonance is enforced by legislation, state praetices, and

religious laws. Moreover, marriage is constructed around specifie conditions that detennine

ils acœptability and the acceptability, or Jack thereof: ofPOtentiai marriage panners: SimpJy

• put, it is not ~ man who cao many ~ WOlœJl. This acœptability is shaped by oppressive

social relations that are manifested in heterosexism, sexi~ racism. classism and sectarianism.

Concretely, this means that heavy sanctions are pIaœd on inter-ethnicfmterraeial and interfaith

unions, as weil as those forsed across class divides, not to mention same-sex relationships.

1 also provided examples of the phenomenon ofunlmarriageability according to which sorne

women, such those who are the wrong age or who exhibit assenive behaviours are

constnaeted as unsuitable lII8I1iage partners.

As will become apparent in the next two chapters. the a.arrent constJuetion of lII8I1iage

as an important feature ofwomen's lives, including the conditions of acceptability ofa union

and marriageability, ail play a central role in sbaping perceptions of rape and consensual sex

within the Beiruti context.

• 134


Perceptions of CODseDSU.1 ses

"If she loves him tben i"s not rape (...) but the real issue is whethe, he
marries ber or nol afterwards. "

1. Introduction

ln the introduetory chapters of this dissenatio~ 1 argued that rape may he best

understood not by dissociating it &om set, but by exploring the interconnections between the

two. More specifically, 1 maintained that within Arabie contms, perceptions ofrape must

be understood in Iight ofviews about women' s sexuality as weU as the imponance placed on

the family as the basic social unit. An illustration ofthis assenion was the focus of the last

chapter wherein 1discussed the centrality of marriage within the Beiruti comm.

• ln Chapter S, 1demonstrated how marriage is constNeted as a natural sacred unio~

coneeived of as the ultimate concem and fulfiUment for a woman. 1 also noted how the

imponance placecl on marriage is closely tied to the current economic situation and to

restrictions regarding women's sexuality. Moreover, 1demonstrated that the acceptability of

a marriage union is shaped by current social relations al the intersection of gender, race,

socioeconomic status, sect and ethnicity. Brie8y stated, 1demonstrated how current social

relations within the specifie Beiruti context shape the acœptability of relationships; a marriage

that adheres to specifie conditions is singled as the only socially acceptable venue for women

to engage in consensual &eX.

In tbis chapter, 1 address in more depth the relationship between marriase and

• 13S

perceptions of consensuaI sex. 1 ilIustrate how the centrality ofmaniage and the conditions

that detennine its acœptability greatly impact on what counts as consensual!eX. Indeed far y

from being solely an individuaJ choice, a woman's consent ta sex is perceived in complex

ways. On the one band, she is pel'œived to be making an individual chaice in consenting to

sex; on the othel' band, her choice is perceived to be shaped by factors that He outside ber

individuaI penon-i.e. fear ofthe consequences. In what foUows, 1 illustrate this analysis by

discussing two themes: the relationship between love, consent and rape; and the perceived

consequences ofconsent for women.

2. The relationship between love. cODsent and rape

ln attempting to understand how consent is perceived, women's acoounts clearly

pointed to the relationship between love, consensual sex and rape. There appears ta be a

• belief that romantic love relationships automatically imply a consensual 'JeXU8I companent.

A coroUary to tbis belief is that within relationships involving love, rape is not a possibility.

Let s say you're in love with someone, obviously something is going to


~ obviously some son of commUlÛcatio~ sexual communication. Vou

may not sleep with him, but somedüng will defini1ely happen (Lamees, EW2).

When 1 love a SUy, no way will he rape me. Ifl don't agree he won't do

anything. (...) In a normal relationship, there is notbing caI1ed rape. If there

is love, there is no rape (Lamees, EW2).

s: [reacting to the film vignette] 1 don't think it's rape. .

L: Ifthey love each other?
S. They love each otber (...) This incident bappened with ber consent not
against ber will.
S: It's the resuIt ofan emotion thatjust expIoded (...) Her emotions puDed ber
~ 50 notbing happened, 1mean, it's DOt rape (S~ EWS & Loubna., EW6).

• 136

Sile [girl in film vignette] tried to resist as much as she couId, but in the end,
there are emotiODS. It' s bard for a penon to control bis emotions, especiaJly
because you're saying that she loved mm (...). She resisted, what do you
want, the first tUne, the second lime, the third time, and tben what'? (...) Little
by titde, she conceded to him (Dham, EW3).

Rape is when a woman doesn't consent to something. Sile [girl in film

vignette] wu consenting. Sile went up to see him of ber own will. She loves
him. This is the probIem with girls: they are very extremely emotional. That's
why they say that (women] are "lacking religiosity and brains" [religious
expression]. When a girl loves a guy, without being aware, she wants
someone to hold ber and kiss ber (~ EWI).

Two points are cIear in the above excerpts. First, references to consent highlight the

perception that romantic love relations automatically involve a sexuaI element. Because of

this implicit understanding of the nature of romantic love relations, consent is assumed to

lUtomaticaUy exist ifthere is love. Indeed, rape is ooly deemed possible where love is absent

or where the vietim is a child.. both ofwhich are discussed in more detail in Chapter 7 when

• discussing Perceptions of raPe.

Secondly, references to consent a1so focus on the emotionality of women; the

perception here is that women are emotional by nature, which is fully apparent when they are

involved in romantic love relations. While the initial "resistence" of the woman in the film

vignette is noted in the excerpts, it is minimized by referring to the emotionality ofwomen;

the woman in the vignette obviousIy consented to sex and was not the vietim of rape because

sile wu carried away by emotions that "expIodecr\ as a natural consequence ofbeing in love.

This betiefin the emotionality ofwomen is supponed by broader societal discourse and is not

restrieted to the individual beliefs of the women interviewed. This is clearly illustrated in

• 137

references in the excerpts to religious discourses such as the Islarnic hodi,WJ assening that

unlike men. women are Iaclàng in two imponant areas: rationality and religious devotion (Al-

Masri~ 1989; Birr, 1996).

The above exœrpts make il clear that a woman' s consent is not entirely perceived to

he shaped by ber individual desire to have !eX but by beIiefs about emotional nature of wornen

and the expectation that romantic love relations automatically imply a consensual semai

e1ement. Wlthin these expectations, there is an unquestioned association forged between love

and consent. Love is given the role of instigating sex and eliciting consent trom women.

Considering sex to be an "obvious"consequence of love, renders invisible the possibility of

rape within heterosexual romantic iovolvernents, a point to which 1 return in Chapter 7.

However, these two points on their own do not entirely shape perceptions of consent. More

• specifically, as illustrated in the next sectio~ perceptions of consent are alsa lied to the

anticipated societal consequences of consent for women.

3. Consequences of conleDaiD. to leK

Perceptions ofconsent are shaped DOt only by what takes place at the lime of a sexual

incident, such u the explosion ofernotions Ieadins women to surrender, but by the anticipated

consequences ofconsent for women.

M~ for example, when something of the son [sex] is about to happen. what
am 1 thinking? "Bu~ what ifhe doesn't many mer' (Lamees, EW2).

Hadith is the tenu applied to the discourses of the prophet Mohammad and bis disciples.

• 138

J: He [man in film vignette] must many ber, ifshe loves him tben it's not rape,
il' s with her will. Not rape.
SW16 : [In the film we are told that] !he loves him.
J: Yes, but the real issue is whether he marries her or not afterwards
(Josephine, EW7).

S: (reaeting to the film vignette] 1 don't think it's rape.

L: If they love each other?
S. They love each other (...) This incident happened with ber consent not
against her will.
L: Yes. but he must rernain loyal to ber, remain loyal. He shouldn't leave her
after this bas happened. That's scary (Sami~ EWS " Loubna, EW6).

No, 1 don't think it's rape [reaeting to the film vignette). In my opinion it's
not rape. If two people love each other 1 don't think it's 50, because she
responded to his advances. It' 5 true that she was refusinS in principle, she
wants it (...) She refuses not because she doesn't love him, but because she
is scared ofsociety, no more, no less (Mervat, EW4).

In the above excerpts, an emphasis is made on the consequences ofthe sexual incident,

• DOt on the relationsJùp between the two panies at the time of the event. While love between

the man and woman is considered in judging consent, the above excerpts Ulustrate that the

consequences of the sexual aet matter most. Whether or not he will commit to ber or marry

her, and what etTects might beCail her reputation or how sM is regarded, ail speak to the

consequences of !eX for women. As the foUowing excerpt trom layai (EW13) reveals, fear

of consequences is related to the importance placed on virginity and its links to


L: The IUY is above reproach whereas the ~ yes sIIe's reproachable.

SW: What is tbis reproach'?
L: The girl is reproachable, for example, they will say that she's not good.

:!fi The initiais SW rerer to myself.


Not good, that is, she is nightly, nightly, with 1 guy, people will think of
course that sile bas become a woman, maning that sile bas surrendered herself
to lhis guy. That's the reproachability placed on girls. They say that
"reproachability is as important to a guy as bis foot" [Lebanese expression).
(...) Dy tbat they mean that he couldn't care Iess, every clay he can be with a
girl, he couldn't care less. But the girl, no, site is reproachable.
SW: How does tbis affect her, let's say ushe became 1 woman and she's not
L: It aifects her Iater in Iife if a persan proposes to ber in marriage and sile
accepts. Maybe when something is about to happen between them, he'll
discover that sile is a woman. Here maybe, you feel tbat the guy will be
somewhat upset. (...) Because this happened (...) in a village close to ours,
same thing, she met a penon, sile surrendered herself to him, and tben tbis
person left her. Another penon came and asked for ber band. When he
married ber and realized that she was a woman. ( ...) he went to her parents'
and said "you were supposed to have given me a girl, not a woman" (...). So
tbey got a forensic doctor who examined her and it tums out tbat she was a
woman. Vou know what her brother did? The brother killed his sister over
thîs. He killed bis sister and he was going to be put in jail, but his brother-in-
law, the SUy who was going to marry her, got him out. He [brother-in-Iaw)
said that "when a SUy is defending bis honour, it is best that the girl he killed"
(Layai, EW 13).

• As can he seen 1055 of virgjnity entails consequences that go beyond the girl heing

labeled "not good". Her 1055 ofvirginity is closely tied to ber family's bORour and cao lad

to the consequences ftom dissolution ofber marriage to ber homicide. References to "crimes

ofhonour" also appeared in other data:

In one village [in Lebanon], the counciI of eiders sot together and sentenced
a woman to death because sile wu seen talkînS to a man who isn't ber
relative. They ae:tuaIIy sot tosether and decided that this woman wu •
blemish on their honour (Lawyer, K(9).

We still have here a law about honour. It is permitted for a bratller or father,
and 50 on, to kill bis mother or sister iD cases of zina [fornication] (Mouna,

• 140

In addition to appearing in women's lCCOums, ucrimes of honouf' were also the

featured subject ofa newspaper article demanding lepl refonns that would severely punish

perpeuators ofsuch aimes (yehia, 1998). CurrentIy, article 562 of the Lebanese Penal Code

provides Iighter sentences for 1 man who kiUs one of bis immediate or extended family

members without premeditation and in defense ofhis own or bis family's honour-eompared

to higher sentences for murders not fitting tbis description. Prior to February 1999, this

anicle also included a section tbat aUowed for total acquittai based on these circumstances

(Moghaizel et AbdeI-Sater, 1999). Il is worthwhile mentioning that this section wu removed

foUowing three decades of lobbying by women aetivists and etrons continue to remove the

anicle in ilS entirety.

As seen trom the above excerpts, and as conlirmed in the Iiterature, "Crimes of

• honour" are a primariIy rural phenomena occurring in sorne Lebanese villages and very rarely

in urban centres (Moghaizel & Abdel-Sater, 1999). However, Lebanon is a small country

connected by an aaive newspaper and television indusUy, and repons of crimes from one pan

of the country circulate quite rapidly and ftequently to olher parts; second, with inc:reasing

internai migration ftom diverse rural regions towards Beiru~ such as in the case of layai,

stories are bound to be relocaliud. Regardless of their origins, stories about "crimes of

hOROUf' present POtent examples for women in Beirut about the .potential consequences of

their pre-maritai M!XIl8l ity. Whereas murder is somewhat extreme and rare, a more common

consequence ofconsenting ta pre-marital sex for women is loss of reputation due ta loss of

virginity, and bence to being labeled unmarriageable.

• 141

J.l C9D5C<lUC"CCS gfÇQDSCQt· Reputation. vQini1y and mmil&'4'hifuy

Briefly stat~ perceptions of consent are closely tied to the importance placecl on the

preservation ofreputation and marriageability which for unwed women is jeopardized by the

loss of their virginity.

In Lebanese society, there is a basic principle that if you want to kill

somebody, don't shoot him, stan a rumor about him, how shouJd 1 say it,
about something that happened to him that taints his family or her [a
wornan's] reputation (George, Le3).

1 met with my close mend H. and we had a diseussion about ber c:urrent
relationship with ber married boytiiend. She lold me that she bas just
consented to having fuU intercourse with him after 3 years of knowing hirn.
She explained ber initial reluetance by saying "It's not because 1 am scared of
my brothers, they would never hurt me. It's because 1 wasn't sure 1 wanted
to lose my virginity to a married man, knoWÎng he won 't marry me" (Journal
entry: June 12, 1999).

In these (sexual] matters we were raised that the girl should never say "yes"
exc:ept to her husband. Even 1 was raised this way. ~~A girI's honour is like
a matchstic~ ifit is lit once, it is no longer good" [Arabie expression]. We
have to hear these. By hook or by croo~ we have to hear these, "Don 't let
him touch you, don't let him do this or that'\ etc., etc, etc (Lamees, EW 2).

Another type ofabuse that is very common in Lebanon is the parents who are
afraid for their daughters' reputation and virginity, tbey would prevent them
ftom having a normal social and emotionallife. And this could cominue up
to marriage (Psychoanalyst, KI 12).

Sex must happen within a ftamework, a solid fi'amework [marriage] for the
girI's sake, but al50 for the SUy's sake. Because, tbere are IUYS who say, for
example, that the girl that surrend~ he loves ber • lot, but when she
sunenders berseI( he thinks thIt sile isn't ID honorable penon. He thinks tbat
she will go with anybody,just like sile went with him (Mervat, EW4).

1bave a daughter, 1aIways Idvise ber (...) that!he shouIdn't surrender herseIf.
And if she does do anything, then 1 won't know, but sile would bave 1051
hersel( ruined ber entire beïng ( ...) !he shouId respect herseIf, respect ber
dignity (Josephine, EW 7).

• 142

Oearly, women's reputation is tied ta virginity, which is in tum tied ta marriageability.

Ruinîng a girl's or a woman's reputation is akin ta killing her. Moreover, the guarding ofa

girl' s or woman' s reputation is an essetltial preoccupation for parents. This observation is

quite consonant with writings by Arabic feminists discussed in Cbapter 2, tbat empbasize the

importance ofvirginity and marriage for women. Moreover, the importance ofvirginity for

women's marriageability is mitigated by socioeconomic status, as seen next.

[In] Lebanon., the class that is economically privileged don't have problems
[regarding reputation]. There is a Lebanese expression that says ~his money
covers up for him" (Zahra, LC6).

1met with rny close fiiend Z. today and she asked me if 1 bad interviewed any
women fi"om the upper classes, ta which she herselfhelongs. She then added
that pre-marital sex for these women is not 50 problematie because they can
afford the costly operations to restore their virginity (Journal entry: July 2,

• At a camp held by a local organization for ~'vietims of prostitution", 1 met a

young wom~ Iged 17. She was an orphan. She spoke to me of ber
brother's horrifie physical and emotionaJ abuse tbat led ber to take to the
streets. Sile told me that she had lost ber virginity to a man who ~~duped her"
(her term) inta having sex with him by telling ber that he would marry her.
He never did. She then looked at me innocently and uked "Do you think 1
will ever find someone to marry me DOW that 1 am no longer a virgin'?" She
tald me about 1 judge whom sile had met through ber many court appearances
(for minor felonies and custody) and who told ber that she would he wiUing
to pay for an operation to surgically restore ber hymen, since she couldn't
afford to do 50 berself(Joumai entry: July 27, 1999).

It may or may not be true that upper clus women enlISe in pre-marital sex more

easily tban women of other socioeconomic classes. What does appear meaningful is that

perceptions ofconsent are tied ta socioeconomic status via marriageability. Put differemly,

a woman who cao ensure that ber virginity will be restored before marriase or that her

• 143
• financiaI situation will shieId ber reputation, is seen to have no reason not to surrender herself.

While my aim is DOt to ascertain the veracity ofwomen's generalizations about classes,

ethnicities. or other groups, the link between socioeconomic status and virginity may be

indeed related to whether women can dord the cost of bymen-restoration operations. The

operation is estimated to oost tbousands of doUars.. which far excceds the tinanciaI capacities

of many women. The cost of the operation makes it prohibitive and out of reach for most

except a few select group ofwomen. Put differently, fear of society appears to he mitipted

by a woman' s social location. especially as it relates to ber socioeconomic status.

The value of virginity is supponed by gendered beliefs that it is the woman' s

responsibility to take care to protect her virginity against those who might take advantage of

her emotionality to make her lose hersel( and in ~ ber chance of heing marriageable.

• These beliefs denote an obvious theme ofwoman-blame, in that it is women who are to blame

for their sexuaI transgressions. A woman' s responsibility is to ~'save herself' for ber future

husband. Women are conferred much individual agency in consenting to sex which 1 shall

show in Chapter 7, al50 leads to them being blamed for the raPeS that tbey endure.

A man's responsibility is limited to marrying a woman foUowing loss of ber virginity.

While consent is referred to in individual terms that place the responsibility on women's

shouIders, ber consent is in reaIity perœived to be ûed to bis subsequent actïons-i.e. marryïng

ber or leavîng ber foUoWÎng sex-and what tbis may man for ber marriageability. Nowbere

is tbis observation better iIlustrated tban in Layai and Dbam' 5 reaction to SuIine's story,

presented in Cbapter 3, whicb descnbes a university student who wu kidnaped and raped by

ber cousin/fiancé. who later forced ber to marry hinl.

• 144

Ifit were that easy, every HUY would take bis fiancé and would do that. But
there is something. something that motivated him intemally.Itis either that
the reIationship between ber and him is bId and he loves ber a lot and he wants
to many ber; as they say, he would make ber lose herseIf [ber virginity] 50 that
she would not be able to marry anotber. Or, it is something to do with the
parents, they ue somehow C8Using problems (IIham, EW3).

L: Ifhe is ber (SuIine] fiancé ( ...), is it possible that she surrendered henelfto
him apinst ber will? Never belicve IllY woman who is ensased and surrenders
herselfbut claims that this happened apinst ber will. 1 wouldn't believe ber.
Maybe ifit happened by force, that's poSSIble. But ifhe marries ber after that
then sile belongs to him anyway (...). Never tbink that he nped ber by force.
It is with ber consent because probably sile knows that he is going to marry
ber afterwards.
SW: Ifshe Imows that he is going to marry herthen...
L: She surrenders herseIf: But if he didn't marry her afterwards tben you
know that he had raped ber by force (layai, EW 13).

The credibility ofSuIine and the veracity ofher story are taken to task by the faet that

she was engaged to ber cousin. The perception apparent in the excerpts is that Suline

• surrendered herselfto ber cousin/fiancé because she did not have to fear that he would leave

ber foDowing!eX. This beIief is echoed in official state policies. Article 522 ofthe Lebanese

Penal Code states that the charges against a persan who kidnaps another for the purposes of

marriage or rape, are dropped if the agressar marries the vietim (Qassim, 1999). It is

perhaps IlOt surprising then tbat sorne women interviewed for this study would closely tie the

woman's consent to the subsequent actions of the man/agressar involved.

ln sum, consent to !eX is perceived in comptex ways: On the one band, women are

seen to consent of their own will to sex and to be responsible for tbeir virginity and the

preservation of their reputation. On the other band, their consent is also perceived to he

shIped by a fear of the consequences. This consent is spoken ofin tenus of'·sunend~. This

• 145

surrender is a result of a woman' S over-emotional nature and the expectation that

heterosexuallove relations include a sexuaI element, but must ultimately lad to marriage.

Refusai to engage in !eX with someone that a woman loves is explained away as a fear ofthe

consequences, not as a woman's own cbo~ based on ber own desires. These consequences

range trom becoming a vietim of a "crime of honour", to loss of reputation through loss of

virginity, leading to becoming unmaniageable.

Because ofthe close link between fear of consequences and perceptions of consent.

women assumed to be less fearful ofthe consequences of their sexuaI involvements are less

Iikely to he perceived as rape vietims. such as in the case of women who are engaged to be

married. Here, the refusaJ to consent to sex is reduced to a syrnptom ofthe Cear of society.

which clearly renders improbable the idea that a woman may indeed refuse sex because she

• does not feel the desire for it. Considering the importance accorded to marriage within the

LebaneseIBeirut context, a woman who cao somehow be ftee of the negative consequences

ofhaving scx outside maniase is aImost always seen to be consenting to sex and not a viClim

of rape. ln the next section. 1 consider in more detail another exemple of the lin.k between

marriageability and the anticipated consequences of consent: the case of already

unmarriageable women.

3.2 'bIM ssip8 the ÇOQ'GIUCDCCI· The AK ofalrgdy u""""!&P'hlc womcn

If consent is perceived to be tied to far of consequences iD Senera!, and becoming

UDJDII'I'iageab specificaIIyt tben the coroIIary to tbis equation is that women who are a1ready

unmarriageable are perceived as having oothinS to lose and hence seen to easily consent to

sex. As mentioned in Chepter St there are IWO types of women who provide poignant

• 146
examples of this perception: women with disabilities and separatedldivorced women.

• Research condueted in Lebanon confinns society's disregard for women with

disabilities, and their minimal chances of getting married (Abu-Habib. 1998). These excerpts

relaya simiIar observation, linking tbis disreprd to constructions of consent:

Yes, we know a lot of cases [of men tryins to tue sexuaI advantage of
disabled women). She [a disabled woman] bas oever been out of the house,
and bas never gone out, there is usuaUy IOmethins missin& affection, she
doesn 't want the afFection of ber mother or the afFection of a brother to his
sister, a certain type of dèction. There are people who try to take advantage
of that (Sarnia, EWS).

1 went to the grassroots orpnization for people with disabilities where 1

volunteered durins my stay in Lebanon. 1 got into a discussion about gender
with the President and the Vice President of the organization. The VP asked
me what 1 was doins my research on. As 1 spoke, he began to grîn. The
woman president of the organization said to him 661 knaw what you're
thinking. Vou're thinking of Mouna's story". They then staned telling me
the story, which they don't believe, afa member of the orpnization who says

• she was raped as a dJild and then as an aduIt by members of. militia. She bas
also said that she was recently raped by a man whom me wu dating. 1 asked
them why tbey dido't believe her at which point 1 was informed that about
8oo/00f women with disabilities have a disregard for their bodies, believe tbat
they are DOt good enough for lDIJ'Iiaae, beIieve they are inadequate as women,
and that tbey have basically prostituted themselves excbanging sex for feeling
wanted or for an ounce of affection. Thus, Mauna's case was more likely to
be this than rape, 1 WIS told (Journal entry: July 8, 1999).

1 notice something that there is no attention paid to ber at aU [woman with a

disabiIity]. 1 man, that you fincl ber sitting on the side. Ifshe goes down the
street, you don't fecl!bat sile attraets anybody's attention, except with ber
disability, IlOt Iike an ordinary girl. They don't Me ber .. a girllike ail other
girls, 1 man guys. Thal's what 1 notice (Loubna, EW6).

kause ber [WOIDIII with • disabiIity] appearance is not perf~ feminine and
beautitùI, parents begin to know thet wbatever the)' do for their daughter, sile
won't be able to perform ber primary role which is marriage (Coordinator.

• 147
ApparentIy, a woman with a disability is unmarriageable because she is in a deformed

• body which society bas taught ber to hate. She draws no male attention the way an "ordïnary

girl" would, and because she bas no hopes of getting married she bas nothing to Jose by

surrendering berseIt: Consent to sex is the onIy way to gel male attention and affec:tion, which

as 1 showed in Chapter S, is quite important in that it is linked to the centrality ofmarriage.

Moreover, a womao with a disabiIity may even be perceived as promiscuous, exchanging &eX

for affection on a regular buis with dift"erent panners.

Perceptions of consent are tied not oRly to a woman's assumed individual desires for

affection, but more broadly to society's disregard for women with disabilities. When she

consentI, she is perceived to have done 50 beal1lse sile bas intemalizedsociety.sdisregard for

ber as a disabled woman. While these perceptions retlect a critical view of social relations at

the intersection ofdWability and gender, they nonetheless reinforce opPressive social relations

that define women's worth through their status as un/marriageable.

ln addition to rendering invisible a woman's penonal desires in consenting to !eX,

perceptions of disabled women' s sexuality have the potential of undennininS women's

credibility. While il may he true that sorne women with disabilities have learned to exchange

!eX for aftèction, what 1 find more interesting is that this belief in disabled women's need for

aftèction is used to cast doubts on the credibility of rape discl0Sl!re5. A disabled woman's

credibility is undermined by virtue of ber social location that bas construeted ber a priori as

unmarriageable, and hence as umapeable. A simiIar theme is apparent tram the data with

regards to divorcedlseparated women.

Simply put, a woman who is divorcedlseparated, is damaged goods because sile is no

• )48
• longer a vir~ sa she bas notbing ta lose by having sex.

A divorced woman is like a designer item that you buy from a second band
store. White she may have been of repute at sorne point in time, she is now
used goods (Maha, EWll).

It's a disaster [being separated). It's a disaster. Because the Mere faet that a
woman is divorced, she doesn't have a man, every guy wants to take a bite
from here, a bite from there. Nobody' 5 serious, that is, every guy who goes
out with a woman wants ta sleep with her, frankly, that is the truth. While
others may he too embarrassed ta say this, 1 am not embarrassed to say il. (...)
[My boss is] a very nice person, very very gentleman ( ...)Usually the bosses
don't leave a divorced woman Iike tbis. That's why 1 am putting up with the
situation. Okay, 50 my salary is not very high, but 1 tell myself, wherever 1 am
going ta go work, anybody will try ta have an atrair with me or ta have a date
with me (Josephine, EW 7).

1told (my mend who recounted the story of a woman in an abusive marriage]
"Why is she still putting up with him why doesn't she just leave bim?". ft's
like they say in the Lebanese expression --a man is a blessing even if he is a
piece ofcoal" (Iaughter] now 1 know what they Mean. (...) 1 Mean that when
1 leave the house, they all try ta get ta me [as a separated woman), ta sleep
with me not for any other reason, not because they Iike me, for example.
When thejackass [the man] is in the house nobody dares come near me. This
is what it must mean that "he is a blessing even if he is a piece of coat" . (...)
ln Lebanon, when they know that a woman left her husband, they think that
you' re waiting for sex. This is their mentality. You can' t change the
country' s mentality (Magida, EW 10).

The problem is that if a woman is divorced, all men will covet her. They try
to get to her, and if anyone says the opposite, tell him u no, you are lying".
Because in society's view, the divorced woman is an adulteress and the
problem in our society is that it is always the woman who is divorced, not the
man. The man is a saint no matter what he does! (priest, KI5).

The owner of the Internet café where 1 go to read my e-mail spoke to me at

length today about my thesis and about Lebanese society. He stated that if
women divorce or separate, they are seen as whores. He told me the story of
one ofhis divorced women clients who uses the Internet ti12 a.m. He said:
'·1 bel that when sile goes back home, people think she's been sleeping around
with a guy, meanwhile it's only her and 1 who know how she spent her

evening!" (Journal entry: July 23, 1999).


As seen fi'om the above excerpts, divorced and separated women are perceived to be

legitimate sexuaI prey. Having been married, it is assumed that they are no longer virgins and

hence are legitimate to advance sexuaUy. Indeed, the official sanctions against advancing

women sexually are lower for non-virgins: ln Anicle S12 of the Lebanese Penal Code, the

sentence for a man who committed rape against a virgin is higher than tbat for a similar rape

where the woman involved is not a virgin (Qassim, 1999).

In the above excerpts, marriase is seen ta provide protection for women fi'om the
semai advances of other men. However. a separatedldivorced woman's Joss of virginity

combined with loss of husband make her legitimate sexuaI prey. Implicit in tbis equation is

the idea that rape does not take place in marriage. a notion that is reinforced by state laws tbat

do not recognize marital rape.

• As wea a divorcedlseparated woman's social cIass is alIuded to as placing ber at more

risk ofbeing seen as legitirnate sexuaI prey. Divorced women may be placeci at the mercy of

potential employ~ resulting in choosing a lower paying job because of the nature of the

relationship with the employer. Once again, a woman' s social location in tenns of class

intersects with ber marital status to crate differing experiences with regards to how she is

perceived, in tbis case as more or less of. legitimate sexuaJ prey.

Furthennore. the excerpts poim to a relationship between sex and marital status. In

addition to being seen u legitimate sexual prey, divorcedlseparated women are themselves

usumed to be looking for !eX. As discussed in Cbapter S, sociaIIy acceptable expressions

of women' s sexuality are restrieted to the bounds of marriage. However, in the case of

separatedldivorced women, they are perceived to he '~aiting" for sa.. now that they no


longer have their usual male panner-i.e. husband. Ironically~ as Magida (EWI 0) notes~

during ber 14 year marriage ta an emotionally and physicaUy abusive husband~ !eX for ber

was a duty, an obligation that she begrudgingly engage<! in. Instead ofseeking to have sex

with other men DOW tbat her husband was gone~ her negative experienœs with ber husband

shut ber oft'to !eX completely.

This is the worst fonn ofabuse (sexuaI). This torture that 1endured for yean
1 put up with hint sleeping with me without me feeling anything. Ilost my
feelings. 1don't &el my body anymore. You know~ 1 became like a machine~
like a thing to be used. 1 stopped feeling. It is not a pleasure. (...) He
disgusted me.

In otTering Magida advice~ her neighbor told ber to see sex as a chore like any of ber other


My neighbor would say "Thînk of it as a duty. As a duty, think of it as if you

• have a chore of cleaning the 800rs before you sleep and don't say no because
tbis affects a lot the life of a man and woman'"

The importance plaœd on &eX in marriage is seen in the neighbor's advice. She wams Magida

that lack of sex in marriage cao greatly affect the life of the couple.

Hence., despite divorcedlseparated women's personal feelings about sex, the)' may be

Perceived to be consenting to sex and may be prone to sexuaI advances because of their

marital status. In this case~ women's consent to !eX is seen to be shaped Icss by ber personal

desire tban by ber marital status. Raving a1ready lost their viJ"sinity, the)' are seen to bave

nothing more to Iose, indeed, the)' are perceived to he in nced of sa because ofthe belief that

marriage unJeashes tbeir sexuaI appetite. 11is is DOt to say that SOlDe divorced, single or other

women may not in aetuaIity have ravenous sexuaI appetîtes. Wbat is important is tbat tbeir

• 151

marital status is perceived to he an imponant fàctor in explaining their consent to!eX. In tum,

this may shed seriaus doubts on their credibility should the)' ever disclose experiences of rape

or sexual harassrnent. Brietly staled.. a woman who is divorcedlseparated bas no reason to

fear society's consequences because she is already unmarriageable and hence.. unrapeable.

4. Cbap.er Su...a..,

ln this chapter, 1 illustrated the implicit and explicit links between consent and the

centrality of marriagelheterosexuallove relations in wornen's lives. 1 arped lhat women's

consent to sex is perceived in complex ways. First, in the case of marriageable wornen, they

are assumed to be responsible for protecting their own virginity and blamed for its loss. They

are seen ta consent at will~ yet their consent is constrained by the consequences that society

reserves for unwed non.virginal wornen.

• Secorxl in the case of a1ready unmarriageable women, consent ta sex is a1so complex.

They consent ta sex not because they truly desire to but because tbey have nothing to lose.

In a sense. they are consenting by default. While consent is referred to in terms that denote

individual desire-e.g. "sexual appetite" ··need for affection"...·the consent of wornen with

disabilities and separatedldivorced women is tied 10 their unmarriageability. They have no

reason to fear the consequences ofengaging in sex outside marriage because they are already


These assumptions reinforœ woman-bIame and render invisible rapes that occur within

the bounds ofromantic heterosexual involvemems. They lad to undermining the credibility

of already vulnerable women sbouId they aUege tape. Tbese include women who are

promised marriage and those who are a1ready perceived as wunarriageable. These women are

• 152

seen as having ROtbing to lose by consenting to sex and are in consequence less likely to he

perceived as vietims of rape.

Throughout this examination of consent, 1 explored how women's perceptions are

shapeel by elements of social location such as socioeconomic class, marital status and

disability. In the next chapter, 1 carry my argument funher by illustratins the role that these

elements play in shaping perceptions of rape.

• 153
• Copter7

PerceptioDs of npe

"He 'raped' ber is used 10 mean he made love 10 her(. ..jbecouse they're nol

1. IDtroduction

In the preceding chapter, 1 dernonsarated that whiIe discussions ofconsensua1 !eX may

reIy on indivicbl8Jized concepts such as "wiJr' and "emotions", a close examination ofthe data

reveals the impact of social relations. Perceptions of consensual sex appear to he strongly

shaped by the current construction of marriage in the Beiruti conteX! as weU as by beliefs

about the emotional nature ofwomen and the societal consequences of thm consent to pre-

marital sex. 1 also alluded to the link between the centrality of marriage and perceptions of

• rape. 1 noted the role that love and the promise of marriage play in concealing rapes that

couId occur in romantic heterosexual involvements, as weU as undermining the credibility of

women who disclose incidents of rape. 1 demonstrated how unmarriageability is closely tied

to the perception that some women, such as those who are disabled or divor~ consent to

sex as opposed to heing raped, despite disclosures to the contrary.

In tbis chapter, 1 illustrate in more depth the relationship between marriage, social

relations and perceptions of rape. Through a discussion of four themes &om the data

conceming wben an event is likely to be perceived as rape, 1 demonstrate how closely these

perceptions of rape are tied to the importance aœorded to marriage. Moreover, by presenting

a tifth theme trom the data that iIIustrates wbo is more likely to be perceived a vietim or a

rapist, 1 will demonstrate how closely these perceptions ret1ect current social relations.

• 154
Throughout this examinatiOll, 1 wiO argue that current perceptions of rape conceal same forms

• of rape by placinS the emphasis on others. and reinforce the image ofwomen as provokers

ofthe rapes lhat lhey endure.

1. Wb.' COUDU as rape!

Briefly stat~ an event is more Iikely to be perceived as rape if it involves the use of

physical coercion., ifit occurs between strangers or within an arranSed marriage, and/or ifit

involves a child vietim.

2.1 The Use ofpuysical CQCrcjQQ

As the foUowing excerpts illustrate, the use of physical coercion within a sexual

relationship leads to an event being more readily perceived as rape:

Life was created this way, Adam and Eve, bas always been Ibis way. But if

this [sex] happens by force, anyway, she will he disgusted. As much as she
loves the guy, he's taking something against her will (Anna, EWI).

Ifsomething ofthe son frape] bappened to me [referring to the film vignette],

as much as 1 love the guy, if it happened by force (...) 1 wouldn 't be able to
marry him after that (D~ EW 3).

L:(...)Never believe any woman who is engaged and surrenders herself but
claims that this happened against ber will. 1wouldn't believe her. Maybe if
il happened by f~ that's possible. But if he marries ber after that then sile
belonss to him anyway.
SW: What do you mean by "force"?
L: What do 1 man by "force"? For exampIe, about a month 8(10, 1 don't know
ifyou saw tbis on teIevision, they raped a woman in Sidon. He is 1 mechanic,
sile used to go bide and forth to see him, in the end he raped ber by force. By
force meaninS that he held ber ann5, meaninga man's force is stroDger
SW: Vou man physical force?
L: Yes. He raped ber and then he tied ber up and set tire to ber. This was in
aU the papen (Layai., EW 13).


SexuaI violence is mostly perpebated by men because he [sic] possesses more
force than a woman does. Sexuel violence requires force. Force overcomes
weakness (Sheikh, EW 13).

Notrong happens apin.st someone's will, unless of course by force, two or

three [agressors] (Samia. EW5).

[rape is] violent.. for example, after the sexual relation.. there are traces of
bruises and scratches, if for exemple he' s bit me here and bruised me there,
that's violence (Nil... LC4).

As indieated in the above excerpts trom aetivists, key informants and women not

involved in aetivi~ for U1 ad to be perœived as rape, it bas to constitute an extreme physical

violation, evident in visible bodiIy damage such as bRlÎses, scratches or blood. Apparent in

the excerpts is the gendered beliefthat men are physically stronger than women and that rape

requires the physical force neœssary to overcome women's refusai to engage in 5eX. These

perceptions of sexuaI aetivity are in sharp cantrast to the perceptions of consent that 1

discussed in Ch&pter 6. Despite the wornan's refusai in the film vignette, she is seen to have

consented to the man's semai advances partly because no physical force was used. Her

consent was seen to be a naturaJ consequence ofbeing in love.

References made to love and maniage are also apparent in the above excerpts. Once

&gain, the theme orthe absence or presence oflove and the ultimate consequence of maniage

are central in shaping beliefs about rape. In Chepter 6, 1discussed how women are seen to

be emotionaI and to surrender to sex because oftheir feelings of love.. but al50 because !bey

beIieve that maniage is the natural consequence of a loving sexual relationship. In contrast,

the dement offol'œ in a r8ationsbip appears to disrupt this equation between love, manilge

and ~ leading to an event being more likely to be perceived as rape.

• 156

A possible consequence ofthe association between rape and physical force is the over·

shadowing ofrapes that do not involve physical coercion. While some instances of raPe do

indeed involve physical force, an emphasis on such cases conceals rapes which occur through

non--physical intimidation, for example through threats or through the woman believing it to

be her marital duty to have sex. An exchange between Zeina (EW8) and Saima (EW9)

illustrates tbis point:

z: Ifhe's married to ber. i1's okay, he bas a right to rape ber. in the true sense
orthe word, because he bas the right. l1's bis right.
SW: Because he's her husband. What is the true sense of the word rape in
your opinion?
Z: For me, rape is anytIùng that the woman refuses but is obligated to do, even
if she is obligated...
S: She wiU get a beating
Z: Maybe she won't be physically obligated through a beating, maybe she May
be obligated through threats or she's obligated because it's her husband and

she has ta put up with it.

While Salma mers ta physical coercion ("a beating") as an enticement to engage in sex, Zeina
refers ta marital obligations as a possible source of coercion. As 1 demonstrated in chapters

5 and 6, !eX in marriage is an expected '6 chore", even if it is unwanted by the woman. Sex is

simply expected ta be an integral part ofmarriage and as indicated in previous chapters, there

are Iepi sanctions against a woman who does not meet this expectation. Put ditTerently, tbis

conjugal expectation is a fonn ofnon-physical coercion that conceals the existence of possible

raPe in marriage.

In addition to instances when a woman is œerced to engage in unwanted sex because

of marital obligation, there are other instances when rape occurs through use of non-physical

intimidation. My review of newspaper repons on violence against women in Beirut yielded

• 157

many pertinent staries that demonstrate the use ofnon-physical threats. In one article, a man

sexuallyassaulted bis wife's sister and ber daughter who were living under bis roof He

threatened bis sister-in-lawand ber daughter that ifthey resisted or disclosed, he would throw

them out of bis home (66AJ-asbgal aI..shaqa 6 sanawat Iimoutaham bil'ightisab", 1998). In

another article, Haddad (1998b) highlights the case of Umma, a live-in migrant domestic

worker who wu repeatedly raped by ber employer until she became pregnant and he threw

ber out his home. In this ~ he useeS bis authority as ber employer to coerce her ânto having

sex with mm. A third newspaper story again reveals the use of non-physical threats. ft

concemed a woman whose husband was away on a trip. She was raped over a period of many

months by a painter who was doing renavations in ber home. The article states that he had

entered her home in the middle of the night through a window; "she did not want to cause

a scandai 50 she surrendered to him" (Draqiblé, 1994, p. 5). In this case, her fear of

tamishing ber reputation in the &ce oftler neighbors prevented ber trom refusing the painter's


ln short, by focusinS on the use of physicaJ coercion., the subtler forms of coercion-

e.g. pressure put on women ta have !eX within marriage-are potentiaUy kept out ofview, and

might therefore not be chaUenged. Put ditferently, physical force might be Pel'ceived as the

only legitimate way that women can be raped-or ean be said to have been raped-anci that

physical force is the only example ofthe operation of power within sender relations aiming

ta control women' 5 sexuality.

• 158


As alluded to in the previous section, an event is Iikely to be Pel'ceived as rape if it

occurs between strangers. The foUowins excerpts illustrate this point:

Rape is when someone site doesn't know and me bas never seen accosts her
and wants to, tbis happens against ber will. It is done by force and he hurts
her; horrible thinss hap~ blood and such (~ EW 1).

He rapes them without knowing, 1 Mean. he doesn't know you and he just
rapes whomever comes bis way (Lamees, EW 2).

During a social outing. a new acquaintance tells me a story ofrape. It involves

a very attractive woman at the airpon. She is wearing a very shon skin. A
man cornes behind ber and rapes ber as sile bends down to pick up something.
The woman who was teUing me this story is a close fiiend of the victim' s
farnily (Journal entry: May 31. 1999).

Imagine if a woman is wearing a shon skin and she was crossing the street
and some guy came and raped her because of the way she's dressed, he isn't

• seen ta be guiIty, she seduced him. Is it forbidden to wear a shon skin? What
ifshe's dressed that way because she gets too hot' (Zeina, EW 8).

Two points emerge trom the above excerpts. First, stranger rape is sometimes

associated with the element of force, but this is not always the case. Seco~ the woman is

perceived to be Il fauIt or to have somehow provoked the rape, i.e. through her inappropriate

manner of dressa While it is diftiaalt to ascertain whether or not the airpon story bas become

part ofpublic Iore on rape, it is important to mention that this story is not recent. 1 have heard

it repeatedly sinœ my chiIdhood in Seirut. Indeed, it was somewhat of. surprise to hear the

story repeated &equentIy over the course of my stay. The airpon !tory is the ultimate stranser

tape scenario in which the rape is explained by placing the blame on the woman. The theme

of blame based on the woman's inappropriate dress is seen in other excapts:

• IS9
1went to the otliœs ofLCRVAW. 1 was having an infonnal chat with one of

• the volunteers when !he bepn to tell me about the case !he wu working on.
A woman wu beaten up at the police station durinS "interrogation" der she
had sone in to repon a rape. The volunteer exclaimed that she somewhat
understands what happens because of how the woman wu dressed. When 1
inquired further as to what she meant sile said: "1 wouldn't go dressed like her
to the police station. She looks like a prostitute, with ber short skirt. They're
not going to take ber seriously" (Journal entry: June 29, 1999).

A grown man, if you show him a skirt tbis shon (points to ber upper thigh].
will set sexually exc:ited, why are you causins this trouble [rape] for yourself?
(Anna, EW 1).

Biarne for [sexuaI] assault falls on two parties. First, society that bas no
œnsoring on fashion designers who create half-naked clotbing for women (...)
Second, the girl herself is to blame because she excites instincts with what
she's wearing which causes assault. There are many people who can control
themselves but some people cao't. 1 shouldn't provoke others. Thal is my
responsibility (Sheikh, KI 13).

Unlike perceptions of co~ references to love and marriase are absent in the above

• excerpts. As previously discussed, marriage and love are key elements in shaping perceptions

ofconsensual sexe For example, Lebanese law precludes trom the definition of rape, sexual

aetivity occurring between a husband and wife. In the absence of maniage and love within

stranger rape scenarios, sexual aetivity is more likely ta be perceived as rape. In such cases,

sexual aetivity is sometimes linked to physical coercion, but more often attributed to

provocation by the woman through her inappropriate manner of dress. Sexual aetivity is

spoken of in terms of "rape" not "consensual scx". While the woman is to blame for

provoking the attKk by ber attire~ she is nonetheless still considered ta have been a vietim of


• 160

2.3 'Nid tape

ln contrat to the blame and responsibility placed on the women's shoulders for

provoking rapes, children are perceived to be blameless. While my research did not directly

explore child rape, the foUowing excerpts show how heing a ehild vietim of rape implied

automatie blamelessness and perceptions tbat the event constituted rape:

1weill with my fiiend Z. and ber parents on an outing to a summer reson. As

ber dad drove through winding mountain roads, he began to inquire what my
thesis was about. Finding out about the topie, he exelaimed that only the
rapes of ehildren could be considered to be genuine lets of rape (Journal
entry: July 12, 1999).

There are no eneouraging reasons if someone assaults a small girl. This man
must be kiUed (...) This would be a lesson to others. Imprisonment is not
enough (Shei~ KI 13).

Except for rape that is abnorrnaL for example, an adult man raping a baby, for

example, 1consider this to he rape. Other than this, 1 think, that for a guy to
get to the point where he rapes a woman, she must have led him to this
somehow. Vou know, in any which way, she provoked him. Especially if
they love eaeh other (Lamees, EW2).

This [rape] happens a lot, a lot. Sorry, but the father is raping his daughters
(Josephine, EW 7).

1 think your research is quite important because your topie is 50 taboo here
and needs to be talked about. 1 have seen 50 many cases, for example, tbis
teenage boy was rapins bis younger 5ÏSter. We had to &Ct quicklyand find ber
a saCe place (internai Security Ofticer, KI16).

Let me tell you a story thet best expresses [sexuai violence). This is a girl
from the Nonh who is 13 years old. (...) Her father was (...) having il [sex]
witb bis daugbter, with the neighbor's daugbter, and with ber young siblings
(zahra, LC6).

• 161

There is alsa another case [of sexua1jzed violence] that is now under
investigation in court. A father raped his 14 year old daughter and she got
pregnant trom him (Rita., LeS).

1be above excerpts emanated ftom my requests to hear about stories of rape. Though

1was exploring SCXJl8tized violence against women, interviewees at LCRVAW and elsewhere

provided stories of child rape. In these stories, children are assigned blamelessness.

Blamelessness does not however imply that the sexuaI violation of children is readüy

acknowledged within Beiruti society, as illustrated by this journal entry:

A television documentary show on the "sexual exploitation of children" in

Lebanon was aired last night. This show was the topie of discussion at a
eommunity organization working with children and women vietims of
prostitutio~ that 1 frequented the clay foUowins the show's airing on a
Lebanese television station. The communily workers 1 met were incensed by
the comments of a key government official interviewcd during the show.
According to these worker~ the official arSUed that while there are 50 few
cases ofchild rape in Lebano~ that tbis must not be such a senous problem.

• This statement generated much criticism &om the show' s host who produced
police rePOrts documenting cases of child rape. Moreover, the community
workers 1 met with indicated that many children are still a&aid of disclosing
rape which helps aœount for the paucity of such known cases (Journal entry:
July 20, 1999).

Despite the official' 5 comments, the gravity of child rape is recognized in Lebanese law: a

persan who is guiIty ofraping a child, under 14 years of age is scntenced more severely than

someone who rapes an adult.

HeRce in examining what COURts as rape, the folloWÎnS cm he summed up about

situations involvinS children. Because children are innoœnt and above blame, they have no

pan in provo1dng an assauh. This mans that they were truly raped. In contrast, blame is

placed on women who are seen to provoke assaults.

• 162
ln reflecting on the perceived blamelessness of childr~ 1 find it useful to build on

• arguments made in Ibis and previous chapters. As discussed in Chapter S~ being too young

is considered a condition of unmarriageability. [n Chapter 6~ 1 iIIustrated that a/TeDdy

unrnarriageable women such as disabled women and divorcedlseparated women are less likely

to he considered victims of rape. In the case of children, 1 would argue that whiJe they may

he perceived as too young to be marriageable, they are nonetheless polenlia//y marriageable--

provided they adhere ta other conditions of marriageability--and hence have much to lose by

engaging in pre-marital sex-i.e. becoming non-virgins and hence unmarriageable. Therefore~

they are perceived to he victims of an act that has cost them much damage. An examination

of the Lebanese Penal Code confinns this observation. As previously noted~ sentences for

rapes where the victim is virginal and under 14 are higher than other rapes because the victims

are seen to have sutrered a great loss.

2.4 ArranSed marriases

Marital rape was identifiecl through my interviews and interactions. However~ as will

become clear in the following excerpts, marital rape is more likely to he perceived as a

possibility in QI1'anged marriages within which the element of love is assumed to be missing:

Let me tell you about the cases [of sexualized violence] that 1 believe to he
very ftequent. (...) Ta abbreviate, 1 cali them '~armc:hair husbands". An
armchair husband is the one who gelS told tbat "so and 50 is really wonderfur' ~
he takes an appointment with ber parents and he goes. They aUline up, he's
wearing bis new pair of shiny shoes, etc. Sile, the poor tbing, comes in, and
plays hosIess. They aU ogIe at her to see ifshe's good or Dot good., then she
gets married. This is where violence stans 1 believe, why wail tü she gets
married. No~ this is where it starts, beca" se they were already forced to marry
each other (Fitnat, Le7).

• 163

Tonight I was invited to dinner at a neighbor's house. There was a group of
us all in our thirties~ and 1 was asked what my thesis was about. 1 taId them
and the immediate !aCtion was that this happened onIy in the older generation
because 50 many ofthese rnarriages were arranged and hence not entered into
by mutual choice for love (Journal entry: May 29, 1999).

SexuaI violence isn't specifie ads ( ...) IfI don't want to have sex and someone
is forcing me then that' 5 seKUalized violence. (...) As we know, an important
aspect within marnage is!eX. Many times, there are couples who are very
companble in tenns of knowledge~ education., culture, socio-economic class,
but who are not compatible sexuaUy (...) You get a lot of problems then. For
example, she doesn't want to [have sex] and he does (Nila, LC4).

1 can't explain tbis ta yo~ but 1 hear about this, sexua1 [violence]. They are
married, of course not just a passing relation., but marriage. But there is no
compatibility. (...) She's al fault because "you are supposed to be compatible
in bed". You marry someone against your will, and you have to be
companble. For me~ tbis is the ugliest forms of violence, that she bas to be a
machine that just receives and she lives her whole life like tbis because she
can 't speak about it (Lamees~ EW 2).

Another one of my fiiends for example is a young 16 year old girl, Christian.
(.. ) This fiiend of mine used to tell me that he [husband]~ sorry~ used to sleep
with her in a very savage way, trom bebind for exarnple, and she would nan
away trom him (... )And ifshe refused to sleep with hi~ he would beat her.
(...) She got to a point wbere sile couldn't handle it anymore. She told him "1
don't love you. 1 don't want you. My parents manied me off against my will"
(Josephine, EW 7).

As evidenœd by these excerpts, unwanted sex in marriage is acknowledged as a fonn

of rape even though this is not the case in Lebanese law. This acknowledgment is not onJy

evident in excerpts trom LCRVAW volunteers who deal with violence against women on a

reguIar basis, but also in the accounts of other women. References are made to the savagery

and ugliness of these unwanted sexuaI relations, and to the expectation that women will be

no more than "receiving machines" to their husbands' sexual advances. Also seen in these

excerpts is the association of marital rape with sexuaI incompatibility between the partners.

• 164

This incompatibility is often attributed to the nature of the marriage. More specifically,

arranged marriages are seen to he hotbeds of semai incompatibility thet lead to rape. For

sorne, it is poSSIble that the very aet ofmanying someone io an arranged way is the beginning

of violence.

ln short, arranged marriages which are not seen to be entered ioto for love or by

mutual choice are more likely to he perceiveci as fertile ground for marital rape. 1 would

propose two possible reasons for tbis perception. First, as 1 argued earüer, consensual sex,

love and marri age are assumed to be inextricably linked; if one of those elements should go

missing-such as in arranged marriages--questions are raised not only about the legitimacy of

the sexual relationship, but also about whether it constitutes a consensual act or rape.

Second, while this is difticult ta ascertain, it is also possible that perceptions of

• arranged rnarriages as fertile grounds for rape reflect a societal change, namely the statistical

decrease in the prevalence ofarranged marriages across Lebanon (Chapter 4). This change

MaY have led to arranged rnarriages heing perceived as unacceptable, which in tum may have

led to the perception that they are more Iikely to involve rape, an unacceptable violation.

While arranged marriages may have their share of marital rape, rape may also OCQ1r

in maniages emanating fi'om love. Dy focusing on the violence of and in arranged marriages,

rapes that occur in marriages that were entered ioto for love are concealed. In a sense,

ammged marriages are scapegoated. Yet, as the stories of rnany women illustrate, violence

ofall forms cao occur in marriages that were entered mto for love. Magida's (EW 10) story

provides a poignant example.

Magida described to me her eight year dating relationship with her husband before

• 165

marryÎng him: "It wasn't set up. No. ft was love, it was Romeo and Juliette • He IiteraUy

used to stand underneath ber balcony and serenade ber. Inunediately following their wedding,

he began to he emotionally abusive. Magida save an example of tbis type of abuse which

occurred during her pregnancy. At that time, he constantly berated her for having moming

sickness~ he also refused to buy ber medications. Magida mentioned that he had been

physically violent with her on two occasions but did not want to give details of those

incidents. She described fcar for her sarety as one of the key consequences of living with his

emotional and occasional physical abuse during their founeen year marriage. This constant

state of fear created tension in their sex life. "1 hate sex because of him because of what 1

went through with him. It [sex] was more than torture to me". She described the harsh

consequences she suifered when she refused him sex:

• 1was teaching that Yalr and 1 had corrections to do. 1 had to give the grades
the next day. 1 was up tü 1:30, 2:00 a.m. 1 was correcting. ( ... ) He cornes in
and he feels Iike it [sex]. (...) 1 said no, 50 we had a 6gbt and he hit me with
the bible in my faœ and kicked me out of the room. 1 staned to sleep outside.
1 slept outside for a month and a hait: And ifI left the house, 1 didn't have the
key [he had taken it]. So, 1 had to wait for him on the stairs (... ) until he
would let me in.

While this story involves minimal physical violence and no forced penetratio~ Magida's

account demonstrates an obligation to have sex in a marriage that was entered ioto after an

eight yearromantic counship. Similarly, Josephine (EW 7) spoke to me about the physical,

emotional, verbal and financial abuse that she endured at the bands of ber husband when he

Ieft ber for another woman. As with Magida, sile desaibed tbeïr long counship and their nine

years of marriage as ~~sweeter tban honey". Indeed, their ftiends used to cali them the

• 166

FaiIing to listen to these wornen' s stories and to the stories of many more like them.

bides an imponant reaIity. Once again, the idea of love and marriage as necessary ingredients

in determining consent and as a way of erasing rape or the possibility of it is reinforced by

commonly held perceptions that only arranged marriages couId involve rape or violence.

3. The Blore likely victim

In addition to the conditions that inBuence what counts as rape, my data also provided

information about who is perceived to be a likely vietim. This therne speaks clearly to the

links between marriageability, perceptions ofrape, consent and social relations. Brietly stated,

women ftom certain disadvantaged sociaJ locations were more likely to he perceived as

vietirns of rape:

Look who they targeted [in the Sabra and Shatilla PaJestinian refugee camp

massacres in the early 80's]. These are disadvantaged people. 1 mean that
these are not Lebanese people. These are Palestinians who are poor, life bas
been very bard for them. they were kicked out of their country, 1 mean that
they're oppressed. (... )They wouldn't dare do ail tbis [rape and massacre] to
Lebanese people (Ilharn, EWJ).

In Taiwan, they are selIins girls for prostitution. In Russia., and these Russians
and Romamans that are coming here. (...) They are forcing them ioto
prostitution, they are taking away their passpons and depriving them oftheir
rights (...). 1 consider those far away countries that are far trom civilizatioo,
from society, have those problems, Afghanistan, India., Pakistan, Taiwan.
(...)We are lucky that we haven't gotten that far yet (Josephine, EW 7).

1 have seen a lot of cases of sexuaI harassment and rape against domestic
workers. It is very easy to do this. The domestic worker is considered to be
coming trom thin air. It is bard to rape someone whose mother and father and
relatives you know. But, a penon who bas no suppon and no one to <:are for
them and tbey are under your total control., it is much easier to anack them
(Lawyer/activist, KI9).

• 167

We don't have these cases [ofrape]. It is more frequent outside Seirut and
in regions where there is more poverty. The Christian religion forbids ail of
these matters (...), you see these matters more often in other religions. But
lbis doesn't Mean that it doesn't exist in Christianity (Priest, lOS).

1 round myself once in a group of Christian clergymen who consider that

violence doesn't happen for Christians. They refuse tbis idea totaUy, they say
tbat this only exists for Muslims ( ...) So, when 1 go see them, 1 take with me
stories ofChristian women only (Zoy&, LC2).

The above excerpts ilIustrate a link between rape and rural regions of Lebanon,

disadvantaged ethnicities or countries of origin, and Muslim sects. Women trom '~hose"

areas. ethnicities, countries or sects are more likely to be perceived as rape vietims. In tbis

perception, the phenomenon of othering is quite clear: Unlike the majority of the study's

sample which occupies privileged social locations, those other women who are more likeJy

to be viClims are "unliberated". "disadvantaged", "oppressed" and "have no suppon".

• The social relations embedded within the Beiruti context are clearly retlected and

reinforced by perceptions oflikely vietims. As discussed in previous chapters, there is a close

relationship made between religion and the cultural dichotomy of EastJWest. The

Westemized, outspoken Christian woman is perceived as assenive and strong. As previously

mentioned. she is more likely to be seen to consent to sex, because marriage is not her

ultimate goal or she is too outspoken and hence unmarriageable. In consequence, she is Jess

likeJy ta he seen as a potential rape vietin.. In sharp conuast, Muslim wornen and women

trom "uncivilized" COUDtries or Lebanese regions are assumed to he highly oppressed thus

more ükely to be considered as possible rape vietims. In essence, they are already assumed

to be vietims; conceiving them as vietims of yet another fonn of oppressio~ rape, is by no

means far-fetched .

• 168

This dichotomization is problematic for theoretical and praetical reasons First,

dichotomies that equate culture with religionlethnicity and oppressionlliberation are based on

the false belief that societies~ groups~ or cultures are homogenous and cao be separated into

neat pües, hberated on one side and oppressed on the other. Second, while it is imPOnant to

acknowledge the rapes that are beïng perpetrated against women ftom disadvantaged social

locations.. such perceptions bestow a false sense of immunity ftom violence on women ftom

seemingly unmarginalized groups, such as Christian women. In tum., the rapes that they may

endure are concealed and their credibility as POtential or aetual rape vietims is greatly

undermined~ creating ramifications for organizations working on violence against women in


In fact. within the above excerpts. it is ooly Zoya (Le 1), the coordinator of

LCR V AW. who challenges perceptions of likely vietims as she speaks of religion. She

acknowledges that Christian women are less likely to be considered vietims of rape and she

challenges this perception in her everyday work as a member of LeRVAW. Indeed~

cha1lenging perceptions oflikely vietims, especially in tenns of religion, is perhaps one of the

contributions of aetivists to changing current perceptions of rape in Beiruti society.

4. Tbe more likely rapist

Another theme centres on who is more Iikely to he perceived as a rapist. Analogous

to the above discussion, men ftom specific marginalized social locations are more likely to he

plaœd in that role. For example Syrians, who are a loathed ethnic group, are more likely to

be acaased of sexual misccnduct. A story tbat appeared in a local newspaper provides a clear

example. An adolescent girl was raped in a village in Lebanon; the rapist was assumed to he

• 169

Syrian Iaborer by the village people, although no one had seen him and the girl herself was not

sure ofhis identity (KhaIil~ 1998). In consequence, the villagers formed a mob and attacked

other Syrian Iaborers. Evident in this example of racism is the generalization of loatbing from

one individual to an entire ethnic group. The foUowing excerpts provide similar examples

ofthe greater likelihood of men from marginalized social locations heing considered rapists.

1 met with Ghada (EW 12) in an infonnal setling a few weeks after she had
been interviewed by me. We began to talk about how much we loved the
ocean and how we liked walking by the ocean-shore. We then began
complaining about being sexualIy harassed when we walked on a eenain strip
of the ocean-front in Reirut. She exclaimed "Those Syrians aren't letting us
have a.~y peaee ofmind. They just don't leave a girl alone (JournaJ entry:
July 26, ! 999).

The SUy who üves outside Beirut and is fanning ail day lis more likely to rape
because he] bas a stronger sexual and physical capacity than the guy who is
always al home (Priest, KIS).

• 1 always say that these tbings [sexualized violence] come from the class that
has more money (Mervat, EW4).

Those people probably have the most violence, for example, those who don't
have a good job, a janitor, or a street vendor, those people are scarier (...) But
a persan who is educated, attractive, bas no (sexual] complexes, bas money,
doesn't have as much violence as those people who are coming from an
environment~ &om the villages where they haven't seen much (Anna. EWl).

Again, there appears to be a link between elements of social location such as

socioeconomic status, ethnicity and regional origins, and the likelihood ofbeing perceived as

a rapist. The excerpts presented above al50 draw links between social relations based on

regional dift"erenœs and the Iikelihood that a man would be more likely accused of rape. The

perception that rape requires physical force leads to the conclusion that men trom rural

regions, typicaUy fanner~ are more likely to be rapists. Apparent in the excerpts is the

• 170
equation of~~complexesn ('ouad). a word that in coUoquiai Arabic more often than not carries

• sexual connotations. with perceptions of the sexually repressed e'unliberated") men and

women in viDages. These perceptions, coupled with perceptions of the "unliberated" woman

living in regions outside Beirut. are once again reOective of the dichotomy of

hberatedloppressed wbich potentially bides the rapes that occur within Beirut. by and against

Beiruti people.

Moreover. the above excerpts aise draw links between socioeconomic status/social

class and the propensity towards rape and violence. Within the excerpts. men trom a

disadvantaged socioeconomie status are perceived as more dangerous than their educated.

weU-otfcounterparts. Once again, such a perception retlects the predominantly middle-class

composition of the study's sample. While aise making a Iink between socioeconomic status

and perceptions oflikely rapists. perhaps not coincidentally. only Mervat (EW4) provides a

divergent opinion. Mervat, herseIf ofworking class background. rejects notions of the violent

working class and instead places the blame on men tram the aftluent classes; after ail. men

trom an aft)uent social class are seen ta be more guilty of sexual crimes because they have the

wealth and intluence necessary to coyer their crimes. Whether blaming men iTom the aftluent

classes or those who are socioeconomicaUy disadvantaged, these perceptions echo quite

clearly, the tense class relations discussed in previous chapters.

[t is not within the possibility nor intention of tbis study to produce incidence or

prevalence rates that would draw a profile of the typical rapist. What is perhaps more

tàscinating is the &ct that links are quite clearly made between perceptions of rape and social

relations specifie to the BeiNti context. These perceptions of the likely rapist reinforce oost•

• 171

classist and regionalist beliefs about rape, which in tum, may render invisible rapes that are

undertaken by men trom unmarginalized social groups, or men who live in Beirut.

Building on the findings presented in previous chapters, 1 would propose that the

perception of Syrian men and men trom disadvantaged socioeconomic classes as more likely

to be rapists is tied to their unsuitability as marriage panners. As illustrated in Chapter 5, this

perception is shaped by contemporary class and ethnic social relations within the

BeirutiILebanese conteX!. The newspaper &nicle about the village rape, coupled with the

excerpts presented in tbis section point once again to the links drawn between gender,

socioeconomic status. ethnicity and conditions of the aœeptability of a marriage union.

Because the marriageability ofa man is highly determined by bis ethnicity and socioeconomic

status. he is more likely to be perceived as a rapist should he occupy an undesirable social

• localionl7 .

ln the Beiruti context, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and geographic origins appear

to he the key clements shaping perceptions of likely rapists. Interestingly, lhis tinding might

be a direct reftection of the composition ofthis study's sample. More specifically, perceptions

oflikely rapists as rural or socioec:onomical1y disadvantaged men was anived at relying on the

input of a predominantly urban and middle.class sample existing in the class segregated

environment of Beiruti society. Moreover, while this study's sample is quite ethnically

diverse, rnarsinalized ethnicities are IlOt overwhelmingly present in the sample. A sample with


Il is imponant to mention that similar observations have been amply documented in the
United States regarding the myth that Black men are more Iikely to he rapists (Hill Collins,

1990; hooks, 1981).

• more members of marginalized ethnicities might have produced findings which concur with

those presented in dUs section about Iikely rapists. However, 1 would hypothesize that these

findings would add to the complexity of perceptions because they would be ftom the

perspective of those more ükely to be accused of rape. In other words, while those ftom

diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities and geographic origins might coneur about

who is more likely to be perceived as a likely rapist, the findings presented in this section

provide ooly one acœss point to this ~ception: the vieWPOint of a predominantly privileged


5. Ch. paer summ.ry

ln this chapter, 1 argued that as with perceptions of consensual sex, the relationship

between marnage, social relations and perceptions of rape is quite evident in the data. In

• iIlustrating my argument, 1 presented four thernes that figure prominently in perceptions of

rape. A sexual relationship involving the use of physical coercion is without hesitation

perceived as rape. Similarly, a situation involving a child vietim or a stranger is deemed to

he rape. Within marriage, sexuaI relations are more likely to be perceived as rape if occurring

in amnged unions. Moreover, 1 presented two thernes iIIustrating that women and men from

certain social locations are more likely to be considered rape vietims or rapists, respec:tively.

Throushout these themes, two aspects became apparent. First, an element ofblame
is placecl squarely on women' s shoulders for the rapes that they endure. Seeond't cunent

perceptions ofrape tend to minimize or bide the existence of other fonns of rape such as those

occurring within the home, within rnarriages entered into for love, against women &om

seemingly unmarginalized social locations and by men tram those sune locations.

• 173


Key findings:
Implications for tbeory, researcb and pnctice

1. Introduction

ln tbis dissenatio~ 1 argued that perceptions of rape are closely tied to the social

relations embedded within contemporary Beiruti conteX!. In demonstrating tbis relationship.

1 focused on the construction of marriage and marriageability. In shon. 1 argued that an

understanding of rape perceptions is best achieved through an examination of the social

relations that currently shape what counts as an acceptable heterosexual relationship and who

is considered to he an appropriate panner.

ln illustrating my argument. 1 relied on interviews with key infonnants. women not

fonnally involved in aetivism., and volunteers of the Lehanese Councü to Resist Violence

against Women. 1aIso engaged in panicipant observation and reviewed a broad spectrum of

newspaper anicles from three Lebanese dailies.

To recap. in Chapter 5, 1 illustrated how marriage is constructed as a central part of

a woman' s Iife. and how this centrality is enforced through various sources of pressure.

Moreover. 1demonstrated how the acceptability of marriage and marriage panners is closely

regulated by oppressive social relations such as sectarianism, heterosexism and racîsm. The

relationship between social relations and the construction of marriage leads to IWO

consequences: First, ooly beterosexual. întra-faith, intra-class and intra-raciallethnic

relationships are deemed acceptable; second. there are conditions such u being the right age,

• 174

being a virgin or beïng able-bodied that determine a wornan' s marriageability.

In Chapter 6, 1 pushed my argument funher by iIIustrating how Perceptions of

consensual sex are strongly shaped by the current construction ofmarriage and marriageability

within the BeiJuti context. 1 demonstrated that perceptions of what counts as consent to sex

are not 50 much determined by a woman's perceived individual desire but by two elements

that closely ret1ect and are reinforced by social relations within the broader Beiruti context:

a woman' s perceived unlmarriageability and the imponance accorded to marriage.

Throughout this discussion 1 pointed to the equation of consensuality with heterosexuallove,

assumptions about the over-emotional nature of women and consequences of sexual consent.

More specifica1ly, 1 demonstrated how these perceptions surrounding what constitutes

consensual sex undennine the credibility of women who disclose incidents of unwanted !eX.

• ln Chapter 7, 1 tumed my attention to perceptions ofrape by demonstrating he. w what

counts as rape is also shaped by social relations, mediated through the imponance placecl on

marriage and marriageability. Far from being shaped by the nature of the sexuaI aet itself.

perceptions of rape are shaped by the following aspects: the acquaintanceship between the

aetors involved; whether an incident involved a child~ and whether the incident œcurred

within the bounds ofan arranged maniage. In addition, perceptions of rape are also strongly

inf1uenced by whether the sexuaI aet involved the use of physical coercio~ the only element

to emerge from the data that focuses on the &Ct itself AlI four thernes ret1ect the

understanding tbat a heterosexual sexuaI relationship entered into for love with sociaUy

acceptable panners is less likely to be perceived as rape than a simiJar relationship between

strangers, involving a child, or occurring within an ananged marriage. Throughout that

• 175

chapter, 1 pointed to the perception of women as provokers of rape and to the potential

concealment ofsorne instances of rape, such as rapes occurring in marriages entered into for


As 1developed my thesïs, 1connected themes trom my findings to the broader social

context as seen in law~ state practices and religious discourses. For example, 1demonstrated

how religious discourses about the importance of sex in marriage contributed to the

constNction ofsec as a natural pan of marital relations. ln consequence, sex within marriage

was perceived to he consensual. Another example is the citizenship law that penalize

Lebanese women for marrying a foreigner, thereby funher reinforcing the unacceptability of

inter-ethniclracial marriages.

Three key findings emerge nom this study: first, current constructions of women' s

• agency reinforce woman-blame for rape; second, social relations do indeed shape

constructions of rape~ finally, the line between sex and rape is fluid and changeable. ln the

remainder of tbis chapter, 1 discuss these key tindings and highlight what each entails for

theory, practice and research.

2. Coaceptioa. of.omen'. a.ency

Apparent throughout the findings is the theme of woman-blame: women are

responsible for preserving their virginity until marriage; they are responsible for being wary

of men who try to take advantage of them; and women are al50 responsible for provoking

rapes. This prevalent theme of woman-blame points to ïndividualized conceptions of

women' 5 agency: If a woman wants to surrender to !eX, then il is ber decision to do 50;

similarly, if il is acknowledged that a woman bas been the vietim of a rape, then it is her

• 176
• provocation that made the attack possible.

Yet conceptions ofwomen's agency in consenting to sex are not solely shaped by her

individual desires. As seen in Chapter 5, perceptions ofa wornan's consent are shaped by

beliefs about women' S over-emotional nature, the imponance accorded to heterosexual

romantic involvements and ultimately maniage, and by a woman' s perceived

unlmarriageabiJity. All ofthese &etors point quite clearly to the impact of social relations on

women's agency.

For example, women with disabilities, who are construeted as unmarriageable, thereby

having nothing to lose by consenting to ~ are perceived ta he consenting of their own ftee

will. They are said ta choose to seek affection in the arms of a man who will not marry them,

because no other options are available to them. Yet, tbis same perception paradoxically

• cames the awareness that women with disabilities are marginalized in society. Put difFerently,

individualized conceptions of women' s agency in consenting to sex (she surrenders because

she has notbing to lose) are accompanied with an implicit and sometimes explicit

understanding of social relations that limit the options of sorne women by deeming them

unmarriaseable. Indeed, women's refusais to consent to sex are explained away by references

to the constr8Ùlts plaœd by society on women's sexuality: She refuses not because she as an

individual doesn't want to have !eX, but beca"5e me is scared ofsociety, orthe consequences

of 10sÎng virginity, ofbecoming unmarriageable.

In sho~ apparent within the findings is the recognition of the social constraints placed

on women and on their sexuality, oonetheless tbere is a relianœ on individualizecj conceptions

of wornen' s agency in speaking of consent to!eX. These individualized constructions are

• 177
• often translated ioto woman-blame in that they render invisible or secondary any recognition

of the impact of social relations on women ~ s agency. This conception of women~s agency

cames with it important implications for theory~ practiee and researeh.

2. 1 Implications for tbeory

As mentioned in Chapter 1~ feminist theories of rape have sought to challenge the

individualization of the problem of rape by examining the links to gendered social relations.

Indeed~ Arabie feminists sueh as Memissi (1996) and Sabbagh (1996) have maintained that

due to economic and other reasons, the family is the basic social unit in Arabic societies. This

study' s findings contirm the necessity of considering perceptions of rape in light of the

imponanee aecorded to the family and to marriage; the line that separates rape trom

consensual sex is regulated by the construction of aeceptability of partners and relationsbips.

• Henee, in theorizing rnpe within Arabie soeieties sueh as Beirut, it is important to

consider the imponance accorded to the selfin relation to others. Coneretely, tbis means that

consensual sex or rape cannat he conceived of solely in tenns of a woman' s ehoiee about her

body. For even when perceptions of rape and eonsensual sex arrived at in tbis study hold

within them references to individualized notions of desire, such as ~~wiU" or ~'surrender", they

also reveal implieit and often explieit references to the importance accorded to the self in

relation to others-i.e. marriage and marriageability.

• 178
• 2.2 Implications for p(Jetjçe

Prevention and awareness-raising campaigns in Canada and the United States have

adopted individualized constructions of rape that locate a woman's consent or refusai to

engage in sex in her own desires and wishes: "when a woman says no, she means no".

Intervention eft"orts have focused on teaching women to be more assertive, to leam to say no,

to leam to make and respect their own ehoices about their sexuality and their own bodies.

aasect on the findings of tbis study, sueh a strategy would be less than effective in contexts

sueh as ~ where an individual woman is defined in relation to others wherein her value

is best understood as a function ofher marriageability. Attempting to show why her sexuality

needs to be defined in relation only to herself as an individualloses sight of the economie,

social, legal and other consequences whieh tbis may entail and for which feminist praetice in

• Lebanon is still iII-equipped to handle. As Sabbagh (1996) 5UGGested, before women in

Arabie societies are told to become individuals, not extensions of their own families, the

rnaterial conditions--e.g. education, employment, etc.-- that suppon their individuality need

to be present. Moreover, as Joseph (1993) remarkecl. heing an individual as defined in

Western thought is not neœssarily the only healthy mode ofexistence.

Ofpivotal importance in practice is to steer away trom ehallenging the importance of

marriage. While 1 may not personally believe that marriage shouId be accorded sueh an

~ 1 would argue tbat ehallenging its centrality would simply miss the purpose that

marriage and belonging to a family serve in Arabie societies sueh as Beïrut. Whether in

individual counseling or in aetivist-Ied prevention and awareness-raising campaigns, a more

relevant praetice strategy would be to build on women's awareness of the social constraints

• 179

on their sexuality and the imponance accorded to marriage.

As iUustrated throughout tbis dissenatio~ while aware ofthese constraïnts. women

are not led to challenge woman-blame but to reinforce il. Building on their awareness of

social constraints~ future efforts could focus on painting to the prevalent tberne of woman-

blame. funhermore, a beneficial practice strategy would explore marriage not in view of

challenging its imponance~ but with the aim of challenging the conditions of acceptability and

myths that surround tbis form ofrelationsbip. For example, in challenging citizenship Iaws

by painting to their implicit ethnocentrism.. the current construction of marriage as acceptable

only ifil falls within intra-ethnic lines would he challenged. In consequence~ tbis could lead

to challenging the curreot construction of sorne men as unmarriageable because of their

ethnicity. In the long run, such a challenge might lead ta minimizing perceptions of men ftom

• marginalized ethnicities as likely rapists. Moreover.. il would he imponant to challenge the

myths that surround marriage, for example, that marriage entered into for love is immune trom


2.3 Implications for wnrçb

In divergence ftom previous research discussed in Chapter l, it is not the woman' s

actions that are 50 much the fOQlS ofattention in determining the line between consensual sex

and rape, but the man's subsequent actions, namely marrying ber or not. Once agai~

women's agency is seen to he shaped by the emphasis placed las on the individual and more

on the family as the basic social unit. Simply put, if the consequence of the semai aet is

marnage, il is less likely to he pel'ceÎved as rape, regardless ofa woman's individual desires

in the matter.

• 180
• In terms of researc~ it would he important to examine if marriage and belonging to

a larger famiIy are important aspects ofnon-heterosexual existence in Beiruti society, and how

these rnay contribute to shaping rape perceptions. Apart from discussing homophobia and

heterosexism within Beiruti society in Chapter S, this dissertation bas not dealt with other

aspects of non-heterosexual existence in Lebanon. In addition, as mentioned in Chapter 3,

the study's sample was homogenous in tems of sexual orientation. with most women

referring to male panners.

Future research could attempt to explore raPe in the accounts of lesbians. Although

quite taboo and largely invisible, lesbianisrn thrives in Lebanon 21 . Thus, it would he

worthwhiJe exploring how this challenge to the centrality of marriage manifests itself in rape

perception held by women who may on the surface he potentially maniageable, but who rnight

• refuse this option for themselves. Put ditTerently, such future research endeavors would

explore whether perceptions of consent and refusai for lesbians are shaped 50 strongly by

constructions ofmarriage and marriageability, or whether they would be more likely to be

located in individualized conceptions of sexuality. Such research would add greater

complexity to the argument advanced in tbis dissenation tying perceptions of rape and

consensual sex to the centrality of marriage.


The creation of a recent chat Website (www.lesbanon.com) attests ta the existence of an

active lesbian presence in Lebanon.


3. Impact 01 social retations

As detailed in the introductory chapters of tbis dissertation.. tbis study was not

designed with the intention of producing generalizable ditFerences about rape perceptions

based on factors such as religion, class or ethnicity. For example, nowhere have 1 proposed

that Muslim women hold difFering rape perceptions than Christian women. Instead, this study

aimed to undemand how perceptions of rape ret1eet social relations at the intersection of

various elements of social location within the Beiruti context. In tbis regard, the findings

clearly point to the sexis~ racis~ classis~ sectarianis~ abelism, and heterosexism that

shape these perceptions.

A clear illustration ofthis finding is the perception that Muslim women are more likely

to be rape vie:tims than their Christian counterparts. Whether or not the prevalence rates are

• in faet higher for Muslim women is not the issue. Instead, what is imponant is to note how

a history of sectarianism, sexisrn and racism connected to the cultural dichotomy of EastIWest

plays itselfout in constructing sorne groups ofwomen as more oppressed, more marriageable

and hence more likely to be seen as rape victims.

Another example of the impact of social relations on perceptions of rape concems

dislability. This study bas IlOt proposed that women with disabilities perceive rape in ditrerent

ways than able-bodied women. Instead, as apparent in the findings, the sexism and abelism

inherent in Beiruti social relations construet women with disabilities as unmarriageable. In

consequence, due to the close relationship forged between sex and marriage, their claims of

having been raped are likely to be disregarded because they are perceived to have nothing to

lose in "surrendering" to sex-i.e. they are already unmarriageable.

• 182

A final example ofthe impact of social relations on perceptions ofrape is the operation

ofracism and classism in construeting some men-e.g. Syrians-- as more likely than otllers to

be rapists. This finding echoes the few empirical studies cited in Chapter 1 that indicate that

perceptions of rape and rapists are strongly shaped by race relations in any particular social

context (e.g. Giuffie Il. Willi~ 1994; Wyatt~ 1992).

ln short. while no genertizable differenœs can be g1eaned trom tbis study the findings

clearly point to the impact of social relations at the intersection of race~ clas~ gender and

religion~ among others~ on shaping Perceptions of rape; this finding holds imponant

implications for theory, praetice and research.

3. 1 Implications for tbeocy

This key finding bears three implications for theory. First, this study iIIustrates quite

• clearly that perceptions of rape are not solely gendered in nature. Indeed, perceptions are

equally shape<! by social relations that cut across class, ethnic and other lines. While this

finding is about perceptions of rape, it nonetheless holds a theoretical implication for

constructions of this social issue: In order to achieve greater complexity in theorizing

constructions of rape~ which are partly composed of perceptions, we need to rely on an

analysis that maves beyond a single focus on gender. In this regard, the study's findings

contn'bute to concretizing intersectional analyses of rape (e.g. Brand, 1993; hooks, 1981; Hill

Collins, 1990) and theoretical diso'ssjons ofwomen's sexuality, advanced by Arabic feminists

(e.g. Memiss~ 1996; Sabba~ 1996).

SeconcL in theorizing women' s lives within Arabie societi~ as feminist~ we need to

be aware of our own tendency to universalize and homogenize experiences. Writings by

• 183
• Arabie ferninists are most often devoid ofany recognition of the differences among women,

save along sectarian fines-Tucker (1993), Mernissi's (1996) and Al-Misri's (1989) work is

an exception. As this study illustrates.. a woman's social location a10Dg dislability fines shapes

perceptions of ber marriageability, which in tum impact on whetber she is likely to he

perceived as a rape vietim. Moreover, the increase in migrant domestic workers within Arabie

societies further highlights the imponance of examinîng ethnie/race relations as another

contextual aspect of the relationships among women, and their relationship to the broader

aspects oftheir context--e.g. legislation. police treatment, tabor force participation, child care,

etc. Put ditTerently, our theoretical work within Arabic eontexts needs to strive for a greater

understanding of the diversity of women's everyday lives and what this may Mean for

constructions of social pbenomena such as rape.

• FinaUy, as discussed in Chapter 2. perceptions of women and of their sexuality are

heavily impacted upon by the histories of colonialism in Arabic societies (Hellal, 1997;

Mehdid, 1993). This theoretical assertion is lent credibility in the findings of this study. As

with other Arabie societies.. early interaction with the French in Lebanon shaped sectarian

relations along culturallines (ArablMuslim., French/Christian) thereby reinforcing not ooly

sectarianism in itsetf. but also creating ditTerentiated constructions of womanhood a10ng

sectarian tines. These constructions define sorne groups of women as more oppressed than

others, and in consequence, as more credible potential rape vietims.

There is currentIy a large body of schoIarship in the social sciences, sorne of it feminist,

that critiques such cultural dichotomies (e.g. Hamilton, 1994; Nuayan. 1997; Pet. 1993;

Said., 1978, 19(3). Yet. as feminists working in Western contexts, we still sometimes fall prey

• 184
to reproducing such dichotomies. To reiterate previously cited critiques~ these dichotomies

• assume the existence of homogenous social groups while negating or rendering invisible any

in-group ditrerences. Moreover, such dichotomies divide the world into two group,

traditional and modem. relegating the fonner to a static, changeless existence, deemed to be

of less intrinsic value than the "modern" world. Cultura1lreligious dichotomies are

problematic for the issue of rape. As feminists, we must endeavor to challenge 50ch

dichotomies if we are ta acknowledge tbat culturaVreligious belonging does not in and of itself

provide sorne groups of women with immunity from rape.

3.2 Implications for Dractice

This study's findings also bear two implications for praetice. First, future aetivist-Ied

awareness-raising campaigns need to focus on dispelling the myths about likely rapists and

• likely vietims-see the Pamphlet 1 created in Appendix C for an example. Assumptions that

rape happens ooly to women tram disadvantaged social locations or is ooly perpetrated by

men trom those sante locations need to be challenged. Moreover, future aetivist etrons need

to address not ooly the sexism inherem in the treatment of rape and rape vietims, but also the

racism. classism, abelism, sectarianis~ and other forms ofoppression, embedded within tbis


In addition to the above-mentioned myth-dispelling awareness-raising campaigns,

future aetivism on rape could be undertaken on two fronts. Fir~ aetivists could challenge

laws that reinforce ethnoœntrism and scc:tarianism such as citizenship and marriage laws that

have a direct bearing on perceptions of ripe. Current Iegai aetivism is not focused on such

changes, but mosdy on personal sratus Iaws that tooch women directly-e.g. custody, divorce,

• 185
• etc.

Second, newly-nascem women' S organizations dealing with the issue of violence

against women could explore how their own practices possibly reinforce sexis~ classis~

heterosexisra sectarianism. racism or abelism by limiting their accessibility to groups of

women and not others. At several points in the empirical chapters of tbis dissertatio~ 1

high1ighted examples of aetivists challenging commonly held perceptions, such as that a

married woman's only suppon need he her husband. However, there a1so appear to be

instances where aetivists reinforced common perceptions, such as ambivalent views about

homosexuality or women' s autonomy--i.e. asseniveness and its impact on marriageability.

1 make these observations not to undermine aetivist etfons. As a panicipant observer,

1 witnessed firsthand the daily struggles that aetivists underwent in conftonting violence

• against women. However, aetivism does not occur in a vacuum: As 1have argued throughout

this dissenation., aetivism, much Iike perceptions of rape, is a produet of its own socia-

political context. As such, aetivism is bound to he imbued with the oppressive social relations

that characterize Beiruti society. Nonetheless, tbis need not go unchallenged. In tbis regard,

an imponant practice suategy would be for aetivists to work in solidarity on specifie projects

with other community groups orpnizing around issues such as sectarianism or abelis~ as ail

of these issues appear to be strongly interconnected in 5haping perceptions of rape. An

exarnple of such collaboration is already provided by the burgeoning alliance between

LCRVAW and the Lebanese Handicapped Union, a grassroots organization working on the

right5 of people with disabilities.

• 186
• 3.3 Implications for researçh

As apparent from the findings ofthis study, research endeavors that focus so/ely on

individuaVsituational factors fail to account for the more complex nature of rape perceptions.

Moreover, research that regards class, gender, religion and race as "individual identity

variables" is problematic for two reasons. First, as discussed in Chapter 2 and as iIIustrated

in this study, constructions of class, race and gender as identity variables limit our

understanding of how these elements refer to a location within a broader socio-political

contex!. Second, these constructions reûûorce existing stereotypes and generalizations about

social groups.

On the contrary, this study's findings demonstrate that being Muslim or Lebanese or

university-educated do noi: in and of themselves imply ditTerences in rape perceptions.

• However, the social relations operating throughout Beiruti society at the intersection of

elements of social location such as religjo~ ethnicity or socioeconomic status do contribute

to ditTerentiai perceptions of rape.

Based on the study' s findings, future research endeavors could examine the impact of

other aspects of the socio-political context on perceptions of rape. For example, a future

research question could entail examining the impact of migration on rape perceptions. The

dynamics referred to in Chapter 4 between those who have lived ail oftheir lives in Lebanon

and migrants who have returned to Lebanon after years of living in foreign contexts were not

amply explored in the present study. Vet, our knowledge to date indicates that migration

couId he an imponant factor in shaping perceptions of raPe. For example, knowledge of rape

laws in contexts other than Lebanon may lead to developing ditTerentiai perceptions of cape.

• Knowledge of rape laws that do not differentiate between virginal and non-virginal victims

may influence returning migrants to dissociate virginity trom rape in their perceptions of tbis

issue. In tbis case, 1 am not advancing the assumption that "Westemizedn women have

ditTering perceptions than their "Eastem counterpans because they have forsaken

"traditions"; instead, 1would propose that the experience of migratio~ referred to by authors
such as Smith (1997) as a ""rupture in ways of seeing everyday issues, could also have an

impact on shaping differential perceptions of rape.

ln the introductory chapters of tbis dissertatio~ 1 bighlighted the importance ofthe

civil war in reshaping gender relations and alluded to a possible impact on rape perceptions.

However, the data did not support such a conjecture. The war did lead to increased migration

and to a disintegration of the family unit, and as Arabie feminists have argued, both these

aspects have led to changes in gender relations. However, my study lacks the empirical

ground to forge a link between these socletal changes and the impact they MaY have had on

gender relations and in turn on perceptions ofrape. Clearly, future research could focus more

pointedly on assessing such links.

Another future study couId entail an examination of the impact of changes in marriage

trends on perceptions of rape. In tbis dissertatio~ 1 alIuded to the fact that arranged

marriages are statistically on the decrease throughout Lehanon. 1 proposed that tbis social

trend might have a bearing on the acceptability accorded to such unions and in tum on the

greater likelihood of labeling sex within arranged marriage as rape. Future research could

examine this hypothesis. Research affirming such a hypothesis would tend greater suppon to

tbis study's finding that social relations embedded within a changing socio-political context

• 188

do indeed shape constructions of rape.

Finally~ a future study could examine in more detail the impact of socïoeconomie

status on perceptions of rape. As mentioned previously. the study's sample was mostly

homogenous in terms of socioeconomic status. While 1 repeatedly drew out the impact of

socioeconomic status on rape perceptio~ 1 did 50 based on the contributions of men and

women in privileged social locations. It would be useful to examine tbis asPeCt of social

location more thoroughly. especiaUy in a heavily class segregated society.

4. The liDe betweeD CODleDluai ses and npe

One of the key tindings of tbis study is tbat the line between sex and rape is Ouid and

changeable, not fixed and static. Indeed, it is not the nature of the sexual aet itselfthat leads

to an incident being labeled as rape or as consensual sex. This key conclusion lends support

• to previous research discussed in Chapter 1 that iIIustrates that what counts as rape is

distinguished from what counts as consensual sex by a series ofsituational faetors, namely:

incidents involving physical coercion or strangers. However~ depaning from the majority of

previous researc~ tbis study reveals the links between these situational factors and the

broader social context by exarnining the interplay of social relations that lead to the privileging

of these factors in defining the line between rape and consent. Put ditrerently. while previous

research bas focused on situational factors in and of themselves~ this study bas attempted to

understand the meaning of tbese factors within a panicular socio-political context shaped by

specifie social relations.

An illustration of tIis finding conc:ems the greater likelihood ofperceiving a sexuaI aet

within an arranged maniage as rape. While previous research bas round that rape in marriage

• 189

is usuaIly not perceived as rape but as consensual sex (e.g. Berse~ 1996), as the findinss of

this study illustrate, it is the particular nature of the marriage that leads to tbis distinctio~ and

this is tied to the current construction of acceptable relationsbips within the Beinati context.

ln this case, because of the strong relationship made between consent, love and marriage, it

is feasable to believe that rape could occur in arranged marriages perceived to not be entered

into for love. As discussed in Chapter 4, desegregated work environments have placed

women in direct contact with men, pennïtting them to increasingly be in contact with future

spoU5eS. This couId mean that arranged marriages which are becoming less ofa social norm

(Kabbanji &, Anat, 1997) in Lebanon are becoming looked at as unacœptable forms of

marriage. And as the tindings indicate, sexual relations that fall outside the hounds of social

acceptability, are more likely to be perceived as rape.

• Similarly, perceptions ofconsensual sex are also shaped by normative constructions

of acceptable relationships. Sexuai relationships that adhere to the imponance placecl on

marriage are more likely ta he perceived as consensual. For example, sexuaI relationships

which involve the element oflove and which are accompanied by the promise of marriage are

almost without question considered to he consensual despite verbal refusais that the woman

involved in the incident may engage in·-e.g. the woman in the film vignette.

Interestingly, the rise in the rate of celibacy in Lebanon (KhaIat: 1998) may reach such

proponions u to minimize the imponanœ accorded to marriage, thereby possibly diminishing

ils impact in shaping perceptions of rape and consensuaI sex. Hence, the findings ofthis study

reveal the complexity of pinning down the line that lies between rape and consensual sex

within a changing context. As social norms regulating the acceptability of relationships

• 190

change, the line between rape and consensual sex will shift.

Keeping tbis shifting line in mind, the detailed findings provided in the empirical

chapters of tbis dissenation must not be considered unchanging images of rape in Beiruti

society. In this sense, the metaphor of photography springs to mind. As in the photographie

proœss where the Jens, ~ paper, developing and printing techniques influence how detailed

the final image will he, the theoretical &amework and methodological aspects ofthe study will

impact on how intricate a pieture the study's tindings will create. Yet, in both instances, the

final image and the findings of the study remain no more than moments in time that cannot

capture the tluidity of a complex reality. Another snapshot taken of Beiruti society in ten

years may reveal a very changed understanding of rape, depending on the societal changes that

have taken place in the meantime. The implications ofthis 8uidity for future researc~ praetice

• and theory are discussed below.

4. 1 Implications for tbCOtY

Theoretically, the implications ofthis study's findings are two-fold. First, as discussed

above, this study challenges the idea that rape cao be 50 easily dissociated ftom sex, as though

the two were separate phenomena. Within Arabie contexts, a corollary of the beliefthat sex

can be easily dissociated &am rape bas rnanifested itself in the belief that sexuality is a luxury

issue that cannot he discussed because of other priorities (see Akkad, 1990 for 8 critique).

But, if as this study illustrates, perceptions of rape are lûghly dependant on perceptions of

consensual ~ then as feminists, we cannot dord to ignore explorations of sexuality.

For too 10D& sexuality bas been condemned to the far-reaches offeminist theorizing

within Arabie contexts. Yet ifour goal as feminists is to challenge violence in women' s lives,

• 191

then we need to understand how current constructions of acceptable sexual relationships

shape perceptions of rape. For example, explorations of the value of virginity within Arabic

societies must he brought to the formont of feminist theorizing instead of its current

restriction to works of fiction or to the OCC8Sional work of exceptional scholars such as

Mernissi (1996), El Saadawi (1972) and Akkad (1990).

Second, tbis study's findings funher problematize the concept of consent. As

MacKinnon (1981) rnaintains, the concept of consent carries within it the inegalitarian

assumption that men initiate and women simply consent or refuse. Similarly, in tbis study,

consent was referred to as usurrender" (wornen don't have ser.. they su"ender). 1 would

agree with MacKinnon that Umutuality'\ instead of Uconsent" is a more useful concept in

attempting to draw the line between wanted sex and rape. Applied to the Beiruti context.. the

difference between ·'mutuality" and "consent" could then he translated to a distinction

between "having sec" and "surrendering". Put diff'eremly, an interesting avenue of theoretical

exploration would he to examine when a woman is perceived to he having sex and not simply

consenting to aman' s advances.

Moreover.. as apparent trom tbis study' s findings, sex is not a simplistic concept., but

a heavily nuanced one. Within Arabie contexts such as SeiNt, tbis nuance oœurs at the

intersection of social relations that construct ooly specific instances of !eX as acceptable. In

tum.. perceptions of npe and consensual !eX are beavily shaped by the distinction made

between lMritaI !eX, pre-1MritaI sex, !eX with a panner who bas promised marriage, sex with

a panner who bas reneged on the promise of marriage, and 50 fonh. OnIy sorne of these

instances of !eX are deemed as acceptable and hence ooly some will be defined as rape.

• 192

Theoretically, keeping this Ouidity between rape and consensual sex in mind could assist us

in resisting the tendency to fonnulate universal theories of rape that gloss over tinte periods

and socio-political contexts.

4.2 Implicatjons for Waetice

Practice efforts need to work towards the uncouplins of love, marriage and consent.

The myth oflove and the nonnalcy ofheterosexual sex need to be questioned within praetice.

So long as love is used to implicitly mean consent to ~ the majority of sexuaUy abusive

marriages and heterosexual romantic involvements will go without scrutiny. The imponance

of challenging the association of consensual ~ marriage and love is imponant if praetice

efforts are to assist women in labeling their own experiences of unwanted sex as violation.

regardless of the type of relationship within which these experiences take place. Apparent

• once more is the tension between wornen's own interpretations of se"l1a1 incidents and

ferninist interpretations of the same event. In fact. practice etfons could benefit trom devising

ways by which such a tension is minimized or even resolved, without negating one

interpretation or another. As previously mentioned, within Western contexts, the concept of

the continuum bas assisted in bridging the gap between these interpretations (KeUy, 1988;

Patton Il. Manniso~ 1998). By iIlustrating that sexual violation could take many forms and

did not have to indude vaginal penetratio~ the continuum assisted women in redefining their

own sexuaI experiences.

WhiIe the contiDJum is a concept that bas its origins and applicability within Western

contexts, it offus two elements that couId be helpful for practice in DeiNt. A first usefiJI

element is recognition and explicit enumeration of the diversity ofwomen's experiences of a

• 193

sexual nature. Within the Beiruti context, such recognition could encompass the multi-

nuanced understanding of sex: pre-marital sex, marital !eX, !eX with a promise of marriage,

sex with an acceptable panner, sex within a marriage entered into for love or within an

arranged marriage, etc.

A second e1ement of the continuum that could prove useful for the 8eiruti context is

the recognition that social relations are inettricably linked ta sexuality. While the continuum

places the emphasis on gender relations, by adopting an intersectional approach ta

understanding rape within the Beiruti contect., praetice etrons could expose the links between

the social construction of acceptable intimate relationsbips and the operation of power in

social relations as manifested in sexism.. sectarianism., racism., and classism, among others.

Practice efforts couId tben focus on exposing how tbis acceptability impacts on which sexuaI

• incidents are perceived as rape and those perceived as consensual sex. In a sense, instead of

challenging wornen's interpretations of what counts as consensual or as coercive, practice

etTons could challenge one of the imponant foundations of such perceptions: the social

construction of acceptability of some relationships over others. This may in tum impact on

women' s perceptions of consensual and coercive sexuality.

4.3 Implications for rC'Clrçb

Ret1ecting on the implications of the &nding tbat sex and rape aren't easily dissociated,

three key research implications IR apparent. F_ unlike previous research, the determining

factors in shaping perceptions of rape and consensual !eX are the man's subsequent actions

and the wornan's marriageability, DOt the woman' 5 actions. This can ooly be understood if

plaœd in the broader context within wbich the distinction between sex and rape is shaped by

• 194
• the importance of marriage and its funetions within Beiruti society. Hence~ research that

attempts to draw the fine between what counts as raPe on the one band and what counts as

consensual sex on the other, by solely examining situational factors could lose sight of the

importance of social relations in shaping the interconnections forged between sex and rape.

Second, most research to date bas focused on rape with secondary attention paid to

consensual sex. As the findings of this study indicate, Perceptions of what constitutes

consensual sex are pivotai in shaping what counts as rape. Hence~ future research would

benefit trom giving equal attention to bath types of Perceptions. For example, it would he

imPOnant to examine the multi-nuanced understanding of sex and the implicit perceptions of

rape embedded within·-e.g. sex between a woman who is marriageable and a man who bas

not promised marriage is likely to he perceived as rape.

• Finally, the interconnectedness between sex and ripe and the complex meanings

accorded to each clearly imply the need for future research that would adopt qualitative

methodologies aiming to examine the meaning that wornen and men place on their own

experienœs. As MacKinnon noted (1995)~ before we ascenain what distinguishes sex tram

rape, we need to explore the meanings that people themselves attribute ta these phenomena.

Qualitative inquiries are needed not ooly to elucidate the many inconsistencies in quantitative

research on rape perceptions (BeU et al., 1994; KopPer, 1996), but also ta ascertain the

meaning that people themselves accord to their own perceptions.

• 195

5. CODcludiDg tboulbts

As with any well-conceived moment of closure~ it is important to reexamine the

original aims of a study in order to detennine whether they have been acbieved. This study

aimed to contribute to feminist analyses of rape and to provide sorne preliminary 5U88estions

for feminist intervention on the issue.

ln iUustrating the links between social relations and perceptions of rape~ the study

moved beyond the single focus on gender, thereby contributing a more complex anaIysis of

rape. In addition, while there exist many theoretical applications of intersectionality to the

phenomenon of rape~ Ibis study provides an empirical illustration ofthe long-acknowledged

imponanee of tbis type of analysis. Moreover~ a10ngside the fietional accounts of rape and

the rare theoretical discussions of sexuality by Arabie feminist~ the curreot study stands as

• a complementary and original source of information on rape within an Arabie context.

As for intervention, the present srudy achieved ils aim ofproviding preliminary insights

for feminist praetice on the issue of rape within the Beiruti conteX!. The excerpts provided

throughout this dissenation offer concrete case examples which could he relied upon in

awareness-raising campaigns or other future interventions. Finally, tbis dissenation bas

provided several suggestions for effective orientations to adopt in future intervention and

adivism on rape-e.8. dispeUing myths about Iikely rapists.

As 1 write the Iast few Iines oftbis thesis, 1am reminded of the touching words ofa

lawyer (KI9) whom 1wu fonunate to meet. Through ber years ofactivism on the issue of

ucrimes ofhonor" and the violence peIJdIated apinst migrant domestic workers, she played

a key pan in the struggIe ta end violence against women in Beirut. More often than not, ber


work was rewarded by harassment and public outrage. Tears weUing in her eyes and emotion

shaking ber voice, she attempted to maintain ber composure as she told me that the struggle

to eradicate violence against women in Lebanon was 8Chicved one difticult action at a time.

She descnbed how sile saw My work and bers as essentiaI building blacks towards the valuing

of women' s integrity and safety in Lebanon.

As 1 ret1ect back on ber words, 1 am fiUed with the hope that tbis study will he one

more effort, one more voice, to add to the voices ofwomen challenging violence in Beirut and

throughout Lebanon, 50 that one day in the not too distant future, a dream cao become a

reality, and:

These new bei1rgs which we a1ways were but had been separatedfrom. these
new souls [wouldJ never seille for the old ways which hod buried lhem. And
these so"ls can suddenly imagine more lhon rape cenler.~. or laws changed,
or even prisonsfilll ofmen who have raped women...Now we des;re a world

• i" which 'ape could 1101 he imagined and cou/d never he. We desire 1IOthing
less than Ihis. (Griffio., 1979, p. 35)

• 197

Appendis A: Map or coateDlporary Lebanoa

o 20 ellrft






This map was produœd by the Central Intelligence Agency and is available on the University
ofTexas Web site at: hup://www.üb.utexas.edul

• 198

Appendis B: Summary Report

January 31, 2000

Dear (name of participant),

Wben we last met, you indicated that you would Iike to receive information on the

results of the recent research project in which you participated (summer 1999). The study

generated a document over 200 pages in length. In order to render the result most useful, 1

have distilled the main tindings into a summary repon. 1 encourage you to use the results as

you see fit: You may wish to discuss them with coUeagues, fiiends, relatives, or neighbors.

• Please do not hesitate to contact me should you be interested in further infonnation. Thank

you once more for your invaluable panicipation.

Samantha Wehbi


• 199
• January 31 ~ 2000

Dear Zoya,

Please find enclosed a summary repon and pamphlet on the findings of the recent

study in which menthers ofthe Couneil panicipated. The study generated a document over

200 pages in I~ but the main findings are distiUed in the fonn of a summary repon~ which

1 would appreciate you distributing to Couneil members (especially those who partieipated

in the study). In the interest of making this study as useful as possible~ 1 am entnasting the

results of the study to the CounciL for you to use as you see fit. For exarnple, 1 have created

a pamphlet based on study results; the pamphlet cao be altered if you 50 desire or kept as is

• and then distributed.

Thank you once more for your invaluable panicipation. Please contact me should you

be interested in funher information or if there is anything else on which 1 could be of


Samantha Wehbi


• 200

Perceptions of rape: IDSi,bts froID wonaen in Beirut
Researcb Sunanaary Report

Sanaantba Webbi, MSW, Doctoral candidate

January 2000

1. Introduction

Relying on 38 interviews, participant observatio~ and a review of newspaper articles

from 1996-1999 tbis research project sought to understand the perceptions of rape held by

women in the Seiruti contm. In this summary report 1 present the methodology of the

project., foUowed by a disalssion of sorne of the main themes that emerged ftom the findings
about rape perceptions. The report ends with suggested strategies for continued aetivism on
the issue of rape.

2. MetbodolOlY: Data sources and coUeetion naetbods

2.1 Intet\dCNVs
The first source ofdata is derived trom interviews with 13 adult women who were not
formally engaged in aetivism on the issue of violence against women. This was a highly

• diverse group of wornen between the ages of 24 and 42, ftom various ethnicities, classes,
educational backgrounds physical abilities and religious backgrounds.

ln addition to women not formally involved in aetivis~ 1 also interviewed a group of

Dine volunteers, eigltt women and one man helonging to the Lebanese COURcil to Resist
Violence &gainst Women (LeRV A W).
The final set of interviews was condueted with 16 community professionals who had
sorne direct or indirect relationship to the issue of violence against wom~ some of them
aetually heing adivists on related issues. This group included: a priest, a sheikh, social
workers, a schoal princi~ a psychologi~ a psychoanalyst, a university professor, a mulchlQT,
an internai Sec;:urity forces officer, a lawyer as weU as several coordinators of community


2.2 ParticiPant observatign

An important pan of data coUection consisted of observations that 1 had recorded
throughout my stay in Beirut within the foUowinl settings: social places or gatherings;
community organizations; and public settïngs.

2.3 Ncwspapcr articles

Other sources of data included newspaper articles trom three Lebanese newspapers
(1996-1999) on violence against women that were coUected by the Institute for Women's

• 201

Studies in the Arab World (LAU).

3. FiDdiDp: perceptions of rape

3.1 Wh" ÇQuNs as rage- four tbernes

According to the data, an incident is more Iikely to be seen as rape if it adheres to one
ofthe foUowing conditions.

• If il invo/ves a srranger

There is a strong perception that for an incident to he tru1y c1assified as rape, it must
involve a stranger. This perception renders invisible the many rapes that are perpetrated by
acquaintances, work colleagues, neighbors and family members.

• If il involves a chi/d

An incident is more likely to be perceived as rape if it involves a child. When asked

for exarnples of rape, most participants gave examples of child rape (incest and otherwise).
Unfonunately, the recognition ofchild rape in the media bas hidden the rapes that take place

• against adult women. Moreover, it i5 easier to believe that a child is blameless. In a

patriarchal society, women are easiIy blamed for the rapes that tbey endure, which means that
the incidents that tbey go through are not as likely to be labeled as rape.

• If il involves lhe use ofphysicaljorce

The most predominant perception is that for an incident to be defined as rape, it must
involve an element of physical force. Yet, coercion to engage in sexual aets cao take the
shape of tbreats (ta withdraw financial suppon or to throw a woman out of her home) or
because a woman perceives sex to be ber marital duty.

• If il occurs in an arranged marnage

There is an awareness that tape does happen in marriage. However, the predominant
perception is that tape cao only be said to occur in ananged marriages that were not entered
into for love. WhiIe tape may happen in amnged maniases, we must al50 be aware tbat rape
cao happen in aU types ofrelationships.

• 202

3.2 Perœjved AURI of rage

The perceived causes of rape appeared to be many but focused mostly on the
followinS elements: alcohol or dJugs, the woman's so-caUed provocative behaviour (e·s·
wearing a short skirt or wearinS perfùme), the rapists' psychological complexes, heightened
sexuaI instincts, teIevision, the inftuence ofthe "West" and the intermixing between the sexes.
There are two tbemes tbat are apparent in the perception ofcauses. First, there is a
predominant theme ofwoman-blame: even when wornen are acknowledged to he vietims of
rape, they are seen to somehow be responsible for the rape. Secon~ men are absolved of
responsibility for their actions, by relying on reasons such as "psychological complexes".

3.3 Tbe likclx yjçtjm

The data alsa demonstrates perceptions of which women are more ükely to be rape
vietims. There is a perception that women from the foUowinS groups are more likely to he
rape vietims: disadvantaged social classes, Muslim sects, rural villages and migrant domestic
workers. WIùIe women from these groups are indeed ükely to he vietims of rape, focusinS
solely on them renders invisible the violence that may happen to other women.
Moreover, there is a recognition that wornen with disabilities who have been
disrespected by society are more Iikely to be taken advantage of sexually, whether or not this
may be classified as rape.

• 4.

4. 1
Solution. and future Iteps

Perçejvcd solutions

The findings suggest several possible responses to rape:

4.1.1 Prevention: Awareness-raising (challenains myths in perceptions) with wornen

about violence, about thm rights, about services; with professionals in
agencies or the clergy; with men in the general public. Media campaigns,
througb teie'vision; information about violence included in schoal curriculum.

4.1.2 Intel11ention: Cradon of services suc:h as shehers for WO~ changes in laws;
cooperation between local organizations to responcl to the multiple issues
involved in rape (e.g. coUaboratioD between the Lebanese Council to Resist
Violence apinst Women and organizations for the rigbts of people with
disabilities or individuals working on behalf of migrant domestic workers).

• 203
Disscrnination of findinp and Mw the)' CIO he uw'


Since completing the research project 1 have been enpged in the dissemination of
findings by relying on several strategies to "break the siJence about rape:

• Writing reports such as tbis one for community organizations and participants in the
study who requested information about the findings.

• Presenting the study's findings at conferences and calling on local and international
groups to support the work of organizations in LebaOOn working on the issue of
violence against women.

• Creatïng a pamphlet on rape based on the tinelings of the study. The pamphlet will be
placed at the disposai ofthe Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women.

• Writing articles about the study s findings in order to share the information with as
9 9

many people as possible.

ln ending 1 would like to invite you to share tbis repon with others and to contact
9 9

me should you wish to get more inConnation about the study or to suggest specific strategies

for dealing with rape that you think 1 may he able to he ofassistance on.

Samantha Wehbi
e-mail: samanthawehbi@hotmail.com

• 204
• AppeDdis C: Pampblet*

·See following page for English version ofthis pamphlet whieh 1 also produced in Arabie.
1 have purposeIy ehosen to omit a tille on the fram shed of the pamphlet: Many women may
be uncomfonable heing seen reading a pamphlet on rape. With an anonymous cover, sueh
discomfon is mïnimized.

• 20S
• • •
rape rape rape
doesn't isn't
only only
happen perpetrated just happen
to children by in arranged
strangers •
White it remains a Jargely hiddeo
problem, child-rape is finally
being recognized in Lebanese
society. ft is perhaps comforting to think
that if we avoid mixing with Inen When we admit that rape happens
But rape also happens to adults: in public or men who are in marnage, we prefer to think
Women are raped in peace-tirne strangers that we won't he the that it only happens in arranged
and not ooly during the war. victims of rape. marriages that were not entered
ioto for love.
Women are often blamed for But rape most orten bappens by
provoking rapes. There is also a men tbat we know: friends, We say that the couple is not
myth that women enjoy being neighbors, work colleagues, compatible and so he forces her to
raped. A 'l'oman does not fellow students, fathers, brothers, have sex witb mm despite her
provoke rape, because sbe does lmcles... will. This is simply not true.
not enjoy being nped. Rape can happen in a marriage
entered into for love same as
Rapists need to take any other type of marriage.
responsibility for tbeir actions.

Appendis D: Introduction letten

1. Introduction letter to potential participantl·

1am a doctoral studeot in the social work program al McOiU University in Montréal Canada. Of

Lcbancse background myself 1 am imcrestcd in focusing my research on the eçerienœs of women


in Bcirut. 1 am imcrestcd in looking al how womcn in Beirut are thinking about the issue of
violcnœ and male-fanale rclationships iD the workplaœ9the familY9 scbool 9ete. In arder to do 509
1 will he condueting interviews with womcn bctween the ases of 21 and 50 aDd who come &am a
varidy ofcdueational, rcügious, class and family backgrounds. Your participation in the study
does DOt automaticaU)' mean!bat you yourselfbave bad expericDces of violence in relatioaships: 1
am more interested in bcaring about your views and insigbts OD the issue. If you are intercstcd in
finding out about the study, please contact me al my home number 01306S87 or ifyou pmer. you
couId retum this leuer ta the person who gave it to you with your name and phone number marked
in the spaces below··. Contacting me does DOt automatically mean tbat you are committing
yourself to be interviewed. You may c:alI me simply ta get more information about the study.

Name (yeu do IlOt bave to give me your full name)

How yeu can be reacbed and the best tinte to comac:t you

2. Introduction letter for LCRVAW volunteen···

1am a doctoral student in the social work program al McGiIl University in Montréal, Canada. Of
Lebanese background myselt: 1 am interested in focusiDg ml" research on the experiences ofwomen
in Beirut. More specifically, 1am interested in looking at the issue ofsexualized violence, ln order
ta do 50, 1wauld be iDterested in conduding interviews with volunteers of the Lebanese Council to
Resist Violence against Wamen. Interviews will focus on your work, perceptions of violence and
recommendations for social, Iegal and political change necessary to resist sexualized violenœ. If
you are imerested in finding out about the study, please contact me al my home number 01306587
or ifyou prefer, )'00 could retum this leacr to Ms. Roubana \\ith your name and phone Dumber
marked in the spaces below··. ContaetiDg me does DOt automatic:ally mean Ibat you are
committins younelf to be imerviewed. You may caU me simply ta gel more information about the

Name (you dô DOt hâve to live me your fûli Dame)

How you can be rcacbcd aDd the bcst tUne to c:oatact yOll
• This lencr was avaiIabIe iD the languase of cboicc of the particip8DIS (ED~ Arabïc, fJalCb).
•• 1give women 1his option bccause in ~ local phone calls are cosdy and DOl aU women
would bave been able to placc the cali tbanselves.
••• This lencr was avaiIable iD EIJ8ÜSb and Freach.

• 207
• 3.

Letter to Coordi.ator or LCRVAW

As Rima (Le 1) bas informed you, 1 had the opportunity in November 1998 to meet with
sorne of the staffmemben of the Lebanese Council to Rcsist Violence AgaiDst Women. Having
been involved as a social worker in the struggle to end violence against women for the past few
years in C~ 1 was interested in knowing all about the work of the Council. 1 was pleased to
find out that the Council is providins a strong voice against violence in the Lebanese context and
that one of the Councü's priorities is supporting research on the issue of violence apinst WomeD.

1 am cum:ntly prcpariDs ta come co Lebanon to conduet researcb for my doctoral

dissertation. Before describiDg the rescarch, 1 would Iike to take the opponunity to present sorne
relevant infonnation about m~"sclf. Sinœ 1991, 1 bave been employed in various capac;ities dealins
\\ith the issues of violenc:e apinst women, buman rigbts and social justice. 1have worked as a
researcb assistant, a crisis intervention social workcr, a program coordinator in a shelter for
battered wornen and in a human rights organizati~ a coordinator for a sexual assault suppon
centre, and more recendy as a project coordinator in a provincial coalition of rape crisis centres.

Sïnce 1997, 1bave been enrolJed as a doctoral social work student al McCiill University in
Montréal, Canada, with an empbasis on the area of scxual violence apinst women. Of Lebanese
background m~'sel( 1 am interested in focusing my research on the cxpcriences ofwomen in Beirut.

• As 1 explained to Rima (LC 1), my research project att.empts te understand women's constructions
(perceptions and experiences) of sexualized violence in contemporary Beinat. In orcier to arrive al
this informati~ my primary sources ofdata will be interviews \\ith two sets ofwomen: wamen DOt
c:urrently involvcd in working on the issue of violence apinst women; and volunteers of the
Lebanesc Council to Rcsist Violence against Wamen, who are aetivcly working on the issue of
violence. To this end, 1would like ta obtain your permission te hold interviews with yourself as
weil as with othcr volunteers of the Council. In addition, 1would he interested in R:ading any
researcb rcpons~ press rcleases or other Council documents which you believe are pertinent.

ln concluding, 1 would like to add tbat 1am intcrested in making the results of the study
available for use by the Council in any prevention or intervention effons or campaigns. While the
study would he cooduc:œd in fùlfillment ofacademic n=quircments ofthe cb:toral prosram, 1
believe tbat it must serve the broader purpose of addina to the available documcntatioa œ violence
against women in ~ tbcreby perrnittins iDtervcntion and prevention effons to he based on a
solid empirical base. Hence, an important collJponent of the proposcd racarch is to ask the womcn
iDterviewed bow they believe the study results couId be bat ut:ilized ta aftèct chanse in the
Lebanese COIItat in addressing the issue of scxualiud violence.

1will be arriving in Beirut 011 May 17 and will coataet you sbonIy tbcrcafter to fùnber
discuss the possibility of cœdue:ting interviews witb mcmbcrs of the Council. Thanking yeu in
Samantha Wehbi

• 208

AppeDdis E: IDte"" Guides

1. LCRVAW volunteen

l'bank you for agreeing ta panie:ipate in Ibis interview. As 1 explaiDed over the pboDe, 1 am
intcrcsted in fiDding out about scxualiral violenœ in Bciruti society, 90, it's important for me ta
speak ta women Iike younelfwho are actively working on the issue of violcnœ agaiDst women.
Bcfore we stan, 1 will ask you to plcase n:ad and sign the consent form. Picase teel Cree to ask me
any questions at any point iD the interview.

1. Please teU me a liUIe bit about yourself and about your involvement witb LCRVAW.
Wbat do your tiiendslrelatives think of your involvement with an orpnization sudl as

2. Wbat are the goals of LCRVAW, and wbat do you think oftbem?

3. What difficulties do you enc:ounter in meeting rhese goals? Are some of tbese diffie:ulties
panicular to the Lcbanese or Beiruti contexts, and if yes, in \\'bieh way?

4. How would you define sexualized violence and what would you say are sorne of its

• s.

How does LCRVAWaddress sexualized violenœ? How have you as a volumeer personaIly
addressed this issue iD your work?

Would you say that sexualized violenœ is a serious issue in Lcbanese society? ln Beiruti

7. Please speak ta me about a specifie c:ase or a woman's story tbat you bave beard about !bat
stands out for you as panicularly typical of women' s experiences of scxuaIized violence in
Lebanon. In Beïrut.

8. Please speak ta me about a specifie: c:ase or a woman's story tbat you bave beard about tbat
SWIds out for you as particularly atypic:al ofwomcn's experiences ofsexuaJized violenc:e
iD LebaDon. In Beirut.

9. If 1 wanted to find out about bow sexuaJiud violence is experienced and is undersIood in
Beirut, wbicll type ofpcrson wouId you ~ tbat 1 approKh, and wby? Which
qucstiœs wouId he important to ask this penon?

10. Wbat are SOlDe of the diffcrcaccs or simiJarities 1lI1OII8 womm or amona thcir life
situations that miabt influence tbeir cxpericnces ofscxuaIized violence?

• 209
• Il. Wbat do you tbink is noeded ID deaI with the issue of sexllaliud violence in Lebanese
soci~'? ln Beiruti society? WUt type of support or resource do you tbink would make il
belpfuJ 10 deaI wim experieDces or sexuaIized violence?
12. Wbat do .vou think the resuJts of this studv. shouId be uscd for? Wbat do .vou think that
future studies sbould address in terms of sexualized violence?

13. Is tbere anything else you would Iike to add or to ask me?

l'bank you for panicipating in this interview. Would you know of a woman (friend, acquaintanœ~
relative) whom you Ceel migbl be interested in panicipating in tbis study? Ifso~ please give ber this
introduetionletter. Sbe does DOt bave ID be a professional involvcd in addressing sexualizcd
violence~ nor does sile have to bave experienced sexualized violence herself. She can be ftom an)'
social class~ religious background, Scographic ori~ marital stalUS, ete.

2. Womea not ronnaUy iavolved in activism

1bank you for agreeing to participate in this interview. 1am interested in finding out about
women.5 situation in Lebanon and more specifically, about the issue of violence and maJe-female
relationships in the family, workplace, scbool, romantic: relationsbips, and in general. It' 5
important for me ID speak to women like yourself who are living tbese relationships on a daily
basis. Before we stan, 1will ask you to please read and sign the consent form. Plc~ase Ceel &ce to
ask me any questions al any point in the interview.

• 1.

Wbcre did you bear about this ~. and what made you c1cdde to participate?

Please tell me a liuIe bit about yourself.

4. Wbat's il Iike ID live as a woman in Lebanon? ln Beirut? Mas this situation cbanged over
the yeus?

5. What are the relationships between men and women like in Lebanon? ln Bcirut?
(Relationships bctween siblings, parents and cbil~ work coUcagues, students, romantic
relations, etc.)

6. ln general, wbat necds to be improvcd in the situation of womcn in Lebanon? Wbat must
he kept the same?

7. Durins the wu, tbcre were much taIk about women who bad been rapcd, did you bcar such
stories and ifyes~ can you give me an example?

8. Reccntly in the news, there "'aS a story about a woman tiom Tripoli who was kidnapped
and rapcd by ber fiancé. What do you tbiDk oftbis story? Would Ibis bappcn in Beirut?

To any woman?


9. Have you beard of the services otJaed by the Lebanese Council to Resist VioIenœ apost
Women? Wbat cio you think of Ibis type ofservice?

10. Wbat do you think the results of tbis stucly shouId be used for? What do yeu think that
future studies should address in tenns of sexualized violence?

Il. Is tbere anything cise you would like to add or le) ask me?

••• Sbouid a woman clisclose a persona! expcricnœ ofviolenœ. the foUowing are 50IDC specifie

1. 15 Ibis the first lime you disc:uss tbis experienœ? If DO, wbom bave you told before aDd bow was
it to clisclose? Ifyes. wbat was it Ime to keep this iDcident a secret UDtil DOW?

2. What were the reac:tions ofotbers (family. friends. etc.)to your experienœ?

3. Ho\\" do you make sense of wbat happencd to you? Has your undcrstanding of your experienœ
changed in aD). way over lime?

... What type ofimpaet (cmoIionai. physica1. S)1Dbolic. etc.) bas this e~enœ bad on your lüe?
On the lives of tbose around you?


Have you beard of other women (no need to mention names) who bave bacI experienœs of
sexualizcd violence? If yes. wbele and ho\\' is your experienœ similar or di8'erent from the
experiences of other women?

6. Wbat and/or who was belpful to you in dealing ,,;tb your experienœ? Wbat and/or who made it
dif1icult for you to deaI witb this experienœ?

Tbank ~·ou once agaiD for partic:ipating in tbis ïntcrview. Please do DOt hesitate to c:onlaet me ü you
wouId like to gel more information about community resourœs or documents dealing with issues discussed
in this intmie\\'.

3. Key IarormaDts

Thank you for apccing le) participate in tbis interview. As 1explaiDed over the phone, X refcrrcd
me to you as someone who could provide me witb information about the situation of wcmen in
Lebanon. MNe specificalIy, 1 am intcrested in knowiDs about womcn's cxperiences of sexualimt
violence. Before we ~ 1 will ask you to please rad and sisn the consent fonn.

4. Please tell me about your pradicelVocatÎOIl.

s. Wben X re&ned me 10 you, sile told me tbat you bave worked witb women who bave
experienc:ed violence. Could you speak to me about tbat.

• 211

6. How would you defiDe sexuaJized violence and wbat would you say arc somc of its

7. Would you say tbat sexuaJized violence is a serious issue in Lebanese soci~'? In Beiruti

8. Please speak to me about a specifie case from your practice or a woman' 5 stary tbat you
bave beard about stand out for you as particularly typical of women's experienœs of
sexualized violence in Lebaaon.1n Beirut.

9. Plcase !peak to me about a specifie case ftom your pradicc or a woman· 5 story tbat you
bave beard about stand out for you as particularly alypical of womcn's cxpcrienccs of
sexua1ized violence in Lebaaon. ID Beirut.

10. Ifl wanted to find out about bow sexu ali7Ut violence is cxpcrienced and is understood in
BeiN!, whicb type of person would you recommcnd tbat 1 approadl, and why? Whicb
questions would be imponant ta ask this penon?

II. Wbat are sorne of the differences or similarities among women or among tbeir life
situations that might influence tbeir experiences of sexuaJized violence?

12. Wbat do you tbink i5 needcd to deaI with the issue ofsexualized violence in Lebanese

• 13.
society? ln Beiruti society?

What do you think the results of this study should be used for? Wbat cio you think that
future studies should address in terms of sexuali7«i violence?

14. 15 tbere anything cise you would like to add or to ask me?

• 212

Appendis F: Consent Form*

Thank you for agreeing ta panicipate in this interview. Before we ~ 1 would like ta remind you

, Your participation in this interview is entirely vol~·.

, Vou are free to retùse to answer uy question at any time.
, You are &ce ta witbdraw from the interview al any time.
, This interview will be tape-recorded but you bave the rigbt to ask me to stop the recorder
at uy time during the interview. You may also review the transeripts of the interview for
, This interview will be kept strietly c:onfidentiaI and ail identifying information will be
omitted &cm the transcripts.
, Excerpts of this interview may be made part of the final researcb report~ presentations or
anides, but under no circumstances will your name or an~' identifying cbaraderislics be
included in the repo~ articles or discussions.

1 would be grateful if you would sign and date this fonn ta show that you have read il.


• Name


If you wouldlike ta panicipate in a session 10 disçuss the results of dUs researcb, or would like to
tind out about the results witbout funher panicipati~ please include an address or phone number
where you may be reacbed.

Once ~ thank you for agreeing to participatc in chis research!! If you bave uy questions or
commcats about any of the topies cliscussed in tbis ÎlllCrview or would Iike more information 011
community resources dcaIing witb the issue of violence apinst w~ plcase fcel he to contact

Samantha Wehbi

• This fonn was adaped !rom a simiIar ODe developed by McCrakcn. 1981 and wu illide avaiJabIe

to participants in die IaDpage oftbcir eboiœ (Arabie, Eng1ish. French)



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