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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
A tbais submitted to tlle Facuhy of Gnduate Stadia and Resean:b in partial rullilment of tlle
requiremeats of tlle degree of Pb.D. in MlCiai work
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Table of Contents
Abstnct i
Abrégé iü
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 22
5.1 The use ofphYsjcal force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 23
5.2 Alcobol coDwmptioQ 24
5.3 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
1.1 The ajtuatedness o(lrnowlediC 49
1.2 Women' $ liyes as a stanina point· Gcnder and imer
5CCt
ionality . 54
1.3 ExpJorioa tbe connedion bctwccn [CWrçbcr and panjcipant .. 57
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 ofkey 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 Rcliai
ous
divmibfsctarianjmJ 91
2 4
Eth' di . l' .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
2.S Economic situation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
2 6
Marri . the LebaneseIB" .
. _Ilem _elD1tl COmcxt 100
Chapter 5: The CODstruCtiOD of Dlarriage

l. Introduction " 105


2. mustrating the importance ofmaniage " 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 l o v e ~ 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 ofalrpdy 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
2.2 Implications for practiçe 1
7
9
2.3 ImplicatiQns for researçb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 180

3. Impact of social relations 182
3. 1 Implications for tbCQ[)' 183
3.2 Implications for praeticc . . . . . " 185
3.3 Implications for researçb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 187
4. The line between consensual sex and rape " 189
4. 1 Implications for tbegty 191
42
1 li . ~ .
. .mp_catlons lor practlce . . . . . .. 193
4.3 Implications for rCY'rçb 194
5. Concluding thoughts " 196

Appendices
Appendix A: Map ofcontemporary Lebanon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 198
Appendix B: Summary Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 199
Appendix C: Pamphlet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 205
207
Appendix E: Interview Guides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 209
Appendix F: Consent form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 213
References 214
List of Tables


Table 1:
Table 2:
Table 3:
Table 4:
Selected charaeteristics ofthe women interviewecl 63
Selected charaeteristics ofthe volunteers interviewecl . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 68
Selected charaeteristics of key informants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 70
Translation of selected terminology used in various data sources. . . . .. 79



A.tnet
Conducted within a feminist ftamework and guided by the principles of srounded
theory tbis dissenation reports on the findings of a study ofwomen's rape
undenaken in Lcbanon. The study relied on 38 interviews. participant
observation. and areview ofnewspaper 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 ethnicity and race. More specifica1ly, 1maintain
that the relationship between perceptions of rape on one and social relations on the
is mediated by the œntraIity ofmarriage. 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 these
constructions of acœptability shape wbat COUDts as 46rea1" tape versus consensual !eX.
Concretely, this means that reIationships tbat faIl outside this construction ofacceptability are
more readily labeled as rape.
In the tint four chapters ofthe 1 provide background information about
the study' 5 theoretical fi'amework, location within the broader entpirical scholarsbip on rape



perceptions, and methodology. 1aIso provide detaüed infonnation about the BeirutiILebanese
comm. Chapters S, 6 and 7 are empirical chapters relating sorne ofthe tindings ofthe study
as they relate to the centrality of marriage and perceptions ofrape 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
ofrape.
ü



Abrégé
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 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 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



AcknowledgmeDIS
It is with quiet joy that 1 pen these acknowledgrnents: As tbis dissertation
is ready for submission. This work bas been rny Ulabor of love" but bas al50 been
shaped and transformed into its present state through the caring, loVÎn& supponive
contributions many women. First and foremost. my deepest appreciation goes to Dr.
Julia Krane, my thesis advisor. Julia, 1hope 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 ofmy 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.
v



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
kept me updated on current 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, and humility are a few of the lessons you
taught me in one ofthe most imponant spiritual adventures ofmy shon life. 1look forward
to more lessons.
vi



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. 1read the story with fear, sadness and
anger gripping my heart; something about it gnawed al me. Not only was 1disturbed 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.
1



C'girlmend or wife
n
) implies engaging in consensual sexual relations. Within the
United States and the United persistent perceptions about rape, such as that
illustrated in the Globe and Mail article, have been at the heart ofa 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, 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 ofthe 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 oftbis 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 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, 1have ehosen to focus on one aspect ofthe construction of sexualized violence:
perc;eptÎons ofrape. 1al50 address perceptions ofconsensual but these are discussed to
shed more light on perceptions ofrape.
2. Research ratioDate
The curreot study' 5 rationale is multidimensional. On a theoreticaileveL this study
responded to the concems expressed by Arabie 1Third world feminists about the dearth of
researehlscholarship by or about Third world women (Bannerji, Joseph, 1983, 1993;
Kadi. 1994; Mohanty, 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 ofpractice, 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 Women
2
", 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,
2
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 ofrape.
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 ofthese 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 newera of reconstruction which included the development oforganizations such
as the LCRVAW, Ut afIiIiate ofthe 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 ofto 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 of4 ( ) D ~ ofLebanon's population and is the city with the greatest share
ofDÙgratiOn. As weIL the ethnie and religious diversity ofLebanon 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 Territories, and having coordinated a rape crisis center in
CornwalL Ontario, with Francophone, Anglophone and Mohawk populations, 1had 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, 1became aware ofthe
operation ofracism and edmocentrismwitbin women' 5 organizations and community groups.
More specificaUy, 1began to understand how racismand 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.
1also began to question the theoretical models that were guiding our front-line work.
For example
y
1questioned 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 ofmy personal interest in pursuing adoctoral degree.
3. Dissertation ovenriew
ln tbis dissertation, my central argument will be that perceptions of rape ret1ecty
reinforce, and are supported by dominant social relations based on elements of social location
such as gendery religion, socioeconomic statusy ethnicity and race. More specifically, 1will
argue that the relationship between perceptions ofrape on one band, and social relations on
the other, is mediated by the centrality ofmarriage 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. Concretelyy 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 aman and a woman in Beiruti society. In consequencey these
6



constructions of acceptability shape what counts as real rape venus consensual !eX.
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. 1begin 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
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 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, 1turn my attention to the methodologica1 aspects of the study. 1 begin
with a brieCdiscussion of sorne pertinent feminist epistemological tenets and methodological
taols. 1then discuss grounded methodoIogy, foUowed by an examination ofdata sources and
coUection data anaIysis procedure, elhical issues, and the issue of translation.
ln Chapter" 1 begin my examination of the specific LebaneselBeiruti conteX!.
Through • CÜSCllssïon ofthe 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 ofmarriage 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, 1argue
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 ofrape 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 ofthe 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
ofrape.
4. FelDiDis. 'heoriziDI 01 npe
In presenting the rationale for this 1briet1y alluded to the deanh ofempirical and
theoretical scholarship on the issue ofrape 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 ofthis scholarship alsa highlights the absence
ofunified theory on the issue of rape, but indicates three key common areas ofconcem that
have been addressed in feminist theories and that are ofmost 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 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. 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, Ellis, Jackson.,
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) rape is a
3
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 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;
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 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 ofdomination
(Conseil, 1994; Searle Il. Berger, 1996).
A gendered anaIysis bas bad an imponant impact on naminS.the specific reality ofIbis
phenomenon-i.e. that the vidims ofrape 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 &. 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; 1979; 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 ofrape:
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
.4was 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 ofthe tenn sexual assauIt instead ofrape in the Canadian criminaI code. Moreover.
in C a n a d ~ 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 itselfcao 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 thereby reinforcing the
inegalitarian nature of heterosexual sex.
MacKinnon (1981, 1995) funher criticized the usefulness of the concept ofconsent.
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 ofagency. 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 ofoppressed
versus oppressor that bides the intrieate nature ofwomen' s experiences. 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 ofexploration 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" M a n n i s o ~ 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 ofacontinuum. 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 ofexercisins oppressive gender relations (Guillaumin, 1978; McKinnon,
1981; Regroupement Québécois des CALACS, 1991).
In addition, placing aàS ofsexual 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. ifnot resolve, the tension that existed between her interpretation ofevents
as a feminist researcher and the women' s own interpretations of events in their lives.
This point is ofparticuIar reIevance to this dissertation. As will he seen in subsequent
chapters, 1have attempted to highlight, ifnot resolve. the tension that arises in the few cases
where my interpretation is divergent f t o ~ 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 ofdata 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 w o m ~ 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,
1996).
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 2y when 1discuss pertinent aspeets of Arabic contexts.
A third limitation of gender-centered feminist analyses of rape is the reliance on
gender as a single eategory ofanaIysis. Wbile not denying the importance of a sender anaIysis
of the p h e n o m e n o ~ 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 ofrace and cIass, and their links to the broader social context, on the construction
ofthe phenomenon. Fraiman (1994) and KeUy (1988) concurred that while male control of
women' s sexuality as a manifestation ofoppressive 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 womenYs experiences. As Baines (1997) proposed:
Although women ofdiiferent 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 ofclass
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, 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
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 oftbis
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 ofIslam., and the impact of nationalist struggleslwar.
The Arab world
y
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;
Birry E1-Nunr, 1996; EI-Solh & Mabro, HeUaly 1997; Kandiyotiy 1991; Memissi,
1996). More specificallyy 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 ofthe impacts oflslam bas been the reinforcemem ofthe imponance of the farnily
as the basic social unit. Under 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: Iftbey 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 ofthe 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; 1993; Kandyoti, 1991;
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. 1retum 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 1summarize 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 s e c t i o ~
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 ofrape, 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 ofrape
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. 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 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 ofwhat counted as rape
in their inlimate and professional sexuaI re1ationships. The use ofphysical 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
violation" works to conceal other fonns of tape tbat occur without the use of
23



physical force. Echoing some ofthe 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 ofconsensus
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 s t a t ~ 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 ofless 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) an incident which includes a wornan's reporting
is more likely to he labeled as rape, even ifthe situation involved acquaintances.
ln sum, studies of rape perceptions have adopted a focus on individual/situational
factors such as the use offorce on the pan ofthe 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
relations.
26



The almost exclusive focus on individuallsituational variables bas been criticized for
paying cursory, ifany, attention to the impact of categories ofanaIysis 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 1now 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. 1also highlighted the over·
emphasis within empirical explorations on the impact of individual factors in shaping
perceptions of rape. 1argued 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, 1examine 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. 1will 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 additive and intersec:tional, sorne researchers
have attempted to understand when a sexuaI incident becomes defined as "sexua)
assault" or 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 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 ofrape
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 ofsexual assauIts for the crime?" ln these studies, groups such as lOlOAsian",
·"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",
"4rape acknowJedgment" or 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 ofthe 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 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 ofthe non-generalizabüity of the results to Asian
groups living outside of Orange County, 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 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;
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 44Asian
n
• Put ditferently, based on an
essentialized notion of identity, this homogeneity results in generalizations which are said to
be charaeteristic to 44Asians".
Concretely, tbis study ret1ects and reinforces the problematic dichotomy of
traditionallmodemwith the tint part ofthe dichotomy being attributed to 44Asians" 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 ofrape across a.aItures, this study bas its limitations by virtue ofreliance 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 w o m ~ an
equation proven false by the wide prevalence ofwhite male violence.
Asecond limitation ofthe additive approach is its linear conceptualization ofgender.
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 ofthe Mori et al. (1995) study, gender lJld ethnicity are added on to each
other to account for differiog perceptions. '4Asian" 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 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 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. 1 9 9 1 ~ 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
relationships.
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. --feminist authors
relying on an intersectional approach have tended to utilize the terms "elements" or "factors"
of social location or position interchangeably (Baines, 1 9 9 1 ~ Haraway, 1 9 9 0 ~ 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 ofwhich 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,
1994).
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 ofsocial location Cereese &. Stasiulis, 1996; KeUy, 1988;
Mohanty, 1991a; Moore, 1994; N a r a y ~ 1997). Power operates in such a way as to
reinforœ dominant relations ofoppression 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 ofa 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 ofsocial sc:icnœinquîry. IllICh cmbe leamed about how oppression is construeted..
lived and c b a D ~ 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
harassment
n
• 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
n
, which defines only heterosexual, intra-racial relationships as acceptable;
relationships that fall outside the bounds of this acceptability are more likely to he labeled
~ ~ s e x u a l harassment
n
.
A study by George et al. (1992) arrived at similar theoretical conclusions. In an
attempt to assess the impact ofsocial relations on perceptions ofsexual assault, the authors
compared two representative samples of 1,1S7 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 elementsy IUch as the present clay
impact of a history of slavery in the United play an important role in womenYs
perceptions! experience5 of rape and access to services such as rape crisis centers. Ta
Wyatt suggested that racism bas constnJeted BIaclc women as usexuaUy voraciousty.
ln tum, Black wornen are not seen as credible rape 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 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 ofwhich
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
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, 1focus 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;
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 ofthe legacies of colonialism
bas been the creation ofa lasting image ofthe or "Eastern" woman. In this image,
bat depie:ted by French and British writers ofthe 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
ofArabie 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 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 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 ofvariaus 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 ofthe former pan ofthe dichotomy with traditionalism and the repression
ofwomen' ssexuality 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 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 to another.
Moreover, suc:h dichotomization of sexuaI etJectively renders
invisible the açtivism and many stNges ofwomen 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
ofthe 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 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 ofthe 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 of honour'J4. by vinue of tiVÎDg in an Arabie
society. This in itselfcreates a differentiation between Muslim and Christian women living in
4
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 ofvirginity 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 ofthe 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 ofthe family may be more of an ideal than a historical
and contemporary reality. Based on her own r e s e a r c ~ 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 18
6
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
ll
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 ofdisaster were and continue to be
offered to women through the extended family ( S a b b ~ 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 ofgovernment 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
e m p l o ~ 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 ofthe 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, Badran,
1993; EI-Solh and Mabro. 1994; Makdisi. 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 ofvirginity and in tum, the sanetity of a system of
patrilineal heritage, women's acœptable sexual aetivity is restrieted to the bounds ofmarriage.
For 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 ofnushouz
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 herself' to her husband's
rights under marriage 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 ofnushou:)
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 ofdiscipline 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 ofa male relative enraged at
the thought ofthe 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 ofa
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 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. Afirst 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 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 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 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 ofthe 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 ofhonour"
is &equentIy cüscussed in relation to the lives ofwomen 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
ofrape within Arabie contexts needs to be undertaken conjointly with an understanding ofthe
importance pIaœd on viqpnity, marnage, and the distinction between pre-marital and marital
!eX. In ChIpIer 4, 1take my examination ofrape and marriage to geater depths u 1address
more specificaUy relevant aspects ofthe LebaneselBeiruti context.
47

Chapter3
Metbodology
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 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 & 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
48



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
tends.
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-
1994; Lather, 1991; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council ofCanada,
1998).
The epistemological stance of the upositioned investigator" bas been 5Ugested as a
substitute for the positivist stance knower" (Andersen, 1993; Kohler
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 1will show tbroughout this dissertation.. my positionality as a single woman ofmarrying
age and as a mughtaribé
6
, 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;
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).
1made 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, 1experienccd a sense offtustration. Upon ret1ection 1came to view
.
my tiustration as $lemming trom an inability to recruit Christian women to interview. Seing
ofMuslimbacksround myseJfand Iivins in a predominandy Muslim and Druze neighborhood,
6
Mughtaribé üterally means a woman who bas lone West. This tenn refers to people who
have emigrated ftom Lebanon to various pans ofthe world.
50



it became apparent to me that the fiustrations associated with reauitment had less to do with
my abiIities u aresearcher 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 ofthe power relations involved
in the production of knowledse: Ifail knowledge is situated in concrete socio-historical and
cultural locations and is produced by socially-positioned then the power which
charaeterizes these situations is also ret1ected and reproduced in the research process
(BanneljL 1993; 1991,b; 1991). For authors such as Trotman
Reid &. Kelly (1994) and Landrine et al. (1992) have maintained that research bas traditionally
retlected the 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;
(991b; Ramazanoglou, 1989b; 1995; Trotman Reid &. Kelly, 1994; Worell
&. Etaugh, 1994). feminists have demanded that the potential political nature ofthe
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 ofinterviews 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
others.
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 ofthe 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 viewthe 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 ofthe 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 ofthe 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 ofthe Coordinator and the volunteers themselves.
Finally, 1have 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, 1am 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
1have information that 1could contribute to aetivists working on vjolence against women in
Beirut. 1was 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 ofensuring 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, 1have 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 ofwomen' 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 and!oœllb'ÎSm bas created a body ofsocial 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; 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 ofwomanhood and
the conœms ofgroups ofwomen beyond these specifie 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 the pain, and the
unfolding drama, IlOt onIy ofthe Arlb family but ofthe 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;
1997a; Hill Collins, 1990,1997; hooks, 1981; 1989; Landrine et al., 1992;
Mohanty, RamazanosIou.. 1989a; Riley, 1990; Trotman Reid" Kelly, 1994). These
accounts have lypicaUy retlected the concems ofwhite, middle-elass, heterosexual
but have been assumed to apply universaUy. As Speiman (1988) stated,
[m]ost philosophica1 accounts 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



strategies. rll'St, that the düferences between women need to be as much a centre ofinquiry
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 ofils interaction with othe!' elements ofsociaJlocation is necessary-
i.e. intersectional anaIysis discussed previously 1993; 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 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 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'omthe dataare linked to 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 ofresearch is a social aetivity cellbed around a reIationship between the researcher and
panicipant (Cook &. Fonow, Worell &. Etaugh; 1994; Gilbert, 1994;
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 ofresearch 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: "Howdid the relationships between
researcber and resarched contribute to the Imowledge that (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 1will 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
interview.
2. Qualitative IroUDded metbodology
The feminist fhunework lhat guided tbis study is coupled with a reliance on some of
the principles ofgrounded methodology. Grounded methodology, pioneered by Glaser and
Strauss in the 1960s (Glaser&Strauss, 1967; Strauss & C o r b ~ 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 aimto test a hypothesis or veritY a theory, and while Ibis study did not
generate tbeory per se, 1sought 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 1sought 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 ofthe 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 ofresearch (Bergen..
Davis &. 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 1entered the field settinS with no
preconceived theoretical notions about rape, 1did 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 ofsexualized violence constructions. 1chose 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: a c c o u n t ~ ofwomen in Beirut. not
formaUy engased in aetivism about the issue of 5e'Qlalized violence; accounts ofvolunteers
ofthe Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LCR.VAW) located in Beinat;
and panicipant observation in a variety ofsettings described below. These primary sources
ofdata were supptementect by a review of newspaper anicles. as weB as meetings with key
60



infonnants such as 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, 1employecl 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,
McCraken, 1988; 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 ofsocial 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 ofdata is derived &om guided interviews with 13 adult women who
were DOt fonnaUy engaged in Iâivismon the issue of5e'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 there were at least two aspects of
homoseneity. For one, while most ofthe participants did not explicitly identify themselves
as they aU made references to male panners. In 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 ofwomen &9m these social locations.
1retumto how this homogeneity may bave influenced the findinss al a laler point in the data
chapters.
62
Table 1: Selected ch.ncteriltia of the womeD iDterviewed
.'
....doaym
Aae ET RE MS DI ID OC
Am8(EWI) 27 Yugoslavianl Muslim Sunni SI B.A. Aa:oun1alll
LebmIe!c
l.amecs(EW2) 34 Palcstinian Musiim Sunni SI B.A. Rec:ruitmeDt
qcnl
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
desiper
Josephine( EW7) 43 Armenian Christian SE Baccn ~ .
Catholic:
(Grade12)
Zeina(EW8) laIe Lcbenc:se Christian E Collqe Public:

20'5 diploma relations
officer
Sa1ma(EW9) arly LebBDcse Christian SI B.S.W. Social Worker
)O's Roman
Ortbodox
Magida(EW10) 40 Lcb8nesc Christian SE Unknown ESL tacher
Maronite
Maha(EWll) 33 Palcstinian Muslim Sumli SI B.A. Marketing
qcnl
Gbada(EW12) 31 Lcb8nac Muslim Shüte SI B.A. Ardùvist
Layal(EW13) 24 Lcb8Dcsc DnIze M ~ . Homcmakcr
!Chaol
ET = EtbDic:ity
RE = Religion
MS =Marital 5IatUs: M :;:: maried. SI =s i D I l c ~ E :;:: q""'. SE =ScJ-ated
DI = Disability. ifdeclared 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, 1asked 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 ofthe 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 1did not contaet women ctirectIy until they had indicated
their interest in participating in the study. In order to safeguard confidentiality, 1did not ask
my personal connedions for the names of women whom they were referring to me.
ln order to avoid pre-defining wornent 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
and expressions ofsewaIity 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 (EW4) related incidents
of physical abuse; Salma (EW9) disclosed an incident ofsexuaI barassment.
In addition to explorations of relationships, interviews al50 included several prompts
(McCraken, 1988) tbat elicited discussions ofsexualizecf violence in relationships. The tint
prompt was a vignette based on an Arabie movie &amthe 1960'5. The foUowing journal entry
64



describes the vignette and how 1came to choose it:
Yesterday 1saw 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 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 raped her!n. 1asked 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).
1chose this vignette because it came trom a popular and widely accessible
television, and beause il captured the essence ofambiguity between raPe and consensual sex.
ln the interviews. 1presented the vignette and then said that the persan 1was watcmog the
movie with exclaimed that uhe raped her". 1followed 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. 1recounted Suline's story
and asked women for their comments. 1chose this particular story because it WIS the first
case in Lebanese history on wbich women' s groups, such as LCIlVAW, mobilized against the
issue oftape. A vietim' s side ofthe story was heard for the first lime quite loudly in public,
6S
and 1wondered 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 ofthe 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 ofaetivities. This
is not a point thal 1explored in my research, but one which begs future exploration.
66


Beirut, 1witnessed 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
harassment.
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 1interviewed 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, i n t e r v i e w ~ events, etc.) research
and legaJ reParts, and other organizational documents such as brochure, mission statement,
constitution and bylaws.
61
Table 2: Selected cuncteriltia 01t.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
40's
Gcorge(LC3) 31 L Christian 1 )T. LcpI œmminee Lawyer
Maronite
Nila (LC4) 31 A Christian Catbolic
1.' YJS
LepI conuninee Lawyer
Rita (LC,) 26 L Christian 1yr. 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
sots

Mouna(l.C9) laie L Dnazc 2yn. Executive comminc:e Unkno\\ll
SO's
ET = L =1ebaDesc+ A =Armenian
RE =Religion
VI' =lengtb oftime as a volunte:er: CœnciI was cstabIisbed in 1997
VI =Position or commiltCC iovoIved in al the COUDCiI
OC =Sclf-reponcd occupation
WhiIe coIIecting data, the Coordïnator ofLeRVAW 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'Idastanding ofaetivism on rape and otller fonns
ofviolence against women within Beïrut. 1wu remiDcled ofthe 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 ofdominance 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 ofLeRVAW; 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
ofsatw'8tion wben 1began 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

Table 3: Seleded charaeteristia 01 key Înlo......nts
Key ProIeuioBIOrpaizatioll
AdIvm. _ 11'_'. i-.es
Iaf........
(II applieable)
udaader
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
mosque
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 1had 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
ages.. ethnicities.. and lire trajectories.
ln terms of social settings.. 1was often in the company of fiiends and relatives. In
because 1went to Beirut with my mother, the general expectation was that as an
unwed 1would 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 for example, in raction to
newspaper articles or television shows.
Through my involvement u • volunteer, 1al50 undenook participant observation in
a range of community organi
71l
tions. 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
organization.
As a participant observer, 1went 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. 1realized 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
service:
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
society.
Having no access to a private car during my time in Beirut, 1spent much ofmy rime
in service comnuting &amone interview or meeting to anatber. It is worthwhile ta mention
that the fàre is not exorbitant by any means-St-$2 pel' trip-aIIowing people ofvarious classes
and occupational backgrounds to come ioto contact with one another. Tbroughout tbis
dissenation. 1relate incidents that occurred in this fonn oftransportation and that gave me
in$ights into issua related to the research topic.
72



A final source ofdata 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 offiiends, relatives and neighbors.
Though 1had 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 ofa close ftiend
ofthe family commented that in Canada or in Egypt there is a higher prevaJence ofviolence
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 ofdata 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. 1drew 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, 1began to identify thernes which guided funher
analysis.
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 ofrape
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 1initially
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 ofeliminating
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, 1created 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
interpretations.
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. 1then 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 1had 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. 1gave panicipants the option ofrevieWÎng
the transcripts to ensure accuraey, but no one took advantage of this option. Tapes were
destroyed foUowing transcription
9
.
In terms of participant confidential information or identifying
,
This was the procedure agreed upon in the ethics review.
9
This was the procedure agreed upon in the ethics review.
76



eharacteristics of organizations
10
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, 1indicated 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. 1would 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
10
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.
77



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 ofrape. 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 1relyon 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 i n t e n t i o n a l ~ 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 areminder tbat this fonn ofviolence is a tool of comrol and domination and
Dot a crime of passion between individuals.
1aIso reIied on the temsen..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 1observed how my use ofthe 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 ofthe discussion. For example, three participants relied
on the tam ~ ' s e x u a I harassment" (tahashourjinry) 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)
Sifah al-kourba
19htisab
Tolteesh
TallMItoflr fjinsy)
'Ounfjinsy
l 'tida .jinsy
Zolom
Arabie
79
EDRliJb
(scxual) exploitation
rape
verbal c:omJDCIItS usuaIly ora sexuallflinatious
nature
(scxuaI) banssmcnt •
sexuaI violence
sexuallSSluit



îneest. Throughout the data collection phase and in writing this dissenation 1chose not to
focus on an in-depth examination ofthese less ftequently used tenns. 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 1noted that
rape and sexuaI assauIt were used sometimes by the sune person. However.
in this dissertation, 1have chosen to rely on the term panly for the sake ofconsistency.
More imponantly, 1reIy on the tamrape because il is a Hteral translation ofightisab, the term
used in the Lebanese Penal Code. Ifthis study is to he peninent within the Lebanese context.
then 1must 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, 1have had ta contend
with the issue oftranslation, as most verbal and written data were in Arabie. Areview 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, 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). 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, 1relied 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, iftranslated
literally, lose their connotative meaning. A lypical example is the distinction made in
coUoquiaI Arabie between the terms ~ ~ g i r l " (bint) and "wornan" (maTa). The fonner mers to
a female child, but is also used to denote a female ofmarrying 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
11
Consent fonns and introduction letters were translated into Arabie by a Lebanese penon
familiar with both the Beiruti context and the issue ofsexualized violence.
81



equivaJent in English. For example. the term ' ' ' m u k h l ~ refers to a panicular type of public
official responsible for the maintenance and updating ofcensus files. the iSsWng ofidentity
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 termbas DO EngIish equivalent, 1oft"er an italicized transliteration based on
the guidelines set by the International Journal oCMiddle 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, 1now 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 aimin this regard is to set the stage for latter chapters, where
1focus on the study' s 6ndings.
82



Cbapter4
The Leb8.eseIBeiruti cODtest
1. Introduction
Areview 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 1994).
Rape has captured some media 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; 1994; Faour, 1995; Lebanese
CounciJ to Resist Violence against Women., 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 ofresearch, there are currently no state policies that deal with
rape or other forms ofviolence against women. However, unlike domestic violence, there is
aIawon rape cowred under the chapter on "crimes against public morality" ofthe 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 ifthe vietim is less
than 15 years old. (Qassim, 1999, p. 78)
As cao be observed trom article sentences vary according to age ofvietim and identity
ofaggressor-articles S04-506 and S) 1-S12 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. Awoman who bas been rapeel cao seek assistance at her
local police station where her testimony is tsken. The $late's forensic medical
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
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 ofthe broader comm. To reiterate
7
1brietly mentioned how perceptions
ofrape 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
7
1argued for the adoption
ofan intersectional approach. In adopting the intersectional importance is accorded
to the paniadar socio-poütical context within whieh rape occurs. Thus
7
while 1cannot offer
the reader detailed information about the treatment of rape within Lebanese soc;iety7 as sueh
information is lacking, 1tum my attention in this ehapter to key aspects ofthe 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
7
politieal. legaJ and economie systems. not in a
fonnal sense. but as a way to situate women' s diverse experiences ofany social phenomenon
under study. More specifical1y in this chapter. 1examine the LebaneselBeiruti context within
whieh experiences of rapelsexuality take shape. 1 discuss five main aspects of the Beiruti
context: war. ethnie diversity, 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 ofail, !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 ofsender
7
elass and ethnicity as central
elements ofthe Lebanese context. Wrth this context in place, 1then proceed to a discussion
8S
ofthe study' 5finding5 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
12
In providinl this brief historica1 overview, 1have 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. 1chose this tex! because it is the official tex! taught in scbools and cu
be said to represent the official story ofLebanon
7
s history.
86



protectorships on countries as Lebanon and Palestine, without having been
requested to do 50 by the countries themselves.
ln the case of 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 ofaetivïsts. 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 ofmilitary coercion; second, by taking control of principal political and economic
institutions; third, by 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 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, 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, protectorship wu to Iast for decacles until a
tuming point in laie 1943. At that lime, the Lebanese parliament declared amendments to the
1]
Whilc a majority in Lebanon, Cluistians werc, and still are, an overwhclming minority in the
predominantly Muslim region ofthe 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 ofFrench protectorship and the beginning ofa
new era ofLebanese 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
ofother 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 1now 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 ofthe 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 1983). In addition to massive losses of life and heavy 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 ofthe already
war-tom country. FoUowing several months of occupation, the Israeli anny retreated to the
South where it bas remained. Since the early 1980's, there have been several air
raids on located al the centre ofLebanon. In June of 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 ofthe civil
war has heralded a new era ofsocial and economic reconstruction. This era is marked by the
proliferation ofbuman rights groups. For Lebanon will 500n he establishing its tirst
chapter ofAmnesty International. Reconstruction bas al50 included the establishment ofnew
women's groups (i.e. the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women) that work
alongside human rishts groups. The end ofthe 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 ofthe nation
was deemed Jow on the scale of priorities (Akkad. 1990).14 Moreover, women's
14
1experienœd this de-prioritization firsthand when 1conducted the present study. FoUowing
the June 1999 air strikes, 1wu 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 r i ~ sucll as chaIIenging sexist laws, to providing basic emergency relief and social
services (KhaIaf, 1993).
In addition to the de-prioritimtion ofthe 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; S a y i ~ 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 ofthe 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 ofmen. This
situation bad the impact of encouraging women to pursue secondary and higher education,
postponing or etiminatins ail together their aœess to the mies ofwife 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
7
aban, 1988). In
sum.. the war changed women7 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 ofrape. On the other band, it may simply he that the war loosened societal
nonns in general as MaIuf(1993) notecf. one ofwhic: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 ofwomen' 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 ofthe 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 ofdiscussion 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 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 lawbe 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 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 ofthe sources oftension 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 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
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 ofthe "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 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, or region of origin. Aconcrete 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. 1retum to more concrete examples of the
operation ofsectarianism in everyday relations and in tumtheir impact on perceptions ofrape,
in the findings section ofthis dissertation.
2.4 Ethnie djycnjtylmjami
Qo
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 ( A b u - L a b ~ 1992). The tirst wave occurred al the
beginning ofthe 20'" century and was mostly economica1ly motivated. These tirst migrants
were mostly Maronite men trom mountainous villages who left in search ofnew economic
opponunities mostly in Afiica and the Americas.
The second wave ofmigration 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 Gulf countries who found themselves once Main in situations ofcivil
strife.
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



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 bath males and females: objectification. Abu-Hawach
(1997) observed that migrant domestie workers are treated as objects devoid offeelings 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 ofengaging in romantic relationsbips. 1elaborate on tbis precise
point in Chapter 5 when discussing data regarding racism and the ofacceptability
ofa marriage union.
ln addition to domestic 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 ofthe civil WIf. In addition. Syrian political
and military intervention whieh ended the Lebanese civil war bas reinforced Lehanon"5
position ofpoIiticaJ dependency on Syria. For these political and economie 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 ofwhich 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 oforigin. 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, ifin less subtle ways tban migrant workers. In
most Kurds and many Palestinians live in situations of poverty in IUD-dOwn
96



neighborhoods or refugee camps-in the case ofPalestinians.
Unlike Kurds and Armenians, Palestinians are targets ofspecial contempt because they
are seen by many to be the cause ofthe civil war and retain para-military presence in Lebanon
to tbis date. Although somewhat 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 ofthose features, the founder
ofthe society referred to "the closeness offiuniIy life, where there is a great dealless personal
freedom and where the fiuniIy places pressure on the individual to conform" (AJ-Awar, 1999,
p.9).
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 raciSlll is ofspecial 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
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:
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 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
ofeducation. heaIth and social services (Al..Bizri &. ]998; Joseph, ]994). Subsidies
for essential services such as medical care and education are available ta a very minuscule
segment ofthe 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,
16
Female enfoUrnent in Lebanese schools and universities represems an approximate SOOAa of
total enroUrnent (Khala( 1998).
17
In 1998, this participation ÎD the formai sector wu estimated Il (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 combined with the eft'"ects ofthe 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 religion and political
affi6ation, are important sources ofsupport in situations ofstress 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! the current
econoDÛC situation is directIy relate<! to the important place ofmarriage, to which 1DOW tum
my attention.
2.6 Marri.. in the LcbanescIBejDlti comext
ln previous chapters, 1alluded to the imPonance ofll18ITÏa8e 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 1999; Kabbanji"
1997; KhaJaf, 1998; Klat" Khudr, 1984; Sabban, 1986). A recent study on working
women in Lebanon ilIustrates tbis importance (Kabbanji 1997). In a diverse sample
ofover 2,000 working women, 25%ofwhom were married, 25% indicated that marriage had
fulfilled ail oftheir liCe' s over 60'10 indieated tbat marriage had panialJy tùIfilIed
their life' s expectations. The study also found tbat over 40010 ofumnarried 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: 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
work
n
(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 1989;
Birr. 1996). However, a review ofthe 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 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 of80vemmental 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 ofthe 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
a b o v e ~ 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 ofmarriage 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
1.
Mul'Q literally means "pleasure
n
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
authorities.
Düferences in the experience of marriage, specificaUy in terms ofhusband 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 a u t h o ~ 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,
19
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, 1conclude the background portion orthe dissertation and prepare
to launch ioto the Findings Section. Beginning with Chapter S, 1 present data examining the
centra1ity ofmarriage 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 r a p e ~ 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, 1will 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 ofthe importance ofmarriage, foUowed by an attempt
to explain its importance. The chapta- ends with adisalSSÎORofthe conditions of acceptability
of a marriage union and potentiai marriage panner5. This cbapter sets the stage for
explorations into the links between the construction ofmarriage and perceptions ofrape and
lOS
consensual sex (Chapters 6, 7, and 8).

2. DlultratiDe the importaDre of marri.le
Throughout the research process, 1was struck by a singular recurring phenomena-


the overwbebning pleoccupation witb marriage. In anaIysiDg my data. 1began to realize the
links between the centraIity ofmarriage and the object ofmy study, constructions ofrape. In
earlier 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
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 ofrape (p. 9).
Ret1ecting on this quote, 1am struck by thejoumalists' 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
pervasive.
106

2.1 Mania" as a divinel)' qmtrollcct DCCCSSÎI)'
1bere appear to !le 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.
1curse my unlucky stars these days. (... ) Why should 1live 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 interviewwith layai (EW13), she asked me ifl was married.
When 1lold ber thal 1 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 1was 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).
20
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
stans
n
, 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. 1bave 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 beliefin 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 w o ~ 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 (EW10) 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
marriage.
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 (LC1) and 1 were informally talking
about the myth that violence only happens in arranged marriages at which
point she wondered ifthese marriages still happen. So 1gave her the example
ofthe woman who called my mom a few days aga ta see ifshe could get me
for her son whom 1have 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).
1went 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 offat 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 ( ...). 1have a more like a wben
people see us !bey say"What do you man 'he's a ftiend',
impossible, there lDJ5t he something going on". He 80t 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 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 hold a little (Anna, EWl).
In 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 ifthis evolves,
it evolves, 1mean 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
concemofgetting married on their minds. Implicit in this perception ofan 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 ofromantic 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 must he involved in a
11
As mentioned in Chapter "girl" mers to a virgin female ofmarrying age and oot only to
a femaIe chiId. For the sake ofconsistency, 1have reIied on the tenn ''woman" instead of"girI
throughout the 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 marry her.
110



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 (Le1) 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 aguy 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 UllYthings 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).
111

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 1have 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. 1would 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 1am
beginning to befiiend. As per the conversation tumed to
especiaDy considering that aU ofthe women around the table were single and
in their early thirties. D. is in love with amarried 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 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
1999).
While love is important, an unwed woman' s central concem is getting married.
Perceiving ils importance as 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 and even
then, they are still recognized only in relationship to another man. Aclear 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 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 father. Put differently
a connection to a man is even iffietitious.
113

3• Esplorinl the importaDce of ••male
In earlier 1argued that the importance of marriage is best understood by


eumining the broader 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 ofconsent.
3. 1 The re1atjooship between maniaa
e
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 ofthe 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 ofeight 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,
1999).
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).
1am 27 years old
D
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 1be manied, meaning somethinS caUed moutlQ. Meaning lhat
a girl bas these instincts, that God created them in ber. (...). 1lold him that
God says that "ifyou do not gel manied then you will not Cee) these instincts".
(...) 1told 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 ofmout .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 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"airs
n
. In tbis 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.
1would propose that these close ties between marriage and the expression ofwomen s
sexuality retlect the religious nature ofthe BeirutilLebanese comm. As previously mentioned
in discussions ofnushouz, sex in maniage is understood to be an integral pan ofa maniage
union; the absence of sex in marriage is punishable through religious laws, and could lead ta
the annulment of the union. 1refer to these laws in this conteX! not to imply lhat ail Muslim
or Christian married couples adhere to these rules ofmarital 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 1die, let me see you married
9t
(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 1was
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 me expects ber Iuband to support ber (Journal entry: July 28, 1999).
Despite the Q.IITeIIt economic reality ofmany there is asocietal 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 coupied 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.
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.
given that the majority of women imerviewed had at least a secondary level
education and/or were employed at the tilDe ofthe 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 ofmarriage.
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 ofa 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, and
ethnicity are perceived in anegative 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
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 1would
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).
1took 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).
1was invited ta go ta my old neighbour's new apanment. 1have 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,
1999).
1spent 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 c o n d i t i o ~ ofacceptability sueh as
being fi'om the right socioeconomie status, ethnicity or relisious sect. The existence ofthese
strict conditions is accompanied by an element ofdefianc: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 a s ~ s of the Beinati <:ontm by relyins on the available literature.
Considering their imponance in shaping the conditions ofacceptability ofa marriage union.,
in the next three sections. 1discuss these aspects of the cantext based on the data; 1do 50 to
better comextualiz.e the beliefs shared by study panieipants about the conditions surrounding
marriage. 1win 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 ofa marriase. The links between religion and marriase ret1ect two aspects of
Lebanese society: the unavailability ofcivil 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 ofcivil marriage at onœ ref1ects and reinforces the unacceptability
ofinterfaith marriage. For example, couples who marry outside their faith have one oftwo
limitîng options: one ofthe panners cao change religions, which is not an option in ail sects
120



and wben 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 ofcountry 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 sedarianismare 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 nor is their impact restrieted to the level of legislation and laws. Rather,
seetarianism is pervasive in everyday interactions.
Yesterday 1went 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 women" who were sitting across &om him. When
they passed a mosque, these women made the sign of the cross. 1asked him
howhe 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).
1was watching the Asia Cup final basketbaIJ pme with fiiends ofthe 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



1was 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 1really appreciate what he's saying" (Journal entry: June
10, 1999).
1went 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 ofthe 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 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 ofsectarianism did DOt emerge in the 1speculate that this
finding reftects wariness ofexpressing sectarian sentiment in the context ofa tape-recorded
interview. In a society where a long civil war wu justified on sectarian pounds, much
censoring ofsectarian sentiment is apparent ifpeople helieve that their words cao he traeed
back ta them by those in positions ofpower and authority.
122



Ofpartiadar interest trom these journal entries is howditJerentiated 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 1would 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 protcctorshiplcolonialismis the over-valuing and veneration of those social
groups, sucb as Chrisbans, or 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
ofsorne 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
vietim.
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 ofinter-ethnicfmter-
racial unions.
To 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 1 9 8 5 ~ Mokbel-
Wensley, 1996), but no such questionins bas been undertaken in tenns ofthe 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
children.
Coupled with state praetices, inter-ethnicfmterracial unions appear to be aetively
discouraged throup widespread racism.
1took 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: ~ I o o k
et the lovebirds" (Journal entry: May 31, 1999).
1went 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
1was 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).
1was 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 S o u t ~ 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 1shared 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 myjournal 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 w o ~ 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 w o r ~ 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 ofgender,
soc:ioeconomic status and ethnicity are at play in determining JDarT!aseability. 1retum 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 couId go to university

People in Afiica are dying ofhunger and people here are building swimming
pools and have Cadillacs and RoUs Royees. Why? 1 prefer that ail people be
equal. (... ) Maybe if1have more money tben 1cao help him [poor man] as
much as 1cao (...) 1wouldn't look at him as though he is worthless if he were
a janitor or a street vendor. 1would 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, 1onIy 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 ofmiddle 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, or
already existent economic disparities in 8eiNt, are charaeterized by a certain degree of
classism.
Within the excerpts, tbis classism is ret1ected in two ways that are lied to the
socioeconomic homogeneity ofthe study' s sample, mentioned in Chapter 3. First, within the
majority ofexcerpts trom women of privileged socioeconomic 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 ofsocioeconomic status "50 appear to he sendered in nature. Apenasal
ofeœerpts andjournal 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 w o ~ no such
links ue made between theU occupations and their marriageability. Instead, il appears that
the marriageability ofwomen is judged by otber facton to which 1now tum my attention.
4.2 Arrcptabilib' ofpotcotjal ""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 1present 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, 1shall 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 r a ~ or being a non-virgin). In what foUows, 1discuss
age and autonomy. Marital status, physical disability and sexuaI ~ s t o r y 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 ofwomen, 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.
Ofcourse, 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 ofrny 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 s c ~ 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
age.
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 ofmaniage, at which point
one ofthem remarked "AIthough you are feminine and cute, you will probably
scare goys off ifyou 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).
1went 10 the offices ofLCRVAW for a meeting. Visibly shaken, Rima (LC1)
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 ofthose 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 LCRVAWvolunteers. For example,
while Rima (LC1), 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. 1have had the opponunity to develop a close working relationsbip with
Rima (LC1). 1wu impressed with ber untïring efforts and dedication to the mandate ofthe
LCRVAW. Throughout our working relationship, sile repeatedly told me that unlike Zahra
Literally, tbis expression means: ~ ' s b e drank America's water", which means that she bas
become Americanized.
132



one orthe few single women volunteers, she herselfvalued marriage and stanins a
fiuniIy above ber work al LCRVAW. Ensaged to be Rima foresaw that ber eventual
pregnancy would hait her involvement with the organization.
Asecond 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..
1mentiOD it hecallse it provides Ut example ofthe dift"erenœbelieved to exist between Eastern
and Westemized contexts. Earlier in this 1 pointed to the construction of
ChristianlWestemized wornen as easy-going and devoid of inhibitions regarding pre-marital
set. Building on this observation, 1would propose that the West and its influenœ in Lebanon
provide an example ofa society where women' s pre-marital semality and romantie üaisons
are not linked to marriage. This is apparent in these two excerpts:
Here if a girl stans datin& her goal is marriage. 1 mean that
ifyou 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 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 ofwomen in Lebanon, both excerpts
point to a close reIationship between marriage, sexuaIity and the West. 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 ofwomen
133



more ükely to be considered victims ofrape.
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 ofsome women as unmarriageable is closeJy tied
to perceptions ofconsensual &eX and rape.
s. Cbapter Summary
In this chapter, 1explored the construction ofmarriage 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, s e x i ~ 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.
1also provided examples ofthe 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 oflII8I1iage
as an important feature ofwomen' s lives, including the conditions ofacceptability ofa union
and marriageability, ail play a central role in sbaping perceptions ofrape and consensual sex
within the Beiruti context.
134



Chapter6
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 1 argued that rape may he best
understood not by dissociating it &om set, but by exploring the interconnections between the
two. More specifically, 1maintained 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
coneeived of as the ultimate concem and fulfiUment for a woman. 1also 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. 1ilIustrate how the centrality ofmaniage and the conditions
that detennine its acœptability greatly impact on what counts as consensual!eX. Indeedy far
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, 1illustrate 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 y s say you're in love with someone, obviously something is going to
obviously some son of 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 agreey he won't do
anything. (...) In a normal relationship, there is notbing caI1ed rape. Ifthere
is love, there is no rape (Lamees, EW2).
s: [reacting to the film vignette] 1don'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 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] wuconsenting. Sile went up to see himof 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-
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 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 ofa sexual
incident, such u the explosion ofernotions Ieadins women to surrender, but by the anticipated
consequences ofconsent for women.
for example, when something ofthe son [sex] is about to happen. what
am 1thinking? what ifhe doesn't many mer' (Lamees, EW2).
Hadith is the tenu applied to the discourses ofthe prophet Mohammad and bis disciples.
138



J: He [man infilm vignette] must many ber, ifshe loves him tben it's not rape,
il' s with her will. Not rape.
SW
16
: [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] 1don't think it's rape.
L: Ifthey 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 ( S a m i ~ EWS " Loubna, EW6).
No, 1don'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 ofthe event. While love between
the man and woman is considered in judging consent, the above excerpts Ulustrate that the
consequences ofthe 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
marriageability.
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.
139



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
married?
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 ofeiders 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 ofzina [fornication] (Mouna,
LC9).
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 ofcrimes 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 B e i r u ~ 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!XIl8
l
ity. Whereas murder is somewhat extreme and rare, a more common
consequence ofconsenting ta pre-marital sex for women is loss ofreputation 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 perceptions ofconsent 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 1am scared of
my brothers, they would never hurt me. It's because 1wasn'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. girI's honour is like
a ifit is lit once, it is no longer good" [Arabie expression]. We
have to hear these. By hook or by 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 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 adaughter, 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 aLebanese expression that says money
covers up for him" (Zahra, LC6).
1met with rny close fiiend Z. today and she asked me if1bad 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,
1999).
At a camp held by a local organization for of prostitution", 1met a
young 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 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 1am 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 ofthe operation makes it prohibitive and out of reach for most
except afew 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 ~ ' s a v e herself' for ber future
husband. Women are conferred much individual agency in consenting to sex which 1shall
show in Chapter 7, al50 leads to them being blamed for the raPeS that tbey endure.
Aman' 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 beûed 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
himapinst ber will? Never belicve IllY woman who is ensased and surrenders
herselfbut claims that this happened apinst ber will. 1wouldn'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, EW13).
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 beIiefis 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 ofthe 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 afear ofthe consequences. This consent is spoken ofin tenus 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 c b o ~ 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 oftheir sexuaI involvements are less
Iikely to he perceived as rape vietims. such as in the case ofwomen 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 awoman 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. 1consider 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
ss
ip8 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 ofthe house,
and bas never gone out, there is usuaUy IOmethins missin& affection, she
doesn't want the afFection ofber mother or the afFection ofa brother to his
sister, acertain type ofdèction. There are people who try to take advantage
ofthat (Sarnia, EWS).
1 went to the grassroots orpnization for people with disabilities where 1
volunteered durins my stay in Lebanon. 1got into a discussion about gender
with the President and the Vice President ofthe 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 ofthe 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. 1asked
them why tbey dido't believe her at which point 1 was informed that about
8oo/00fwomen 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 ofaffection. Thus, Mauna' s case was more likely to
be this than rape, 1 WIS told (Journal entry: July 8, 1999).
1notice something that there is no attention paid to ber at aU [woman with a
disabiIity]. 1man, 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, 1man guys. Thal's what 1 notice (Loubna, EW6).
kause ber [WOIDIII with • disabiIity] appearance is not p e r f ~ feminine and
beautitùI, parents begin to knowthet wbatever the)' do for their daughter, sile
won't be able to perform ber primary role which is marriage (Coordinator.
104).
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 1showed 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 ofconsent 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 1find more interesting is that this beliefin disabled women' s need for
aftèction is used to cast doubts on the credibility ofrape discl0Sl!re5. Adisabled 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 v i r ~ 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, 1am 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 1am putting up with the
situation. Okay, 50 my salary is not very high, but 1tell 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 1know what they Mean. (... ) 1Mean 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 ifa 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
problemin 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).
149



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 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 for sa.. now that they no
ISO



longer have their usual male panner-i.e. husband. as Magida (EWI 0)
during ber 14 year marriage ta an emotionally and physicaUy abusive !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 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 1became like a
like a thing to be used. 1 stopped feeling. It is not a pleasure. (...) He
disgusted me.
In otTering Magida her neighbor told ber to see sex as a chore like any of ber other
chores.
My neighbor would say "Thînk of it as a duty. As a duty, think ofit as if you
have achore ofcleaning the 800rs before you sleep and don't say no because
tbis affects a lot the life ofa 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 ofthe 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 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 ofsa because ofthe beliefthat
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 ofrape
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, 1illustrated the implicit and explicit links between consent and the
centrality of marriagelheterosexuallove relations in wornen' s lives. 1arped 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 virginityt and blamed for its loss. They
are seen ta consent at w i l l ~ yet their consent is constrained by the consequences that society
reserves for unwed non.virginal wornen.
Secorxl in the case ofa1ready 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"t ··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
unmarriageable.
These assumptions reinforœwoman-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 ofrape.
Throughout this examination of consent, 1explored how women' s perceptions are
shapeel by elements of social location such as socioeconomic class, marital status and
disability. In the next chapter, 1carry 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
married."
1. IDtroduction
In the preceding chapter, 1dernonsarated 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 ofthm consent to pre-
marital sex. 1also 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. 1demonstrated how unmarriageability is closely tied
to the perception that some women, such as those who are disabled or d i v o r ~ 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, 1demonstrate how closely these
perceptions ofrape 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, 1wiO 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 s t a t ~ an event is more Iikely to be perceived as rape ifit 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 1love the guy, ifit happened by force (...) 1wouldn'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 ifhe marries ber after that then sile
belonss to him anyway.
SW: What do you mean by "force"?
L: What do 1man 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).
ISS



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, iffor 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 a e t i v i ~ 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 ofmaniage
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 oflove.. but al50 because !bey
beIieve that maniage is the natural consequence of a loving sexual relationship. In contrast,
the dement offol'œin a r8ationsbip appears to disrupt this equation between love, manilge
and ~ leading to an event being more likely to be perceived as rape.
156



Apossible consequence ofthe association between rape and physical force is the over·
shadowing ofrapes that do not involve physical coercion. While some instances ofraPe 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 ofthe 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 ofcoercion. As 1demonstrated in chapters
5 and 6, !eX in marriage is an expected '6chore", even ifit 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
ofmarital obligation, there are other instances when rape occurs through use of non-physical
intimidation. My review ofnewspaper 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 ofthe 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
advances.
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

2.2
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 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 newacquaintance 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 ofthe 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. the woman is
perceived to be Il fauIt or to have somehow provoked the rape, i.e. through her inappropriate
manner ofdressa While it is diftiaalt to ascertain whether or not the airpon story bas become
part ofpublic Ioreon rape, it is important to mention that this story is not recent. 1 have heard
it repeatedly sinœmy chiIdhood in Seirut. Indeed, it was somewhat of. surprise to hear the
story repeated &equentIy over the course ofmy 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. 1was having an infonnal chat with one of
the volunteers when !he bepn to tell me about the case !he wu working on.
Awoman 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, ifyou 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. 1shouldn't provoke others. Thal is my
responsibility (Sheikh, KI 13).
Unlike perceptions ofc o ~ 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 ofrape, sexual
aetivity occurring between a husband and wife. In the absence ofmaniage 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 a t t i r e ~ she is nonetheless still considered ta have been a vietim of
rape.
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 ifsomeone assaults a small girl. This man
must be kiUed (...) This would be a lesson to others. Imprisonment is not
enough ( S h e i ~ 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, 1think, 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).
1think your research is quite important because your topie is 50 taboo here
and needs to be talked about. 1have 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).
1beabove excerpts emanated ftom my requests to hear about stories ofrape. 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
that 1 frequented the clay foUowins the show's airing on a
Lebanese television station. The communily workers 1met were incensed by
the comments of a key government official interviewcd during the show.
According to these the official arSUed that while there are 50 few
cases ofchild rape in 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 ofage 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 1 find it useful to build on
arguments made in Ibis and previous chapters. As discussed in Chapter being too young
is considered a condition of unmarriageability. [n Chapter 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.
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 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. 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 1believe to he
very ftequent. (... ) Ta abbreviate, 1 cali them 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. 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 and 1was asked what my thesis was about. 1taId 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 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).
1can't explain tbis ta but 1hear 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 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 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 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 he would beat her.
(... ) She got to a point wbere sile couldn't handle it anymore. She told him "1
don't love you. 1don'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 1argued earüer, consensual sex,
love and marriage are assumed to be inextricably linked; if one ofthose 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 ofand 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
n
• 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
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 ofthe 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 1had corrections to do. 1had to give the grades
the next day. 1was up tü 1:30, 2:00 a.m. 1was correcting. ( ... ) He cornes in
and he feels Iike it [sex]. (... ) 1said no, 50 we had a 6gbt and he hit me with
the bible in my faœ and kicked me out ofthe room. 1staned to sleep outside.
1slept outside for a month and a hait: And ifI left the house, 1didn'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 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 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. 1mean 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, 1mean 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 (... ). 1consider 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 tromthin 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 1go see them, 1take 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
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 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 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
creating ramifications for organizations working on violence against women in
Lebanon.
In fact. within the above excerpts. it is ooly Zoya (Le1), the coordinator of
LCRVAW. 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.
cha1lenging perceptions oflikely vietims, especially in tenns of religion, is perhaps one ofthe
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 ofsexual misccnduct. A story tbat appeared in alocal 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 1998). In consequence, the villagers formed a mob and attacked
other Syrian Iaborers. Evident in this example ofracism 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 peaee ofmind. They just don't leave a girl alone
n
(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).
1always 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
&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 ofrape. The
perception that rape requires physical force leads to the conclusion that men trom rural
regions, typicaUy are more likely to be rapists. Apparent in the excerpts is the
170



equation ('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, herseIfofworking class background. rejects notions ofthe 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 ofrape and social
relations specifie to the BeiNti context. These perceptions ofthe 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 ofSyrian 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
localion
l7
.
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 ofthe 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
27
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).
172



more members of marginalized ethnicities might have produced findings which concur with
those presented in dUs section about Iikely rapists. However, 1would 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 the vieWPOint of a predominantly privileged
sample.
5. Ch.paer summ.ry
ln this chapter, 1argued 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, 1presented 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 ofother fonns ofrape 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



Chapter8
Key findings:
Implications for tbeory, researcb and pnctice
1. Introduction
ln tbis 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. 1relied 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 howthe 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. 1demonstrated 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 1pointed 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 ofunwanted !eX.
ln Chapter 7, 1tumed 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 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 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
love.
As 1developed my thesïs, 1connected themes trom my findings to the broader social
context as seen in l a w ~ 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 ofmarital 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 r a p e ~ 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 ofthem; 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 s h o ~ apparent within the findings is the recognition ofthe 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 s agency
cames with it important implications for practiee and researeh.
2. 1 Implications for tbeory
As mentioned in Chapter 1 feminist theories of rape have sought to challenge the
individualization ofthe problem of rape by examining the links to gendered social relations.
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 ofa 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 or 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
179
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
~ 1would 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



2.2 Implications for p(Jetjçe



on their sexuality and the imponance accorded to marriage.
As iUustrated throughout tbis while aware ofthese constraïnts. women
are not led to challenge woman-blame but to reinforce il. Building on their awareness of
social 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 but with the aim ofchallenging the conditions ofacceptability 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 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
violence.
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
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 ofr e s e a r c ~ 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.
21
The creation of a recent chat Website (www.lesbanon.com) attests ta the existence of an
active lesbian presence in Lebanon.
181



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 1proposed
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 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 ofsectarianism, sexisrn and racism connected to the cultural dichotomy ofEastIWest
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



Afinal example ofthe impact ofsocial 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. 1994; 1992).
ln short. while no genertizable differenœs can be g1eaned trom tbis study9 the findings
clearly point to the impact of social relations at the intersection of gender and
among 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 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 ofrape (e.g. Brand, 1993; hooks, 1981; Hill
Collins, 1990) and theoretical diso'ssjons ofwomen's sexuality, advanced by Arabic feminists
(e.g. 1996; 1996).
SeconcL in theorizing women' s lives within Arabie as 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 ofthe 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.. awoman' 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 ofschoIarship 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 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 ifwe are ta acknowledge tbat culturaVreligious belonging does not in and ofitself
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 1created 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 ofrape and rape vietims, but also the
racism. classism, abelism, and other forms ofoppression, embedded within tbis
treatment.
In addition to the above-mentioned myth-dispelling awareness-raising campaigns,
future aetivism on rape could be undertaken on two fronts. aetivists could challenge
laws that reinforce ethnoœntrismand scc:tarianism such as citizenship and marriage laws that
have a direct bearing on perceptions ofripe. 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
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 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.
1make 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 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 r e l i g j o ~ ethnicity or socioeconomic status do contribute
to ditTerentiai perceptions ofrape.
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 ofliving 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 ofrape
laws in contexts other than Lebanon may lead to developing ditTerentiai perceptions ofcape.
187


Knowledge of rape laws that do not differentiate between virginal and non-virginal victims7
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 "Westemized
n
women have
ditTering perceptions than their "Eastem
77
counterpans because they have forsaken
"traditions"; instead, 1would propose that the experience of referred to by authors
such as Smith (1997) as a ""rupture
77
in ways of seeing everyday issues, could also have an
impact on shaping differential perceptions of rape.
ln the introductory chapters of tbis 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 ofchanges in marriage
trends on perceptions of rape. In tbis 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 1repeatedly drew out the impact of
socioeconomic status on rape 1did 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 ofthe 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. depaning from the majority of
previous tbis study reveals the links between these situational factors and the
broader social context by exarnining the interplay ofsocial relations that lead to the privileging
ofthese factors in defining the line between rape and consent. Put ditrerently. while previous
research bas focused on situational factors in and of this study bas attempted to
understand the meaning of tbese factors within a panicular socio-political context shaped by
specifie social relations.
An illustration oftIis 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. 1996), as the findinss of
this study illustrate, it is the particular nature ofthe marriage that leads to tbis and
this is tied to the current construction ofacceptable 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 inthe rate ofcelibacy in Lebanon (KhaIat: 1998) may reach such
proponions u to minimize the imponanœaccorded to marriage, thereby possibly diminishing
ils impact in shaping perceptions ofrape 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 ofrape, depending on the societal changes that
have taken place in the meantime. The implications ofthis 8uidity for future r e s e a r c ~ 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 itselfin the belief that sexuality is a luxury
issue that cannot he discussed because ofother 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 ofsexuality.
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 ofthe 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 ofsocial 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 ofthe 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. 1998). By iIlustrating that sexual violation could take many forms and
did not have to indude vaginal 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.
Asecond 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 ofthe &nding tbat sex and rape aren' t easily dissociated,
three key research implications IRapparent. 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. 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. future research would
benefit trom giving equal attention to bath types ofPerceptions. 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 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
As with any well-conceived moment of 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 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 Ibis study provides an empirical illustration ofthe long-acknowledged
imponanee of tbis type of analysis. a10ngside the fietional accounts of rape and
the rare theoretical discussions of sexuality by Arabie 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 1write the Iast few Iines oftbis thesis, 1am reminded ofthe 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
196



5. CODcludiDg tboulbts



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 sawMy 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 hadbeen separatedfrom. these
new souls [wouldJ never seillefor the old ways which hod buriedlhem. And
these so"ls can suddenly imagine more lhon rape c e n l e r . ~ . or laws changed,
or even prisonsfilll ofmen who have raped women...Now we des;re a world
i" which 'ape could1101 he imaginedand cou/d never he. We desire 1IOthing
less than Ihis. (Griffio., 1979, p. 35)
197

Appendis A: Map or coateDlporary Lebanoa
SVRIA
i
-..,. - - ~ :
20 ellrft
l ,
o
o
j

Source:
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. 1encourage 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
samantbawehbi@hotmail.com
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 but the main findings are distiUed in the fonn of a summary which
1would appreciate you distributing to Couneil members (especially those who partieipated
in the study). In the interest of making this study as useful as 1am entnasting the
results ofthe study to the CounciL for you to use as you see fit. For exarnple, 1have 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
assistance.
Samantha Wehbi
samanthawehbi@hotmailcom
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 and a review of newspaper articles
from 1996-1999
9
tbis research project sought to understand the perceptions of rape held by
women in the Seiruti contm. In this summary report
9
1 present the methodology of the
project., foUowed by a disalssion of sorne ofthe 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
9
physical abilities and religious backgrounds.
ln addition to women not formally involved in 1also interviewed a group of
Dine volunteers, eigltt women and one man helonging to the Lebanese COURcil to Resist
Violence &gainst Women (LeRVAW).
The final set of interviews was condueted with 16 community professionals who had
sorne direct or indirect relationship to the issue of violence against some of them
aetually heing adivists on related issues. This group included: a priest, a sheikh, social
workers, a schoal a a psychoanalyst, a university professor, a mulchlQT,
an internai Sec;:urity forces officer, a lawyer
9
as weU as several coordinators of community
organizations.
2.2 ParticiPant observatign
An important pan of data coUection consisted of observations that 1had 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 ifit adheres to one
ofthe foUowing conditions.
• Ifil 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.
• Ifil 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.
• Ifil occurs in an arrangedmarnage
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. S e c o n ~ 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. Solution. and future Iteps
4. 1 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 ofservices suc:h as shehers for W O ~ 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



4.2 Disscrnination of findinp and Mw the)' CIO he uw'
Since completing the research project9 1have been enpged in the dissemination of
findings by relying on several strategies to "break the siJence
99
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 study9 s findings
9
in order to share the information with as
many people as possible.
ln ending
9
1would like to invite you to share tbis repon with others
9
and to contact
me should you wish to get more inConnation about the study or to suggest specific strategies
for dealing with rape that you think 1may 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 1also produced in Arabie.
1have purposeIy ehosen to omit a tille on the fram shed ofthe pamphlet: Many women may
be uncomfonable heing seen reading a pamphlet on rape. With an anonymous cover, sueh
discomfon is mïnimized.
20S

rape
doesn't
only
happen
to children
White it remains a Jargely hiddeo
problem, child-rape is finally
being recognized in Lebanese
society.
But rape also happens to adults:
Women are raped in peace-tirne
and not ooly during the war.
Women are often blamed for
provoking rapes. There is also a
myth that women enjoy being
raped. A 'l'oman does not
provoke rape, because sbe does
not enjoy being nped.
Rapists need to take
responsibility for tbeir actions.

rape
isn't
only
perpetrated
by
strangers
ft is perhaps comforting to think
that if we avoid mixing with Inen
in public or men who are
strangers that we won't he the
victims of rape.
But rape most orten bappens by
men tbat we know: friends,
neighbors, work colleagues,
fellow students, fathers, brothers,
lmcles...

rape
doesn't
just happen
in arranged

marrlages
When we admit that rape happens
in marnage, we prefer to think
that it only happens in arranged
marriages that were not entered
ioto for love.
We say that the couple is not
compatible and so he forces her to
have sex witb mm despite her
will. This is simply not true.
Rape can happen in a marriage
entered into for love same as
any other type of marriage.

1.
Appendis D: Introduction letten
Introduction letter to potential participantl·
•••


1am a doctoral studeot in the social work program al McOiU University in Montréal9 Canada. Of
Lcbancse background myself
9
1am imcrestcd in focusing my research on the eçerienœs ofwomen
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
9
ete. In arder to do 50
9
1will 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. Ifyou 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: 1am 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 ofviolence 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
study.
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 ofcboicc of the particip8DIS ( E D ~ 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 (Le1) bas informed you, 1had the opportunity in November 1998 to meet with
sorne ofthe staffmemben ofthe 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 1was interested in knowing all about the work ofthe Council. 1was 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.
1am cum:ntly prcpariDs ta come co Lebanon to conduet researcb for my doctoral
dissertation. Before describiDg the rescarch, 1would Iike to take the opponunity to present sorne
relevant infonnation about Sinœ 1991, 1bave 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 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 1am interested in focusing my research on the cxpcriences ofwomen in Beirut.
As 1explained to Rima (LC1), 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 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 ofthe
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 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 ofthe 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 ofaddina 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 ofthe 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 ofscxualiud violence.
1will be arriving in Beirut 011 May 17 and will coataet you sbonIy tbcrcafter to fùnber
discuss the possibility ofcœdue:ting interviews witb mcmbcrs ofthe Council. Thanking yeu in
advance,
Samantha Wehbi
208

1.
AppeDdis E: IDte"" Guides
LCRVAW volunteen
l'bank you for agreeing ta panie:ipate in Ibis interview. As 1explaiDed over the pboDe, 1am
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
LCRVAW?
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
consequences?


s.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
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
society?
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.
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.
If1wanted to find out about bow sexuaJiud violence is experienced and is undersIood in
Beirut, wbicll type ofpcrson wouId you ~ tbat 1approKh, and wby? Which
qucstiœs wouId he important to ask this penon?
Wbat are SOlDe ofthe diffcrcaccs or simiJarities 1lI1OII8 womm or amona thcir life
situations that miabt influence tbeir cxpericnces ofscxuaIized violence?
209

Il.
12.
Wbat do you tbink is noeded ID deaI with the issue ofsexllaliud violence in Lebanese
ln Beiruti society? WUt type ofsupport or resource do you tbink would make il
belpfuJ 10 deaI wim experieDces orsexuaIized violence?
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, œ
relative) whom you Ceel migbl be interested in panicipating in tbis study? please give ber this
introduetionletter. Sbe does DOt bave ID be a professional involvcd in addressing sexualizcd
nor does sile have to bave experienced sexualized violence herself. She can be ftom an)'
social religious background, Scographic 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. Ceel &ce to
ask me any questions al any point in the interview.


1.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
Wbcre did you bear about this and what made you c1cdde to participate?
Please tell me a liuIe bit about yourself.
Wbat's il Iike ID live as a woman in Lebanon? ln Beirut? Mas this situation cbanged over
the yeus?
What are the relationships between men and women like in Lebanon? ln Bcirut?
(Relationships bctween siblings, parents and work coUcagues, students, romantic
relations, etc.)
ln general, wbat necds to be improvcd in the situation of womcn in Lebanon? Wbat must
he kept the same?
Durins the wu, tbcre were much taIk about women who bad been rapcd, did you bcar such
stories and can you give me an example?
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?
210

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
questions.
1. 15 Ibis the first lime you disc:uss tbis experienœ? IfDO, 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 ~ e n œ bad on your lüe?
On the lives of tbose around you?

s. Have you beard ofother 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 ~ · o u 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, 1am intcrested in knowiDs about womcn's cxperiences ofsexualimt
violence. Before we ~ 1will ask you to please rad and sisn the consent fonn.

4.
s.
Please tell me about your pradicelVocatÎOIl.
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
consequences?
7. Would you say tbat sexuaJized violence is a serious issue in Lebanese s o c i ~ ' ? In Beiruti
society?
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 ofwomen' 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 ofwomcn' s cxpcrienccs of
sexua1ized violence in Lebaaon. ID Beirut.
10. Ifl wanted to find out about bow sex
u
ali7Ut violence is cxpcrienced and is understood in
BeiN!, whicb type of person would you recommcnd tbat 1approadl, 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.
13.
14.
Wbat do you tbink i5 needcd to deaI with the issue ofsexualized violence in Lebanese
society? ln Beiruti society?
What do you think the results ofthis study should be used for? Wbat cio you think that
future studies should address in terms of sexuali7«i violence?
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 1would like ta remind you
that:
, Your participation in this interview is entirely
, Vou are free to retùse to answer uy question at any time.
, You are &ce ta witbdraw from the interviewal 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
accuracy.
, This interview will be kept strietly c:onfidentiaI and ail identifying information will be
omitted &cm the transcripts.
, Excerpts ofthis interview may be made part ofthe final researcb presentations or
anides, but under no circumstances will your name or identifying cbaraderislics be
included in the articles or discussions.
1would be grateful ifyou would sign and date this fonn ta show that you have read il.
Signature
Name
Date
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 please include an address or phone number
where you may be reacbed.
Once thank you for agreeing to participatc in chis research!! Ifyou bave uy questions or
commcats about any ofthe topies cliscussed in tbis ÎlllCrview or would Iike more information 011
community resources dcaIing witb the issue ofviolence apinst plcase fcel he to contact
me:
Samantha Wehbi
Ol-306S87

• This fonn was adaped !roma simiIar ODe developed by McCrakcn. 1981 and wu illide avaiJabIe
to participants in die IaDpage oftbcir eboiœ (Arabie, Eng1ish. French)
213



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