The Hymen and Beyond: Critical Feminist Readings of Virginity in Online Jordanian Media

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Jordanian media witnessed a surge in coverage of phenomena related to female virginity in recent years. Topics such as so-called honour crimes, hymen reconstruction surgery, virginity tests, and fake hymens caused much controversy and sparked extensive debate in the country. In contrast to this, the majority of literature around Jordanian women’s sexuality, and virginity in particular, focuses on so-called honour crimes from a legal and religious perspective due to Jordan’s recurrent appearance in the international limelight in relation to such crimes. There is a dearth of research surrounding the role of the media in representing sexuality and in re/framing the terms of the debate surrounding it. Moreover, research on instances of resistance to dominant discourses in the media (be they on the textual, production, or consumption levels) and in society at large are virtually absent from academic work on Jordanian and Arab women’s sexuality. This thesis investigates the different representations of female virginity which exist in a selection of online Jordanian media, focusing on news coverage and opinion columns which tackle one (or more) of four main phenomena: so-called honour crimes, hymen reconstruction surgery, fake hymens, and virginity tests. Utilising an analytical framework which uses elements of critical and Foucauldian discourse analysis, I examine the texts and readers’ comments and conduct semi-structured interviews with their authors to account for all the elements of the media cycle: production, text, and consumption. The picture that emerges from this research is one where the media are complicit in circulating certain discourses that perpetuate the status quo, where female virginity is the concern of society, religion, medicine, and the state, but not women themselves. In particular, religious and medical discourses create a “regime of truth” where virginity is constructed in certain ways using religious and medical “truths”. The media also build an image of the Jordanian state as a father-state, in charge of controlling and policing virginity. Moreover, certain social discourses exist in the texts and in comments which centre on the economisation of virginity, and on ideas of victimhood, justice and gender in/equality.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of York
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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