Premarital Virginity: The Cultural Code of the Gender Order in Contemporary Armenia (The Case of Yerevan)

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Anna Temkina

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Abstract

This paper aims to reconstruct the preservation of women’s premarital virginity as the central cultural code of Armenia’s gender order. I analyze normative and deviant practices of female premarital sexuality in relation to this code. The study is based on 42 biographical interviews with residents of Armenia, mostly Yerevan, as well as 13 expert interviews. I use the concept of a “paradigm script” to designate the rules that regulate the gender and sexual practices of men and women throughout their lifespan. I find that the paradigm script is on the retreat in Armenia, and new actors such as family members or doctors are enlisted to protect it. In post-Soviet comparison, Armenia constitutes an intermediate case between countries with very liberal sexual practices, such as Russia, and Central Asian societies, where traditional norms of sexual behavior and communal control are still in force. In Russian, summary in English.

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