The War on Women’s Sexuality

By Tracy Clark-Flory 


Women’s bodies have become a global battlefield. The brutal New Delhi gang rape case, and the fierce protests it sparked, is just one example. From education of Afghan schoolgirls to veiling in France, female sexuality and freedom has come to symbolize a global conflict “over the nature of the self,” argues David Jacobson, a University of South Florida sociologist, in “Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict,” which comes out later this month. It’s chiefly an ideological divide of “honor” versus “self-possession” — or, as he puts it in the book, “who owns and control’s one’s body, especially when it comes to women: is it the individual herself or the community, through enforced practices of honor, virginity, veiling, and marriage?”

What Jacobson does beautifully in his accessibly academic book is differentiate between politicized Islamist patriarchy and “the broader Muslim community,” the former being “a core expression of a deeper global fissure,” he explains. “In an honor society, patriarchal and tribal traditions dictate that a woman’s body belongs to and serves the community. … An interest-based society privileges self-determination, the sovereignty of the individual over her body, and ownership of one’s own capital, be it economic, cultural, or social.” As globalization improves the status of many women, it also incites a ferocious backlash against them.

The book offers hints on how to mitigate this divide not only in global conflicts, but also domestic battles over everything from birth control to prostitution. Jacobson spoke to Salon from his office in Florida about virginity, SlutWalks and even monogamy…

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Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .To book Frank Schaeffer to speak at your college, church or group contact him at 



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