The Morality of Premarital Romances

Social Media, Flirting and Love in Southeast Turkey

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Elisabetta Costa British Institute at Ankara (BIAA)

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This article explores how young women use social media to experience premarital romances in Mardin, a medium-sized town in southeast Turkey. It argues that love stories mediated by social media are integral to the enactment of a gendered moral self. The ethnographic data presented here indeed highlight how premarital romances and Muslim morality are not two contradictory and opposing ideals, but rather two constitutive aspects of the same mediated practices. Secrecy, lack of physical co-presence and the performance of a virtuous self in public and semi-public online spaces are common elements of the new romances. Yet social norms ruling the use of the online platforms to start and live premarital relationships are not shared by everybody, and different understandings of religion, morality and modernity have generated different and contrasting expectations. The article aims to contribute not only to the study of the effects of social media on interpersonal relations, but also to the understanding of how, in Muslim societies, moral norms are entangled with everyday practices mediated by digital media.

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