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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Islam, Sexuality, and the Internet: A Historical Reflection of the Shifting Sexual Self in Turkey

  • Author(s): Tzankova, Veronika
  • Schiphorst, Thecla
  • et al.

From the mid-1990s onward, the internet has stimulated the unprecedented development and growing tension between cultural values and identity. This is evidenced in the relationship between the dissemination of cultural values and the formation of identities on national and individual levels. The growing tension in this relationship is most particularly overt in societies that have a history of well-developed moral mechanisms of cultural protectionism.

This paper looks at the effects of internet culture on Turkish sexual identities, and its role in changing socially acceptable sexual codes and norms. It explores the developmental process of Turkish internet culture through a comparative analysis between two distinct framings of sexual identify: 1) as a product of historical and religious suppression and, 2) as a reflection of cultural rendering in electronic environments. When vectors of sexual behaviour, both explicit and implicit, are translated across cultural boundaries they begin to alter the conglomerate of religious values and socially experiential knowledge of participants. This is particularly apparent within the terrain of new media with its instant and widely available access, and its impact on the cognitive and emotional experiences it supports. This change in values manifests itself in dissonant sexual codes which form a new system of sexual awareness. In most Western societies, expanding perspectives of human sexuality emerged in the 60’s and 70’s evidencing a change in social values linked to the prosperity of modernity. In the case of the Muslim world, and in particular Turkey, this process was largely triggered with the appearance of the internet. The electronic environment provided an instant access to an open source of sexual perspectives which played upon stigmatized ethics and sexual taboos. The focus of this paper is to examine this particular breaking of sexually related religious stereotypes after the appearance of new media in Turkey and the changes it caused that resulted in new sexual self-definitions.

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