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Coming of Age Armenian, Asian and Hispanic: How Virginity and Endogamy are Negotiated in 21 st C. America Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D.

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Presentation on theme: "Coming of Age Armenian, Asian and Hispanic: How Virginity and Endogamy are Negotiated in 21 st C. America Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D."— Presentation transcript:

1 Coming of Age Armenian, Asian and Hispanic: How Virginity and Endogamy are Negotiated in 21 st C. America Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D.

2 Methodology Research for this project came from several modalities. First it came from teaching college level anthropology and sexuality classes in Los Angeles classrooms where ethnicity and religion emerged as major factors in why students behaved (or reported that they behaved) the ways that they do. Beginning in the summer of 2006 students enrolled “Gender Sex and Culture” at LA Valley College and “Evolutionary Perspectives on Sex and Gender” at Cal State LA were invited to research their own ethnic/ religious communities. Students helped to design the survey, administered it to 10 respondents apiece, learned how to code their data and wrote short reports explaining their preliminary findings. This presentation consolidates all the student-coded data as well as comments and interpretations offered by student researchers in their individual reports. Many of the researchers had never before stepped back to look at their own cultures as sexual scientists.

3 Sex and Culture Survey Overview 196 Respondents –113 female –83 male Average Age – 21 –Age range Ethnicities –100 Hispanics –34 Asians –24 Armenians –16 Whites –12 Blacks –10 Others

4 Methodology I surveyed people randomly that included people I had never spoken to or seen before as well as some whom I have a relationship with. To avoid lies and errors in my data I told everyone before I handed out the survey that because some of the information was personal, I would not look at it after they gave it to me. Rather I would stick it in a pile of other surveys and would only analyze the data at the time I was to interpret it so I would not be able to link faces to information. I felt this way I would get more honest answers. Imelda Vargas Hispanic Researcher

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10 Most Korean families firmly believe in Christianity and most Korean parents make it a top priority for their children to also marry a Korean who is also Christian. Children grow up realizing the importance of religion and culture and seek mates that have this quality to fulfill their parents’ requests. They do not wish to disappoint their parents and have them shamed in front of neighbors and friends. Pride is also another important aspect in the Korean culture. Kiyeon Kook Korean Researcher

11 From my data it appears that Armenian men only date women from other ethnicities, but with no intention of marrying them. They only date these women to fool around with them. Then they expect to find an Armenian woman who is still a virgin to settle down with. Most of the women I surveyed do date outside their ethnic group and reported that it Armine Alagozian Armenian Researcher is not important for the person they marry to be Armenian, but it was important to their parents. Our parents’ generation felt it was important to marry within their ethnicity and it appears that the parents want their children to marry within as well. It is mostly the males of our generation who agree with their parents’ views on endogamy.

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13 I had an amazing time with this research project. I learned a lot about my culture and learned that I was not the only one blind to sex. My fellow male Filipinos were also not taught about it by their parents. I thought that since I was a girl, they would not want to teach me or even say the word “sex” in our household, but I learned that it was not just me. It was the Filipino culture. All my friends, not just the ones who participated in my research project, said that their parents did not say a word to them about sex. Hearing that makes me feel a lot better. I do not feel as bad as I did before because I was in the closet about a lot of things. This opened my eyes to learn new things. Vanessa Prudencio Filipina Researcher

14 Most people would say I’m sort of a rebel going against cultural norms, but who’s to say how many other people are doing it? I enjoy giving head, I love having anal sex, I love making out, I like penis, I like my boobs, and I like the fact that I can have multiple orgasms. I am who I am, and just because I’m not perfect doesn’t mean I’m not happy. 21 year old Armenian Female

15 Armenian Girl Friends

16 Traditional Chinese culture believes that both men and women should be virgins before they are married because it symbolizes purity as well as respect for one’s partner. However, the data shows us this value is no longer true. As Chinese Americans have been influenced by Western culture, the belief in being a virgin before marriage is considered nonsense. Oral sex, however, may not be practiced widely. Several participants told me that asking a partner to give oral sex seems to be degrading that individual. This perspective is rarely seen in Western culture…. Mark Wang Chinese Researcher

17 One interesting point I came across while analyzing my data was that two of the Armenian males when responding to the question regarding oral sex asked how they should go about answering it. They explained that they have received oral sex, but have not performed it. This makes me wonder if this is a case of male pride and ego. Maybe they felt they were too good to perform oral sex on a woman or felt it was a degrading act. Armine Alagozian Armenian Researcher

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20 Even though in most Asian cultures people are expected to remain virgins until marriage, most of those surveyed were not even sure if their parents were virgins. The parents are supposed to teach their children to keep their virginity until marriage and yet they do not talk about whether or not they were virgins. On the other hand, most Asian families do not talk about anything related to sex at home, so that might be another reason why the people surveyed were clueless about whether their parents were virgins when they married. Marcella Wong Chinese Researcher

21 Sex is a very private topic that is only kept between the individuals and is not something that is shared. The only conditions under which this topic is touched upon within Hispanic culture is when it is used as advice. It is very common to hear mothers say, “I got married at___and now I realize that it was too young. I would like it if you went to school and got a good job before you get married like me.” This is the reason why children find out the age their parents got married, not because it is a casual topic of conversation. Imelda Vargas Hispanic Researcher

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24 I thought that by praying harder all those sexual thoughts would go away. Days would pass and all I could think about was sex and how it would feel. I would think of how it would be my first time with my boyfriend. I would be almost there—ready to do it and I would pull away. I would pull away because every time I would try to get intimate, a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe would pop up in my head. This is how it was in every relationship. At times I thought I was going crazy visualizing these pictures. Female Hispanic Virgin

25 The most important thing parents teach their offspring about sexuality is virginity. They want their girls to be virgins until marriage. I noticed that the subjects who reported that “it is important to them to be a virgin when they marry and vice a versa” were the ones who are the virgins right now. They believe what their parents have told them. Those who aren’t virgins anymore may be influenced by other cultures or media. Other cultures may not emphasize virginity as much as Thai culture. If subjects live away from Thai culture long enough, they do not see virginity as valuable anymore. Vikanda Meechan Thai Researcher

26 Armenians consider it a sin to speak about sex or anything of its nature. The words that pertain to a person’s private parts are considered foul words that only people living in the streets would use. A good Christian Armenian woman is expected to maintain her virginity until her wedding day. A woman’s virginity is viewed as sacred; it is the one thing that keeps her from being considered more than the dirt on the floor of an Armenian man. Ayarpi Reganyan Armenian Researcher

27 In the 80s and early 90s most of the Hispanics used to follow their customs. This meant getting married in white through the church and for the female to be a virgin. Being a virgin until you got married was the best gift you could give your husband. Being a virgin was what you were valued for. If you got pregnant outside of marriage you had to get married even if you did not like him/her. Ana Lara Hispanic Researcher

28 hispanic Girl Friends

29 I already have two children but I would have preferred to be single until I was 25 so I could be free like a bird. I do not consider virginity to be as important as others do. My preference would be to marry someone who is not a virgin so he could have had experience. If he was a virgin then I would have to worry about him trying to experience it with other people. In conclusion most Hispanics do not follow their parents’ traditions. We have seen that being a virgin is not something that is valued. Now we get to decide who we want to be. Being a single parent is now something that is common. So, do you follow your family traditions or not? Ana Lara Hispanic Researcher

30 Getting Permission When I was in confirmation classes in the 11 th and 12 th grades, a priest came to speak to us. I asked him if I had sex with someone I truly cared about and loved and it was not just lust, would that still be considered a sin in the eyes of God? His answer was “no.” I have to admit that I felt that gave me the okay. I lost my virginity on prom night and mostly because I wanted to. Hispanic Female

31 How Culture is Used Parental expectations are offered as a publicly expressed cultural excuse for abstaining. For some young people this cultural excuse protects them from engaging in sexual exploration they fear or are uncomfortable with. For others the cultural excuse functions as a cover-up for clandestine behaviors. Still others are caught in the middle. They see limited value in engaging in arranged / endogamous marriages and yet felt stymied in regards to defying their parents and their communities. Ultimately, culture functions both as an excuse for maintaining distance from mainstream practices and values as well as a protection for those whose behaviors and activities belie their family’s expectations.

32 Culture As A Cover No one was every going to know about it because being Armenian having premarital sex is completely unacceptable. Once I decided to do it I went to a tanning salon and got a Brazilian wax for the big day. I think it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had this wonderful secret I would run to whenever I was in need. No one knew. I was seen as this little good girl, yet had sex every week with no strings attached. The sex was amazing. He taught me a lot, sexually. He was the first to go down on me. I would experience a few orgasms every time I got with him. Because of this experience I am so comfortable with my body—a comfort that women in their 30s are just discovering…and I love it. 19 year old Armenian female

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34 Sex and Culture Survey Conclusions All ethnicities seek to marry at age 27 Armenians most seek to marry one another (83%) while Hispanics have the least interest (20%) Asians have the least interest in marrying a partner from the same religion (26%) while Armenians have the greatest interest (87%) Following an unplanned pregnancy 20% would seek an abortion, while 41% of Armenians would do so. Asians are most likely to be virgins (44%) and least likely to engage in oral sex (29%) Hispanics are most likely to be sexually active (72%) and to engage in oral sex (69%)

35 I learned a lot doing this project—mostly that I wasn’t the only non-virgin and that there were others who were a little rebellious like me. It was interesting to find out that it wasn’t that important to other Armenians to marry a virgin. Gayane Akopyan Armenian Researcher

36 From this research I found out that while earlier generations followed the traditional Chinese cultural norms, the new generation has adopted some Western cultural practices and started to form a new culture. As this particular society continues to evolve, there might be conflicts between older and younger generations. I believe these conflicts will not destroy Chinese American culture, but instead they will help it to evolve into a unique and special ethnicity. Mark Wang Chinese Researcher

37 I think that there is definitely a shift in the Latino culture, however the shift has been for the better. Thanks to those changes in female behavior as far as sexuality is concerned, we now have more independent women who do not need a man to survive. With more women in control and secure enough to express their sexuality without being afraid or embarrassed, the whole family dynamic can benefit. Having women that express their sexuality to a higher level than ever makes a man appreciate women even more. Thank God for women! Juan Aguirre Hispanic Researcher

38 The generation gap between Armenian men of this generation and their fathers’ generation is almost non- existent. The men are not changing. Their views about women have not changed much either. They are not treating women equally and have different standards and expectations for and of women. Armenian men are holding on to the same views and traditions that their parents (mostly fathers) have had in terms of females and their virginity, endogamy and female gender roles. However, there is a change between the women of this generation and their mothers’ generation. Armenian women of this generation are not afraid to explore outside of their culture and ethnicity. They are starting to get involved in sexual relationships before marriage. They are also getting married at older ages perhaps because they want to educate themselves first and experiment with more than one guy before marriage… Armine Alagozian Armenian Researcher


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