Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SEXtarianism: From Politics to the Bedroom

Happy Wednesday LOVEanese, and for all those in the States: happy Thanksgiving! Just a quick reminder. If you haven't "liked" LOVEanon on Facebook, go check it out. I post a lot of cool and quick links to articles/resources there because I use LOVEanon to post substantial information.

Now that the weekly housekeeping is out of the way... what's up with the title? Well, I think it's pretty clever, and it by no means is a demand for Lebanese institutions to stop discriminating based on sect and begin discriminating based on sex and gender (oh wait, they already do that). No, no... on the contrary, it just means let's educate ourselves and talk a bit about sex and sexual health.

For a long time I wanted to avoid this topic. This is a blog about love and relationships, not sex. But sex/physical acts are still a big part of many people's relationships. While they aren't necessarily connected, some Western scholars have noted a connection between romantic love and sex (C. Hendrick and S. Hendrick, 1989; Aron and Aron, 1991; Hatfield and Rapson, 1993; Sprecher and Regan, 1998; Kaestle and Halpern, 2007).

Although they may (or may not) be related, something I think we could all use a little more sexual education. Where can you get this information though? Let me introduce you to some of the best websites I've found that have real, quality sexual health resources and information:

1. The first is the best in my opinion: Kinsey Confidential. It has a lot of resources and articles that are written by scholars and professionals from the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University in the U.S. It's named after Alfred Kinsey, THE pioneer of sexual research. In addition, this site has really great links to sexual health resources.

2. Another highly-recommend sexual health and relationship resource is a blog authored by Dr. Justin Lehmiller called "The Psychology of Human Sexuality." It has a lot of great topics on it. I suggest you check it out as well, and follow him/the blog on Facebook and Twitter. He also often writes for the Science of Relationships, which is a premier relationship resource (including for topics related to sexuality!).

3. The third is Good in Bed. Like Kinsey Confidential, they use a lot of the existing and new research about sexuality to engage the readers. They also have cool links to new books, articles, and information regarding sex, romance, and sexual health.

3. The fourth is a blogger for the Huffington Post: Cara Santa Maria. You can check her blog posts out here. Regardless of what you think of the publication, she has some really cool links about love, romance, and sex. I really like this interactive infographic she posted about our brain when we fall in love.

4. The last one is called She Knows Love. It's a little more "Cosmo-esk," but of what I have read, I like it. By the way, on that note let me remind you to never, EVER believe anything you read in Cosmo.

Now if any of you are thinking "but these are things made for Americans and American audiences," you're right. They do have a lot of great, general information. But what's available for individuals in Lebanon or the Arab world regarding sexual resources?

One of them is the Marsa Sexual Health Center (Marsa means "anchor" in Arabic) which NOW Lebanon did a spotlight on as well. The first link also includes their location and contact information. It's in Beirut near Haigazian University in Clemenceau, and is also on Facebook via a group and a page (which also provides location contact info, and more). They "provide social, psychological, and medical services to all sexually active individuals in Lebanon regardless of gender, age, and sexual orientation in complete confidentiality."

Also, for an academic overview of sexuality in the Arab world see: Khalaf and Gagnon (Eds.) (2006). Some other interesting scholastic books and articles include: Mernissi (1971; 2001), Allen, Kilpatrick, and de Moor (Eds.) (1995), Brooks (1995), Abu-Lughod (1999) [1986], Hopwood (1999), Joseph (2005), Massad (2007), Khalaf and Saad Khalaf (Eds.) (2009).

So, now you have a few resources about sex... but that's not all I want to do with this post. If you notice, I didn't include any pictures making jokes and trying to entertain because it's not a joke. This is a very serious issue. I know I'm not the first to try and talk about it either. But today it really upset me today when a girl friend of mine called herself out for being different because she is open about her sexuality. Ladies and gentlemen, you don't need to be ashamed of it: embrace your sexuality, no matter if you're straight, gay, bi, somewhere in the middle, or no matter how public or private you wish it to be! It was at that moment impassioned words began to spew from my mouth that she shouldn't be bad, guilty, or dirty because she has a healthy outlook regarding sex. In fact, perhaps if more people were getting laid, people would be just a little bit happier and stop fighting like a bunch of spoiled rotten little kids so much.

Of course, your sexuality can include a wide range of practices. So, no matter how discrete or private you are about it, just stay educated. In a country where it's embarrassing to buy condoms from the neighborhood pharmacy, we have to be diligent about staying informed. I invite anyone to share their comments on how a lack of sexual education and sexual resources puts any kind of strain on romantic relationships, and also inform me of any other good sexual resources.

Feel free to disagree. Or agree. Just talk about it! This is your forum!

Spread the love (and make some if it floats your boat),

P.S. Seriously, stop reading Cosmo. Not kidding.


Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1999 [1986]. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Allen, Roger, Hilary Kilpatrick, and Ed de Moor (Eds.). 1995. Love and Sexuality in Modern Arabic Literature. London, UK: Saqi.

Aron, Arthur, and Elaine N. Aron. 1991. "Love and Sexuality." Pp. 25-48 in Sexuality in Close Relationships, edited by Kathleen McKinney and Susan Sprecher. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brooks, Geraldine. 1995. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. Harpswell, ME: Anchor Publishing.

Hatfield, Elaine, and Richard L. Rapson. 1993. Love, Sex, and Intimacy: Their Psychology, Biology, and History. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Hendrick, Clyde, and Susan S. Hendrick. 1989. "Research on Love: Does It Measure Up?"  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56: 784-794.

Hopwood, Derek. 1999. Sexual Encounters in the Middle East: The British, The French and The Arabs. Ithaca Press.

Joseph, Suad. 2005. "Learning Desire: Relational Pedagogies and the Desiring Female Subject in Lebanon." Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 1(1): 79-109.

Kaestle, Christine Elizabeth, and Carolyn Tucker Halpern. 2007. "What’s Love Got to Do With It? Sexual Behaviors of Opposite-Sex Couples Through Emerging Adulthood." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39(3): 134-140.

Khalaf, Samir, and John H. Gangon (Eds.). 2006. Sexuality in the Arab World. London, UK:  Saqi.

Khalaf, Samir, and Roseanne Saad Khalaf (Eds.). 2009. Arab Society and Culture: An Essential Reader. London, UK: Saqi.

Massad, Joseph A. 2007. Desiring Arabs. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Mernissi, Fatima. 2001. Scheherazade Goes West. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.

----. 1975. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society. New York, NY: Schenkman.

Sprecher, Susan, and Pamela C. Regan. 1998. "Passionate and Companionate Love in Courting  and Young Married Couples." Sociological Inquiry, 68(2): 163-185.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two Cultures, Different Ideas: One Love. Pt. 2

Sabah el kheir LOVEanese, and welcome back! Some quick housekeeping: first, If this is your first or second blog post, I highly recommend you go through and read the rest of the posts (first/intro post here). Although they aren't inherently connected, they do all build on one another. Second--just to reiterate--I do try to focus on individuals within the Arab world (Lebanon especially), but this is a blog applicable to almost everyone.

In case you're just tuning in, this is the second part of the two-part series related to growing up in two cultures and its effect on relationship development
. Of course, this is specifically for those growing up in Arab households. If you missed part 1 of the series, you can read it here. I definitely recommend you check it out before reading this one, because it'll make a lot more sense.

One thing I wanted to mention is that this post isn't about dating across culture (or religion, ethnicity, race, etc.). If you want some links for tips or advice about this, try this one, this one, or this one. You can also see one here, here, here, or here (perhaps I can do a post on this one day?). Also, this is a newer one that's really good.

What these two posts really are about are just about dealing with conflicting norms, values, and expectations, especially when it comes to relationship formation/development and maintenance. In the last post, I focused on the difference, and at times, clash of two kinds of cultures: collective cultures (e.g., Arab culture), and individual cultures (e.g., American culture). For someone that is Arab, growing up abroad presents you with a host of challenges that often contradict what you are learning/being taught at home, no matter if you're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Lebanese, Moroccan, Egyptian, Iraqi, Saudi Arabian, Arab-American, Arab-Brazilian, Arab-Australian, or Arab-European, etc. And this is something that is ever-present even among individuals growing up in the Arab world.

So, other than the culture, what else can explain these challenges?

Part II: The Arab Family and the Importance of Kin Solidarity

One of the concepts that is drilled into your head from birth is the importance of your 'ayhleh (family). No matter where you are, you go to iftars, baptisms, Christmas dinners, graduations, morning coffees, afternoon teas, funerals, kindergarten plays, (bar/bat mitzvahs?)... learn all the names of your second cousins' in-law's cousins so that when you go to one of their weddings, you can meet them and charm them. You know that if you ever need something, you should call your khalo, or your giddo, or your amo who has a friend that has a friend that knows someone that can fix your car for way cheaper either in Dearborn, Beirut, or Sydney. You know everyone in your village, even if you haven't been there in ages. Has anyone ever thought about why this happens? Why is family so important?

"Wahyyet Allah, if I EVER have to go to another one of these things, bkasirlak 2ijrik!"

French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has a suggestion. It all has to do with social capital. Social capital includes all of the potential or actual resources available that are linked by a network shared by individuals (Bourdieu, 1986), and is paramount to understanding the way Arab families operate because "social capital [in the Arab world] emanates from social relationships" (Barber, 2001: 261). But before I continue, let's lay down some facts first to contextualize everything:

1. The family is a primary conduit of socialization, and our parents..."instill culturally prescribed values [and norms]" (Brown, 1999: 292).

2. "Families are everywhere one of the most, if not the most, important contexts for adolescent development" (Brown and Larson, 2002: 6).

3. Contextualized to the Arab world: "The family is the basic unit of social organization and production in traditional and contemporary Arab society, and it remains a relatively cohesive institution at the center of social and economic activities" (
Barakat, 1993: 23), and the Arab family is ranked first in terms of importance among all other social institutions (Faour, 1998).

4. It is an institution that (among other things) entails securing capital and resources (Eickelman, 1989; Barakat 1993; Sholkamy, 2002) while also providing stability, security, comfort, and a sense of social and personal identity (Khalaf, 1971, 2009; Hoodfar, 1997; Faour, 1998; Joseph, 2004).

5. As early as the late 1950s, William J. Goode (1959) identified common events that occur among Arab families including the importance of mate selection concerning kinship ties and familial investment in mate selection, as kinship ties are invariably linked to perpetuating social status and stratification as well as creating a link with another kinship line.

6. We exist in a culture where “family is valued over and above the person...[and]...kin idioms and relationships pervade public and private spheres, connective relationship...[are]...not only functional, but necessary for successful social existence" (Joseph, 1993a: 452-453).

Connecting the Arab family back to Bourdieu, kinship networks are incredibly valuable because it is traditionally through kinship that individuals and families may access social capital--that is, resources, jobs, information, capital, etc. 

Anyone ever heard of wasta??

So let's bring this back to the topic at hand: growing up in multiple cultures, having to balance an Arab identity on one hand, another identity on the other, and keeping with the theme of this blog, dealing with romantic relationships. Let's lay down just a few more facts:

 7. " plays a particularly central role in adolescents' pursuit of romantic activities" (Brown, 1999: 299), especially because "romantic involvement and love are strongly associated with support from one’s social network of parents and extended family members" (Parks et al., 1983, quoted in Beall and Sternberg, 1995: 423). Echoing Parks et al. (1983), Sprecher and Felmlee (1992), Bryant and Conger (1999), Felmlee (2001) each also conclude that there is a positive effect on relationship quality and longevity with support from social networks. 

8. Romantic relationships often act as ties to other kinship networks, reinforce family ties and interests, and preserve "private property through inheritance, socialization, and the achievement of other goals that transcend the happiness of the individual to guarantee communal interests" (Barakat, 1993: 107).

The success or failure of an individual member resonates throughout the family as a whole (Barakat, 1993). This importance of being successful, and the pressure of failure are inextricably linked to the mechanisms that govern the socialization of Arab children, and the preservation of social capital.

Just imagine: when you're getting married to someone, or at least romantically committing to them, you aren't just getting a life partner. You're gaining access to their/their family's resources. It's almost like the way it was in feudal times when people would be married off for diplomatic purposes (think princess of Sweden with a prince from Austria, etc.). Remember the saying "when you get married, you don't just marry the person, you marry their family?" Within Arab culture, the last part of that statement is generally more important than the first part.

"I'm getting access to Buckingham Palace!? SWEET!"

But in a culture that emphasizes personal happiness and romantic love on the outside often puts you at odds with a culture that emphasizes pragmatism on the inside. Obviously, this isn't every Arab family. But it's many of them. The whole point is, family is incredibly important to maintaining resources in the Arab world, especially in a place like Lebanon. In other places, like America, Canada, Australia, France, or Brazil, there's a bigger and more reliable government safety net. So maintaining resources isn't necessarily a family affair, thus, people generally have more freedom to go out and do more of what they want such as work towards fulfilling their personal desires because their families are theoretically better taken care of than they would be otherwise.

Of course, this reality doesn't always translate. Some great research on growing up in two cultures was conducted by Wakil, Siddique, and Wakil (1981) (henceforth, WS&W), Zhou (1997), Sam (2000), and Dion and Dion (2001), but especially the first two and the last. The study by WS&W was one of the first of it's kind, and singled-out dating and marriage as a particularly contentious arena for children of immigrant parents. Each of these studies all found that individuals growing up outside of their ethnic country of origin all were faced with challenges of balancing both cultures, especially when it comes to dating and marriage.

There's so much more I could say about this, but I think you get the point. So now to the really important part: what you can do about it.

This, sadly, is where I don't have any answers. As I've spent this post and the last highlighting, growing up in between two cultures, being held up to two contradictory standards, and expected to respect and demonstrate contradictory values is incredibly tough. But navigating that tiny space between them is something that above all else requires open communication, mutual respect, and most importantly: patience. Unfortunately, I don't know where the answers are located either. Though a bit anticlimactic, I'm here only to explain. Not give advice (remember, I'm not Abby). And I couldn't find many resources available with information to help two(+)-culture children adapt (I did find one basic one here).

Realizing that all of us that fall into this category are in a unique position, and cultivating dialogue with each other if we cannot do so with our parents is key to easing any feelings of isolation, alienation, or frustration. Talk about it here on LOVEanon. Talk about it on Facebook. Talk about it on Twitter, in coffee shops, in nargile lounges. In bars. In restaurants. In schools, universities, fraternities, sororities, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, atheist meetings... talk about it everywhere. It's especially tough if you didn't grow up in an area surrounded by other Lebanese/Arab individuals because then the outside pressures are perhaps even greater.

How do you deal with it? How does this effect you? Are you tried of being told to get married, have babies? What is the solution? What do YOU do?

Come together. Talk about it. Spread the love,



Barakat, Halim. 1993. The Arab World: Society, Culture, and State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Barber, Brian K. 2001. "Political Violence, Social Integration, and Youth Functioning:  Palestinian Youth from the Intifada." Journal of Community Psychology, 29(3): 259-280.

Beall, Anne E., and Robert J. Sternberg. 1995. "The Social Construction of Love." Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12(3): 417-438.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. "The Forms of Capital." Pp. 241–258 in The Handbook of Theory and  Research for the Sociology of Education, edited by John G. Richardson. New York, NY: Greenwood Press.

Brown, B. Bradford. 1999 "You’re Going Out With Who?: Peer Groups’ Influences on Adolescent Romantic Relationships." Pp. 291-329 in The Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence, edited by Wyndol Furman, B. Bradford Brown, and Candice Feiring. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, B. Bradford, and Reed W. Larson. 2002. "The Kaleidoscope of Adolescence:  Experiences of the World’s Youth at the Beginning of the 21st Century." Pp. 1-20 in The World’s Youth: Adolescence in Eight Regions of the Globe, edited by B. Bradford Brown, Reed W. Larson, and T. S. Saraswathi. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bryant, Chalandra M., and Rand D. Conger. 1999. "Marital Success and Domains of Social Support in Long-Term Relationships: Does the Influence of Network Members Ever End?" Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(2): 437-450.

Dion, Karen K., and Kenneth L. Dion. 2001. "
Gender and Cultural Adaptation in Immigrant Families." Journal of Social Issues, 57(3): 511-521.

Eickelman, Dale F. 1989. The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach. Englewood Cliffs,  New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Faour, Muhammad. 1998. The Silent Revolution in Lebanon: Changing Values of the Youth.  Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut.

Felmlee, Diane H. 2001. "
No Couple Is an Island: A Social Network Perspective on Dyadic Stability. Social Forces, 79(4): 1259-1287.

Goode, William J. 1959. "The Theoretical Importance of Love." American Sociological Review,  24(1): 38-47.

Hoodfar, Homa. 2009. "Marriage, Family, and Household in Cairo." Pp. 262-277 in Arab  Society and Culture: An Essential Reader, edited by Samir Khalaf and Roseanne Saad Khalaf. London, UK: Saqi.

Joseph, Suad. 2004. "Conceiving Family Relationships in Post–War Lebanon." Journal of  Comparative Family Studies, 35(2): 271-293.

----. 1993a. "Connectivity and Patriarchy Among Urban Working–Class Arab Families in      Lebanon." Ethos, 21(4): 452-484.

Khalaf, Samir. 2009. "On Roots and Routes: The Reassertion of Primordial Loyalties." Pp. 192-207 in Arab Society and Culture: An Essential Reader, edited by Samir Khalaf and Roseanne Saad Khalaf. London, UK: Saqi. 

----. 1971. "Family Association in Lebanon." Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 2(2):  235-250.

Parks, Malcome R., Charlotte M. Stan, and Leona L. Eggert. 1983. "Romantic Involvement and  Social Network Involvement." Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(2): 116-131.

Sam, David Lackland. 2000. "Psychological Adaptation of Adolescents With Immigrant Backgrounds." The Journal of Social Psychology, 140(1): 5-25.

Sholkamy, Hania. 2002. "Rationales for Kin Marriages in Rural Upper Egypt." Pp. 62-79 in The New Arab Family, Cairo Papers in Social Science Series, 24(1/2), edited by Nicolas S. Hopkins. Cairo, Egypt: The American University of Cairo Press.

Sprecher, Susan, and Diane Felmlee.
1992. "The Influence of Parents and Friends on the Quality and Stability of Romantic Relationships: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Investigation" Journal of Marriage and Family, 54(4): 888-900.

Wakil, S. Parvez, C. M. Siddique, and F. A. Wakil.
1981. "Between Two Cultures: A Study in Socialization of Children of Immigrants" Journal of Marriage and Family, 43(4): 929-940.

Zhou, Min. 1997. "Growing Up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants." Annual Review of Sociology, 23: 63-95.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Cultures, Different Ideas: One Love. Pt. 1

Hello everyone, happy Monday! It's the beginning of the week, four days until the weekend, and time to talk about love.

The topic today is one that I mentioned in my last post about why we love, and is a suggestion I got from a wonderful person very close to my heart. It is something almost every Lebanese person can relate to, especially if you grew up abroad. As the title of the post suggests, this is all about growing up in an Arab family, in a different, non-Arab cultural environment, and how you're supposed to navigate the norms, values, and expectations of both with regards to relationships. It is something relevant to anyone Lebanese, or Arab, or really anyone that is from one culture living in another, regardless if you're Arab or not. Also, you might be able to reflect what I am going to say even if you've never lived outside of Lebanon.

So what's the problem exactly? Let's imagine you're a young, 29 year-old woman, about to turn 30. You have worked so hard so that you can have a successful career. Your boss loves you, you love your job, you know that just a few years of uninterrupted hard work will land you a corner office, or even better: a business of your own. You're really trying to live out the dream. But... guess who's on your ass? "Chou, why haven't you met someone yet?" "Do you want me to introduce you to someone?" "Come out to dinner tonight, you should meet the son of a friend's friend." "What's wrong with you? Why cant you meet anyone?" It's your mom. It's your family. It's your family's friends... is there any escape from their relentless pursuit to hook you up, get you married, and have you switch from your day job to managing that organic reproductive factory in your abdomen churning out toddlers?? This is all you hear at each and every single moment: that they want grand kids. Oh if you had a dollar for every time you heard about the next generation, you'd have more easy money than the cast of the Jersey Shore.

...And undoubtedly be WAY less douchey.

Honestly, the pressure is way worse for women from Arab families than it is for men--that vexing double-standard. If anyone remembers that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the father (Gus) is discussing how his daughter (Toula) may or may not have a serious problem because she's not married, he turns to his son Nick (Toula's brother) and comfortably reassures him that he has no worries:

You get the point (despite the watermark). As a guy, I'm not going to sit here and say I know what any of you ladies between the ages of 20 and unmarried feel. But I definitely can sympathize with the pressures that are placed upon you by both your Arab/ethnic upbringing and your national identity. Where does this all come from? It's not merely a desire for your parents to have grand kids. It's not merely an excuse to have your father walk you down the aisle. It's not merely a way to remind you that your biological clock is ticking faster than the countdown to Doomsday. It's really rooted in one thing: collective culture.

Part 1: Collective Culture vs. Individualistic Culture

Harry Triandis (e.g., 1995) is a pioneer concerning the concepts of individualism and collectivism. Basically, these are two contrasting cultural make-ups, where collectivism emphasizes "The subordination of the individual to the goals of a collective" (Hui and Triandis, 1986: 245). In this case, the collective is generally family, kinship, or a larger group within society (e.g., a religious community). Individualism on the other hand is "The subordination of the goals of the [collective] to individuals goals" (Hui and Triandis, 1986: 245). Individualism, thus, reflects that emphasis on working to be the best at a career, profession, whatever it is that you want to do. To be number one for person one: you. This is the way that the majority of the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand tends to be. That's not to say it's all like this, or that in these societies no one cares about their family. But in individualistic culture, one's own dreams, aspirations, and desires are given a higher value than following in the norms and expectations of collective groups. A great study was conducted that provides a great analysis of individualism vs. collectivism here in Lebanon, and an overview of Arab collectivity (Ayyash–Abdo, 2001, citation here).

These two concepts are relevant to everything, for instance, even including love. It's been widely documented that love relationships, for instance, are valued less in collective cultures than they are in individualistic culture. Karen and Ken Dion state, "Romantic love is more likely to be considered an important bases for marriage in societies where individualism as contrasted with collectivism is a dominant cultural value" (K. K. Dion and K. L. Dion, 1993: 58). Romantic love is highly emphasized in individualistic cultures where personal choice and loose kinship networks are normative, strong kinship networks and extended–family ties exist in the collectivist cultures. Thus, romantic relationships are often viewed as negative, and are actively discouraged in collective cultures because they may disrupt the tradition of family–approved/endorsed marriage choices, or kinship ties (e.g., Goode, 1959; Gupta, 1976; Al–Thakeb, 1985; Abu–Lughod, 2009).

There are so many obstacles placed in front of you in the Arab world when you want to do "what you want" whether it's love someone not in your religion, get married later, enter into a different field of study, and a plethora of other things. That's not to say you can't do it. But go to your parents and say you want to study art, or sociology, or something that isn't medicine, engineering, or business. I'm sure most of you would get some kind of negative response.

Well let's multiply that. Let's say you want to work on your career and wait to get married. NOW let's see what kind of response you get. In the US, it's largely ok to put a hold on marriage and work on your career if that's what you want to do. But for the Arab side of you, what you want is often at arms with what they want. And in this situation, it's usually they who win out. This is funny too, because at a presentation last spring (2011), the average age of marriage for Lebanese women in 2004 (latest data) was 29 years-old. The men's was even higher at 32 (you can check out the stats here in this PP). This is interesting because it's one of the highest in the world and THE highest in the Arab world! But it's relevant for all of you "approaching 30's" because most Lebanese women don't get married early.

Even Bill Gates can't figure that one out. F***in' crazy, right!?

A friend of mine wrote a great article about what it's like to be an Arab daughter, especially one growing up in America. It's applicable to almost anyone, however. And one thing that she is alluding to is some of the problems of living in between collective culture at home, and individual culture outside in school, media, among friends, etc.

Talk about cultural schizophrenia!

On one hand, you're told to do what you want do do, but on the other, you're told that getting married and having babies is the best, most accomplished thing you can ever do. Where does this come from? It's not just merely a "clash of culture." There are many other groups in the world other than hyphenated Arabs that also subscribe to this. The answer is in the very fabric of Arab families.

But to get that, you're just going to have to wait until Thursday. I'll be working on part 2 over the next few days. This is a lot to read, so let me know if you have any questions. I assure you though, after Thursday it will make much more sense.

Until Thursday, spread the love,


Abu–Lughod, Lila. 2009. "Shifting Politics in Bedouin Love Poetry." Pp. 116–132 in Poetry and  Cultural Studies: A Reader, edited by Maria Damon and Ira Livingston. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Al–Thakeb, Fahed. 1985. "The Arab Family and Modernity: Evidence From Kuwait." Current  Anthropology, 26(5): 575-580.

Ayyash–Abdo, Huda. 2001. "Individualism and Collectivism: The Case of Lebanon." Social Behavior and  Personality, 29(5): 503-518.

Dion, Karen K., and Ken L. Dion. 1993. "Individualistic and Collectivistic Perspectives on Gender and the Cultural Context  of Love and Intimacy." Journal of Social Issues, 49: 53-69.

Hui, C. H., And Harry C. Triandis. 1986. Individualism-Collectivism: A Study of Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska University Press.

Goode, William J. 1959. "The Theoretical Importance of Love." American Sociological Review,  24(1): 38-47.

Gupta, Giri Raj. 1976. "Love, Arranged Marriage, and the Indian Social Structure." Journal of  Comparative Family Studies, 7(1): 75-85.

Triandis, Harry C. 1995. Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little Bit About Why We Love

Good evening LOVEanese! And of course, happy Friday :)

I've been so busy with the AUSACE 2011 Conference that was held last week through this week at AUB that I haven't had anytime to blog. But now that it's over, this blog is moving up to the top of my priorities. Before I get into the topic for today, I just want to do some housekeeping as usual. The biggest news I have is that after this post, I'm going to try to get into some of the blog post ideas that people have been submitting to me. The reason I haven't addressed them until now is because they are going to require a lot of research, and that takes time that I didn't have before now. So be on the look-out. Now that the posts have gained more readership and I've established my foundation of sorts, I want to get into more "contentious" things that people deal with such as breaking down the "nice guy vs. asshole" debate, growing up in two cultures and its effect on relationship development, and discussing how to "move on" when break-ups occur.

For now, what I want to focus on is a little bit about why we love. I want to highlight two different perspectives, one is a psychological approach (specifically, taken from evolutionary psych.), and the other is a more structural functionalist sociological approach. Bear in mind that the two pieces of research (with accompanied links) are not the end-all of this topic. Numerous individuals spanning across almost every discipline, both academic and non-academic, have taken a shot at this question (for instance, this is what a philosopher has to say about it, while others such as the interpersonal psychologist Arthur Aron, Ph.D. (e.g., Aron and Aron, 1991; Aron and Henkemeyer, 1995; Acevedo and Aron, 2009) talk about it here.

However, one person in particular has really captivated me in his approach to love: Steven Pinker.

He is a noted psychologist at Harvard (he's even on TED!) who is the author of the book How the Mind Works (1999) (check it out on Amazon too). He succinctly answers this question in a mind-blowing way in less than just 3 pages. To put it in perspective, that's 3 pagers out of of his 662 page book. That's less printed space than the amount that J. K. Rowling wrote for Harry's first Christmas in the Sorcerer's Stone! And it's a book that's been cited over 4,150 times

Invisibility cloak: check. Firebolt broomstick: check. Box of chocolate-covered frogs: check. Cho Chang's love: denied.

This is an excerpt from my thesis where I discuss his ideas:

"Pinker (1999) reduces dating down to a marketplace for mate selection. Just as an individual prefers the best version of the product they desire, this is applicable to searching for monogamous romantic partners as well (the product being a romantic partner that is the most attractive, intelligent, funny, rich, etc.). Rationality, however, does not govern these "dating marketplace" transactions. On the contrary, something irrational and emotional does: romantic love. This has to occur to safeguard against someone better disrupting a relationship, and ensures a more committed relationship. According to him, romantic love exists as the metaphorical glue that binds two individuals together in a romantic relationship, and provides the security and insurance against finding or searching for a different, perhaps even better, partner (Pinker, 1999)."

"Hey, so I'm looking for a couple of items. Some apples, a box of Band-Aids, a silver necklace, and a smart, funny, good-looking guy with nice parents who isn't threatened by change. Which souq should I check out?"

I have some issues with this reduction/analogy. Namely, it does not comment on the role that social institutions, social structure, and culture play in affecting romantic relationships, the "dating marketplace," or romantic love, especially contextualized to different societies such as the Arab world. Regardless, however, this is definitely interesting. Especially when you couple it with other (psychological) research.

In this article, for instance, one (non-academic) author discusses why love is important by imploring Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943) to show how important love is for humans because "[love is] something humans are motivated to have or achieve. Love is a motivating goal for humans, and our behavior can be explained by our attempts to achieve this goal." In Maslow's terms, it is more or less a necessity of human existence. Moreover, this author as well as this one (ABCNews) and this one (NPR) invoke scholarship that, through MRI tests, has linked romantic love to various hormone emitters in the brain. It is connected to a motivations/rewards system that creates feelings of pleasure and excitement. According to the research they cite, "romantic attraction is an ancient biological drive, as are hunger and sex."

Maslow's (1943) Hierarchy of Needs Triangle

Other researchers have documented that romantic love and relationships are associated with better mental and physical health (Argyle, 1992; Traupmann and Hatfield, 1981; Schwarzer and Leppin, 1989; Park, 2004; Braithwaite, Delevi, and Fincham, 2010). Others have noted that being in love is linked to happiness (Ross, Mirowsky, and Goldsteen, 1990; Aron and Henkemeyer, 1995), higher well–being (Stack and Eshleman, 1998; Diener and Lucas, 2000; Diener et al., 2000; Khaleque, 2004; Demir, 2008), life satisfaction (Kim and Hatfield, 2004), higher self–esteem (Samet and Kelly, 1987), and relationship satisfaction in both long–term and short–term relationships (Acevedo and Aron, 2009). 

Another perspective on love is taken out of sociological structural functionalism. It's explained by this short video: 


Here's the text of what he said in the video: "The function of romantic love in American society appears to be to motivate individuals--where there is no other means of motivating them--to occupy the positions husband-father and wife-mother, and form nuclear families that are essential not only for reproduction and socialization, but also to maintain the existing arrangements for distributing and consuming goods and services, and, in general, to keep the social system in proper working order, and thus maintaining it as a going concern" (Greenfield, 1965) (Available on JSTOR here).

Let's move past some of the obvious downfalls of this statement. The first, and probably most annoying, is that it's a run-on sentence. How can you ever trust someone with bad (elementary) grammar!? Secondly, functionalism is dead and is highly criticized. Lastly, it is based only on the American model, and is an outdated one at that. However, if you look at some of the points he is making, he is on to something. That is, that love is used by modern society to encourage reproduction, maintain a capitalistic system, and as a motivator. So even across disciplines, he love sees love as a motivator just like Maslow and Pinker.

Why do YOU think we love? And I think more importantly, does this reason change from culture-to-culture, or is it universal to all humans? What motivates you?? Why do YOU love?

Tell me.

Have a good weekend, and as always:

Spread the love,


Acevedo, Bianca P., and Arthur Aron. 2009. "Does a Long–Term Relationship Kill Romantic Love?" Review of General Psychology, 13(1): 59-65.

Argyle, Michael. 1992. "Benefits Produced by Supportive Social Relationships." Pp. 13-31 in The Meaning and Measurement of Social Support, edited by Hans O. F. Veiel and Urs Baumann. New York, NY: Hemisphere.

Aron, Arthur, and Elaine N. Aron. 1991. "Love and Sexuality." Pp. 25-48 in Sexuality in Close Relationships, edited by Kathleen McKinney and Susan Sprecher. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Aron, Arthur, and Lisa Henkemeyer. 1995. "Marital Satisfaction and Passionate Love." Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12: 139-146.

Braithwaite, Scott R., Raquel Delevi, and Frank D. Fincham. 2010. "Romantic Relationships and the Physical and Mental Health of College Students." Personal Relationships, 17: 1-12.

Demir, Melik┼čah. 2008. "Sweetheart, You Really Make Me Happy: Romantic Relationship Quality and Personality as Predictors of Happiness Among Emerging Adults." Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(2): 257-277.

Diener, Ed, and Richard E. Lucas. 2000. "Subjective Emotional Well–Being." Pp. 325-337 in The Handbook of Emotions (2nd edition), edited by Michael Lewis and Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Diener, Ed, Carol L. Gohm, Eunkook Suh, and Shigehiro Oishi. 2000. "Similarity of the Relations Between Marital Status and Subjective Well–Being Across Cultures." Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31: 419-436.

Greenfield, Sidney M. 1965. "Love and Marriage in Modern America: A Functional Analysis." The Sociological Quarterly, 6(4): 361-377.

Khaleque, Abdul R. 2004. "Intimate Adult Relationships, Quality of Life, and Psychological Adjustment." Social Indicators Research, 69: 351–360.

Kim, Jungsik, and Elaine Hatfield. 2004. "Love Types and Subjective Well–Being: A Cross-Cultural Study." Social Behavior and Personality, 32(2): 173-182.

Maslow, Abraham H. 1943. "A Theory of Human Motivation." Psychological Review, 50(4): 370-396.

Park, Nansook. 2004. "The Role of Subjective Well–Being in Positive Youth Development." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591: 25-39.

Pinker, Steven. 1999. How the Mind Works. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Ross, Catherine E., John Mirowsky, and Karen Goldsteen. 1990. "The Impact of the Family on Health: The Decade in Review." Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52(4): 1059-1078.

Samet, Naomi, and Eugene. W. Kelly. 1987. "The Relationship of Steady Dating to Self–Esteem and Sex Role Identity Among Adolescents." Adolescence, 22(85): 231-245.

Schwarzer, Ralf, and Anja Leppin. 1989. "Social Support and Health: A Meta–Analysis." Psychology and Health, 3(1): 1-15.

Stack, Steven, and J. Ross Eshleman. 1998. "Marital Status and Happiness: A 17–Nation Study." Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60: 527-536.

Traupmann, Jane, and Elaine Hatfield. 1981. "Love and Its Effect on Mental and Physical Health." Pp. 253-274 in Aging: Stability and Change in the Family, edited by Robert W. Fogel, Elaine Hatfield, and E. Shanas. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.