Michal Rosenfeld 2016

The stage of early adulthood from age 18 to 22 has a significant influence on the shaping of the
future adult. In this developmental stage, young adults leave the custody of their parents for the first time and move towards independence. In this process, they continue shaping their identity by addressing social and personal conflicts. Preoccupation with the body and sexuality affects all young people at this stage. But primarily, the societal messages are specifically directed toward women’s bodies. Women’s bodies are regimented and socially constructed, mainly through physical practices and discourse designed to preserve the gender roles. This focus on women is particularly noticeable in religious discourse, in which it is expected of young women to suddenly switch from ignoring their body and denying their sexuality, to fulfilling their gender roles by becoming wives and mothers.
Worldwide academic research on the body and sexuality has become more common in recent years as part of the growing discussion on the relationship between religion and body and sexuality. Israeli research is relatively sparse in comparison with the rest of the world. There are few studies that discuss body and sexuality, and scarce research on the relationship between body, sexuality, and Judaism. The few studies that address these issues have mostly been conducted on teens or married women. There is a lack of examination into the lives of religious young women aged 18 to 22, who are in the pre-marriage stage. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap in the research, and to discuss the unique perspectives of religious women in early adulthood, on the subject of their body and sexuality.
The research question which this paper seeks to answer is: “How do religious women in early adulthood position themselves in relation to the discourses of body and sexuality which exist in their world?” The sub-questions are: What are the main discourses on body and sexuality in their world? What are the interactions between the different discourses? How do young religious women construct their identity in light of the power dynamics between the discourses? Do the discourses enable or limit the range of their mental scopes and habitual practices and if so, how?

Read the article