Reconciling Contradictions: University Women’s Experiences
with Shifting Premarital Relations in Fez, Morocco
The purpose of this study is to examine the changing male-female friendships and relationships that exist in the emerging period of adolescence in Fez, Morocco. As research continues to show increasing rates of premarital sexual debut, the process of forming and maintaining relationships, as well as the importance attributed to them, has been widely left out of academic study. To assess the perspectives of university-age women on romantic relations, the study relied on eleven semi-structured interviews of women in local master’s programs, focusing on topics surrounding this discussion: sexual education, contraception, stereotypes, and relationship pressures. The use of anecdotes and stories based in gossip were encouraged to gather a more representative picture of the dating climate. Spending time with a key informant added an ethnographic component and gave more insight into trends in social media and actual dating practices. Using data from both interviews and observations provided a more complete picture of the public attitudes and private behaviors of Moroccan women. Dating continues to be prevalent despite a lack of recognition from official bodies, leading to a general lack of protection for men and women who participate. No systems exist to prevent inappropriate exchanges over social media, and a dismissal of sexual education leaves many adolescents without health coverage. By further exploring the nuances of this emerging culture, strategies can be found for how adolescents circumvent such systems, and recommendations can be made for future changes.