Exercising in comfort: Islamicate culture of Mahremiyet in everyday Istanbul

06 Dec 2018

Women's control of their bodily movements, especially in the Islamicate contexts of the Middle East, constitutes a multilayered process of building privacy, heterosexuality, and intimacy. Physical exercise, however, with the extensive body movements it requires, problematizes women's ability to control their public sexualities. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2011 and 2012 in Istanbul, this article explores the everyday concerns of Istanbulite women who seek rahatlik (comfort) during exercise. The interviewees frequently used the word rahatlik when referring to women-only spaces in the culture of mahremiyet (intimacy, privacy). This article furthers the scholarship on Muslim sexualities by examining the diversity of women's concerns regarding their public sexualities and the boundary-making dynamics in the culture of mahremiyet. I argue that mahremiyet operates as an institution of intimacy that provides a metacultural intelligibility for heteronormativity based on sexual scripts, normative spaces, and gendered acts.