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The full text of this article hosted at iucr. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. While traditional Saudi Arabian courtship is rigidly structured according to a set of Islamic codes of conduct, over the past decade, Saudis have increasingly turned to unconventional means of finding and courting a potential spouse: The article will shed some light on the interplay between young generations and their obsessions with the world of Internet dating and the societal norms and social conducts with which they are comfortable while living in Saudi Arabia. The article may contribute to the online dating literature by showing the similarities and differences between conservative, Islamic Saudi users and Western users when using Web sites to search for a potential mate.

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The full text of this article hosted at iucr. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. While traditional Saudi Arabian courtship is rigidly structured according to a set of Islamic codes of conduct, over the past decade, Saudis have increasingly turned to unconventional means of finding and courting a potential spouse: The article will shed some light on the interplay between young generations and their obsessions with the world of Internet dating and the societal norms and social conducts with which they are comfortable while living in Saudi Arabia.

The article may contribute to the online dating literature by showing the similarities and differences between conservative, Islamic Saudi users and Western users when using Web sites to search for a potential mate. Such segregation between genders is also in line with Arab norms that tend to equate family honor with the honor of men’s sisters and daughters. Therefore, Saudi society restricts interacting directly offline and developing a relationship with unrelated members of the opposite sex.

While considered a normal practice in Western societies, having a friendship or a romantic relationship with the opposite sex is highly unacceptable in this conservative society. The only acceptable form of relationship between unrelated sexes in Saudi Arabia is marriage. Through these matrimonial Web sites, Saudis have been able, perhaps for the first time, to access thousands of profiles of potential spouses.

The first direct interaction in the traditional courtship process also takes place at a relatively later stage, in the presence of the female’s guardian, when the couple and their families decide whether or not the marriage is suitable. However, constructing their own online profiles in these matrimonial Web sites enables Saudis to control the impressions they wish to leave on a future spouse and to be selective regarding the attributes they wish to reveal.

As there are specific guidelines in the traditional Saudi courtship script for individuals who want to marry according to Islamic culture, which includes common codes of conduct about etiquette and communication Kamali, , Muslim matrimonial Web sites have tried to develop terms and conditions in line with them. When comparing impression formation in offline and online settings among conservative Saudi Muslims, on the other hand, it can be said that the offline setting is the one that lacks social and nonverbal cues between the sexes.

Due to the hijab , Saudi females are obliged to cover their whole body, and the majority of Saudi females cover their faces as well. Further, unrelated sexes have limited acceptable offline interaction with each other. Moreover, studies of the mate preferences in online dating Web sites have used the lens of sexual strategies theory proposed by Buss and Schmitt , which is considered one of the major theories of relationships, to illustrate men’s and women’s preferred characteristics in potential mates.

Nevertheless, these studies have neglected the role that both conservative culture and religion may play in influencing the preferences men and women seek in a potential spouse. Gladue argues that considering the role of religion in mate preferences may reveal a more robust picture of mate selection. Therefore, the current research contributes to the literature by examining online mating preferences among Saudis, who belong to an Islamic religion and an Arabic conservative culture.

Although a few studies have elucidated the role of Saudi culture and Islamic religion in the offline script of the traditional Saudi courtship e. Rosen, Cheever, Cummings, and Felt argue that when it comes to online dating, cultural and interpersonal scripts are significantly different from the traditional courtship script. In other words, the script for traditional courting is no longer accurate in an online environment. It seeks to shed light on the social norms of Saudi Arabia and the nature of its traditions and religious practices in order to provide a better understanding of how Saudis, belonging to one of the conservative cultures, are able to develop their relationships that lead to marriage utilizing such relatively new technology.

The hijab is a traditional symbol of Islam. Muslim women are required to cover their hair and attractive parts of their bodies. According to Koolmees , wearing hijab implies three dimensions: Although moral and psychological dimensions are the ultimate aims of wearing hijab, the physical dimension is the visual part that can easily be observed in Islamic societies in general and in Saudi society in particular.

The study reveals that the most appropriate style of hijab for Saudi females was the most conservative one. According to Yamani , in the past, Saudi women’s hijab varies from one region to another. However, the hijab of women in the central region of the kingdom. Najdi Abaya , the most conservative hijab, spread to the rest of the Saudi society and became an obligation for women in various regions. This is due to the dominance of the Salafist movement, which may be one of the main reasons of holding the most conservative style of hijab in Saudi Arabia.

However, this type of hijab went beyond that, and isolated women from men in Saudi Arabia and segregated them — even if they were in the same place — as it prevented men from seeing what women look like. Such a fact had, in turn, left its mark on forming the relationships between the sexes in Saudi society. Based on the principle of protecting the society from seduction and following the Islamic instructions, Saudi state maintains gender segregation in public places.

According to Elamin and Omair , gender segregation is one of the most prominent features of Saudi society. This strict separation between the sexes is noticeable in different aspects of Saudi life such as educational sectors, work environments, entertainment and shopping places. LeRenard explains that gender segregation in Saudi society is not a surface idea, but it has its root in Saudi culture and religion to the extent that The National Development Plans of Saudi Arabia emphasizes that women’s jobs should be isolated from men’s jobs.

Therefore, the government keeps this segregation in mind when designing buildings for schools, universities, and government agencies. According to Bahry , this conservative perspective has led to the creation of two societies within the single Saudi society — one for men and another for women — and has also reduced the natural communication and interaction between the sexes. To explain this condition in the higher education sector in Saudi Arabia, Hamdan states that when female students graduate from high schools and enroll in universities to pursue more advanced studies and there is a need for a male lecturer to teach them, television networks are used to transfer lectures from the men’s section to the women’s section.

Female students can see their male teachers on the television screen, but the male lecturer and the male students cannot see them. Female students use a device similar to a telephone to ask their male lecturer questions. While the male lecturer can hear their voices, the male students cannot. Hence, the chance of a relationship being created between male and female students is very low.

In work environments, the means of communication between male and female employees is the telephone. Government agencies and most of the private organizations have private buildings or offices that isolated female staff from males. Although the opportunity to come into contact with a colleague of the opposite sex is still possible, it is strongly discouraged by Saudi society and could be misunderstood and may lead to questioning the motivations behind such behavior.

However, the bright side of this segregation in workplaces, according to Yamani , is that women do not have to compete with men to prove their proficiency. It also allows Saudi women to feel relaxed and to move around more freely in their offices and buildings Baki, In restaurants, there are separate sections for families and for single men, each with its own entrance.

Some of the restaurants even have partitions between tables in the family sections. While single males are allowed to enter shopping centers during weekdays, they cannot go there during weekends because it is only for families. On the other hand, women are allowed to enter the shops at any day of the week Le Renard, In addition, mixing between the sexes is more common in the western and eastern regions of Saudi Arabia as compared to the central region, since the central region is the birthplace of the Salafist movement.

However, lately, it has become difficult to classify the attitude toward allowing the interaction between unrelated sexes according to the region or social class. In the modern days, the way of interacting and communicating between the sexes continues to be a daily concern for both men and women in Saudi society Ibahrine, While conservatives believe that isolating men from women protects the society, these restrictions have been challenged by Saudi youth and new technologies.

According to Sullivan younger Saudi generations, particularly teenagers, are not convinced that they should apply the rules of gender segregation to their lives. They use the houses of their relatives, coffee shops and restaurants to interact and communicate with the opposite sex. While Saudi youth practically confront these restrictions, other age groups criticize exaggerating in isolating men and women through journalism and new media.

However, the Saudi women’s presence in public life continues to be rare. This form of gender separation clearly distinguishes Saudi Arabia from the rest of the world in general and from the Islamic societies in particular. Middle Eastern societies in general, and Saudi society, in particular tend to equate family honor with the honor of their sisters and daughters.

According to Kulwicki , two Arabic terms are commonly used to refer to honor: Sharaf and ‘ird. Sharaf is honor in the broader sense; ‘ird is the family honor based on the sexual conduct of a man’s sisters and daughters. Female sexual misconduct that becomes public knowledge is considered a scandal Fadiha and often results in disgrace for the family name. This disgrace has negative consequences for the family in many aspects of life.

Dialmy and Uhlmann assert that the virginity of the future wife is a necessity, as virginity is associated with family honor and reputation and a family’s adherence to Islam. Therefore, most if not all Arab families take steps to prevent females from having premarital relationships as a way to protect family honor and reputation Kulwicki, A recent study — conducted by Poushter for the Pew Research Institution — among 40, respondents from 40 countries confirms this notion.

This result was the highest in comparison with the rest of the world. Such norms discourage approaching a woman outside the acceptable forms in Saudi society. According to Pharaon , Saudi women should have adult relatives as guardians of their affairs either a husband, a son, or a brother. Guardianship is considered one of the fundamental pillars of Saudi culture. Women cannot travel, work, or visit some government departments unless they receive approval from their male guardian.

A guardian is also responsible for accepting or rejecting all potential husbands for women under his trusteeship Deif, In other words, a Saudi woman cannot get married without the approval of her guardian in Saudi Arabia. The legislative trusteeship in Saudi Arabia shows that the relationship between men and women in Saudi society is a relationship of male domination and female dependency. As the guardian has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals on behalf of a woman under his trusteeship, some Saudi women record their demand on the court to withdraw this right from their guardian.

According to the Ministry of Justice , the number of cases in Saudi courts raised by Saudi women against their guardians who refused to let them marry stood at cases in and rose to cases in Although there is a small but growing resistance to the notion of guardianship in Saudi Arabia, guardianship remains an important part of the courtship process.

This legal relationship, the only religiously and socially acceptable relationship between the sexes in Saudi Arabia, is the foundation of family units. Saudi women gain their identities through marriage, and enhancing their social roles as wives and as mothers. It is important to note that the Islamic marriage requires three conditions: Apart from written conditions of marriage contract, the compatibility between the tribes of the groom and the bride is considered an important condition to some Saudi tribes and families.

According to Samin , Saudis are raised to be proud of their tribal origins. Although Islamic doctrine asserts that such an attitude is a forbidden practice, Saudis still practice it. The answer to this question often determines whether the potential suitor is accepted or rejected. Some families go so far as to reference historical books and tribal elders to ensure that the suitor is really a member of the tribe. Samin asserts that many Saudi intellectuals and educated members of the urban middle class feel themselves confronted by a resurgence of marital discrimination on the basis of tribal lineage.

Even though this is the case, it still remains a fact that the family name, and by extension its tribal affiliation, is ranked as a highly important factor for Saudis when choosing potential mates. The following sections provide an overview of the traditional Saudi courtship script and the alternative methods of finding a spouse by Saudis. A Saudi woman only plays the role of either accepting or rejecting a proposed husband; she has no further role in selecting her future partner.

Some Saudi families even deprive their daughters of the right of acceptance or rejection. Seth and Patnayakuni indicate that, traditionally, the background of the potential male spouse has been considered a critical issue.

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