Sex has always been hit hard by society’s moral values, both in Kosovo and worldwide.
In a way, this form of thought, of morality, intended to strengthen the notion that reproduction of the human race was the sole purpose of sex. As a result, sex outside of marriage has been described as amoral. To achieve this purpose, different venues were used, such as covering up women, secluding women inside the home so as not to be seen by other men, prohibition of alcohol for women, celebrations segregated by gender, etc. This list could continue indefinitely, considering the unique characteristics of individuals and the power of their creativity. Also, it is interesting how all these activities violate women’s freedom, but this will not be the subject of this blog.
This moral value had a monopoly in our country throughout history. Without going too far back, during our parents’ time there were strict rules, of the kind mentioned earlier, that regulated sexual activity. There were people who deviated from the norm, but they were few and such acts immediately resulted in labels such as dishonest, whore, adventurist and other weird epithets. Unavoidably, this value has been reflected in fashion, clothing, the organization of celebrations, etc. As a result, women’s dress was more ‘modest’, and in some cases women were covered. If a woman were to wear a dress whose length was above the knees, she became a sensation. At social events and parties, men would gather at one side of the room and women in the other. So far, this description could be called a bit extreme. But, that was the norm, which naturally was not always fully respected.
A new wave came along after the war. Foreigners, freedom, and aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration brought along not only concepts related to the state, but also more secret and sublime concepts of moral values. Just like capitalism or neoliberalism, which tried to reduce the state’s presence in the economy, new moral values tried to remove the strict social rules governing sexual activity. At the extreme, these new values meant complete freedom to be sexually active without being labeled – freedom to wear anything without being considered provocative, or the freedom to have sex outside of marriage without being considered a whore or a player.
When these two extremes of antagonistic values meet, interesting combinations are created. Both sides have assessments of, or better said, attacks on each other. On the one hand, sex outside of marriage is a sin, while on the other it is nothing more than an act of a free person. On the one hand, covering women is primitive, and on the other it’s a prevention of sin. However, when the collision is slow, the effects come more naturally. Also, during slow clashes, people have time to reflect on the values in which they believe. In this way, they come up with arguments for their position, and thus their position is strongly supported.
But in post-war Kosovo, the clash was quick and a bit sudden. Consequently, this had different, strong, and somewhat strange effects. These changes did not allow people time to sit down and reflect on what basis they want to build themselves. On the contrary, this collision resulted in a compromise of the two extremes, where the new, the modern, kind of the symbol of a free society, became the appearance or the form, and the old, the roots of identity and the preservation of traditions became the substance. To take the iceberg analogy, these new values are the visible, however small, iceberg tip; while the old traditional values are the part under water, that is the largest part of the iceberg.
How is this compromise of moral values manifested? You can see it everywhere. Like the the invention of the concept of serious relationships. What does it mean to be seriously in a relationship with someone? This reflects the old thinking, when a relationship was necessarily the first stage towards engagement and eventual marriage, but now that this form is unacceptable, the form changes and the concept of a serious relationship is created, which, as its name states, is serious and cannot be undone. Another element that confirms the fact that a serious relationship is nothing more than the 'traditional' disguised as 'modern' are the criteria that define a serious relationship: the purity of the girl – the preservation of virginity, or at least the not very active history in previous relationships that ended up being 'not-serious,' whatever that concept means.
Another aspect where this artificial mixture of values is reflected is in the way women dress. The freedom of how one dresses should not be violated. But if a woman dresses in a way that shows off her attractive parts, in a sexy manner, then she will get more attention and offers from men. The same applies vice versa too, although to a lesser degree. But it’s absurd to refuse to speak to men when at the same time you’re inviting them with the way you are dressing, which at the very least is an instinctive invitation. Or worse yet, when a woman dresses in a way that invites men, and she starts flirting with them, and in the end that man gets into trouble because the woman’s brothers are jealous and want to ‘protect’ their sister. Here we are dealing with the free and modern way of dressing and behaving but with a traditional and closed family or personality.
Since jealousy was mentioned, it too is not an exception to this clash of moral values. Jealousy is nothing more than a partner’s uncertainty regarding the relationship. And since there is this new tendency among young people to show off sexuality as a sign of freedom, then consequently there should be relationships between them. This is normal. But it’s not normal for these relationships to be long-term ones, because they are mainly a result of youthful hormones and not love. And when these relationships are faced with old moral norms where relationships should not be broken, then resentment with no solution is created. As a result, the relationship becomes boring and tendencies to find satisfaction elsewhere begin to show, which automatically creates insecurity, and this in turn causes jealousy.
These problems are expected in a country undergoing fast transition, as is ours. But the solution to these problems does not lie in making compromises on moral values, but in supporting values with arguments and logic. Only when moral values are solid and well-argued will these problems cease to exist. And when we reach that point, then we will have passed the stage of moral transition. Finally, it should be clarified that the mentioned examples are extremes and do not necessarily represent reality during all times. This was done for the sake of simplifying the argument.
The article was originally written in Albanian.
Photo credit: Steve McCurry
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