Development and Urbanization
Bangladesh is experiencing rapid urbanisation over the last two decades. Little is known on what is going on among adolescents in Bangladesh, particularly in the context of the urban middle class, a socioeconomic group considered as the marker of social and a generation constantly in negotiation between tradition and modernity. This paper will explore in which ways boys’ and girls’ views and expectations about intimacy are changing in this urbanising context. Using Giddens’ thesis ‘plastic sexuality’, it will investigate whether these changes are going towards what Giddens has called ‘pure relationship’, a relationship based on mutual understanding and fulfilment where partners are free to break their relationship without fearing societal stigma.
This paper includes findings gathered from an ethnographic research conducted among 72 boys and girls of 15-19. Findings reveal that traditional notion of intimacy which condemns any sexual conduct in public places and outside marriage is being challenged by both boys and girls with certain new practices. However, girls have fewer opportunities to be adventurous due to their growing fear of societal stigma in the context of high prevalence of online sexual violence. This leads to very different expectations among boys and girls. While boys mentioned emotional bonding as the core element of a fulfilling intimate relationship, girls emphasised more on violence-free relationships.
This paper argues that while views about intimacy are being shifted, it has different consequences for boys and girls. While boys’ expectations are somewhat closer to what ‘pure relationships’ suggests girls’ expectations are nowhere near that.