Friday, January 7, 2011
A Note on the Virginity Myth. Who Benefits?
What do the categories virgin, concubine, and prostitute have in common? They primarily and generally refer to women. They constitute social constructs; they are not biologically determined. That's right even the construction of virginity is not biologically determined. In the Purity Myth Jessica Valenti notes that she found no medical definition for virginity in the Harvard Medical School library. Are these categories and/or labels helpful for women and men? Who benefits most from these social constructions? Men in some parts of the world believe that having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS. Thus, the myth of virginity coupled with the need for male self-preservation (and proliferation and the construction of a supposedly healthy masculine self) promotes violence against women. For example, "The Johannesburg city council conducted a three-year study of about 28,000 men. They found that 1 in 5 believed in the virgin-AIDS cure. The fallout from that is a rise in assaults of women and children, some of whom contract AIDS themselves," http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/a/aids-virgins.htm. See also http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/2002/april/virgin.htm. This Virgin Cure myth can be found in other parts of the world as well, such as Jamaica.
A woman's virginity (not necessarily her entire being~intellect, body) has been deemed sacred in many cultures, religions, and churches to the degree that it becomes the sole measure of a woman's (and sometimes men's) morality and value. If she loses it, it is forever gone (but she can become a spiritual virgin, in some circles, and start all over), and she is eternally tainted and dirty. If she makes "the mistake" of engaging in sex prematurely (however one understands prematurely), she has become a whore in the view of some. And in some cases (ancient and contemporary) it matters not how she loses her virginity (rape or incest), the onus is on her and not on the perpetrator.
I think we need to critically reflect upon the construction of virginity and its impact on women's (and men's) lives. I welcome your comments. I will be blogging about this issue periodically.