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Posts Tagged ‘Nonfiction’

Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank

In Nonfiction on January 22, 2010 at 10:15 am
Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank

Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank

Title: Virgin: The Untouched History

Author: Hanne Blank

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: ***/****

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After reading Valenti’s The Purity Myth, I decided to read a work she referenced a few times.  In this book, Hanne Blank basically lays out virginity throughout the ages mostly pertaining to the West.  Also, what she does which I think is a much-needed in today’s work of abstinence & purity pledges is give the readers an accurate portrayal for why virginity has been emphasized & prized.  Without a doubt, another aspect of the book that could help many people, especially young people, is to disspell many myths related to virginity.

Something that many people fail to understand is that authors like Valenti & Blank are not speaking against someone making a choice to stay a virgin, they are just speaking against it being an expectation for one gender.  In both Valenti’s & Blank’s books, they have laid out the bare truth that there is no precise definition of virginity, even in medical texts.  Plus, there is no exact science to knowing whether or not someone is a virgin, but as Blank points out often enough even for the most stubborn to understand, is that rarely is the virgin asked if she* is one or not.  Her answer is usually ignored in place of rigorous & bizarre tests that have evolved through the centuries. There is no test to prove who is a virgin, not one!

After reading this, many people could grow a little more alarmed when seeing abstinence/purity only education being directed towards females, especially when the US gov’t pays for it.  Even when these religious types try to parade their positions on virginity as female empowerment, I just want to use the cliche: This new feminism is just the same old patriarchy.  It isn’t empowerment when a woman is not trusted enough  to be educated about her own body.

*I say ‘she’ because we all know male virginity is not even prized amongst the religious who have a moral obligation to remain chaste before marriage.

Purity, not just a pastime!

In Feminism, Nonfiction on January 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm
The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Title: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

Author: Jessica Valenti

Genre: Nonfiction/Feminism/Virginity/Sex education

Rating: ****/****

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Having been vaguely familiar with Jessica Valenti’s work at Feministing, I was eagerly looking forward to her study on the American obsession with virginity & how it affects those of who are deemed pure & impure.  For a laugh, I recommend you read the lowest starred Amazon reviews, for a lesson in how to blatantly misunderstand an author’s thesis.  At no point does Valenti discourage those who want to wait for marriage in their attempt to remain pure, rather she attacks the dichotomy that a woman is either a docile, passive virgin or a woman of ill-repute, damaged goods.

Also, Valenti exposed the virginity movement (AKA abstinence movement) for what it really is: a movement to create submissive women who support traditional gender roles e.g. the man is in charge & his wife is his property & more disturbingly, but equally true, is how the movement sexualizes teen girls.  Why are the girls always the targets?  Why must their sexuality  be kept in check while the boys are left to roam free & sew their wild oats without repercussion?  As one parent answered in an Amazon ‘review’ of another of Valenti’s books (which I hope to read & review soon): her daughter could be taught integrity through not being sexually active, while her son could be taught integrity in other manners.  So, as I must crudely state it: her daughter’s integrity lies between her legs.

Isn’t that a disturbing lesson to teach young women & to level against all women as whole?

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Check out a great feminist site: http://www.feministing.com for more information about this book & Jessica Valenti.

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Valenti included a set of questions at the back which I think would be relevant to discuss with your friends/family:

1. How do you define virginity?  Where do you think this definition came from (e.g. society, parents, friends)?

– I define virginity as being without experience in sexual acts (of any sort) which involve another person.  I arrived at this definition when realizing that the mainstream definition of virginity is really only applied to straight women.  The mainstream definition was told to me many times through society & friends without a thought for anybody outside its parameters.

2. How do you think the ethics of passivity affected your life, or how do you see it play out around you?

– I saw how mothers would tell their daughters to act in a certain way, usually an attempt to control their behavior, lest someone think they were loose & wild, but their male children were not encouraged to control themselves.  I’ve seen it induce a lot of shame into people for not acting the ‘right’ way, or being frustrated at failing to perceive the reason why they should have to conform & constrict their activities when males clearly are not obligated to a similar moral code.

3. What values–other than “purity”–should we be instilling in young women to ensure that they grow up to be active moral agents?

– I would say that compassion for all people need to be expressed to girls, solidarity, loyalty, & hardwork, so they can achieve all they want to without having to harm another person to reach their goals.  As this patriarchal society likes to teach girls to compete with each other over men, rarely do all women who are even close friends, feel that they are accomplished when they lack what another friend has, usually in the form of a romantic attachment & status symbol that a male partner  can bring to their lives.  Women would feel good about themselves for doing their best, rather than believing what they have isn’t good enough since they have not received a man’s approval & they would not have to feign ignorance or ignore their interests/goals in case a man may be intimidated.

4. Were you brought up to think of female sexuality as somehow dirty? How did it affect you?

– I would say yes, in the sense that girls would be tainted if they had sex or if anybody found out. I was brought up to believe that men were liars who would bed multiple women, leave them, & then, no one would want to marry these fallen women.  Even though I do not believe this or think it is true in many circumstances, I still have doubts that men can be entirely trustworthy.  They’ve dominated this arena for far too long & it still brings many women down, some even are killed over the matter.  Until I stop hearing ‘bitch”, “ho”, “slut”, etc. leveled at women, I won’t be changing my mind.

She included more questions, but I don’t think it polite to post them all here. If you are interested in purchasing her book, here is a link to order it from her official site:

http://jessicavalenti.com/?page_id=38