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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Gender, Virginity, and different Cultural beliefs

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Author Topic: Gender, Virginity, and different Cultural beliefs
Atonement
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So, a rather frustrating conversation with my mother about virginity last night got me thinking about gender and virginity. She started trying to feed me the no hymen= sexually active= ruined woman. When I tried to point out all the other ways a hymen can be damaged, she insisted that "while it's possible to break your hymen riding a bike, it's not normal". I was completely wrong even though I'd confirmed it in anatomy and physiology class. I seriously don't know if she actually believes this stuff or if she's just trying to feed me myths.

Anyway, I'm totally off topic. The point to my topic is, virginity seems to be emphasized in a lot of cultures, but it's almost all focused on women. After hearing so many times that women have to be untouched to be worth anything, but men can have as much sex as they want and it doesn't matter, I'm getting really frustrated at the double standard.

So: Do you know of any cultures were there's more gender equality with sex? Any cultures where virginity's not so important for girls, or equally important for guys? Anywhere that it's more emphasized for guys than girls?

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Heather
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Ah, the old bike-riding spiel. It's a bit of a veer, but even with THAT one? My good friend Hanne Blank (who did the AMAZING cultural history book "Virgin: The Untouched History" on all of this, which is an amazing read) discovered in her research that the source of that one was also bunk. In short, around the turn of the last century, when women were starting to engage in more leisure activities, the two most popular were (you know what's coming) bike riding and horseback riding. Men at the time weren't supportive of women engaging in leisure/sports activities, so one way to scare women from them was to tell them those things would break their hymens.

Sparing severe injuries or forced sex, very few things will actually "break" a hymen at all. Instead, the hymen simply erodes over time, and some things -- like sex with vaginal entry -- can speed up that process.

Concepts of virginity and women (and indeed, it's pretty much always been exclusively applied to women, still is) are incredibly pervasive, to be sure, and SO much of this kind of intensity is here in the States. It certainly also exists and is also pervasive elsewhere, but it's probably more useful to look not so much at location as at religion and patriarchal social structures. Concepts of virginity and the double-standards you're addressing usually have religious or patriarchal origins, rather than locational ones, if you get me.

So, if you want to dig more into this, what I'd suggest is a) reading Hanne's book and b) getting your hands on some work by feminist theologans. Merlin Stone and Riane Eisler are good ones to start with.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Atonement
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I guess i kind of worded that wrongly when I said "break". What i was getting at was criticizing my mothers theory that an intact hymen= virginity.

Also, I see what you mean about the religious/patriarchal thing. What I meant was cultures outside this loop. For example, I know that there was a tribe in the amazons famous for being matriarchal. Maybe they more sexually liberated that the women who came from the American genealogy were??

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Heather
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Matriarchal cultures and histories, by all means, generally do NOT have these kinds of same double-standards.

It's often tough, though, to speak to the "sexual liberation" of early tribes and cultures, because in a lot of ways, a big focus on sexuality is a luxury. In other words, in so many of those cultures, from what we can gather so much of their lives were all about the very basics of life and survival. And given that so many of them were earlier cultures, we unfortunately usually don't have written history to draw upon to find these things out.

You might also take a look at anthropology around cultures where pair-bonding was not the standard or ideal relationship model, since that's also part of all this mishegoss.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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EmilyV-NonPkid
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You can also look into evolutionary psychology and gender studies book. It will tell you a lot of virginity myths and the like. Virginity is made up in ancient times to keep unmarried girls from sleeping with random men. After all, someone had to control them even if it was by force. Today it doesn't have to be that way because women have the same choices as men.

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Heather
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quote:
Today it doesn't have to be that way because women have the same choices as men.
Well, some women do, in some areas, and not all the same choices, and most certainly not all the same agency to make some choices.

This is really important from a global perspective. For some women in some parts of the world, very little has changed in the last thousand years in this arena and when it comes to their sexual rights and agency. If anyone has the idea that women worldwide have all the same rights and choices men do, they're probably only looking at a very small part of the picture.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Just FYI, here's a sample of some of what I am talking about: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/politics/unpacking_cultural_myths_and_biases_about_womens_bodies_sex

And these are letters from people who at least have internet access, so one needs to assume these are people with more privilege than others in the same areas.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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