Friday, February 29, 2008
I saw the article about "born again virgins" over at Dear Author, and I'm not surprised by it. Appalled and horrified, but not surprised. Given the course work and the books I'm reading this semester, I have a lot of thoughts about women and culture and the importance of chastity. More specifically, chastity as a commodity. And I think it's pretty obvious that chastity is a commodity, as it's referred to the "priceless gift of virginity."
Woman as commodity, objectified and silent, is common in literature. It's even common in Romanceland. Or it was, though I think there are certain tropes that have not been laid to rest yet. Think about how many romance heroines are virgins, or treasure their virginity, as though it actually means something. I'm talking about the notion of virginity as a priceless gift. Virginity's only value is that it is something that can be taken. And once it is taken, it is lost forever, regardless of whether the hymen is "repaired." Virginity is, ultimately, the mark of ownership, prized because once it is lost, the woman's place is secured, one way or the other.
And the implications of virginity as a "priceless gift" being restored because the hymen is "repaired" is beyond horrific to me. It's like repairing a broken vase or a lamp. A vase is no good if it can't hold water. A lamp is no good if it can't light a room. So a woman is no good unless that thin piece of skin is somehow in place? This is reflected in her rhetoric. "My future husband deserves a whole person."
There is something seriously wrong there. Like, the woman might need some therapy, not plastic surgery. A woman's value is not in what she can give to a man--or what a man can take from her.
Now, I'll step down from my soapbox and return to Dracula and think about the anxiety surrounding foreigners penetrating England and penetrating good, English girls.