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Romance and the virginity myth
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Sterling_95



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 6:40 pm    Post subject: Romance and the virginity myth Reply with quote

I'm not referring to the number of untouched women in romance, or even the number of multi-orgasmic virgins, I'm talking about the misconception of what virginity actually is. Evey biology textbook says that the hyman is a thin membrane that stretches across the opening of the vagina. Yet every romance - and I am saying EVERY romance - operates under the assumption that the hymen is some sort of bubble that's halfway up the vagina. Read a deflowering scene and the author is sure to talk about the hero "easing in until he felt the thin barrier/shield of her virginity". This is medically impossible, but even the more realistic romances operate under this myth. I'm frankly baffled as to the popularity of this myth and where it got started.

The idea of the multi-orgasmic, sexless until she meets the heroine is easy to explain - it provides women with a escapist fantasy about first times - but what exactly is the appeal of having the hymen about 3 inches away from where it's supposed to be?


Last edited by Sterling_95 on Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 7:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Romance and the virginity myth Reply with quote

Sterling_95 wrote:
Evey biology textbook says that the hyman is a thin membrane that stretches across the opening of the vagina. Yet every romance - and I am saying EVERY romance - operates under the assumption that the hymen is some sort of bubble that's halfway up the vagina. Read a deflowering scene and the author is sure to talk about the hero "eases in until he felt the thin barrier/shield of her virginity". This is medically impossible, but even the more realistic romances operate under this myth. I'm frankly baffled as to the popularity of this myth and where it got started.


I think it may be related to a set of black and white drawings widely used in health classes for 7th and 8th grade girls. They're very easy to misinterpret.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1474
Location: America

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had to do some digging, but I found the article Kalen Hughes did on the hymen over at History Hoydens: http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2006/10/anatomy-101-hymen.html

Here's a follow up from her friend: http://phoom.blogspot.com/2006/10/woefully-incomplete-history-of.html

Here are photos from a link he provided: http://www.healthystrokes.com/hymengallery.html

Even though this was news to me when I first read the posts, isn't it rather strange that we women are not only ignorant about our own bodies, but that we continue to pass that ignorance on?
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Sterling_95



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Romance and the virginity myth Reply with quote

veasleyd1 wrote:
I think it may be related to a set of black and white drawings widely used in health classes for 7th and 8th grade girls. They're very easy to misinterpret.


I don't think that my biology textbook had a picture of the hymen or the foreskin, for that fact. But agreed, those diagrams in bio textbooks don't prepare you for the real thing at all

NoirFemme wrote:
I had to do some digging, but I found the article Kalen Hughes did on the hymen over at History Hoydens: http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2006/10/anatomy-101-hymen.html

Here's a follow up from her friend: http://phoom.blogspot.com/2006/10/woefully-incomplete-history-of.html

Here are photos from a link he provided: http://www.healthystrokes.com/hymengallery.html


Fascinating links, thank you for posting them. They were very informative as well. It's somewhat telling that a lot of the female posters there admitted that they had no clue that the hymen was on the outside, even female posters who had already had sex.

A post in the comment section of the first link that you posted had me snickering out loud. The poster pointed out that most historical heroes would have been uncircumcised, so the much vaunted bloody sheets may have come from tearing of the foreskin. In cases where the hymen really is a barrier, then a good vigorous thrust would yank the foreskin hard and may cause bleeding. As she pointed out though:

Quote:
The image of a squealing hero jumping out of the marriage bed to examine his anatomy by firelight and make sure no lasting damage has occurred is not a pretty one.


Oh, to see the Duke of Slut in such a position. Someone may have do a parody where your standard 80s rapist tries to rape the reluctant virgin, then finds himself on the business end of pain and blood

Quote:
Even though this was news to me when I first read the posts, isn't it rather strange that we women are not only ignorant about our own bodies, but that we continue to pass that ignorance on?


It's not just men apparently. I just asked my husband about the location of the hymen and he thought it was a couple of inches inside the vagina as well.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
I had to do some digging, but I found the article Kalen Hughes did on the hymen over at History Hoydens: http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/2006/10/anatomy-101-hymen.html



With all due respect to the author of the above blog, although it didn't hurt much, I bled like a stuck pig, all the way through the sheet and mattress pad, a puddle the size of a dinner plate. We had to get up and pull the bedding off before it ruined the mattress, dumping the stuff into a bathtub full of cold water so the stains wouldn't set.

It wasn't very romantic at all, but my husband was extremely nice about the whole thing (which may be one reason that we're still married 46 years later).

The simple fact is that it's a mucous membrane and when it tears, it can be just like having a nosebleed -- incredible quantities of blood from what amounts to a minor scratch.
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 396
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:47 am    Post subject: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

veasleyd1 wrote:

With all due respect to the author of the above blog, although it didn't hurt much, I bled like a stuck pig, all the way through the sheet and mattress pad, a puddle the size of a dinner plate.


Okay, I'm not a deformed weirdo. I also had pain and it wasn't right at the point of entry. When I wrote the one virgin sex scene I have written, I based it on my own experience.

Personally, I find the whole must be a virgin thing really annoying and outdated. The whole concept in Western thought is based on a word mistranslated from Hebrew. Mary was a virgin mother. The word the Hebrews used that was translated as a woman who has never had sex. What it really meant was a woman who was not married. I learned that from my minister brother in law.

The other point of the virginity thing comes from paternity. Since we live in a patriarchal society, men needed to know their kid is their kid. Women are pretty sure, but men? So they want their wives to be virgins to ensure that it's their seed and their kid. At this point in time, I think it's a little silly.
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veasleyd1



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 11:20 am    Post subject: Re: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

[quote="Charlotte McClain"]
veasleyd1 wrote:


The other point of the virginity thing comes from paternity. Since we live in a patriarchal society, men needed to know their kid is their kid. Women are pretty sure, but men? So they want their wives to be virgins to ensure that it's their seed and their kid. At this point in time, I think it's a little silly.


It's silly anyway. Since the woman was only a virgin as of her wedding night (never again on subsequent occasions), the situation only said anything about potential paternity of children if she conceived on that one occasion and never had any more children.

Anyway, church registers indicate that a good third of brides were three months or more pregnant, so it's obvious that a significant portion of couples didn't pay much attention to the idea.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 12:24 pm    Post subject: Re: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

Veasleyd1 said: Anyway, church registers indicate that a good third of brides were three months or more pregnant ....

I'm interested and curious - where have you found evidence that this was noted in church registers? If you think that this question was asked (and the answer recorded) I might go and have a look-see at our county archives or look at them on-line as I find this extraordinary if true. Certainly until the formality of the church marriage ceremony itself was brought into wide use in the general population, (post-Tudor and later), most brides were pregnant as "engagements" were informal and "bundling" and other practice were widespread and many couples never married at all as it was not seen as particularly necessary. See Lawrence Stone's Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500 - 1800.
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Re: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

[quote="Charlotte McClain"]
veasleyd1 wrote:


The other point of the virginity thing comes from paternity. Since we live in a patriarchal society, men needed to know their kid is their kid. Women are pretty sure, but men? So they want their wives to be virgins to ensure that it's their seed and their kid. At this point in time, I think it's a little silly.


My sister works in a lab that does nothing but paternity testing, in 3 shifts, 24/7, so the issue is still pertinent! (of course, Virginia's point stands that wedding night virginity is no guarantee about future children.)
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:30 pm    Post subject: Re: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
Veasleyd1 said: Anyway, church registers indicate that a good third of brides were three months or more pregnant ....

I'm interested and curious - where have you found evidence that this was noted in church registers? If you think that this question was asked (and the answer recorded) I might go and have a look-see at our county archives or look at them on-line as I find this extraordinary if true. Certainly until the formality of the church marriage ceremony itself was brought into wide use in the general population, (post-Tudor and later), most brides were pregnant as "engagements" were informal and "bundling" and other practice were widespread and many couples never married at all as it was not seen as particularly necessary. See Lawrence Stone's Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500 - 1800.


Well, to tell the truth, when creating a parish-wide or regional data base from church registers, one counts from the wedding to the first birth :)

Sometimes in Calvinist areas it was noted in church registers because the bride and groom then were punished for fornication. The same is true in some Catholic regions. In the southern Netherlands, it was customary that if the first baby arrived "too early," the spouses were required to sit in front of the congregation for three weeks in a row, on three legged stools, she wearing a straw dunce cap and he wearing a straw sword.

See John Witte, Jr., and Robert M. Kingdon, Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin's Geneva, Volume I, Courtship, Engagement, and Marriage (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005).

Witte is also the author of From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1997). He and Philip L. Reynolds together edited To Have and To Hold: Marrying and its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600 (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

For England specifically, in addition to Stone's works (and Peter Laslett's, plus Leah Leneman's for Scotland), I recommend:

E.A. Wrigley, R.S. Davies, J.E. Oeppen and R.S. Schofield, English Population History from Family Reconstitution 1580-1837 (Cambridge University Press, 1997). It's a very good summary of what conclusions the Cambridge Group had reached as of somewhat over a decade ago.

From Peter Laslett, Family Life and Illicit Love in Earlier Generations (Cambridge University Press, 1977) is still an interesting read, as is G.R. Quaife, Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979).

You could also try R. Brian Outhwaite, Clandestine Marriage in England 1500-1800 (London, 1995).

Non-statistical, there is Joanne Bailey, Unquiet Lives: Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in England, 1660-1800 (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History).

I also recommend Richard Wall, Tamara K. Hareven, and Josef Ehmer, eds., Family History Revisited: Comparative Perspectives (University of Delaware Press, 2001)

For more books on Germany and Switzerland, look for authors Joel Harrington and Thomas Safley.

All the above books contain quite good bibliographies, if you are looking for more detailed studies.
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Nana



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, I wrote a paper once called "Sex, Lies, and Essex County Court Records" on fornication in colonial Massachusetts. Happy to provide if anybody is curious.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Romance and the virginity myth Reply with quote

Sterling_95 wrote:

A post in the comment section of the first link that you posted had me snickering out loud. The poster pointed out that most historical heroes would have been uncircumcised, so the much vaunted bloody sheets may have come from tearing of the foreskin. In cases where the hymen really is a barrier, then a good vigorous thrust would yank the foreskin hard and may cause bleeding. As she pointed out though:

Quote:
The image of a squealing hero jumping out of the marriage bed to examine his anatomy by firelight and make sure no lasting damage has occurred is not a pretty one.


Oh, to see the Duke of Slut in such a position. Someone may have do a parody where your standard 80s rapist tries to rape the reluctant virgin, then finds himself on the business end of pain and blood


Not that it wouldn't be amusing to see a rapist hero in a 1980s bodiceripper bleeding from the dangly end, I'm afraid the fact that uncircumcised men tend to bleed during intercourse is a myth. In Europe, the vast majority of men is not circumcised (except for religious reasons) and you don't see a lot of men jumping bleeding from beds.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nana wrote:
Also, I wrote a paper once called "Sex, Lies, and Essex County Court Records" on fornication in colonial Massachusetts. Happy to provide if anybody is curious.


My cousin Nancy's son Roger Thompson also has published a quite scholarly book with the title of Sex in Middlesex [Massachusetts]. It's also on the colonial period. I wonder if you know him.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Who knew? And we should have all known! My first experience was not remarkably painful or bloody and I think now that it was probably because I wasn't *intact* after a lot of horseback and bike riding.

Can't recall which one, but there's an SEP in which the virgin heroine isn't intact. The explanation being that a woman isn't likely to reach her late twenties intact after normal physical activity and gynecological exams.

How many hundreds of times have we read that scene where the hero does the finger probing thing and finds the barrier buried up in the nether regions! Surprised Such a tried and true romance novel device. I just don't think authors are going to give that one up.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:11 am    Post subject: Re: So I'm not a total weirdo Reply with quote

Charlotte McClain wrote:
[Okay, I'm not a deformed weirdo. I also had pain and it wasn't right at the point of entry. When I wrote the one virgin sex scene I have written, I based it on my own experience.


Me too - just goes to show how the experience can be different for every woman. Perhaps the pain that occurs past the point of entry may be due to stretching.

Linda
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