Virgin: The Untouched History

Hanne Blank, Author
Hanne Blank, Author . Bloomsbury $24.95 (290p) ISBN 978-1-59691-010-2
Reviewed on: 01/15/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-1-59691-011-9
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-59691-719-4
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By any material reckoning, virginity does not exist," writes Blank in this informative, funny and provocative analysis of one of the most elusive—and prized—qualities of human sexuality. Blank, an independent scholar, has pieced together a history of how humans have constructed the idea of virginity (almost always female and heterosexual) and engineered its uses to suit cultural and political forces. Blank has no shortage of fascinating facts: since Western virginity was symbolized by the color white, missionaries viewed nonwhite peoples as sexually immoral; late medieval and Renaissance moralists thought they could detect whether a woman was a virgin by examining her urine ("a virgin's was clear, sparkling, and thin"). Blank also has a pleasing, highly readable style that allows her to convey large amounts of information with wit and agility. But she becomes most animated, and political, when she probes contemporary ideas about virginity. Taking on a range of questions—why is virginity considered sexy? how does the idea of virginity fuel violence against women?—she makes the case that contemporary culture is as obsessed with, and benighted about, virginity, as those of the past. Thoroughly researched, carefully argued and written with a sly sense of humor, this is a bright addition to the popular literature of women's and cultural studies. (Mar.)

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