I’ve been meaning to read this book for ten thousand years. I saw it at Bongs & Noodles once, when I had a bunch of B&N gift card credit, and thought seriously about getting it, before ultimately deciding on something totally different. And then I got it out of the library before Christmas last year. I love the library. I don’t know how anyone functions without the lovely library.
This book is just what you might imagine, a history of virginity, or really, cultural attitudes towards virginity. It is completely fascinating. Really. I’ve been staying up late the past two or three nights being sucked in by my addiction to this book and all the interesting stories it contained. Ooo, like this one about a crazy Hungarian baroness (this is true) who thought that she could make herself young and beautiful again by bathing in the blood of virgins. So she got all these little peasant virgin girls and utterly hung them upside down from their feet and drained their blood, and then she started a finishing school, ho ho ho, for aristocratic girls and did the same thing to them. I think deep down she wanted to be caught. What a crazy.
(That reminded me of how Oscar Wilde’s VILE BOYFRIEND, Lord Alfred Douglas, had an ancestor that was crazy and one time killed a scullery boy and roasted him on a spit and ate him. It is no surprise that horrid Lord Alfred Douglas and his horrid father were so horrid and insane, with the lunatic insanity and the dangerous levels of instability. I have long suspected that Oscar Wilde was too insecure to go out with anyone he perceived as his equal. Too bad, because really, Oscar Wilde was great and could have done much better than Lord Alfred “I am batshit insane and so’s my old man” Douglas.)
The book discusses a number of different topics, including views of virginity in the ancient, Christian, and post-Reformation world (and by “world” I pretty much mean “West”), erotic fetishization of virginity; virginity’s apparently declining importance in the modern developed world; AND BUFFY. Er, which wasn’t really its own chapter or anything. I just like Buffy. I was pleased that Hanne Blank liked what Joss Whedon did with Buffy’s story, and that she didn’t think Buffy was being punished for losing her virginity. Because in fairness, Buffy is going to suffer miserably no matter how well or badly she’s behaving.
For a single book about a massive topic, this book covered a lot of ground, and I really enjoyed it. There were still tons of things it didn’t get into – there wasn’t much about cultural attitudes towards virginity in the Middle East, Asia, etc., for instance. I kind of want to read the other one, Anke Bernau’s Virgins: A Cultural History, but my library, alas, hasn’t got it. I am thinking of donating money to the university library so they will GOD LET ME CHECK OUT BOOKS AGAIN. Not having access to the university library is the only, only downside to having graduated from college.