Sex and Love

Sex and Love

A Story by Kate P.
"

Currently under dispute. See AC

"

In a comparative study of two readings: “The Cult of Virginity” by Jessica Valenti and “Romance: Sweet Love” by bell hooks, one finds that both deal with a form of sexuality. Although there were no cross-references between the two, there were definite indications of one commonality that seems to perpetuate through not only these two articles, but throughout many feminist writings. This underlying similarity is that women have been, and still are, controlled and manipulated to behave according to ideas of traditional ruling patriarchies, and the most-often unchallenged acceptance of those views is by women themselves. This essay will bring to light how women have evolved through different levels of male ownership, from being considered a commodity to eventually being controlled by the manipulation of their self-worth through and for purposes of consumerism.

            Forcing the concept of virginity or of a single type of love upon women is a form of oppression against women, through control and manipulation of action and thought.  For instance, Jessica Valenti cites in The Cult of Virginity that there are no medical or scientific definitions of virginity. In fact, dictionaries explain virginity exclusively in terms applied to females and females alone. There are no similar definitions of male virginity, “outside of the occasional reference … in the form of a goofy movie about horny teenage boys.” (Valenti 182) So, if that is the case, why is there such emphasis on this non-existent medical definition of virginity? Perceived and misunderstood notions such as the mentality that a woman is only considered “good” if she is still viewed as virginal, or the expectation that women are to lose themselves completely to the concept of romantic love, have endured because of generational and media repetition. These supposedly desired ideals are so ingrained that they are accepted as fact.


 

Virginity has been interpreted by society to be the ‘chaste’, physical expression of a woman’s sexual behaviour.  A woman is defined in this way as either being sexually active, or “saving herself,” and subsequently becomes defined by that expressed sexuality (or lack thereof) and what she does with it. She can flaunt her sexuality (suggestive) or she can tease (coy), but the minute she participates in a sexual act, or is even alleged to have done so, the social meaning defining her changes. She is no longer the ideal, and therefore is classified as “damaged goods”; the ‘bad’ girl.

Historically the concept is simple, as Valenti explains: “If a man marries a virgin, he can be reasonably sure the child she bears is his.” (Valenti 183) The concept of heirs and succession was very important in the past, and still is, to a point, in modern days. Because of this, men who owned property needed to be assured that once they passed on, that property would stay within the control of their bloodline. Thus, it was necessary that the brides of these men were virgins, so as to ensure the probability that the first born was the groom’s heir. The result of this practice, as Valenti goes on, citing Hannae Blank was that “raising daughters of quality became another model of production, as valuable as breeding healthy sheep, weaving sturdy cloth, or bringing in a good harvest.” (Blank, Valenti, 183)  Women were a commodity, breeding stock that were bought or sold for the benefit of the patriarch, while the female usually had no choice in the matter.

The father (the sire) would ‘give-away’ the woman as a bride to complete a business transaction between the father and groom. Therefore, the woman was no different than any of the cattle bought and sold in the market. This practice is continued in some marriage ceremonies today, within which the father or other family patriarch traditionally ‘giving the bride away’ to the groom. Today this practice is more symbolic, but there remains the underlying suggestion of transference of ownership.

Attitudes of women as possessions have been written into the dogma of religion to further instill the belief that this is the way it should be. The ideals of the control and ownership of a female’s virginal state is propagated in Western religions by the portrayal of Mary’s virginal birth of Christ, and of Eve’s giving into the temptation of the forbidden fruit. The sexual connotations in the metaphor of the forbidden fruit as the first interaction of intercourse, and the resulting banishment from Eden is all blamed on Eve, because historically, women were not viewed as sexual beings, and were therefore not supposed to have such erotic thoughts as desiring to have sex. Adam’s participation is unquestioned as a man’s God-given right, and he remains conveniently blameless. Being chaste applies to women only, and this stance teaches us that female sexuality, and therefore any woman that personifies this sexuality, is bad. The acceptance of these archetypes remains widespread, which continues the control over the freedoms of sexual expression for women.

            An example illustrated by Valenti in “The Cult of Virginity” describes the 2006 Miss USA pageant case of contestant Tara Conner. Donald Trump (co-owner of Miss USA) accused her as exhibiting un-virginal behaviour, such as drinking, partying, and dating. She was nearly stripped of her Miss USA crown for demonstrating the typical behaviour of a 20-year old. Instead, she was publically ‘forgiven’ and “(Trump) was giving her a second chance.” The press called her a “small-town girl” who “couldn’t handle herself.” (Valenti, 185) The pageant rules remained intact, and the control remained in the hands of men, to decide how women should behave and that their sexual natures could not be expressed without a man’s permission. Society continues to accept these regulations as unquestionably reasonable.


 

Then in the interests of business, Trump further exercised his control over Tara by ‘giving her permission’ to pose for Playboy Magazine. (Valenti, 185)   The “good girl” is defined in her role as a commodity. She cannot think, do, or accomplish for herself. She can only act according to the ultimate purpose of man’s dominion over her. Donald Trump, especially in this example, follows this attitude, which is maintained by many men when it comes to women. Although he is a man of wealth and power, the mind-set surrounding the belief that women’s sexuality is similarly controlled by all men, regardless of socio-economic status or race.

We have examined that there is no concrete definition of virginity, except that which is defined by men. Let us now examine romantic love.  Several concepts of romantic love are illustrated by bell hooks in her article “Romance: Sweet Love.” However, as with virginity, she cannot supply a clearly defined explanation of love, except that which is a creation of the mind. The misrepresentation of romantic love is validated through mass media and fairytales (designed by men), in order to show women what the ideal is, and what they are subsequently missing out on.

bell hooks states “true love has the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption.” mostly because we “feel unworthy” or “(un)able to receive love”. (hooks, 186) This mentality goes back to the traditionalist attitude that women are not erotic beings, and that their sole purpose is for the benefit and use of men. This is what connects with the original idea of virginity, property and ownership. When women are told to aspire to the romantic ideal, but feel unworthy, they further drive the economy, business and men’s continued control by purchasing the paraphernalia that they supposedly need to become deserving of love. However, this worth is unattainable, because women are held to the antiquated standard of the virginal Madonna, and are therefore never allowed to see themselves as perfect, desirable or valuable.

            When bell hooks refers to our “false self,” (hooks, 186) she is referring to how we act out the roles of a fabricated mold that is driven by men’s need for control and economic gain. As per their religious doctrines, women historically were fed the idea of dependency upon a man to survive. In time, women began to depend less on men for their livelihoods, and concepts of romantic love were introduced in order to redefine the roles that women were supposed to strive for. This results in more control over women who believe that they have to fulfill these imaginary roles in order to be desirable.

            The control of women began with her role as chattel to be bought and sold for the prosperity and economic gain of man. As women received increase in status with the right to voice their own opinions, this control of man receded, to be replaced by women’s consumerist need to try and achieve the ideals of concepts like romantic love. By making women feel unworthy of being this ideal, men have ultimately continued their control over women. No longer being bought and sold as commodities themselves, women are now being used as consumers to drive the wealth of men and their power by exploiting their pursuit of the perfection required of them.

            The concept of romantic love creates an image of a woman that does not reflect who she really is. She tries to fashion herself into the expectations of beauty and desirability, as described in stories of romantic love. This creates women in makeup as actors on a stage. As bell hooks states: “In adult life, (people) meet (other people) who fall in love with their false self … At some point, glimpses of the real-self emerge and disappointment comes.” (hooks, 186) Eventually, the act is over, and suddenly the real woman no longer resembles the romantic ideal that she strove for. Disappointment is directed at that woman. She is not actually what she was made out to be, and just like the temptation of Eve, the woman is now blamed for this too.

hooks does not stop with her description of romantic love, but continues on to explain love through the eyes of two men, Fromm and Peck, who say: “we choose to love” (Peck, hooks, 187) and that love is “essentially an act of will.” (Fromm, hooks, 187) Fromm and Peck’s descriptions have been elaborated to mean that love - real love - is based on will, choice, intellect and judgement in addition to attraction. In other words, love is informed. Harriet Lerner agrees with this idea when she states that: “few of us evaluate a prospective partner with the same objectivity and clarity that we might use to select a household appliance or car.” (Lerner, hooks, 187)

hooks can be alluding in her own argument more to our biological needs when she says that erotic attraction often serves as the catalyst for an intimate connection between two people…” and then later that “we can only move from perfect passion to perfect love when the illusions pass and we are able to use the energy and intensity generated by intense overwhelming erotic bonding…” (hooks, 187, 188) however the others (Fromm, Peck and Lerner) make love seem more of a clinical nature. When the attitudes of these four individuals are combined, it is as if there is a list of specifications meant for the idyllic appliance that would fit those needs. So, this can easily be interpreted to mean that with our list of specifications in hand, we go out to shop for the product that meets our needs. We have gone from one extreme of a fairytale concept of romantic love, to a seemingly clinical approach of purchasing a consumer item.

 Is it any wonder that conditioning and misinformation creates feelings of insecurity or fear in sexual encounters? The confusion surrounding the ideal of romantic love on the one hand, and the consumerism-type attitude toward love on the other, distracts people from the basic, primal, biological urge of mating and procreation. Control and manipulation within our species, mostly for economic gain throughout history, have brought us to this point in time where basic drives of animal nature are so distorted that the true meanings have become lost. There is no scientific definition of virginity or romantic love. The controlling factors involve guiding women to fit a mold of behaviour, appearance and attitudes that help perpetuate subservience to patriarchies. These controlling factors completely disregard the basic primal drive for existence and the continuation of the species.

In instances of both virginity and romantic love, we are required to meet the expectations of someone else by their definitions. Virginity and romantic love are both defined by society and religion, and both are based on the archaic mentality of ownership and control of a possession, not affection for another human being. Ownership begins with controlling a woman’s thought processes, basic needs, and sexuality, ultimately for the profitable gain and socio-economic status of men. Women have been controlled for so long, that few recognize it happening...

Men’s control has evolved from controlling women from positions of ownership to controlling women as consumers, ultimately for the same goals, only through different avenues of approach. Where is the woman’s responsibility in this? She has allowed this to happen, and continues to do so. Women are not the perpetual victim, but rather, we are an accessory to our own oppression. If the blame is continually given to someone else, once again we remove the power from ourselves to decide what is best for us. When the power to affect change or make decision is not in the hands of the affected, then the affected remain controlled.


© 2012 Kate P.



Author's Note

Kate P.
Refrences:

Valenti, Jessica. “The Cult of Virginity.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, 5th Edition. Ed. Susan M. Shaw, Janet Lee. McGraw Hill, 2012. 181 – 185. Print.

hooks, bell. “Romance: Sweet Love.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, 5th Edition. Ed. Susan M. Shaw, Janet Lee. McGraw Hill, 2012. 186 – 188. Print.
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Author's Note:
Received a B- on the original form of this paper. When I went to hand in (this) revised copy, the Professor decided that she only wanted to remark the papers of the students who really sucked at it and brought down the class average. I'm currently disputing this, since grading should not be subjective, and remarking should be class wide, or not at all.

But, regardless of my school woes, let me know what you think :)

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Having no insight into the course this paper was written for nor of the actual assigned task is really a handicap in assessing this paper. So, please accept my comments both good and bad in the context that they are offered ... that this is a standalone evaluation based on what has been presented here.

I think the subject matter is much too broad to be covered in the length of this paper and that presents a daunting task for the writer. Having said that, I think you have done a very good job of presenting your case. So ...

I thought that in the second paragraph using dictionaries as a reference source was a weak one for an academic paper. Online, I found many dictionary definitions of virginity that were simply "the state of being a virgin" and/or "a person who has never had sexual intercourse". Citing a specific source such as a medical journal would have provided a much stronger foundation for stating your case.

I do think that providing a generally accepted definition of virginity would have given you a better platform for stating your case. For centuries, the accepted definition of a virgin (specifically a female virgin) was having the hymen membrane intact. Blood on the marriage bed was accepted as proof of virginity. Today we of course know that medically a torn hymen isn't proof of celibacy or of vaginal penetration. By acknowledging this standard, it is easy to show just how ridiculous this concept is in today's world even though in is still accepted as true in many cultures.

I think what follows in your paper needs some clarification. The physical state of being a virgin is one aspect and the value a society places on this physical state is related but separate. That is to say that what we look like and what we are aren't always the same thing. Acting virginal is not the same as being a virgin. It is kind of splitting hairs but I think a clear distinction needs to be made.

Historically, you correctly stated (sadly) that being a virgin improved the value of a women. Unfortunately, this concept was accepted and internalized by women who in turn valued their own self worth on this dubious concept.

The "giving away" the bride by her father remains, I think, a symbolic transfer of ownership. You can couple this with the practice of the bride changing her surname. Indeed, the unmarried Jane Smith is transformed into Mrs. John Doe. The change of ownership is made very clearly.

The Donald Trump/Miss USA incident is a very telling one and a clear indication of the double standard that still exists. That this was even a news worthy item says an awful about our society. And remember that Vanessa Williams was stripped of her Miss America crown because of a nude photo session. But ... part of the problem is that these so-called beauty pageants have their own set of rules. By their willingness to participate, these women are freely accepting these rules. Perhaps the real question should be, "Why do we still have beauty pageants?"

As you make the transition from virginity to love you state, " We have examined that there is no concrete definition of virginity, except that which is defined by men." I don't think this is a fair statement because "we" really haven't examined any definition of virginity by men or women. This is where vaginal penetration and the hymen membrane would serve as useful definitions.

From this point on is where I see your "A" paper. It is well thought out and organized logically into a set of credible conclusions. The view of controlling women through ownership and controlling women as consumers is both exceptional and insightful.

The one problem inherent to the length of this paper versus subject matter is that we tend to use some sweeping generalizations without the opportunity to supportively explain. Such as ...

" Is it any wonder that conditioning and misinformation creates feelings of insecurity or fear in sexual encounters?"

I can honestly agree that this is often true but not always. I've never felt fear or insecurity sexually and think that often as we as women mature our attitudes also mature.

Finally, I believe that I am from the school of feminism that believes that these type of controls are damaging to all ... that being men and women. I believe that in 21st Century, Western culture, women have the power to control their destinies. Whether they have the will to do so is a question that only time will answer.

Thanks for sharing this interesting paper and my apologies for being so longwinded. You are to be commended for your efforts.


Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Having no insight into the course this paper was written for nor of the actual assigned task is really a handicap in assessing this paper. So, please accept my comments both good and bad in the context that they are offered ... that this is a standalone evaluation based on what has been presented here.

I think the subject matter is much too broad to be covered in the length of this paper and that presents a daunting task for the writer. Having said that, I think you have done a very good job of presenting your case. So ...

I thought that in the second paragraph using dictionaries as a reference source was a weak one for an academic paper. Online, I found many dictionary definitions of virginity that were simply "the state of being a virgin" and/or "a person who has never had sexual intercourse". Citing a specific source such as a medical journal would have provided a much stronger foundation for stating your case.

I do think that providing a generally accepted definition of virginity would have given you a better platform for stating your case. For centuries, the accepted definition of a virgin (specifically a female virgin) was having the hymen membrane intact. Blood on the marriage bed was accepted as proof of virginity. Today we of course know that medically a torn hymen isn't proof of celibacy or of vaginal penetration. By acknowledging this standard, it is easy to show just how ridiculous this concept is in today's world even though in is still accepted as true in many cultures.

I think what follows in your paper needs some clarification. The physical state of being a virgin is one aspect and the value a society places on this physical state is related but separate. That is to say that what we look like and what we are aren't always the same thing. Acting virginal is not the same as being a virgin. It is kind of splitting hairs but I think a clear distinction needs to be made.

Historically, you correctly stated (sadly) that being a virgin improved the value of a women. Unfortunately, this concept was accepted and internalized by women who in turn valued their own self worth on this dubious concept.

The "giving away" the bride by her father remains, I think, a symbolic transfer of ownership. You can couple this with the practice of the bride changing her surname. Indeed, the unmarried Jane Smith is transformed into Mrs. John Doe. The change of ownership is made very clearly.

The Donald Trump/Miss USA incident is a very telling one and a clear indication of the double standard that still exists. That this was even a news worthy item says an awful about our society. And remember that Vanessa Williams was stripped of her Miss America crown because of a nude photo session. But ... part of the problem is that these so-called beauty pageants have their own set of rules. By their willingness to participate, these women are freely accepting these rules. Perhaps the real question should be, "Why do we still have beauty pageants?"

As you make the transition from virginity to love you state, " We have examined that there is no concrete definition of virginity, except that which is defined by men." I don't think this is a fair statement because "we" really haven't examined any definition of virginity by men or women. This is where vaginal penetration and the hymen membrane would serve as useful definitions.

From this point on is where I see your "A" paper. It is well thought out and organized logically into a set of credible conclusions. The view of controlling women through ownership and controlling women as consumers is both exceptional and insightful.

The one problem inherent to the length of this paper versus subject matter is that we tend to use some sweeping generalizations without the opportunity to supportively explain. Such as ...

" Is it any wonder that conditioning and misinformation creates feelings of insecurity or fear in sexual encounters?"

I can honestly agree that this is often true but not always. I've never felt fear or insecurity sexually and think that often as we as women mature our attitudes also mature.

Finally, I believe that I am from the school of feminism that believes that these type of controls are damaging to all ... that being men and women. I believe that in 21st Century, Western culture, women have the power to control their destinies. Whether they have the will to do so is a question that only time will answer.

Thanks for sharing this interesting paper and my apologies for being so longwinded. You are to be commended for your efforts.


Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on March 23, 2012
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Tags: virginity, romance, love, bell hooks, Jessica Valenti, capitalism, commerce, economy, men, chauvinism, feminism, misogyny, oppression, consumerism, control, chattel, commodity

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Kate P.
Kate P.

AB, Canada



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