Cult of Virginity


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Presentation on feminist activist Jessica Valenti and her writing on "The Cult of Virginity"

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Cult of Virginity

  1. 1. + The Cult of Virginity by Jessica Valenti Claire Porter 12/31/11
  2. 2. + Background  Valenti was raised in Long Island City, Queens in an Italian-American family.  Her father was a Buddhist, and her mother introduced her to her first pro-choice march when she was 13.  She received her Masters degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University, where she is a part- time lecturer.
  3. 3. + Valenti’s Work  American blogger and feminist writer, known for having founded the feminist blog Feministing in 2004, while she was working at the National Organization for Women’s legal defense fund  She is the author or co-author of four books on womens issues, including Full Frontal Feminism (2007), Hes a Stud, Shes a Slut (2008), and The Purity Myth (2009).  Her work has appeared in Ms. magazine, The Guardian, The Nation, andThe Washington Post  Valenti was named in March 2011 as one of The Guardians top 100 women
  4. 4. + Valenti has been called the “poster girl for third-wave feminism” by Salon Magazine
  5. 5. + The Purity Myth  FpQ&feature=player_embedded
  6. 6. + Some things to remember:  There is no medical definition of virginity. Rather, it’s a social construct that serves to police women and keep them subordinate to men  Virginity is often associatedwith a heteronormative view of sex that is restricted to intercourse between a man and woman
  7. 7. + Important Quotes from “The Cult of Virginity”  “It’s people who have social and political influence who ultimately get to decide what virginity means- at least as it affects women on a large scale…We know that men or male-based institutions, have always been the ones that get to define and assign value to virginity.”  What effect does that have on women?
  8. 8. + Important Quotes  “Present-day American society-whether through pop culture, religion, or institutions-conflates sexuality and morality constantly. Idolizing virginity as a stand-in for women’s morality means that nothing else matters-not what we accomplish, not what we think, not what we care about and work for. Just if/how/whom we have sex with. That’s all.”
  9. 9. +  Hanne Blank describes how up until the last century or so, marriage actually represented a literal transfer of property rights from a father’s household to a husband’s.  Valenti adds that this is why women who have had sex were and sometimes still are, referred to as “damaged goods”, and thus serving to commodify women’s sexuality.
  10. 10. +  Valenti cites pop-culture institutions as reinforcing “The Purity Myth”  She references MTV’s True Life show on celibate youth and also Jessica Simpson’s father giving her a promise ring  Simpson described as the archetype for the “desirable virgin”: a sex symbol that is sexy, but not sexual. Also that this archetype is presented as young, white, and thin.  What are other ways you can think of that the myth is continued?
  11. 11. +  University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Ann Althouse criticized Feministing in 2006 for its sometimes sexualized content. Erin Matson of the National Organization for Womens Young Feminist Task Force told The Huffington Post the controversy was "a rehashing of a very old debate within the feminist community: is public sexuality empowering or harmful to women?”  What do you think?
  12. 12. +  What shaped your view of virginity? Was it religion? Family?  Were you brought up to view sexuality, particularly female sexuality as dirty or immoral? How did it affect you?  How many of you were taught abstinence only sex education?  How can we create a more positive vision of women’s sexuality? What about for younger women?  How do you think masculinity plays into the purity myth? How have you seen this play out in your own life?