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Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Blank's revealing history of virginity begins with discoveries related to women's bodies over time, then quickly moves on to a fascinating analysis of the roles economics, religion, and urbanization have played in the changing attitudes toward virginity. From the Roman Empire to the Jazz Age and beyond, with appearances by Jesus, Elizabeth I, Samuel Pepys, and Alfred Kinsey, this is a rich history indeed. Some common threads favored by Blank include virginity as commodity (trading virgin daughters for land) and the ideology of virginity (Mary's importance in Catholicism). Offering compelling insights, Blank is upfront about telling a female history, although one wishes she had broadened her view as she moved into the present, particularly when she spends time on virginity in popular culture today. This is also strictly a Western history, with modern-day "honor killings" not mentioned until the epilogue. And what of depictions of virginity in, say, Bollywood? Perhaps Blank's next treatise will provide a needed further look at this complex and significant topic. Annie Tully
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
The information in this book is hard to find in other places and is desperately needed. The topics covered in this book are still hot today. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lisa Bosarge
Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank is a fascinating look at how we see virginity, and how virginity has been viewed throughout history and in different cultures. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Rebekka K. Steg
I bought this book because I thought the title was interesting. I had never read anything by Hanne Blank before. She is a very incisive and witty writer. Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by Heather A. Winters
I absolutely loved this book and couldn't put it down. I'm a history and gender studies major, so this is perfectly suited to my interests. Read morePublished on June 5, 2010 by Monika
Virgin is not all encompassing, but it does whet one's appetite and awareness of the material without being boring. Read morePublished on June 4, 2010 by Ruth E. Castillo
The author complains of the limitations of space several times in the book but nevertheless can digress into what feels like too much of the minutiae of medieval politics. Read morePublished on January 12, 2008 by Chris Morgan
As someone interested in history and anthropology, I found this book to be fascinating. In nearly every section I found information I wanted to pass on to someone else. Read morePublished on December 15, 2007 by M P