Friday, March 9, 2007

From Elsewhere, giving it a home here

I posted this at Renegade Evolution's place, but thought I should give it a home here, too. And correct some spelling and grammar. *ninjaeditor*

Personally, I see THIS as the problem. There is a madonna/whore complex. Real women are affected by it. It permiates a lot and pops up often when you least expect it.

The question begged then is, how do we make it less powerful? Well, no, that's secondary - sometimes I think the first question SHOULD be (but often isn't) what feeds into this false dichotomy.

I personally think a lot of first wave feminism did. There was a perception that women were "more moral" and many sufferegettes (if I'm remembering my history right) banked on that as a reason why they should get the vote - they would serve as a moral backbone for the countries since the menz couldn't.

Ironically, THAT angle is very insulting toward men. Oddly enough, they were some of the biggest supporters of it. 8(

So we have virgin and whore.

Virgin is: moral (whatever that's been defined as this year), natural (ibid), nurturing, asexual, non-violent, and now (via first wave feminism) intelligent, successful, and ambitious. Viewed positively, she is the "angel of the household and the boardroom". Viewed negatively, she is Hilary Clinton. Her power hinges on being beautiful, remote, and untenable in reality. She is celebrated as the superwoman and fails by drinking, desiring sex, or somehow being out of step with what is "moral" or "natural".

The whore is: immoral or amoral (whatever that's being defined as this year), unnatural (ibid), aggressive, sexual, violent, loud, takes up space, demanding, powerful, and self-sufficient. Viewed positively, she is strong, sexual woman. Viewed negatively, she is the object upon which people play out their fantasies of dominance, consumption, and violence. Her power hinges on being an outsider, on shock, manipulation, and sexual allure. She is celebrated as the actress and fails by showing vulnerability or unattractiveness.

Any virgin can and does become a whore by disagreeing with the "people in charge", whomever they may be. And the gods help those who aren't attractive or who are overweight; there's no room in either archetype for either of THOSE traits.

I'd argue that many of the "positive feminine traits" celebrated by many woman's rights and feminists groups fall under "virgin". The woman who breastfeeds her child and doesn't shave and expects other women to do the same, for example, is fitting into the "natural woman" aspect of the virgin. The women who scan agression as "masculine" and nurturing as "feminine" are coding the "whore" as both undesirable and not even female. And so on and so forth.

But I'm still left wondering, how do we break this false dichotomy? Honestly, there are things off of both lists that I WANT and that I try to embody, and that's my small way, but I find myself wishing there were bigger ways to act.

FWIW, I'd say the male examples are the effeminate and the macho man - for any MRAs out there who want to explore their own untenable archetypes that are used against them to control them. Sometime I want to get a listing of the characteristics of those archetypes and see if they scan to virgin and whore the way I think they will. ^^


Renegade Evolution said...

i did love this post...also, a thought that popped into my head...

Virgin: Civil, tamed, reasonable, predictable, acceptable

Whore: Uncivil, wild, cunning, unpredictable, unacceptable

the virgin can easily be defined and neatly wrapped up into societies little boxes. The whore? Not so much. One is on the inside, the other is an outlaw.

Rootietoot said...

The false dichotomy is, I believe, all in the minds of the folks who came up with the distinction, who are themselves either virgins or whores. The other 98% of us, who fall somewhere between, are too busy cooking supper or balancing the checkbook to be worried about what catagory we fit into.

If you take an average women (say...ME), and apply the 2 catagories, you'll find a happy blend of both. Virgin on the outside and whore on the inside. It works for me.

antiprincess said...

what is it about virginity anyway?

I mean - women aren't property anymore. so why is being a virgin (or appearing virginal) in any way preferable to not being a virgin?

did anyone besides me totally NOT value her maidenhood, and drop it like a bad habit at her first opportunity?

Rootietoot said...

in the eyes of much of the church, which is Big here in the south, purity balls and such (bleh! creepy!)
But then the deacon of the Baptist Church is the first to shuffle his 16 yr old daughter off to Atlanta for a "Procedure" if she gets pregnant. Such double standards. I've learned to ignore them.

Deoridhe said...


If you take an average women (say...ME), and apply the 2 catagories, you'll find a happy blend of both. Virgin on the outside and whore on the inside. It works for me.

Personally, ideally, I'd like to see more than just a single duality, though. Let's mix it up; get a little crazy and complex.


I've never gotten that. I had vague ideas of being a virgin when I married, but I'm just as glad I gave those daydreams up, to be honest. That being said, having sex didn't turn me into the "will do anything to get laid after a month" creature my boyfriend at the time seemed to think I would become.

Heh, you know, based on the responses here and on my lj, I'm thinking my assumption people would realize virgin =/= "never had sex" was probably a bad assumption. Go me! -_-

Rootietoot said...

"I'm thinking my assumption people would realize virgin =/= "never had sex" was probably a bad assumption."

There's this notion going around teens that if you don't have vaginal penetration then you're a virgin. Anal and oral are just fine. Let's follow the letter of the law but not the spirit!

As for the single duality- well sure, there's more to any woman than The Sweet Girl in the Gingham Dress and The Bad Girl in Black Leather. There's the Sarcastic One who people fear, or relish; the Earth Mother who's neither, The Daughter, The Sister, and on and on. A 2 dimensional woman would be dull indeed.

Rootietoot said...

"what is it about virginity anyway?"

The idea is that you, as a virgin, have this gift that can be given only once, and should be saved for your chosen life-mate. You don't want to slip up and give it to someone else, because once is all you've got. Also, if you have sex with a bunch of people and then marry, you will forever be comparing the sexual abilities of your mate to those of everyone before him, and that's unfair to him. Of course, this is theoretically taught to boys and girls, but we all know boys need to know what they're doing when they have sex with a girl. This is what is taught in the churches around here. It's this *nudge nudge wink wink* mentality.

Personally, I liked having a little experience when I married. I could waste the uncomfortable part on someone else, and just enjoy the good stuff with new husband.

Octogalore said...

Rootie -- hear, hear! I too am so glad I had some experience (well, got married at 33, got active at 18, had a few notches most years, so fairly non-virginal numbers) before getting hitched. I feel like I've done the things I wanted and learned on people who didn't matter what works and what doesn't for me. Even more important is finding a man who values that.

I think another reason virginity is valued is male insecurity -- a virgin will not have a standard of comparison.

My only standard of comparison, the day I lost mine, was my college room mate telling her mom about her first time, while I lay in the bottom bunk eavesdropping. She said "it was like a hundred violins suddenly began playing." I knew it wasn't ANYTHING like that for me. But I thought that was just because I didn't know what I was doing. Later I realized that was only partially the explanation.