Georgia and The Virginity Institute By Katrina Myers


This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Katrina Myers is a MA student at Claremont School of Theology and is participating in the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project.

During the past two years, I had the opportunity to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Georgia, which is located in Eastern Europe.  There I worked as a schoolteacher and lived in a tiny, homogenous, Georgian village in the Kakheti region.

I quickly learned the encompassing influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which upholds an ideal hierarchy: God, Jesus, Patriarch, Man, Woman.  The church champions traditional gender roles; men are to be strong leaders and heads of the community and their households, while women are expected to be virginal, modest, obedient and subservient.  In Georgian culture, the influence of the Church and the teachings of Patriarch Ilia II and his predecessors are indisputable.

I often learned about the rules of the Church through conversations, gossip or drama that was happening in my host family.  During my first month in Georgia, a huge explosion erupted in my house.  Only barely able to comprehend basic Georgian phrases, I caught onto the words “ცუდი გოგო” (pronounced: tsudi gogo), which means literally “bad girl,” a label that you do not want to attain and is usually not good even to hear it uttered.  Confused at what was happening, I asked my seventeen-year-old host sister, who spoke some English, to explain.  In a conversation of broken Georgian and English she told me that her mom was mad and was saying she was a tsudie gogo, because she and her female friend had been out walking with one of her male classmates.  When I asked her why this was a problem, she told me that in Georgia she was not allowed to do this, because “here, girls have to be…” She paused and grabbed the Georgian-English dictionary, “Girls have to be… virgins.”  When I inquired why, she gave me a version of “because the Bible tells me so.”

A year after that initial, but certainly not only, conversation about sex and virginity in Georgian culture, an article was published titled, The Virginity Institute: Sex and the Georgian Woman.  This article explains the many phenomena I had been witnessing.  The article describes the “The Virginity Institute” as a jesting-name that refers to the cultural taboo on sex before marriage for Georgian women.  The article references a 2009 survey by the Tbilisi-based Caucasus Research Resource Centers, which reported that 77 percent of Georgian respondents thought that it was unacceptable for a woman to have sex before marriage.  Georgians believe it is good for their culture and reinforces their value system, and, from what I understand from this article and my experience, the Patriarch upholds this tradition.

According to this ideal, women should not want sex, think about sex or engage in sex.  If a woman does have sex before marriage and others find out about it, she will become an outcast in her community, a tsudi gogo, destined then to spinsterhood.

In contrast, Georgian men are encouraged and even expected to have sex at an early age.  Of course, as the women are not allowed to have sex, the men often visit prostitutes.  It is even a right of passage for a boy to be taken to his first Natasha, (prostitute).

The prohibition of sex before marriage also prevents dating.  Yet, boys and girls are not ignorant of dating culture and have access to American, European and Russian television shows and movies, where sex is glamorized.  In a country where sex and marriage may only exist together, this culture of abstinence prompts many Georgians to marry young.  Marriage, then, becomes the necessary license for sex, and many young Georgians think is worth it.  While I was there, whenever I saw a wedding parade in my village or heard about an elopement, my gut reaction was always, please don’t let it be one of my students, please.

One devastating consequence of teenage marriages, is when girls get married they are often forced to drop out of school.  My first host sister told me a story about one girl in her class who had gotten married and chosen to continue to go to school.  She told me, “It is bad she is at school.  We are girls but she is a woman now.  The boys look at her differently because they know she does that.  She should not be allowed to go to school.  I think she should stay home.” My host sister continued to tell me that peer pressure had eventually forced her classmate to drop out of the eleventh grade.  Her husband was allowed to continue going to school and earn his diploma.

Additionally, many of these young girls quickly get pregnant (there is no sex education or readily available birth control), and once you are a mother in Georgia that is your sole role in life from then thereon.

As we have been talking about Mary Daly in recent weeks, I wanted to connect this to her work.  Daly recognizes religion, especially Christianity, as an irredeemably patriarchal institute that must be abandoned.  The existence of the Virginity Institute would seem to justify Daly’s claim.  However, we have to consider that in Georgia religion and national identity are inseparable; being Georgian Orthodox Christian is synonymous with being Georgian.  Also, in Georgia national identity is something you are born into, and, thus, this religion cannot be striped from a Georgian any more than the blood can be removed from one’s veins.  Although I appreciate Daly and all of her radical-ness, her solution to abandon religion is not a practical or even viable way to alleviate this oppression.  Instead, I believe that we must use the creativity Daly advocates to discover other realistic ways of addressing immediate issues such as the Virginity Institute.

Post-script: An ironic follow-up came from another Georgian news source a scant two weeks after the initial article I referenced.  This one titled, Georgian women seek virginity restoration: Tbilisi doctors report an increase in requests for hymenoplasty.  I’m out of space, but would love to hear your thoughts on this.



Categories: Christianity, Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue

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24 replies

  1. Thanks for bringing up Christian Orthodoxy, which often gets left out of the picture. Thankfully, things are not as dire as all of that in most of Greece any more, though they were only a few decaded ago. Greeks also usually don’t give up their religon because it is part of their “national identity” (which by the way is a construction as are all other national identities). However, most modern Greeks ignore what religion says about sex. Most of the girls in my village sleep with their boyfriends and don’t care a bit what the priests have to say about it.

    Just a thought: in Daly’s day to be Irish Catholic was also said to be a birthright (or wrong) issue. My Irish grandmother would never have thought it possible not to be Catholic, and many Irish people in both the US and Ireland struggle with this too. So don’t think giving up her religion was easy for Daly either, especially after all the time she devoted to studying it.

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    • I’m going to assume things in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, are at least a little more like they are in Greece. I lived in a very tiny, conservative village so I saw a lot of things that I would have missed in the capital or even the other larger towns. Currently there is a huge Western influence in Georgia (and a huge push to learn English), so it will be interesting to see how that changes things in the next decade or two.

      I appreciate you brining up Daly’s background. I agree, giving up religion was probably very difficult for Daly, and I think sometimes we forget to recognize that. My pushing back comes from the very literal fact that most people from my village are not even going to get one college degree (and sometimes not even a high school diploma), let alone have the opportunity to earn three Ph.D.s, so Daly’s be-coming is not really an option (at least not in the same way), so I wanted to think about how Daly’s ideas fit into lives like the Georgian girls and women that I know.

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  2. Katrina, Thank you for your thought-provoking post. I particularly appreciated your evaluation that Daly’s “solution to abandon religion is not a practical or even viable way to alleviate [Georgian women’s] oppression.” At the risk of pointing out the obvious, I think the struggle between feminism and (in my particular context) Christianity is one that requires constant negotiation, especially for those who identify as feminist and yet do not want to abandon the religious traditions of which they are a part. I find myself repeatedly addressing these difficulties in my own tradition, particularly within the context of my church community. I realize that I am extremely privileged to have a forum in which to discuss issues of the intersection between feminism and Christianity: this opportunity is a luxury afforded only a very small fraction of my particular community, much less the global community at large. I therefore believe that part of my responsibility is to share what I have learned with those in my community so as to foster discussion and open-mindedness that constructs a space in which historically marginalized people may find and celebrate an authentic voice to express their experiences. I wonder what concrete possibilities you see as “realistic ways of addressing immediate issues such as the Virginity Institute.” Do you think any of these methods would be applicable to a U.S. context? Thanks again for sharing.

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    • Great question. I agree with you that sharing with people in our communities is very important. I think education is often the key. I’ll give you an example of a successful project put on by some other PCVs just before I left. The Volunteers put on a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp (a PC initiative) for young teenage girls. At this camp they discussed, amongst many things, virginity. When asked “Why do girls have to be virgins and boys not?” On camper answered, “Becuase it says so in the Bible. The Patriarch says it does.” The counselor asked the girl if she could find it in her Bible, and, of course, the girl couldn’t. She was surprised when she realized it wasn’t there and responded in a very positive way, as if a weight had been lifted. I didn’t get to attend this particular camp, but I think this story is a great example of how we can address issues such as the Virginity Institute or other types of similar issues. Mentioned below are some examples of how this does exist in the US, and I would say yes, educating people is always a way of ending oppression.

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  3. A lovely post! I enjoyed hearing about your Peace Corps experiences. You are right that in cases where national identity is constructed (either by law or by popular consensus) as nearly synonymous with religion, it does not seem like abandoning religion tout court is a realistic possibility.

    Re: hymenoplasty, I’m sure you know that hymens can be “broken” for all sorts of reasons not having to do with sexual intercourse and that the propriety of such surgeries needs to be evaluated contextually. Great post!

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    • Thanks for your comments. Re: hymenoplsty, In Georgia this practice generally seems to be “fixing” hymens that have been broken during sexual intercourse. I found this article interesting for a number of reasons, but it is important to note that the cost of this procedure ranges from $400 to $1,000, which is a very large amount of money for most people in Georgia: a teacher makes anywhere from $40 to $120 per months actually teaching, if that helps contextualize it. The women having this procedure done are not from villages like mine. Another thing I found interesting, was I never heard of women having to “prove” their virginity in ways that we have heard happen in other places (ie, physical examination, checking bed sheets, etc), so it makes me wonder why someone would elect to have this procedure.

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  4. This is a great post, I love hearing first hand experiences that I would otherwise read in an some ethnography in an anthropology gender and sexuality course, for example. There are so many crossings and comparisons we could draw from this example to most parts of the world. The questions you raise about nationality, religion, and the politics of identity are ones that I’m constantly raising (one of the reasons I’m hesitant to do more fieldwork abroad). Even though national identity is constructed, and religion for that matter, these entities still matter and play a meaningful role for people, and we can never quite separate out “religion” from “culture.” I applaud your energy to ask these difficult questions, particularly as you encountered them first hand in Georgia. I think what I find so interesting is that when we go abroad and discover everyday manifestations of patriarchy, religious oppression, etc., we forget that these same injustices are among us at home (though they might look different). I think the best we can do is listen, without judgement, and respond to the actual needs of women.

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    • Amy,
      You are so right when you point out that the same injustices that Katrina talks about are with us here in the US, they look different. I recently had the opportunity to work with teen mothers for several months in Southern California. Even though they were not married, for the most part, they were not considered “bad girls.” However, they were poor, living in a male-dominated culture, and all dropped out of school when they got pregnant. Interestingly, some of them had an expectation that they would become mothers in high school and didn’t use birth control. For most of them, the fathers of their children had other girlfriends. While a baby’s father might be present in a girl’s life, the relationship was necessarily fraught with anxiety, grief, and insecurity. The girls did not realize that they had options. I don’t necessarily mean abortion, but that they were immersed in a culture that encouraged them to have sex before they were adults. Now in general, they felt burdened and isolated. While they love their children, they feel the weight of adult responsibilities, and bear other difficulties endemic to poverty – homelessness, insufficient medical care, familial instability and domestic violence, poor nutrition. While the younger girls had some hope that they would go back to school when the baby got to be a certain age, the older girls had not managed to do that and were moving into their twenties without high school diplomas. Katrina says, “Once you’re a mother in Georgia, that’s your sole role in life thereon.” For different reasons, that seems to be the fate of most of these teen mothers.

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  5. When i said that national identity in Greece is constructed I am referring to the fact that there never was a “Greece” until relatively recently. Greek was once spoken widely in the Hellenistic empire. In the 19th century Greeks often called themselves “Romi” after the Holy Roman Empire. And until the Greek nation was formed after the revolution and exchanges of lands which continued up until 1922, people of different religions and ethnicities lived in lands that are now considered all Greek. when the modern Greek nation was formed the “Greek” Jews living in Thessaloniki were not included. The exchange of populations that occurred in 1922 was part of the definition of the modern nations of Greece and Turkey and the wounds have not yet been healed. I love to think back to the days when Greeks, Turks, Armenians, French, and Jews all lived together in relative harmony in my island home Lesbos. I suspect it was a more interesting place, then.

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  6. The sad part is that we have the same issue in this country (albeit it is sometimes masked by what is seen as the glorification of raunch culture). In her book, Schoolgirls, Peggy Orenstein wrote that one 13 year old girl’s “shame…comes not from actually having sex, but from thinking about it; from admitting desire.” (Peggy Orenstein, Schoolgirls: young women, self-esteem, and the confidence gap (New York: Random House, 2000), 51). This was something that very much resonated with me: the idea that even *thinking* about sex makes you dirty and a ‘slut.’

    We often see the rest of the world as so much more oppressed than us, when what we’re really seeing are extreme versions of phenomena that exist in our own culture, albeit more subtly. The virgin/whore dichotomy is alive and well in the USA today, and it negatively impacts too many women.

    I was particularly struck in this blog by the part about the young mother who, according to Katrina’s host sister, should no longer attend school because she had had sex–even in the presumably acceptable context of marriage, she was being made into a disdained ‘other.’ Perhaps this is why I take such exception to the concept of relating innocence with chastity (as you may remember from my response to your blog last week, Grace. ;)). Innocence is too often tied to a distorted concept of purity that turns sexually active (young) women into something ‘other’ and disdained, or even pitied.

    As someone steeped in this culture, I remember going through a period where I was incredibly bothered by my friends losing their virginity; I knew, on some level, that that fact alone didn’t change them, and yet, deep down, I was convinced that sex made you into a different–and dirty–person. I was long convinced that one could not be innocent and sexual all at the same time–a terrible dichotomy that denies us our own personal experiences and a healthy sexual development, all the while making sexual activity into the exact antithesis of innocent (guilty).

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  7. Katrina – Thanks indeed for this thought provoking post. It makes me wonder what the pre-marital ‘rules’ are for males in Georgia, if any, and how they (as opposed to the government) view female sexuality and if this is changing/evolving in the younger generations. Do you know? It also reminds me of a story a long-time friend told me years ago: growing up in India, she had her first sexual experiences with women, and reports that her male counterparts similarly had their first experiences with men. This was all, she reported with more than a bit of irony, the attempt to keep both genders ‘virgins’ until marraige. It was understood and apparently widely accepted. It also makes me wonder, though, how many cultural mores we are unaware of as outsiders in other countries. And it makes me want to spend more time abroad, if for no other reason than to experience the type of diverse experience you shared with us. Thanks again!

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    • Lara- Thanks for your comments. From what I understood, there were no pre-marital rules for males. My male PCV friends would frequently tell me how their host brother or father/counterpart/ friend had offered to take them to a prostitute, because they were men and that was surely what they needed. It actually got somewhat amusing/sad when my friends would have to get out of very awkward situations. Again from my experience, men (not the govt) expect their wives to be virgins. It was funny though that because I was American I often got asked out (or proposed to, but that’s another story that has more to do with Visas), because it was perfectly acceptable for me as an American to have sex. And, twice I was approached in the captital because the men thought I was a Russian prostitute. Homosexuality and even same-sex marriage is legal in Georgia (mostly because people do not get legally married, rather consummation of the marriage is often considered the same as saying “I do” or signing on the dotted line), but homosexuality is a very taboo issue. People are not okay or tolerant of it so I did not often meet openly gay people and I do not think what you describe in India happened there. Although female-female and male-male friendships are often very (non-physically) intimate. And I highly recommend spending time abroad, changes your entire world view.

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  8. Male male relations and prostitutes were the norm in Greece. This does not mean homosexuality was accepted, because men did not consider themselves to be gay, esp. if they took the “male” position. In my cynical moods I would say, a woman, a man, or (poor thing) a goat. On the other hand calling someone a “masturbator” is a common put-down.

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  9. Katrina – Thanks for this blog post. It’s exciting to read it after talking with you about many of these themes. In one of my other classes this semester, we have spent a lot of time reading the history of the development of ideas of virginity and chastity as it was developed within Early Christianity and Hellenistic Judaism. Although this idea certainly always carried with it problematic, dualistic baggage, there were some aspects of agency in early virginity that women could claim. For instance, a women could choose (although one might ask to what extent this choice was dictated by her family, church, etc) virginity as a form of spiritual power for themselves. Virgins were seen by some as powerful leaders within the church (although again, we could ask why power always came through this certain form of “purity/cleanliness”), and they were able to take on patrons, dispense advice, and were even at times equated with bishops within the church.

    Today, in Georgia, and even throughout many churches within the United States, while virginity is exalted, I really don’t get the feeling that it is equated with any sort of power for women. In fact, the impetus to remain a virgin is a negative one: to stave off shame (individual as well as communal) and not to claim any sort of power. There is no agency implied in the choice to stay a virgin as it is culturally constructed: rather, it is an imperative.

    Anyway, it seems like across the board we could do with a holistic reconstruction of sexuality that is also “pro-choice”: that takes into account women’s development and allows women to choose how, when and with whom they wish to express their sexuality, without fear of judgment or far-reaching social consequences.

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    • Hannah- as per this and our conversations, you are exactly right and raise an excellent point. While women must remain virgins, this is never an empowering thing; this issue is about much more than sex and virginity. As you mention, we have to stop thinking about body/flesh/sex as sinful and start taking a holistic approach to reconstructing our ideas about these. For me, I see the need for this within our religious communities, especially from religious leaders. Within our American context, I think the Religious Institute (http://www.religiousinstitute.org/) does some really great work at starting these conversations.

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  10. Katrina,

    Wonderful post! You seamlessly wove (in Daly-like “spinster” fashion) your experiences in Georgia, Mary Daly and your own feminist reflections together. I particularly enjoyed your conclusion in which you pit Daly (rejection of religion) against Daly (creativity). In a sense, I take your claim to be that Daly herself does not live up to her own radical claims of creativity in her rejection of religion. In many contexts, there might be more creative (and as you point out, pragmatically helpful) options, I enjoyed the creative dimensions of Daly’s thought the most as well. Your suggestion that creativity and practical realism can be allies in feminist projects is brilliant. Since the two strands (creativity and pragmatism) are often sadly considered to be opposites, the suggestion is also quite radical as well. And perhaps that is the point; with this post you still honor and walk in the heritage of Daly’s radical feminism, even without being confined to it.

    I was curious about how you see creativity and practical realism joining for feminist causes in specific situations. I noticed in your response to Erin that you wrote “education is often the key.” I agree. Your example is also very helpful; it combines education with sensitivity to cultural contexts and power dynamics. Rather than the counselor tell the camper what to believe and what to value, the counselor worked within the context she/he was within (specifically in this case a valuation of the bible and the Patriarch) in order to expose a potential contradiction between different elements. Education need not be about answers. Instead, the counselor opened up a space for the camper to creatively explore her own agency.

    I was wondering if you could share your reflections on the following two questions:

    1) How do you think creative feminist uses of education (to challenge sexist structures) change if and when the ‘students’ are men? Is it a worthwhile (or possible) project with men? Do you think the counselor would (and should) have used the same tactics if her/his campers were men? If not, how do you think it would/should be different?

    2) Do you think Daly’s rejection of religion can be a helpful feminist tactic in cultural contexts where religion is more easily shed, i.e. the U.S./Western Europe? Is your critique of Daly’s universal rejection of religion that it is not universally practical? Or would you extend the critique to the claim that the full rejection of religion is not always a creative response either?

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  11. Drew: thanks for your questions.
    First to go back to my response to Erin, I forgot to mention that although the camp was organized and sponsored by PCVs , the counselors were actually educated Georgian women that we hoped would become positive role models for the youth. I think this was very important because it provided role models the girls could identify with.
    And to answer your questions: I’ll try to answer your first question with another example from my PC experience. The male PCVs put on a camp for boys (I’m completely blanking on the acronym—BULB, maybe—and what it stood for) but it was very similar to the GLOW camp. This camp was for Georgian boys and actually addressed many issues surrounding sexuality, masculinity, gender roles and attitudes towards women. They also had male PCVs and Georgian counselors. From my experience, children tend to respond particularly well when empowered to search for answers as opposed to being told them. So, yes I think suggesting to boys to look in the Bible and question what they have been dictated is a very effective way of challenging social norms. I believe an important aspect was that the counselors were the same nationality and gender as the campers. Although I am also always open to creating new ways of teaching, so I’d love to hear if someone has something better.
    And, 2) Yes to the later. First as I mentioned, I think that Daly’s rejection of religion is not universally viable, or even practical for most of humanity. But more importantly, as you state, rejection of religion is not a creative response. Personally, as a religious person, I’ve discovered that religious communities are often sources of great beauty/wonder/awe that inspire more creativity and possibility that, I believe, may not be possible without. Plus, I belong to a religious community that, although not perfect, does actively work to reject the “patriarchy.”

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  12. Katrina, what an interesting experience! First to be in Georgia, speak their language, live in their culture. And second, to experience what young women were going through. I’ve always thought Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and Orthodox Islam had so much in common, and your story confirms it for me. In many muslim countries, and even here in America, Muslim girls who have sex before marriage are “bad girls” and the belief is the same, those girls are destined for spinsterhood because of the premarital act. Muslim girls are married off young, and of course, one of the big reasons, is to engage in intimacy. For those of us in Western countries, this seems so archaic, or maybe not. However one views this cultural and religious practice of expecting females to be virgins prior to marriage; marrying young; and dropping out of school to rear a family; it is a practice not exclusive to Orthodox Christians or the country of Georgia. A good portion of the world, holds similar values and impositions. Thank you for sharing your experience, I really enjoyed reading this!

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  13. Katrina,
    Thanks for this great post. I found it extremely problematic from a faith perspective that young men who engaged in premarital sex were not held to the same standard as the women. I would imagine that from the perspective of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as in the bible, sexual “purity” of both genders would be expected. In this sense, one wonders how much this is a faith issue rather than a patriarchal cultural issue? If you take into consideration Carol Christ’s posts you could argue that this is more of a cultural issue when you look at how the attitudes of the Greek’s have changed over time even though the Greek Orthodox Church has not changed their position. This is not to say that the church bears no responsibility. In my opinion churches should begin to incorporate what Hannah spoke about in her reply, an examination of sex from a holistic perspective, rather than continuing to teach some form of body/soul dualism where we all fear the “feelings” of our bodies because they are “evil.”

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  14. Thanks for your picture of life far away and the effects of powerlessness of young women; not too different from some small town mid-western locations I think. It’s that purity thing again that Mary Daly recognises, isn’t it. and her questions are valid…purity for whom? Purity for the girl/women themselves of for the Patristic church, or the men who want virgin sex for giving up their “freedom” for marriage. If for the young women, who set up the system that sexual knowledge is somehow dirty? Men? Mary Daly would say so and on this I would agree.
    What are the young women who marry without education to do? Perhaps one of them might model home schooling and a feminist ethic of action. Revolution in countries devastated by revolution or near countries devastated by revolution may take a long time. But maybe feminist revolution can ride coat-tails of death, of hunger, of outrage emerging in this time of want. I am learning in my 62nd year; I never ever give up hope that women of good will and fine passion can change the world.

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  15. You did a great post Katrina!

    Like Georgia culture, critically speaking, the concept of virginity is always considered as a virtue related to young girls in Myanmar culture, too. A virgin as a woman dedicated to sexual chastity promotes the cultural ethos of the stable society. Virginity is a measuring scale for social purity of the whole community in which they belong. Virginity carries a strong social value in Myanmar. So, in this way, sexual purity of women and girls are very central to the institution of marriage of Myanmar culture. It seems that, undoubtedly, Myanmar society demands only female virginity.

    For Myanmar man, marrying a virgin girl is a proud demonstration of his “manhood.” A bride should be a virgin and a virgin should be a bride. But nobody concern about “man virginity.” Do the men need not to be virgins? It is, for me, no justice. In such situations, many victims eliminate the disgrace of their virginity by putting an end to their lives.

    Who will be responsible for the virgin tears? It is, undeniably, our (you and me) mandate to transform the injustice structure of our society.

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  16. Katrina,

    Thank you for your post. I was just reading it and thinking about my blog as well. It is really interesting that what defines a “girl” is “virginity” and a “woman” is “marriage”. I think that there are similar problems with my personal experience growing up in the South and what you are describing here. I have several friends who got married as soon as they turned 18 so they could have “legit” sex. Now, I have several divorced friends at a very young age and I also have several friends who have between 2-5 children. (And I just turned 25!) The question of what is virginity comes to mind – so are we taking viriginity to be penis-vagina penetration or any type of penetration, sexual act, etc? I know that this is taken very seriously and a lot of girls I know thought that as long as they didn’t have vaginal sex they were still “pure” so they could still be a virgin bride on their wedding night. I agree that the relationship between Christianity and sexuality have to fit together and be reworked in creative ways in order for a postive sexual ethic to emerge in this cultural context, especially when religion is central.

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  17. Great post. Very interesting topic in general (virginity that is). But specifically, what a horrifying reality for these women. I’m curious as to the double-standard. If the young girls follow the bible, but young males are expected to visit prostitutes and to participate in sexual exploits at an early age, wouldn’t it result in the girls and women experiencing God’s justice and malevolence, and thus having more authority? But the men are heralded, supported regardless of their sexual activities, and in control. And the women are viewed as sex objects, or future sex objects being scolded by parents who, it would seem, do not truly want their girls to grow up too quickly and become these sex objects.

    The latest tag to your post, referencing the hymenoplasty, is particularly appalling. It’s as if bleeding is supposed to be the true mark of a virgin, as though women are not meant to enjoy pain-free sex, as though the entire sexual experience is purely for the pleasure of the conquering male, who requires proof of his exploits in blood. And what happens to the girl? I’d assume the same thing that happened to the girl you described in your story who was looked at as a woman. So rather than be perceived as imperfect, as sullied, these girls (who have hymens that are no longer intact–though not necessarily, or even probably, as the result of having sex) are having cosmetic surgery on their genital areas, going to doctors who must not only view, but touch and feel around this area before performing the surgery?

    I wonder if patriarchy influenced Christianity, or if Christianity influenced patriarchal standards to go even further in this instance. It seems dangerous to have these mutually reinforcing structures so intertwined with state structures.

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