The Cult of Virginity

Adam and Eve - a fragment of the fountain in Krasnoyarsk
Adam and Eve, a fragment of the fountain in Krasnoyarsk (depositphotos)

by

Proteus Ashmole

 

The Cult of Virginity has three primary sources: The early Christian Church, birth control, and the transference of property.

 

1: The Early Christian Church

My long-standing theory about human sexuality—and the Church’s erroneous teachings about it–has now been proven valid.

I was reading some theology today that dovetailed with my theory about human sexuality and God.  This is my theory: We best know God through interaction with others.  This idea originates from a sociology course I took in college, which taught that how others respond to us shapes our identity, our very sense of self.  So I take that idea one step further and assert that we know God best–come closest to Him–through interaction with others, be it through family, or everyday contact, or at church, work, etc.  Even monks and nuns, who are devoted to the religious life, live in communities.  Our very lives are prayers.

Now if my theory holds true, then we also know God, come closer to Him, through physical intimacy with a partner, or even oneself.  I turned to the Church fathers for theology on asceticism (i.e., practicing strict self-denial, including an abstinence from all sex) and celibacy (literally, the state of not being married).

A 4th Century monk by the name of Jovinianus argued that virginity–meaning never having had full sexual intercourse—and celibacy were not superior to marriage, which early Christian ascetics rejected as, at best, a pagan ideal, and, at worst, a distraction.

Specifically, the idea that asceticism and celibacy were preferable to marriage—and certainly fornication[1]–arose from early Christians (followers of The Way) who reacted against the Ancient Roman, pagan notion that the individual was of no consequence, that one lived to serve society and only society and that marriage was in high service to society because one had offspring, which contributed to society itself.[2]  This was one’s fate, and this social ideal came from the Ancient Greeks, particularly Socrates.

These early Christians went in the opposite direction and renounced marriage and sex, asserting the primacy of the individual, as taught by the Hebrews in Jewish scripture.

Jovinianus reasserted the notion that one need not be literally solitary and individualistic to best know God; rather, one could marry and have children and worldly cares and still be close to God.  One could even indulge in luxuries–be they food, wine, or nice clothing–since these gifts came from God.  St. Jerome freaked out.  He called Jovinianus a heretic.  Notably, to prove Jovinianus wrong, St. Jerome transposed two key passages of Hebrew scripture when translating it into the Vulgate Bible.  He placed marriage as an institution ordained by God after The Fall.  In reality, marriage and sexual contact occurred between Adam and Eve before The Fall according to Hebrew scripture.  Jovinianus was excommunicated and Saint Jerome’s teachings became Church orthodoxy.  Interesting how that happened.

What’s the point?  All of this means that, as argued, when we root experience in the flesh–which is one of its primary purposes–we know God through others, even through sex, either alone or with a partner.  Sex is, therefore, not wrong, dirty, disordered, or intrinsically evil, as long as it is done between two mutually consenting adults.  After all, it feels good.  Really good.  That’s why people have sex.  If sex were excruciatingly painful, the human race would be greatly diminished in number.

 

2: Birth Control

Now on to the second principle origin of the Cult of Virginity: birth control.  Until quite recently, birth control was unavailable.  The best way to avoid getting pregnant was not to have sex.  The earliest form of birth control, aside from plant abortives, was the condom, which was fashioned out of a sheep’s intestine.  Supposedly, the condom was invented in France, hence its name, the “Frenchy.”[3]  These early condoms were unreliable and expensive.  Thus, the best way not to get pregnant was not to have sex.  (People did anyway, lots of it.)

 

3: Transference of Property

Money dictated a need for true physical virginity.  According to traditional English law, all property went to the next male heir.  Preferably, that heir was a male son.  Were there no male heir, the property went to the next closest male relative, like a brother or cousin.  Women could not inherit property.  Period.  A wealthy man’s worst nightmare was to marry a young woman and, eighteen years later, have his wife’s bastard son knock on the door and demand part or all of his mother’s husband’s property.  Victorian English literature is full of this kind of thing.  I know: I read a great deal of it in college.  The bastard-son idiom was more than prevalent in English novels, as were impoverished widows and ineligible daughters.[4]  So we see that the third main contributing factor to the Cult of Virginity was money.

 

4: Coda

Thus, the Cult of Virginity is not only bogus but entirely based on man-made (literally) moral code, practicality, and greed.

Farewell,

Proteus

Notes:

[1]     Interestingly, Jesus never uttered a single word condemning sexuality, even at the well at Bethesda, where He merely observed that none of the woman’s male partners were her husbands.

[2]     Cf. Elaine Pagels’s Adam and Eve and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity, Chapter 4

[3]     English erotic Victorian literature often makes reference to the Frenchy.

[4]     Jane Austen heavily favored this narrative, whereby poor daughter’s of widows made good marriages based on their virtue.

Author: dropoutprofessor

A professor of English and Social Sciences that enjoys writing. Hope you enjoy my posts. All published work on this blog is my own. Pictures are used under license from Depositphotos.com or Shutterstock.com, unless otherwise noted.

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