Saturday, June 14, 2014

Virginity is not in the hymen



The subtitle of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles is A Pure Woman though Tess had lost her virginity before her marriage and later she commits a murder too. 

Tess is seduced by Alec and gives birth to a child which dies.  Later, while working as a dairymaid she falls in love with Angel Clare, a clergyman’s son.  On their wedding night she confesses to him the seduction by Alec, and Angel hypocritically abandons her.  Angel is no virgin himself; he has had an affair with an older woman in London.  Moreover, Tess had no intention of deceiving him.  In fact, she had written a letter to him explaining her condition.  The letter was, however, lying hidden beneath the carpet in Angel’s room.  Later Alec manages to seduce Tess once again persuading her to think that Angel would never accept her.  Angel, however, returns repenting of his harshness.  Tess is maddened by Alec’s second betrayal of her and she kills him.  The Law hangs Tess to death.

Hardy, the novelist, calls Tess “a pure woman” in the subtitle of the novel because purity is a matter of one’s intentions and attitudes.  Tess possesses a deep moral sensitivity though she has an equally deep passionate intensity.  Tess possesses both the weakness and the strength of the human species: the weakness that makes her succumb to her passions and the strength to know her moral responsibilities. 

The novel was published in 1891 when virginity was a prized (t)issue.  Today, the question seems to be whether virginity is desirable at all!  We have come quite a way from Hardy and his Tess.

“Virginity does not lie in the hymen but in the brain, it’s an attitude, a commitment,”  I wrote in a comment to one of the blogs I read recently on the topic.  It is since virginity is not a matter of a biological membrane that Tess remained “a pure woman” in Hardy’s mind.  Tess was not playing with her body, in other words.  For her, sex was not merely a means of physical pleasure much as she was driven by passion too.  For her, sex was the culmination of an intimate relationship.  Relationship matters.  Intimacy is important when two individuals decide to share their bodies.  Otherwise, it is not love but lust.  Now, the question will be: is lust wrong?  Well, we live in a world in which greed has become a virtue.  In that world, lust may have become a virtue too. 

Psychology  identifies various types of love as shown in the diagram below (taken from Social Psychology by Robert A Baron, et al.)

Click to enlarge


‘Consummate love’ is what should ideally exist between a couple.  If that ideal is difficult to achieve, one can try to reach near it through ‘companionate love’ or at least ‘romantic love.’ 

Of course, it is the individual’s right to choose what kind of love what he/she wants.  The choice, however, determines the height/depth of one’s existence.  The world today, with its use-and-throw culture, encourages shallow existence.  Much of the debate one finds on virginity today implies shallow attitudes towards existence.  One night stands have not yet created any individual who has achieved any sense of fulfilment in life.

Inspired by a debate going on at indiblogger.in, particularly by the following:


55 comments:

  1. I wonder why the very word 'virginity' implies to that of a woman only...even in todays world!

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    1. Simple, Amit, it was always a man's world - leaving out matriarchal societies like the ones in the North-East where men are emasculated.

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  2. Agree with your views, Sir. Virginity & purity are in the mind...
    I had wept a lot after reading Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Why should the woman always be the target & get an unfair deal?

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    1. Like it or not, Anita, the world still remains masculine. True, women have managed to get a lot of rights and liberties. Yet the rules continue to be made by man, indirectly mostly.

      Tess is a symbol in many ways. She has a role to play even in today's world where the role of women has undergone drastic changes some of which are not very encouraging for mankind's future.

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    2. Like it or not, Anita, the world still remains masculine. True, women have managed to get a lot of rights and liberties. Yet the rules continue to be made by man, indirectly mostly.

      Tess is a symbol in many ways. She has a role to play even in today's world where the role of women has undergone drastic changes some of which are not very encouraging for mankind's future.

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  3. I guess people give too much of importance to words. And I guess even this word is as shallow as it can get, a one sided view and a societal pressure point, none of which can make sense to an individuals life which is very much dependent on the state of his mind and his acceptance of the words and the norms!

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    1. As the wit said, "The good thing about virginity is that you can only lose it once." Yes, the word may not have much meaning if we insist on the biological aspect. That's why I said it's more of an attitude, an attitude of fidelity to the person you love. In that sense, it's not shallow.

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  4. The mention of Tess brings in a pain. One of those classic heroines who exists in every century. As you said, it is a masculine world. Unless the attitude of the male of our species change, the female will continue to be the victim.

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    1. David Daiches, literary critic, says that 'Tess' produces in the reader "a feeling of plain anger, of frustration and resentment." Tess's world is harsh if not cruel to her. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved much even a century later!

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  5. "Virginity does not lie in the hymen but in the brain, it’s an attitude, a commitment."

    True word sir and great views.

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  6. Very well said sir.. It is all about commitment and definitely, love... There is no purity beyond these..

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    1. Yes, Shruti, purity is not a biological fragment.

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  7. I agree with your views ,its a male world all the way. they make the rules.A passionate women is looked down upon.Love, lust,passion, romance isn't this some of the reasons to be alive? loved your post,it is very intellectually challenging and I enjoyed reading all the comments too. well done sir, look forward to more on such issues. Tis the reason to blog on!!!

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    1. What's life without passions? But, Nima, I also drew a distinction. One needs to put certain passions under control. Love as a passion is not the same as lust as a passion. Again, while lust is desirable to a degree between the couple, I won't ever support promiscuous lust.

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  8. Virginity will always be a question for woman. Its true .
    Sir I liked ur view on lust and love but i would say that lust also involves love ..Is there anything wrong if a woman gets lusty .. frankly speaking , most of the girls do not have dare to speak or accept the fact that she is lusty ..and WHO TRUELY LOVES ? There is always some lust in love and why there is always a question mark in this so called MENS SOCIETY where woman still has no liberty to express her views regarding her physical attributes or desire or i must say not just physical desire that can also be emotional as well ?

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    1. Thanks, Varsha, for your views. As I said in a comment above, there is some lust in human sexuality and love between man and woman. D H Lawrence explored that theme in depth in his novel, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. "... when passion is dead, or absent, then the magnificent throb of beauty is incomprehensible and even a little despicable," wrote Lawrence in the novel. But Lawrence was not advocating lust actually. We have to be passionate, but not lustful, at least not without control.

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    2. Agreed we have to be passionate not lustful.. correct ... i m not saying that lust should be without control .. i m just saying that there is always some component of lust in love ..and women are not still independent to express her desire for her love as well .. if she do then she must be ready to face the social drama of society

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  9. CORRECTION : love also involves some lust *

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. I feel people today are really shallow and love has lost his value. Maybe there would be many people who will justify lust as well but what's wrong to me is those same people pretending not to be lustful.

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    1. So, Gaurab, are you worried that people are not lustful enough?

      Depth comes at a price. Experience is one price. Some people may not learn even from experience. Learning from the wisdom of others is another price. Many are not willing to do that either.

      At the deepest level one learns that virtue and sin vanish when truth is understood.

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    2. I have quoted you in my post. Hope you don't mind. :)

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  12. Alas, the stereotype mindset still exists, and will for a long time.
    Also never heard of the book, but the synopsis has gotten me interested. Would love to read it.
    A great post..!

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    1. 'Tess of D'Urbervilles' is a modern classic. Another novel that can throw much light on this issue is D H Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. I mentioned it in a comment above.

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  13. Virginity & its aftermaths are pressed upon women alone. If its a virtue or has deeper meaning than both men & women should be bound by its rules & regulations. If not , virginity is just an alter ego for men who can't think beyond the physicality in a relationship.
    http://www.sweetsharing.com/an-open-letter-to-the-righteous-guy-seeking-a-virgin-girl/

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    1. It is up to the woman to choose submission or rebellion. Almost a century back a woman, Simone de Beauvoir, chose to rebel. She accepted Jean-Paul Sartre in a live-in relationship. They became great writers, philosophers, rebels... People didn't accept their relationship. Yet they lived on forging their own meaning for their existence.

      My argument is that the relationship is what matters, whether it is for the man or the woman. Casual relationships can't be meaningful in any significant way.

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    2. Casual attitude in anything is not appreciated whether relationship , work or anything else. As you said , when the connection is deeper who cares about the rest of the stuff . Connect should be at intellectual & spiritual level not merely physical . In my post I have somewhat raised the same point . When the perspective wife has every possible attributes of being a good life partner why compromise the relation by asking superficial questions . The questions that doesn't hold same standards for both the partners. Some times significant relations are compromised by irrelevant & superficial questions.

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  14. Impressive point of view. Beautifully expressed.

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    1. Glad you found it impressive and beautiful.

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  15. Very nicely written. I liked reading it...

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  17. Well said Sir.. It's purely about commitment in love. Very Impressive !!

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  18. Well said. Those who expect their partners should be virgin at marriage are morons.

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    1. I didn't say that, Abhijit. I leave it to people to choose the kind of love they want. But every choice comes with its offshoot!

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  19. You always manage to strike the chord Tomichan !! sharing it :D

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    1. I'm fortunate to get readers like you, Sangeeta.

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    2. I came here from Sangeeta's share and I totally agree with this view. Virginity is made into a big deal about a tissue rather than the state of mind and the relationship shared between two individuals. And sadly, yes... the woman bears the brunt of the 'shaming' that we force upon non-virgins. In guys, it is always excused with a 'it happens' and 'at this age, boys will be like this.'

      In the end, it is the relationship and compatibility you share with the other person that should define the future course - not the state of their virginity.

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    3. Welcome to this space, Roshan.

      The discrimination against women is one aspect of the problem. I'm more concerned about the attitude in general towards sex, especially nowadays. Don't you think you find a lot of casual approach, a frivolousness, which makes sex nothing more than mere entertainment?

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    4. Yes. There is definitely a rise in such relationships. I would be okay if it was about falling in love and the rest falling into place... but many a time, its literally just "I just want to have a fling, ya. He/she looks so cute." That sounds so hollow at some level... the emotional quotient is reduced to a bare minimum which is disheartening

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  20. An insightful and liberal post. That reminded me of Lady Chatterley's Lover, a novel I recently read and which again gained controversy for reasons which should have brought it acclaim.

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    1. Lady Chatterley. Ritesh, thanks for mentioning it. I mentioned it already twice in the comments above. People should read it. And understand. Lawrence was raising a question that is still relevant. Are we falling victims to a stupid system that kills our genuine passions?

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  21. I have only one word to say-'Bravo' !

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    1. Thank you, Anju. I'm happy that people do understand beyond words.

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  22. Your take on this subject was commendable and agree with your point of view, Tomichan

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  23. touche`... respect... following !

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  24. This is the best post on the topic. I agree virginity is an attitude, a commitment. If we discuss virginity, shouldn't the discussion include virginity of men not just women?

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    1. Of course, men too should be discussed. The discussion tends to be tilted one way, unfortunately. The attitude, commitment, fidelity - they apply to men too.

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  25. Blaming her for the cowards that they are. It is because we have never seen people for who they are on the inside that we keep judging them on the things that they do on the outside. Not only do you prison a woman’s body but also her heart and mind, and that, is the end of her life, irrespective of as long as she lives.

    LET’S BE HUMAN, NOT VIRGINS. http://goo.gl/vwUQMi

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