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Virgin: The Untouched History

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Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.   From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.   From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we even care about it in the first place. She tackles the reality of what we do and don't know about virginity and provides a sweeping tour of virgins in history--from virgin martyrs to Queen Elizabeth to billboards in downtown Baltimore telling young women it's not a "dirty word." Virgin proves, as well, how utterly contemporary the topic is--the butt of innumerable jokes, center of spiritual mysteries, locus of teenage angst, popular genre for pornography and nucleus around which the world's most powerful government has created an unprecedented abstinence policy. In this fascinating work, Hanne Blank shows for the first time why this is, and why everything we think we know about virginity is wrong.


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Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.   From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.   From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we even care about it in the first place. She tackles the reality of what we do and don't know about virginity and provides a sweeping tour of virgins in history--from virgin martyrs to Queen Elizabeth to billboards in downtown Baltimore telling young women it's not a "dirty word." Virgin proves, as well, how utterly contemporary the topic is--the butt of innumerable jokes, center of spiritual mysteries, locus of teenage angst, popular genre for pornography and nucleus around which the world's most powerful government has created an unprecedented abstinence policy. In this fascinating work, Hanne Blank shows for the first time why this is, and why everything we think we know about virginity is wrong.

30 review for Virgin: The Untouched History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    2020 Best Books of the Year [#08 of 11] Did not expect this to be so engrossing. One fascinating tidbit after another. Cannot recommend this one highly enough. ❤️

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I simply adore this book. The author handles the subject matter with surprising delicacy. It is the first book about this subject that I've seen that doesn't get mired in the religious dogma surrounding Virginity. I found it very informative and well-researched. Ms. Blank has a wonderful sense of humor, and the ability to make a very intimate subject comfortable. This book was a wonderfully interesting read, and I would highly recommend it to any woman curious about what it is that "Virgin" actu I simply adore this book. The author handles the subject matter with surprising delicacy. It is the first book about this subject that I've seen that doesn't get mired in the religious dogma surrounding Virginity. I found it very informative and well-researched. Ms. Blank has a wonderful sense of humor, and the ability to make a very intimate subject comfortable. This book was a wonderfully interesting read, and I would highly recommend it to any woman curious about what it is that "Virgin" actually means, where the concept originated from historically, or the precise anatomy involved. I found the section on "virginity testing" through the ages to be amusing and terrifying all at once. Where did our society get this strange idea? Why do the myths about Virginity still persist in this otherwise relatively enlightened era? Ms. Blank answers all these and more. I'd recommend this book to any woman who has ever had doubts about her self-worth because of her sexual status (virgin or not). Mothers and young women may also find the material contained within enlightening.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Although this book was quite interesting, the research was lacking a scholarly feel. There were no footnotes or even works cited at all, just a list of "recommended reading" at the end of the book that correlated with each chapter. Made me slightly wary of anything the author was saying because lord knows where she got her "facts" from. But it was a fascinating read and hopefully more scholarly works like it will follow. Although this book was quite interesting, the research was lacking a scholarly feel. There were no footnotes or even works cited at all, just a list of "recommended reading" at the end of the book that correlated with each chapter. Made me slightly wary of anything the author was saying because lord knows where she got her "facts" from. But it was a fascinating read and hopefully more scholarly works like it will follow.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    I like how this book explores the concept of virginity (with an emphasis on female virginity) in western history and culture by first dealing with the biology and the cultural construction and importance of virginity throughout history. The writing is great and I can recommend this book even to people with no knowledge of history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    When I first saw this book pop up on my feed as a recommended read, I was super excited to delve in and read about the history of virginity; as while it's a topic often mentioned in media, it's not really one that is often discussed to a large degree beyond whether someone has "done it" or not, and having recently read a few books on feminism (such as The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women), I was intrigued to see how this book might handle the topic and w When I first saw this book pop up on my feed as a recommended read, I was super excited to delve in and read about the history of virginity; as while it's a topic often mentioned in media, it's not really one that is often discussed to a large degree beyond whether someone has "done it" or not, and having recently read a few books on feminism (such as The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women), I was intrigued to see how this book might handle the topic and what the history of this often glanced over topic would be like. While the topic at hand [virginity] is fascinating, I felt that the book was rather scattered and limited in scope, without any overlying theme or opinion tying everything together. Whilst some chapters did have one topic (such as the history of the hymen... not something I ever thought I'd read about), the way in which the book was written seemed to focus more on sounding academic with fancy wording than it did on having a cohesive narrative. So many times the book jumped from one thing to another in barely the space of a page and it just left me... lost. I wanted to enjoy this book, I really did but I felt that for so much of it I was playing catch-up, trying to find connections that weren't there in order to better understand what the heck the author was going on about it. Whilst the author does admittedly complain within the book about the constraints of space they have, I feel that it just wasn't handled correctly. I would've preferred perhaps a focus on virginity in medieval society, or ancient Greek/Roman times, or even "modern day" virginity. But by trying to cram so many different cultural aspects of virginity from BC all the way to present day, the author just wasn't able to spend the time needed on each topic and it just felt rushed and incoherent at times. And whilst there was the occasional "non European" concept of virginity and its values, it was so quickly glanced over that it would've made more sense not to include it at all. For something that portrays itself as an academic text, I just found this lacking - both in the way in which is was written, and in the way that citations were used (...which is to say, hardly cited at all and just left as a list of recommended reading at the end). I just wanted something... more... than what I got :/

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sam Mowry

    This book was, quite simply, mind-blowing. It's hard to encompass in a single review just how much I learned about so many facets of *so many* things. First off, it's exhaustively researched, which is fantastic. I hadn't really ever thought about virginity, because no one has (this is one of the primary points of the book, that no one thinks about it to closely, and yet it's such a massive cornerstone of Western history). But it really does permeate SO MUCH of our culture and the way we think of This book was, quite simply, mind-blowing. It's hard to encompass in a single review just how much I learned about so many facets of *so many* things. First off, it's exhaustively researched, which is fantastic. I hadn't really ever thought about virginity, because no one has (this is one of the primary points of the book, that no one thinks about it to closely, and yet it's such a massive cornerstone of Western history). But it really does permeate SO MUCH of our culture and the way we think of ourselves and the way we think of women in particular. It's bonkers. Goodreads tells me I made 96 highlights in this book, and that sounds about right. Guessing blindly, I would say that two thirds of those are me highlighting something that's completely obvious and totally true that I'd never actually considered before. (Example picked functionally at random: "We usually know what criteria we would employ if asked to determine whether someone else’s virginal status had changed. But the criteria we might apply to someone else are not necessarily identical to the ones we apply to ourselves. Moreover, we do not necessarily know that our next-door neighbors’ criteria, or even those of our partners or parents, would be identical to our own.") A lot of that book is like that. The book covers everything from pop culture (Rocky Horror!) to a deeeeep dive into the shifting Western perception of virginity with the onset of Christianity, and its evolutions within Christianity itself, to a LOT about hymens you never thought would be relevant to your life, but kind of is! (DID YOU KNOW: we think of a girl "losing her virginity" by her hymen being penetrated and therefore ruptured for the first time, but if you're born with a hymen that actually covers the whole vaginal opening without any perforations, it's literally a birth defect? Spoiler alert: it's hard to menstruate if the blood can't physically leave your body.). Anyway, it's super good and super interesting and I learned a TON and you should all read this.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Natacha Pavlov

    Who isn’t interested, at least on some level, in the subject of virginity? As the author says, it’s a topic of high interest but which, as reflected in the title, has remained rather unexplored. The history, or what is known of it, spans from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to the present-day Western world, especially the United States. Some of the prominent figures discussed include Aristotle, Hippocrates, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. Augustine of Hippo, Queen Elizabeth I and Erzsebeth (Eliz Who isn’t interested, at least on some level, in the subject of virginity? As the author says, it’s a topic of high interest but which, as reflected in the title, has remained rather unexplored. The history, or what is known of it, spans from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to the present-day Western world, especially the United States. Some of the prominent figures discussed include Aristotle, Hippocrates, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. Augustine of Hippo, Queen Elizabeth I and Erzsebeth (Elizabeth) Bathory. I found the book highly interesting and hard to put down. The author knows her subject and brings up many issues which only make one realize how difficult it may be to define virginity in the first place. She also highlights that virginity means different things to different cultures and that this changes over time. Although the tone is serious and scholarly, I highly enjoyed the spontaneous laugh-out-loud moments: “Even the globe was changing, as explorers traversed the world and discovered “virgin” continents where the maps had formerly said “here there be dragons.” (p. 178) This humor was welcomed amidst all the facts and reminders of the ways women have been objectified throughout history. Although the book itself is interesting and may be a page-turner, it’s clear that there are passages that will be hard for (especially female) readers at times. I did have a slight issue, however, and that of course is also subjective. This entails a brief section of the book that in my view was irrelevant. Blank brings up several animals that have hymens and neither care nor are aware of that ownership, and uses this fact as an argument why human beings should do the same. My issue with that is not concerning my own opinion of the presence/existence of the hymen to ‘validate’ virginity, but by the simple fact that as a Christian, I strongly believe that there is little to no relation between what animals and human beings were created for and are meant to do. In my view that is like comparing apples and human beings. Using an animal example is not going to ‘sell’ me, a human being, an idea, provided I even needed to be convinced in the first place. After all, there are animals who eat their newborns—probably for a variety of reasons—but that doesn’t mean that it’s an example that is OK for us to replicate simply because it’s ‘naturally present in nature.’ Basically, animals are just that, and human beings have souls and free will and I therefore hold them to a higher standard (even though obviously we don’t always measure up to it). It seems Blank was coming from the theory of evolution where ‘we all came from animals,’ but seeing as I do not subscribe to that, I see each as separate entities with highly different purposes and no ancestral connection whatsoever. I understand that she was trying to make a point and downgrade the need to obsess over the meaning/symbolism of the hymen, but in my view that passage was not necessary. The facts, if not common sense, already show me that such obsession can be detrimental to women, and that is all I personally need. With that said, I loved the book and I highly respect all the research that had to go into creating this unprecedented work. Eye-opening and definitely highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    An interesting collection of facts that could be improved if the author would lose her overly-academic tone of anthropological BS every once in awhile. I let loose more than a few eye rolls when a truly fascinating fact was followed by a, "Clearly, this indicates [insert wildly unsupported conclusion here]." (This was especially true of statements with a feminist tone.) Still, it's interesting to learn that while we tend to think that virginity has been one thing since forever, and now that we ha An interesting collection of facts that could be improved if the author would lose her overly-academic tone of anthropological BS every once in awhile. I let loose more than a few eye rolls when a truly fascinating fact was followed by a, "Clearly, this indicates [insert wildly unsupported conclusion here]." (This was especially true of statements with a feminist tone.) Still, it's interesting to learn that while we tend to think that virginity has been one thing since forever, and now that we have the pill, suddenly it is changing wildly, in reality, what we think has been true since forever has actually only be true since a few hundred years after Christ when Christianity finally picked and chose which books should go into the Bible and got its own story straight. (Oh man, the things I learn about my faith now that I'm not longer getting formally educated in it. What's that saying about school and education?) Another fun fact: the word "hymen" probably does not come from the Greek god of marriage, but is likely just a leftover from a time when it referred to any general membrane in the body in ancient medical texts. Truly a weird coincidence of historical linguistics. Also, there's a whole section on Season 2 of Buffy. It comes right after the section about 90210. From ancient sociology to medieval religious upheaval to 90's television. Yeah, I'd say that's a pretty good overview of the history of a topic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    I accidentally deleted this review and am so sad to report that I don't have it saved elsewhere. It was a lovely review. This is a lovely book. Forgive me! I accidentally deleted this review and am so sad to report that I don't have it saved elsewhere. It was a lovely review. This is a lovely book. Forgive me!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    It's rare for me to be completely engaged in a history book, even if I find the subject matter interesting. I usually have to put them down and read them in snippets; not so for this one, I had trouble putting it down. It was engaging, interesting, and written in a way that wasn't dry and boring. There's a lot of hype, uncertainty, confusion, etc. around virginity. What are the origins, why is such importance placed on it by certain cultures, etc. And then there's the plain physical misunderstand It's rare for me to be completely engaged in a history book, even if I find the subject matter interesting. I usually have to put them down and read them in snippets; not so for this one, I had trouble putting it down. It was engaging, interesting, and written in a way that wasn't dry and boring. There's a lot of hype, uncertainty, confusion, etc. around virginity. What are the origins, why is such importance placed on it by certain cultures, etc. And then there's the plain physical misunderstandings (what is a hymen, and is it definitive proof of virginity?). Blank breaks the book out into two sections, the first focusing on the physical aspects of virginity (with plenty discussed on the hymen), and the second looking at the cultural aspects of virginity (largely from a historical perspective). I will say that the majority of it is Europe/America based for this section and follows the thought patterns primarily in those areas. As said before, this was not a dry book. Just some of the terminology kept it interesting from a linguistic point of view. The topic, while it could be funny at times, did swing into the serious realm more often (of course it did, the concept of virginity has been a method of control for a very long time). Historical topics included the sex trade of virgins, discussions on famous virgins (i.e. Mary & Queen Elizabeth), and marriage traditions. There was some contemporary information, but it was a briefer part of the book; in fact, it may be my only complaint because I would have really liked to see more info on the chastity balls, etc. in current culture. While it can be a disturbing topic, I think this is an important area to research a little more into and understand, particularly as it can affect culture even currently. I highly recommend taking a look. Review by M. Reynard 2021

  11. 4 out of 5

    lauren

    so the book is divided into 2 parts, the science of virginity and then virginity culture and not sure if it's just me but i could hardly get through the 2nd half...first half i enjoyed a lot maybe i'm just a nerd though so the book is divided into 2 parts, the science of virginity and then virginity culture and not sure if it's just me but i could hardly get through the 2nd half...first half i enjoyed a lot maybe i'm just a nerd though

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Shaheen

    It's not just informative and comprehensive, it's fun; the author writes with a great sense of (dark) humor. Nonetheless it bears the perennial problem of being western - centered. It's not just informative and comprehensive, it's fun; the author writes with a great sense of (dark) humor. Nonetheless it bears the perennial problem of being western - centered.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    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. There are some interesting insights, such as how the distrust of (women's) sexuality and the body by the Catholic Church made the Protestant Reformation seem more practical. Ultimately the story is really about women and how their virginity was valuable in marriage, which many argue has for most of history been an economic rat 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. There are some interesting insights, such as how the distrust of (women's) sexuality and the body by the Catholic Church made the Protestant Reformation seem more practical. Ultimately the story is really about women and how their virginity was valuable in marriage, which many argue has for most of history been an economic rather than a romantic or religious institution. I wish that the author had either written an exclusively European cultural history, a modern political cultural analysis of the U.S., or a cross-cultural analysis of virginity around the world. This book felt like it put some of those elements together but in an unsatisfying way. Reading a book like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers made me realize how an author can cover in a small volume a topic that intersects with both history and science in an engaging way. Virginity is a potentially interesting subject but the book doesn't quite live up to its potential.

  14. 5 out of 5

    C.S. Malerich

    It's worth checking out the chapter on hymens (seriously -- a little understood piece of the female anatomy that I finally kinda sorta understand). There are some interesting observations that are scattered throughout as well. But my biggest problem was just that: the book feels scattered. Like a lot of cultural studies, it pulls from some very diverse sources and media (and that's all fine), but the author needs to find a strong narrative thread or argument to tie it all together, and this book It's worth checking out the chapter on hymens (seriously -- a little understood piece of the female anatomy that I finally kinda sorta understand). There are some interesting observations that are scattered throughout as well. But my biggest problem was just that: the book feels scattered. Like a lot of cultural studies, it pulls from some very diverse sources and media (and that's all fine), but the author needs to find a strong narrative thread or argument to tie it all together, and this book just doesn't have that. It's both disappointingly limited in scope (the author admits that she sticks to the concept of virginity in Western civilization...which...living in Western civilization, there just isn't that much new to tell me) and too broad (each time the book began describing a source or concept I wasn't familiar with, the subject changed in the next paragraph, without the kind of depth that would make the study most interesting). Add that to a couple of suspicious statements of fact (e.g., that white wasn't a popular color for wedding dresses until after Queen Victoria wore one), and I just wasn't that impressed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cyndie Courtney

    A fascinating book I couldn't put down. Makes you think about virginity and sexuality from perspectives you couldn't dream of. Did you know that some animals spontaneously dissolve and regrow their hymens on a regular basis? That there are 4 different types of hymen? That what we typically think of when we think of the hymen is actually a birth defect? That humans couldn't agree on whether the hymen actually existed or not until the 1500s? It makes you think about the commoditization of sexuality A fascinating book I couldn't put down. Makes you think about virginity and sexuality from perspectives you couldn't dream of. Did you know that some animals spontaneously dissolve and regrow their hymens on a regular basis? That there are 4 different types of hymen? That what we typically think of when we think of the hymen is actually a birth defect? That humans couldn't agree on whether the hymen actually existed or not until the 1500s? It makes you think about the commoditization of sexuality, what being a virgin actually means in today's society, what makes societies consider being a virgin a good or a bad thing. On historical notes it talks about the role of Queen Elizabeth's virginity in the marketing of the new world, the decline in the status of virginity with the protestant reformation, and why cultures came up with the concept of virginity in the first place. It does talk about sexual topics frankly and is not for the faint of heart. However it is an absolutely eye opening and fascinating read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linnea

    "Virginity is an abstract, but an abstract so meaningful to the way we have organized our Western cultures that we have arranged lives around it, built it into our religions, our laws, our definitions of marriage, and our ways of organizing families, and woven it into our very concepts of identity and self." First of all, this book is really funny while still being a thoughtful analysis of virginity and the (female) bodies attached to it. _Virgin_ focuses on virginity within the heterosexual cont "Virginity is an abstract, but an abstract so meaningful to the way we have organized our Western cultures that we have arranged lives around it, built it into our religions, our laws, our definitions of marriage, and our ways of organizing families, and woven it into our very concepts of identity and self." First of all, this book is really funny while still being a thoughtful analysis of virginity and the (female) bodies attached to it. _Virgin_ focuses on virginity within the heterosexual context in the Western world (the reasons for which Blank explains early on), but considers virginity from cultural, socio-economic, political, and religious standpoints from antiquity to the present day. While not an exhaustive work on the subject, the arguments she posits are compelling and convincing, particularly that dispelling the myth of a monolithic virginity. To augment the narrow focus of this book, she includes a perfectly raid-able selective bibliography for each chapter. Altogether, an excellent, insightful, laugh-out-loud read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    An exceptional book. I was much more intrigued by this book than I expected to be, and on completing it, I can't believe I ever doubted it. Blank presents an impeccably researched and compellingly written socio-political and medical-scientific examination of the state and concept of virginity, with meditations on the repercussions virginity or lack thereof has had on women through the ages. She also states the limitations of her research, a habit I find endearing in any historian. This book does An exceptional book. I was much more intrigued by this book than I expected to be, and on completing it, I can't believe I ever doubted it. Blank presents an impeccably researched and compellingly written socio-political and medical-scientific examination of the state and concept of virginity, with meditations on the repercussions virginity or lack thereof has had on women through the ages. She also states the limitations of her research, a habit I find endearing in any historian. This book does discuss multiple triggering subjects, including sexual assault and the punishment of women who are not or who are perceived to be no longer virginal, as an inevitable offshoot of the discussion of virginity. However, if you can stomach those subjects, I highly recommend this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    Felt like something an undergrad would slap together after procrastinating all semester on a final paper. Just much longer. No real citations of any kind. Some jumps in logic from the author "X happened. This was because these people thought Y and Z" and the connection wasn't always obvious. Oh well. Felt like something an undergrad would slap together after procrastinating all semester on a final paper. Just much longer. No real citations of any kind. Some jumps in logic from the author "X happened. This was because these people thought Y and Z" and the connection wasn't always obvious. Oh well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Smart, well researched, easy to read academic book on the history of virginity and its meaning. Contains fascinating historical tidbits, like determining the virginity of a young woman by examining the circumference of her neck.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carl Stevens

    Novelists need to know virgins.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I don't give 5 star reviews often, and at times throughout the book I contemplated giving it 4 stars instead, but ultimately it's deserving of the 5 stars because it was very thoroughly researched, it provides information from a historical, religious, and political POV, and acknowledges its limitations both at the beginning and the end of the book. In the epilogue on page 256 Blank writes, "Anthropologists and historians have made only rare attempts to study virginity, and their attempts provide I don't give 5 star reviews often, and at times throughout the book I contemplated giving it 4 stars instead, but ultimately it's deserving of the 5 stars because it was very thoroughly researched, it provides information from a historical, religious, and political POV, and acknowledges its limitations both at the beginning and the end of the book. In the epilogue on page 256 Blank writes, "Anthropologists and historians have made only rare attempts to study virginity, and their attempts provide only spotty coverage: even a survey-style book like this one only skims the surface for a small portion of the world. There is a great deal of information that has yet to be gathered and many books that have yet to be written about virginity." My favorite parts of the book: I haven't ever given much thought to how virginity came to be, why it has been given such importance throughout time, the hymen and all it's mysteries, or even that virginity is predominately a female thing. This book opened my eyes to all of these topics, showed me the history, gave examples through many areas of the world and periods in time. I feel educated in the world of virginity, whereas before reading the book I didn't realize there was much to be educated about. My dislikes with the book: A lot of talk about kids losing their virginity and some talk (mostly in in one section of the second half) that talk about virginity loss depicted in porn. It was hard to read and made me feel uncomfortable. I understand why those topics are included in a discussion about virginity, but that doesn't make it easy to digest.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    While this was a little dryer than I would have liked, this book was packed full of interesting insights about virginity as a gendered construct. It's worth reading for the chapter on hymens alone. In fact, if you write books with sex scenes or know someone who does, it should be required reading. Blank also includes a variety of stories over time ranging from inspiring to horrifying. The final chapter, which focused on pop culture examples and the ways sex education has changed over time, was t While this was a little dryer than I would have liked, this book was packed full of interesting insights about virginity as a gendered construct. It's worth reading for the chapter on hymens alone. In fact, if you write books with sex scenes or know someone who does, it should be required reading. Blank also includes a variety of stories over time ranging from inspiring to horrifying. The final chapter, which focused on pop culture examples and the ways sex education has changed over time, was the most interesting and I would have loved if there had been more along those lines throughout the book. I also appreciated how Blank took the time to show the relationship between society's fixation on virginity and violence against women.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lauryn

    LISTEN. This book is...astonishing, incredible, breathtaking—dare I say—life changing. I just finished reading this and it’s reminded me of how I felt after finishing Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis—angry, smarter, and ready to take on the world. The sad truth is that I got lucky finding this book in the basement of the Strand earlier this summer, because it’s out of print. Which is a tragedy, because I think everyone should read this, especially if you’re a woman/girl and double especially LISTEN. This book is...astonishing, incredible, breathtaking—dare I say—life changing. I just finished reading this and it’s reminded me of how I felt after finishing Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis—angry, smarter, and ready to take on the world. The sad truth is that I got lucky finding this book in the basement of the Strand earlier this summer, because it’s out of print. Which is a tragedy, because I think everyone should read this, especially if you’re a woman/girl and double especially if you were raised with abstinence only sex ed. FURTHERMORE, this book is an example of just impeccable writing—astute and concise, funny when appropriate, absolutely heart-shatteringly angry and raw when necessary. Blank has awed me, truly.

  24. 4 out of 5

    AJ Payne

    What a fascinating book and topic. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect - I originally put it on my list based on title alone - but this book provided a really readable breakdown of the history of virginity: physically, socially, and culturally. It focused on the western world (so Europe and america) since looking at the whole world would have made for a much (much) longer book, and I think that was a good choice. But seriously, I learned a lot about how and why virginity has become the cultural p What a fascinating book and topic. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect - I originally put it on my list based on title alone - but this book provided a really readable breakdown of the history of virginity: physically, socially, and culturally. It focused on the western world (so Europe and america) since looking at the whole world would have made for a much (much) longer book, and I think that was a good choice. But seriously, I learned a lot about how and why virginity has become the cultural phenomenon it has. It’s a well researched and thorough book, but it’s not an academic tome (which to me was a plus, making it not dry).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to women and anyone interested in gender studies, history, sociology, etc. We are bombarded with so many cultural messages about sexuality these days, with little to no historical context. It was very eye-opening to read this book and learn about how (female) virginity has been understood and valued differently in different time periods. (Note: This books focuses on Western history - I would love to see further exploration of this subject th I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to women and anyone interested in gender studies, history, sociology, etc. We are bombarded with so many cultural messages about sexuality these days, with little to no historical context. It was very eye-opening to read this book and learn about how (female) virginity has been understood and valued differently in different time periods. (Note: This books focuses on Western history - I would love to see further exploration of this subject that takes different cultures/geographic regions into account!)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I definitely believe that this book should be in every possible library and read by as many people as possible. It is an important resource not only for understanding the history behind the idea of virginity and virgins, but the lasting effects of these (often erroneous) beliefs. A must read, especially for those interested in cultural history, anthropology, feminism, or who is simply looking to expand their sexual knowledge.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    This is a fascinating, if very Western, look at virginity throughout the ages. I probably could have read an entire book on the subjects of each of the chapters, and while it's over 10 years old it has aged surprisingly well minus a few outdated terms. Blank has a great handle on clever turns of phrase, and she's really distilled the topic into cohesive an engrossing narrative. I'd love to see a modern update. This is a fascinating, if very Western, look at virginity throughout the ages. I probably could have read an entire book on the subjects of each of the chapters, and while it's over 10 years old it has aged surprisingly well minus a few outdated terms. Blank has a great handle on clever turns of phrase, and she's really distilled the topic into cohesive an engrossing narrative. I'd love to see a modern update.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    This book was everything I wanted Jessica Valenti’s book on the purity myth to be (and more). Extremely thoroughly researched, *really* well-written, and shock-full with fascinating and engrossing detail, this is a great overview of the history of Western virginity from classical times to the recent past. It could have been easily three volumes instead of one—I wanted it to be longer and even more detailed than it is. Fantastic read. Hanne Blank is a treasure!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Megara 🧿

    Okay, thanks for the selected bibliography at the end, but where are the in-text works cited? I spent half my time reading this book wondering, “Where did you get that information?” That being said, a book discussing virginity is long overdue and I appreciate Blank’s efforts to compile an accessible survey of the topic(s) covered.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cris

    Blank couldn't quite make up her mind if she wanted to target an academic or popular-interest reading audience and the book suffers from that indecision. Once Blank got started I was amazed at how much about virginity is loosely--or not at all--defined for something that women still get killed over. Blank couldn't quite make up her mind if she wanted to target an academic or popular-interest reading audience and the book suffers from that indecision. Once Blank got started I was amazed at how much about virginity is loosely--or not at all--defined for something that women still get killed over.

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