Sex and the Maiden

I’ve been reading a lot about chastity balls these days. A chastity ball is something like a wedding ceremony, but with a twist. Here, a father and daughter exchange vows – the father swears to be faithful to his daughter’s mother, while the daughter swears tha she’ll remain a virgin till the day she gets married. The father may also slip a ring onto his little one’s finger, to be give to her husband the day he deflowers her.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but this whole idea of a chastity ball revolts me. There’s something so primitive about this whole idea of ritualising an act which should remain personal. If a girl decides to remain a virgin till she gets married, that’s all very well. But why make such a production of it? Might as well slip one of those dreadful medieval contraptions known as Chastity Belts around her waist. And keep the key.

Why is such importance attached to a woman’s virginity anyway? Sex is not dirty when men indulge in it, so why should different rules apply to women? Many of the people who took part in this ceremony claimed that it reinforced their Christian values. I’m sure there’s more to Christianity than that. How about Mercy, Charity etc.? Why not have a ceremony in which all the participants swear to pay a tithe of their earnings to some deserving cause?

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Christianity. Anything that brings spiritual solace to people is good, say I. But I do have a lot against primitive sexual politics which say that a woman is virtuous only if she’s chaste. Why is a woman’s virtue so inextricably bound to her sexuality?

It’s worldwide problem. I’ve read of some sub-saharan cultures which condone the horrific practice of female circumcision. To put it crudely, the clitoris is split or sawn off. The idea is that a woman is supposed to have sex only to reproduce, not for pleasure.

Then there’s the whole idea behind the application of vermilion in the parting of a woman’s hair (sindoor). The red of the vermilion signifies the red of the blood that flows when a woman loses her virginity. I remember reading a Marquez story (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) in which the marital bedsheet with specks of blood on it is displayed in public, like a trophy. No blood means that the new bride is a loose and dishonourable woman and her husband’s family will then avenge this insult to their honour.

Recently, Indian television channels have been running the trailers of a new Hindi movie called Namastey London. The premise of an English Mem falling in love with a Desi Babu has been done to death, but that is not what I’m quibbling against. A line in one of the trailers goes, ‘A virgin from London..’. Why stress the fact of her virginity? What if she weren’t a virgin? Would she be less deserving of the audience’s love and sympathy?

The reason why we have all these stupid and demeaning practices is because we make such a big deal out of sex. I’m not advocating promiscuity, but we’re definitely in an age now where we know more and therefore can act more responsibly. We don’t really need society’s sanction for acts that are essentially performed behind closed doors.

A little note: Why are run-less overs in cricket called Maiden Overs? ‘Coz nobody scores in them. A cheap and low joke no doubt, but it just goes to show how deeply ingrained such sexual politics are in our collective psyche that we don’t even notice them anymore.

[UPDATE: My friend Madhura Kanekar just brought something to my notice…sexual politics in the blogosphere. Please show your support for Kathy Sierra.]

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16 thoughts on “Sex and the Maiden

  1. You know u are right.Virginity is more of a personal choice than a society’s sanction. I don’t know where people came up with the notion that unmarried females who are non virgin have a doubtful character.
    And where did you come up with that maiden overs thing? that was interesting!

  2. Thanks!

    I don’t know if the maiden overs thing is true or not, but I just thought of it when I was watching a match a couple of days back. It seems like the right interpretation though…it makes sense to me, at least 🙂

  3. The word ‘virgin’ itself has female connotation to it. When you say virgin you will hardly ever associate it with a man. Isn’t that strange? Sadly, our society still dwells around the thought that a female is virtuous only is she’s chaste.

  4. Yeah..it is true. Sad, but true. And the worst part is that many don’t even think that there’s anything wrong with it.

  5. U know.. keeping true Christian ideals in terms of a relationship mean that both the bride and bridegroom are supposed to be virgins till they get married!! It doesn’t apply to brides/girls alone!

    No comments about the ‘maiden over’ part!!!

  6. i agree with you, but blessen if you haven’t read it thoroughly, on the first night the bed- sheet is hung out to show that the bride is a virgin, no one really cares about the groom, society just believes that men are always right..
    oh and interesting observation about the maiden over thing..never thought about it.

  7. As Maya pointed out, on paper maybe both men and women are expected to be virgins, but that rarely is the case in practice.

    In any case, the point it…why should anyone be a virgin? What is so sacred about marriage? It is after all, a human-made institution. It just legalizes a sexual union so that there is no room for doubt.

  8. “Human made institution” is something that I dont agree on!!! For me, it is sacred and has come from God Himself!!! But then, I will argue about this from a Biblical point of view!!!

  9. (whoa, so much angst!) well, weird, that is all i can say about the whole idea of chastity balls. There is a nexus between sex, morality and women. there are two things- world has yet not gotten over the concept of women being an object (and subjects) and morality sells. While some people seem to be desperately wanting to reform Islam (by banning hijab and all that!)the same people are reverting back to such crazy medieval practices for the sake of morality. get a life!

  10. You mean, “Why should boys have all the fun?” 😀 Something in that, actually.

    The part about sub-saharan cultures was gruesome!

  11. @ Koro…

    Yep! But the problem is not with religion, really. It’s more a cultural issue. I read somewhere that Islam does not sanction female circumcision, but it is practiced in many places with muslim population.

    And yeah..women are still perceived as objects…

    I wonder when that will change?

  12. yeah, very true. but with the ever growing force of moral police, that seems difficult. and here is one more thing, i detest pseudo-feminists either. i think they broaden the gender devide more than reconciling it.

  13. I sooo agree with you on that!

    I was watching Mallika Sherawat on Koffee with Karan and she said something to the effect that women are superior to me. It is so annoying when pseudo feminists make statements like that. They seem to think that in order to be feminists they have to be female chauvinists.

  14. The people who might have invented this chastity thing might b screwed!!
    See….so there’s no point!

    The world itself is postal mate…
    like the term – a man with ‘n’ wives is appropriate….and a woman with ‘n’ husbands is only applicable wen the rest ‘n-1’ are dead!
    Why is there no sata (read:sati)??

    Thers a lotta viewpoints to this…
    like thers ‘Heiros Gamos’ n all that stuff…
    but fuck it!
    The system goes for the so called ‘male-dominated’ world or wattnot!
    The system is fucked too, sadly!!

    And abt the maiden overs…i didnt kno the exact origin…tho it’ll shortly b replaced by ‘indian’ overs after the fabuluos world cup defeat by our bunch o’ sissies!

    [sorry for the crap n the language written. am on a hi!]

  15. @ AJ

    Is this the comment you didn’t want me to respond to? 😀

    Hey…talking about a completely unrelated topic – Stop villifying the cricketers! Show some sympathy! Read Blessed Musings and Malluisms for more details. (Access via my blogroll)

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