“Like gold or cattle, land or cloth, female virginity has long been treated as a type of property,” writes Hanne Blank, an independent historian, feminist author, and former sex educator. “But this practice, however long and well-established, is in many ways a paradox. Unlike other forms of property, virginity is essentially intangible… Using it as an object of trade seems almost like trading in wind, fog, or oceanfront properties in Luxembourg. But for thousands of years, virginity has been considered a form of real as well as symbolic property, and treated that way without a shred of irony.”
Blank’s latest book, Virgin: An Untouched History, recounts virginity’s cultural history. From the ancient Greeks to the Middle Ages, through Victorian England and Puritan America to Beverly Hills, 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blank looks at the myriad ways female virginity has been defined, policed, purchased, sold, lost, and defended.
I recently met Ms. Blank at a reading in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and last week sent her an e-mail plea to let me interview her for this blog. She wrote back the same evening and said, “Oh! I’d love to. I am an occasional reader of HijabMan myself, actually.”