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White Wedding

30 Rock's shout-out to the virginity construct: Liz Lemon is getting married, but not in 'a creepy way'

We love 30 Rock's Liz Lemon (and by extension Tina Fey) for including this line in her wedding invitation:

'But not in a creepy way that perpetuates the idea that brides are virgins and women are property.'

The wedding, to long-time live-in boyfriend and potential babydaddy Criss (James Marsden), is supposed to happen on the Nov. 29th episode. Our own love affair with Liz Lemon was sealed when she mentioned she lost her virginity at age 25.

Behold a virginity crown you'll never want to give away

Future brides, take note: From The Hairpin's roundup of amazing estate jewelery, this wedding crown (despite being something you have to surrender to your new husband as a symbolic you-know-what) is really lovely and cooler than a veil:

"Bridal crowns are a Scandinavian tradition that reaches back to the Middle Ages; there’s one from Middelfart, Denmark, in the National Museum of Denmark that dates to around 1525. Symbols of purity and virginity, they were often passed down from generation to generation. The bride wears the crown during the wedding ceremony, after which the groom removes it from her head, signifying their union.

This crown, however, was made by the great Danish silversmith Georg Jensen for his friend Frederik Ferdinand Tillisch, who gave it as a gift to his wife in 1911. It’s an extremely rare Jensen item, made in silver, with five amber stones and five gilded leaves that hang loose from the piece. The design is an example of the Danish skønvirke style — pairing the natural motifs of Art Nouveau with the Arts and Crafts standard of using affordable materials to create exceptional, handcrafted work."

Off topic virgin-wise, sort of but maybe not really, is this ring which belonged to Jane Austen (!) and is also up for auction.

[Older Virgin Week] Why doesn't anyone ever talk about Edward Cullen's virginity?

Cable has Shark Week, we have Older Virgin Week! In honor of V-Day, by which we mean Virgin Day, all this week we’re reposting some of our favorite older-virginity-related stories. This post originally ran in November 2011. Share your biggest older virgin myths here.

Caption: Bella with Edward, the 107-year-old virgin

On the eve of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere, people all over the country are lining up to watch Bella (finally) lose her virginity with sparkly vampire and true love Edward Cullen. This being Twilight, there will be a proper white wedding before the deflowering, and not a moment too soon, seeing as Bella has spent three movies (and books) begging Edward to have sex with her already. Although there have been a billion words written and spoken about the meaning and importance of Bella's virginity (be it about romantic love or Mormon abstinence propaganda) almost nothing has been said about Edward Cullen and his 107-year-old virgin status.

In fact, I had no idea that Edward never had sex until I came across a paper by fellow virginity geek Jonathan Allan, a grad student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. The paper examines the idea of male virginity in romance novels, and although he says there is no official announcement of Edward's sexual status, he cites various examples alluding to it. Here's one scene from the book Breaking Dawn which occurs after the engagement but before the wedding:

"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying him to change those habits now."

I continued my research in a less academic frame of mind, and typed 'Is Edward Cullen a virgin?' into Google. I got unequivocally affirmative responses:

"In the first book in the series it states Bella is a virgin, but Edward said he has never found a vampire or human he's been with before Bella."

"After Edward asks Bella about her romantic relationships (or lack thereof)...and she says, like him, she has had almost NO experience...he says 'that's another thing we have in common, then'...meaning that they are both virgins."

"In Breaking Dawn he tells Bella and he had to ask Emmet and Jasper for advice on what to expect before his and Bella's honeymoon."

I'm so used to the usual double-standard scenario of a young woman needing to remain pure with no such expectations placed on a man, this revelation is sort of nice. But the question remains: Why do we spend so much time fascinated with Bella's virginity and almost none with Edward's? Here are some more excerpts from Jonathan's paper:

"The answer for this is likely not an easy one, indeed, the question could be extended further: Why has so much of the discussion of virginity focussed on women and not men? Edward Cullen represents an important part of the discussion of virginity in Twilight because, in a sense, it destabilises the discourse about virginity.

There is a remarkable reluctance to speak about male virginity [...] After all, who would want to end up a Steve Carrell character [in The 40-Year-Old Virgin]? The narrative that unfolds shows the strangeness of male virginity mostly because it would seem to contradict the stereotypes of male sexuality. From the perspective of the critic, this is an interesting inversion of the generic norms. Here it is Edward who must maintain his virginity and it is Bella who longs to lose her virginity, which in romance would generally render her the deviant. Instead, in the Twilight Saga, male virginity becomes something of a deviation from the norm.

Ultimately, it is Edward’s virginity that makes him deviate from the accepted norms, thus rendering him monstrous, rather than his vampirism, which oddly enough renders him rather human."

Aside from Jonathan's work, the silence on this subject is deafening. Female virginity has always been given a disproportionate amount of attention, but at the same time, hasn't an entire film genre has been built around guys losing it?

Do we just have an easier time talking about male virginity when it's a comic spectacle, and are we at a loss for words when it's simply a matter-of-fact part of a guy's life?

The Big Black Wedding?

“A lot of women love the idea of the white wedding and becoming this princess for a day,” Shechter says. “But for me, it smacks of advertising some kind of sexual status that my groom didn’t have to do.”

“Re-virginizing” for a day didn’t appeal, she says with a laugh: “My sexual history is one of the good things I bring to this marriage.”

I was super excited to be quoted in Canada's Macleans Magazine for an article about non-white wedding dresses. Read the whole story here.

[Abstinence Week] Fashion tips from the Abstinence Clearinghouse

Cable has Shark Week, we have Abstinence Week! All this week we’re reposting some of our favorite abstinence-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. This post originally ran in September 2011. Share your biggest abstinence myths here.

I think the message above is:

Think carefully before you order your sleeveless A-line flower girl dress. Because, if you want to get married in a strapless mermaid number, you'll be out of luck.

They also sell stun guns.

[h/t Aggie]

[Abstinence Week] Talking Bears Share Abstinence Lessons, Part 3

Cable has Shark Week, we have Abstinence Week! All this week we’re reposting some of our favorite abstinence-related stories from the truly alarming to the very ridiculous. This post originally ran in December 2010. Share your biggest abstinence myths here.

Here's the third installment of this genius series, created by Amplify Your Voice, an organization working with youth to change our dysfunctional approach to sexual health issues. We wrote about the first two here and here.

In this new video, our two bears discuss an abstinence class where boys were told to write down what they wanted from a girlfriend, and girls were asked to write what they wanted from a boyfriend. Then they were asked to imagine their wedding day: The boys had to imagine their brides and the girls their grooms. Then they had a mock wedding in the class. Marriage, between opposite-sex couples, is held up as the only way to have a healthy, committed relationship.

As with the other two videos, this is real stuff directly from the abstinence-until-marriage course materials. As Advocates for Youth points out, these programs ignore the needs–and the very existence–of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people, by teaching that only heterosexual teens can have healthy relationships.

Since 1996, the US has spent over $1.5 billion on abstinence-only-until-marriage lessons like these. Now, as we've said many times, there's nothing wrong with waiting to have sex, but doing so based on these silly, misleading, and totally ineffective programs is a really big problem.

If you agree, join them by contacting your elected reps. It takes less than a minute to amplify your own voice here.

V-Card Diaries: Lizzie "Don't get me started on the whole white dress and veil thing."

Today we're highlighting Lizzie from Canada who discusses personal journeys and getting it over with. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I’m 29 year old and until recently I considered myself a “virgin.”

How do you define virginity?

Because I am a heterosexual female, my own personal definition of virginity was penetrative intercourse with a man. This is just my own personal definition however, because it obviously excludes other situations for people of varying sexual identities.

Tell us your story:

When I was younger, I had every intention of waiting until I was married to have sex with my husband. As I matured, that idea seemed less and less authentic to me. I no longer identified with such a narrow view of sexuality, but the problem was that I needed my emotions to catch up with my ideas. Somehow what I thought was okay and normal for everybody else seemed wrong and somehow immoral when it applied to me. I had a late start in the dating world, and because of my lack of sexual experience, I was usually dealing with a lot of anxiety around the “virginity” issue.  When I decided to share that piece of information about myself with some of my dates, that was often the last conversation we would have. Those types of reactions led me to consider “just getting it over with" but I knew that wouldn't be a good decision for me to make.

Any thoughts on how our culture views virginity?

I hate the word "virgin." Ugh. And don't get me started on the whole "white dress and veil" thing either ;-) I don't know why so many people (and media outlets) think it is their business to pass judgment on other people's sexual activity.  Even though I was happy with my decision to remain a “virgin,” I had so much shame attached to that label because of what we are all bombarded with constantly from the media: being a virgin is somehow considered laughable and disgraceful. I find that the pressure from the media pushes young people to make decisions and take action with their sexuality that they are just not ready for. Why can't sexuality be seen as the personal journey that it really is? It can be such a wonderful path of self-discovery. When the time was right for me to take the final step, I just knew. I'm in a loving relationship, my partner did not have an adverse reaction to my “news,” and it just seemed silly to wait any longer because I didn't want to. The funny thing is that for all these years, I was building up that final act of penetration to be such a huge deal. Finally, it just meant that I was a little bit physically closer to my partner. All of our previous experiences up until that point were just as intimate, and just as special. I'm happy that I waited as long as I did because it meant that I had what was for me a perfect experience. My only regret is that I spent so many years feeling ashamed and upset and somehow "not good enough" or "not desirable enough" because of where I was on my personal journey.

Want to tell your story? Go to our submission page.

Repost: "Forever Alone, a by-product of Feminism?" The attitudes of many other people my age in Australia about feminists.

Note: This was submitted to the How to Lose Your Virginity tumblr by dirtybuceta from Australia, and we thought it would be great to repost it here as well. If you'd like to submit something through tumblr, we'll happily consider things dealing with virginity, cultural attitudes towards sex and women, and our film. If you have a First Person story, submit that here. So I happen to be a bit of a character and enjoy reading a variety of blogs. One of my favourites happens to be this one. If you took the time to click it you’d find yourself at a feminist website entitled ‘How to lose your Virginity’. Which explores the western cultures attitudes to sex.

I happen to really enjoy that blog. I mentioned it in passing to a buddy of mine, and after I explained a bit more about it she gave me this look. A look I really can’t describe in words but afterwards she said this:

I really wish I could be more into feminist stuff like you Sarah… but I don’t want to die alone.

Naturally, I was so irritated by this comment I just had to write a blog about it. So join me if you will while I explain why this comment is so very wrong on one hand yet incredibly accurate on another.

Being a feminist comes with a lot of connotations, and stereotypes. Man hater and angry lesbian are two that spring to mind. Obviously neither of which are true of all feminists. That said, when someone mentions the word feminist who imagines a super friendly girl who spends her spare time reading and hanging out with friends? Nobody. Even I with my Gen Y liberal thinking brain imagine an angry woman with a shaved head. This is something which is absolutely stupid! Why should a feminist have to be something made out to be so unfeminine? Personally, I am quite calm to say that I am a bit of a feminist myself.

What was the key word in that last sentence? ‘Bit’. I am calm to say I am a ‘bit’ of a feminist. My reasoning behind this takes us back to my buddy’s point. The idea of dying alone.

In the last few months, or to be more precise since the 4th of July 2011*, I have been a lot more vocal in my views on gender equality after viewing just how much shit and or how shit girls will act just to get the attention of some sleazy guy. In turn since the 4th of July 2011 I have been subject to the notion that women are objects to be obtained when out and about. This did not sit right with me. I would make this point to many people while out and be told to get over it. This also did not sit right with me so I’d make it again. Only to be told the same thing. After a while more girls began to agree with me but again they would finish whatever fantastic point they’d have which I would be so impressed with by saying: ‘but I don’t want to die alone’.

Finally, after about a month it hit me. If one is seen to be even slightly confident, self assured, and happy being female and alone then one is a feminist. Or ‘even worse’ a lesbian. Take this conversation as an example:

*Person that is not me, a person that is not my buddy and a guy who was not keen for me are having a conversation at a not shit venue.

Person that is not me: So basically I think it’s stupid the way if I’m walking around by myself then it’s free game to try and grope me. Some guy puts his arm around me then immediately I’m his property and the gropes will stop.

Person that is not my buddy: *Laughter* I think you’re right person that is not Sarah, but you don’t want to go on about stuff like that all the time, people will think you’re a lesbian.

Guy who is not keen on the person that is not me: What? She’s not a lesbian, she doesn’t look like one.

*Cue arms around person that is not me, signalling claim of ownership.*

Before you bitterly think ‘I think when someone puts their arms around you it’s cute not rude!’ So do I, but it depends on the situation. In that situation the person who was not me, was NOT in any sort or relationship with that boy but to anyone looking at us it would seem we were. No other guy would speak to the person that is not me that night unless asking that boy’s *permission first. The person that is not me even commented on that and pointed out that she and the boy were not together only for him to look down at his arm around her then back at her in disbelief. As if the arm meant something! (Naturally, this was met by a lot of laughter) Now forgive me when I say, what the fuck is that?!

To his credit, that boy took a lot of my rants in stride and would just smile and listen to whatever I had to say in the vain hope that I’d eventually relent and fuck him. But most guys do not. Most guys assume I am an angry feminist (because I don’t look like a lesbian, cue epic eye roll) and complain that I’m frigid. That is why I have added the word ‘bit’ when I describe my feminist self in casual conversation.

I too, do not want to die alone. I am sick of being told things like “if we were the Powerpuff Girls you’d be *Buttercup because she’s the least feminine” and it being made to be a huge deal if do anything even remotely female. Even saying that I don’t want to die alone and that I’d like to one day get married is met by eye rolls by many (not that I blame them, it’s not something I can honestly see myself doing despite the fact I want to).

But if I be honest I am a feminist and I’m not actually that afraid to admit it. What I am afraid of is the reaction I get from people when I do.

Authors Notes:

* The 4th of July 2011 was my 18th Birthday and thus my first encounter with the seedy world that is going out.

Alright I admit it, it was me!

* In regards to the permission thing it wasn’t as if they literally asked, it was more: “I am not going to acknowledge the girl sitting next to you until you make it clear I can do so”. Or it was, “I’m going to say hi to the girl you’re with, but I’m not going to respond to what she says until you give me a look of approval”. Or the most irritating, “I’m going to talk to you about the girl you’re with as if she’s not there”.

* Despite the backhanded insult of the Buttercup comment, she is actually my favourite Powerpuff Girl. She wears green which is my favourite colour AND she doesn’t take shit from anyone.

Why doesn't anyone ever talk about Edward Cullen's virginity?

Caption: Bella with Edward, the 107-year-old virgin

On the eve of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere, people all over the country are lining up to watch Bella (finally) lose her virginity with sparkly vampire and true love Edward Cullen. This being Twilight, there will be a proper white wedding before the deflowering, and not a moment too soon, seeing as Bella has spent three movies (and books) begging Edward to have sex with her already. Although there have been a billion words written and spoken about the meaning and importance of Bella's virginity (be it about romantic love or Mormon abstinence propaganda) almost nothing has been said about Edward Cullen and his 107-year-old virgin status.

In fact, I had no idea that Edward never had sex until I came across a paper by fellow virginity geek Jonathan Allan, a grad student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. The paper examines the idea of male virginity in romance novels, and although he says there is no official announcement of Edward's sexual status, he cites various examples alluding to it.  Here's one scene from the book Breaking Dawn which occurs after the engagement but before the wedding:

"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying him to change those habits now."

I continued my research in a less academic frame of mind, and typed 'Is Edward Cullen a virgin?' into Google. I got unequivocally affirmative responses:

"In the first book in the series it states Bella is a virgin, but Edward said he has never found a vampire or human he's been with before Bella."

"After Edward asks Bella about her romantic relationships (or lack thereof)...and she says, like him, she has had almost NO experience...he says 'that's another thing we have in common, then'...meaning that they are both virgins."

"In Breaking Dawn he tells Bella and he had to ask Emmet and Jasper for advice on what to expect before his and Bella's honeymoon."

I'm so used to the usual double-standard scenario of a young woman needing to remain pure with no such expectations placed on a man, this revelation is sort of nice. But the question remains: Why do we spend so much time fascinated with Bella's virginity and almost none with Edward's? Here are some more excerpts from Jonathan's paper:

"The answer for this is likely not an easy one, indeed, the question could be extended further: Why has so much of the discussion of virginity focussed on women and not men? Edward Cullen represents an important part of the discussion of virginity in Twilight because, in a sense, it destabilises the discourse about virginity.

There is a remarkable reluctance to speak about male virginity [...] After all, who would want to end up a Steve Carrell character [in The 40-Year-Old Virgin]? The narrative that unfolds shows the strangeness of male virginity mostly because it would seem to contradict the stereotypes of male sexuality. From the perspective of the critic, this is an interesting inversion of the generic norms. Here it is Edward who must maintain his virginity and it is Bella who longs to lose her virginity, which in romance would generally render her the deviant. Instead, in the Twilight Saga, male virginity becomes something of a deviation from the norm.

Ultimately, it is Edward’s virginity that makes him deviate from the accepted norms, thus rendering him monstrous, rather than his vampirism, which oddly enough renders him rather human."

Aside from Jonathan's work, the silence on this subject is deafening. Female virginity has always been given a disproportionate amount of attention, but at the same time, hasn't an entire film genre has been built around guys losing it?

Do we just have an easier time talking about male virginity when it's a comic spectacle, and are we at a loss for words when it's simply a matter-of-fact part of a guy's life?

V-Card Diaries: Marie "Virginity is a purely social construct, so I don’t define it."

Today we're highlighting Marie from Michigan who talks about how the idea of virginity excludes the LGBT community. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself, your age, your background:

I am an 18-year-old freshmen college student who attends Central Michigan University. I am studying Women's Studies and hope to one day attend law school. I run a tumblr blog where I blog about feminist issues.

How do you define virginity?

I think virginity is a purely social construct so I don't define it. I think it doesn't exist.

Why do you feel this way?

I started feeling this way when I got more involved with the LGBT community. I am not part of the community myself, but many of my friends are. I saw some of them struggle over the definition of "virginity" because society doesn't include people who are LGBT. The more I watched my friends struggle with this concept, the more I realized that virginity in the long run doesn't really matter. It's all relative anyway. Now as a feminist, I believe this more than ever. I don't think people should be hung up about their sexual status. It doesn't matter.

What are your thoughts on virginity in our society?

I think virginity in society is vastly over-rated. From white wedding dresses to purity balls, society has this obsession with female virginity and I think it's unhealthy.

Anything else you want to tell us that we didn't ask about?

I hope that as a society we can move past the concept of virginity. I feel like if we did this it would take a lot of stigma and negativity off of female sexuality. Sexuality should be celebrated, not repressed. However, as much as I want that to happen, I don't think it will in the near future.

Want to tell your story? Go to our submission page.

Paradigm Shift presents "Marriage: Past, Present and Future"

Our friends at Paradigm Shift have another cool event coming up Wednesday, April 20th in New York. Here's some info about this book, which sounds right up our alley:

A HISTORY OF MARRIAGE
What does the "tradition of marriage" really look like? Elizabeth Abbott paints an often surprising picture of this most public, yet most intimate, institution. Ritual of romance, or social obligation? Eternal bliss, or cult of domesticity? Abbott reveals a complex tradition that includes same-sex unions, arranged marriages, dowries,
self-marriages, and child brides. Marriage- in all its loving, unloving, decadent, and impoverished manifestations- is revealed here through Abbott's infectious curiosity.

You can get tickets here or at the door.

Talking bears share Abstinence lessons, Part 3: Marriage–between a man and a woman, that is–is the only possible way to have a healthy committed relationship.

Here's the third installment of this genius series, created by Amplify Your Voice, an organization working with youth to change our dysfunctional approach to sexual health issues. We wrote about the first two here and here.

In this new video, our two bears discuss an abstinence class where boys were told to write down what they wanted from a girlfriend, and girls were asked to write what they wanted from a boyfriend. Then they were asked to imagine their wedding day: The boys had to imagine their brides and the girls their grooms. Then they had a mock wedding in the class. Marriage, between opposite-sex couples, is held up as the only way to have a healthy, committed relationship.

As with the other two videos, this is real stuff directly from the abstinence-until-marriage course materials. As Advocates for Youth points out, these programs ignore the needs–and the very existence–of lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people, by teaching that only heterosexual teens can have healthy relationships.

Since 1996, the US has spent over $1.5 billion on abstinence-only-until-marriage lessons like these. Now, as we've said many times, there's nothing wrong with waiting to have sex, but doing so based on these silly, misleading, and totally ineffective programs is a really big problem.

If you agree, join them by contacting your elected reps. It takes less than a minute to amplify your own voice here.

Saving yourself for your handsome prince: Will the Royal Gynecologist be examining Kate?

When I heard that Kate Middleton and Prince William were finally engaged, the first thing that went through my mind was whether Kate would be examined by the Royal Gynecologist as Diana was almost 30 years ago. I was totally obsessed with Diana and Charles's wedding plans back then* and I remember reading lurid details about the Palace having to make sure sure she was a virgin before they could OK the marriage.

Given that Kate and Will have been living together for some time, her sexual status seems of little concern to anyone. (And in the age of paternity testing, do you really need to be a virgin in order to ensure your future offspring are indeed the Prince's spawn?) But Diana's virginity was a such a big deal back when she got engaged in 1981, worthy of reporting on along with the dress and the ring and the Cinderella carriage. So it's odd that after some searching, I couldn't find any actual evidence that such a test was ever administered.

In fact, people have gone out of their way to point out the test was a myth (of course, the ability to test for virginity is a myth in itself). Seems what the Royal Gynecologist was actually checking out was her ability to bear some heirs to the throne**. Not that her sexual status wasn't on people's minds. Even if she wasn't 'tested' for it, several people were kind and creepy enough to vouch for her chastity, and given that she was only 19 and not known as a party girl, the White Wedding Of The Century could go on as planned.

Poor Diana. She literally saved herself for her handsome prince–and look where it got her.

*In fact, my best friend Rosie got married in a wedding dress totally inspired by Diana's
** Which begs the question: Is fertility a pre-requisite for Kate marrying into the Royal Family?

Fromt the archives: What's this film all about? A bounty of Q&As will answer all your questions (except what color dress Therese finally wore at her wedding)

As we work though the tough process of boiling down 70 hours of interviews and Miley Cyrus videos into an hour-long film, I've been looking back at some of the things we've been writing about. This is a pretty good distillation of the things that have driven me batty enough to do this film. So for those of you just joining us, a little distillation and review:

I want to thank a group of fantastic bloggers who have spread the word about our project far and wide. A few of them did Q&As with me, and their questions were so good, they made my brain hurt. Here are some of the hopefully smart-sounding answers I produced in response.

From Amanda Hess's The Sexist who asked about the different meanings of virginity in the contexts of abstinence pledging, porn and the wedding industry:

Therese: I think they’re remarkably similar in that they all work within the fantasy of female sexual purity as something to be fetishized. They have different props—the Big White Wedding Dress, porn’s white panties, and the purity ring—but all use a sort of ritualized process whereby a symbolically virginal female is offered up to a male for deflowering. I say symbolic because the porn actress is definitely not a virgin, we’re pretty certain that most modern brides aren’t either, and given our shaky definition of the V-word, we might not even consider some purity pledgers to be totally chaste. But it’s the fetishization of all three that really fascinates me. For whose benefit is it this being played out?

From Australian journalist Rachel Hills' Musings of an Inappropriate Woman about mainstream media coverage of virginity and female sexuality:

Therese: There’s still a lot of alarmist hand-wringing about so-called ‘hookup culture,’ the evils of young women having casual sex, and the death of relationships. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with it. I think most of us find ourselves in all sorts of sexual situations in our lives, some good, some bad. Instead of talking about how many partners someone has had, it’s more important to talk about consent, doing things because you want to, not because you’ve been coerced, or you think all your friends are doing it so you have to as well. I’ve read that about 1/3 of college students identify as virgins, which is a far cry from the media portrayal of college as one big scary female-soul-crushing orgy.

And from Kyna Morgan's blog about women filmmakers Her Film who asked about the origins of the film from a personal perspective:

Therese: I was planning my own wedding at the time of the shooting, and was getting a little freaked out by all the chastity-based wedding rituals and coded wedding accessories. What would it mean for me to embrace the white dress, don a veil, and be ‘given away’? What would that say about my own sexual autonomy and identity? It echoes the narration of I Was a Teenage Feminist where I refer to myself as “a woman who feels incredible pressure to conform to an ideal that I don’t even buy into. Is it possible to be who I want to be without judgment, or apology or compromise?”

And this post written by Melanie Klein at Feminist Fatale on why the film is important amidst our culture's contradictory messages about sex:

Melanie: These manufactured, one-dimensional images of heterosexual sexuality constantly shoved down my throat (no pun intended). Running parallel to the cultural obsession with sex (and nude or near-nude ladies that grace countless magazine covers, billboards and populate advertisements), is the obsession with female virginity (so much so that many women opt to have their virginity restored via plastic surgery).
Clearly, with all this sex out there, the important issues regarding sex and sexuality are glossed over and given little media coverage. What remains in the public eye remains a vapid, one-dimensional image of sexuality and a perpetual reinforcement of the good girl/ bad girl (madonna/whore dichotomy)

[With thanks to superintern/editor Sara for her help!]

What is the most important day of a woman's life?

I always bristle when I hear about how a woman's wedding day is 'the most important day of her life.' In the context of the more vexing topics of this blog, this often is code for: her father can finally get her chastity out of storage and hand over to her husband, she can now have sex without going crazy or to hell, and/or she has managed to keep her reputation modest and unsullied enough to earn her the ultimate reward: her man's going to put a ring on it.

So amidst all the chatter about Chelsea Clinton's upcoming wedding, I loved this very astute observation from Broadsheet's Rebecca Traister:

[Bill Clinton] started in on how he hoped he'd make it down the aisle in one piece to "do the hand-off," and on how he agreed with something that [George Bush] had told him about watching his daughter [Jenna] marry: "You know it proves you've done what you were supposed to do, but it doesn't make it entirely easy."

What about "handing off" your daughter to another man proves that you've done your work as a father? How does it demonstrate that you've done what you're supposed to do more vividly than watching your daughter graduate from college, make friends, live independently, land big jobs, develop and follow through on ambitions, help her mother run for president?

When Bill later told People magazine that Chelsea's wedding would be "the biggest day in her life, probably," I'm sure he meant well, but I kind of wanted to throttle him. What about the days on which she might pick up her master's degree, run a company, have a child, win the presidency? What about the day, already past, on which she fell in love with her betrothed, surely as life-changing as the one on which they will make it legal? [...]

The fevered fetishization of the marital day is not just irritating, it's destructive. It reproduces attitudes about personal–and especially female–achievement that are far past their sell date: that marrying is the goal toward which all of us strive, that our weddings are somehow the most exalted expressions of our accomplishments and of ourselves. That they are proof, validation, some sure sign that we turned out OK.

Georgia's 'Virginity Institute' is not a chastity school for southern belles

The "Virginity Institute" refers to the taboo of pre-marital sex for women in the Republic of Georgia.

I think in English you might call it 'The Institution of Virginity," and 77 percent of survey respondents, including women, agreed with it. In 2009.

Some excerpts from the report on Eurasianet.org:

“We have two morals in this country: one for men and another for women,” said Tbilisi State University Gender Studies Professor Nino Javakhishvili. “Premarital sex is not only tolerated, but even encouraged for men, while it is frowned upon for women.”

An August 2009 survey by the Tbilisi-based Caucasus Research Resource Centers reported that 77 percent of respondents think it is unacceptable for a woman to have sex before marriage. The belief is rooted both in Georgia’s conservative culture and the Georgian Orthodox faith, which does not discriminate between men and women on the topic.

Gender researchers say that the country’s culture of abstinence prompts many young Georgians to marry simply to obtain license to engage in sex. As a result, baby-faced married couples are often found walking around holding babies of their own, commented Tamar Sabedashvili, United Nations Development Fund for Women Gender Advisor in Georgia.

“There is a direct connection between the virginity institute and early marriages in Georgia,” Sabedashvili said. “Often these marriages have to do with sex, more than anything else."

“Sometimes a girl is so convinced that her mission is to get married [and] that the earlier she achieves this, the sooner she feels self-realized,” Guliashvili said. “When from a very early age, a girl is told that her true mission [in life] is to be a wife and a mother, even when grown-up she may never start asking if she is fully enjoying the rights that she has."

[18-year-old student Nutsa] Avaliani agrees that such pressures may influence her thinking about marriage, but says she does not want to end up like a 25-year-old friend whom she terms a spinster. “I really want to get married and have kids very soon, and I think that is what every woman wants,” she said.

Thanks to Caucasus-watcher Jono for the link. Traditional wedding ceremony image by Paata Vardanashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia.

Why Shonda Rhimes isn't throwing a big white wedding

I'm a big fan of Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. You know what I'm really not a big fan of? Chastity-based wedding rituals, ie big white dresses! So I had to share this, which comes via Women & Hollywood, who quotes Ask Ausiello (my italics emphasis):

The Question:
Any chance Shonda Rhimes will do an about-face and give Derek and Meredith a real wedding on Grey’s Anatomy? She backed down on her “no babies” stance, so I’m hoping maybe she changed her mind about the wedding thing too. A girl can dream.

Replies Shonda:
“I deeply appreciate the fans and how much they care about Meredith and Derek, but as a woman and a human being and the mother of a girl, I just feel like this idea that somebody in a big white dress is the be-all and end-all of human existence is a terrible message to send out,” maintains Rhimes.

“I felt like Meredith and Derek’s choice to be together becomes a marriage of equals as opposed to some faux fairy tale. And while I love a good wedding, I felt like for Meredith, it was so counter to who she is as a human being. And I love the fact that Derek doesn’t need her to do it. I get why the fans want it; I’d probably want it too if I was just watching. But I literally feel sick every time I think about Meredith in a big white poufy dress.”

No disrespect to big-white-dress-lovin' brides (like Izzie), but as someone who ended up wearing lime green and black at my wedding, I really appreciate Shonda's take on things. We did have some poufy white tulle on the dog, though. She wore my sister's recycled wedding hairpiece as a collar and looked quite fetching.

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