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Just the Tip! Featuring Virgin Classified Ads, Better Sex Ed in Cali, Virginity Scholarships in S. Africa & Feminist 'Hamilton'

Can you feel it in the air? Spring is just around the corner! Here are this week's top stories from the world of virginity, ladyparts and sex. For up to the minute news, follow our Facebook Page, where we post every day!

Dad Advertises His ‘Virgin’ Daughter for Marriage in Christian Magazine

At least 'virgin' was at the end of a long list of her attributes. The daughter in question responded “it’s appropriate they placed it in the Employment Opportunities section because putting up with this father-in-law's shenanigans is a full time job, without any paid vacation.” It's interesting that his daughter's reaction (on a now-deleted blog post) was basically an 'Oh Dad' eye roll. h/t Paul Freelend

On one hand...
Radford University Holds “Men Can Stop Rape” Presentation For Greeks, Only Requires Sorority Women To Go

This is Rape Culture: "Sororities were required to send every single member to this speaker. And the fraternity requirement? Eight." The Panhellenic community was outraged and wrote the perfect angry letter. h/t Soraya Chemaly

On the other hand...
California Becomes First State To Make Sexual Consent Lessons Mandatory In High Schools Beginning Next Year

The new law mandates all school districts that have made health a graduation requirement to lecture students about sexual violence prevention and affirmative consent starting next year. Plus, Governor Brown signed a new law mandating all school districts to offer comprehensive sex education courses twice for grades 7 through 12. "The measure did not receive any opposition in the Legislature, and even nearly received a unanimous bipartisan backing." Huzzah.

Video: When You First Time Literally Feels Like Poop

From Refinery 29: Two very honest and sweet people talk about embarrassing first times.

‘My virginity will change my future’, vows South African student

A group of South African 'maidens' get their college fees paid on the condition that they remain 'virgins,' with regular 'virginity tests' by a group of older women. Despite the fact that there's not such thing as a virginity test, it's sexist to make abstinence a condition of women getting scholarships, and these efforts aren't actually curbing pregnancies or HIV, the recipients think it's great. Oh, and they're going to offer it to guys as well, but won't be 'testing' them. h/t Paul Freelend

Indigenous languages recognize gender states not even named in English

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network is talking about how Canada's First Nation languages treat gender. Incredibly cool : In Cree, for example, “aayahkwew” means “neither man or woman.” In Inuktitut, “sipiniq” means “infant whose sex changes at birth.” In Kanien’keha, or Mohawk language, “onón:wat” means “I have the pattern of two spirits inside my body.” h/t Andrea Plaid


And honor of Women's History Month, the Schuyler Sisters

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who play the Schuyler sisters in the Broadway musical Hamilton raps to feminist quotes and it's awesome. As the constant joke goes, this may be as close as anyone gets to seeing the musical. Or do like the New Yorkers do every morning and  try your luck in the lottery!

Just The Tip runs most Fridays. Send us your virginity stories here or on Twitter.

Only Connect...

The other day I was re-reading our V-Card Diaries stories, and I was reminded that people who have never had sex are sometimes dealing with personal issues that go beyond the lack of physical experience. So I was struck by this excerpt from Vivian Gornick's New York Times essay on British author E. M. Forster, author of Howards End, as well as A Room With A View, A Passage to India, and Maurice:

Forster was 31 years old when “Howards End” appeared, at which time he was a closeted homosexual and a virgin who knew nothing of how erotic relations worked — with any combination of partners. His ignorance weighed on him, and in his imagination sex achieved a mythical power that became symbolic of all in human existence that one could feel but not express, imagine but not realize. His fearfulness was such that until now he had known neither passion nor love; what he did know was yearning. This yearning energized his work but also limited it. In time he lost his virginity, but sex alone did not provide experience. Anxiety — that frozen sea within — still made it impossible for him to dive deep into the kind of desire that leads to self-knowledge; and without self-knowledge all remains murk and isolation.

Ask Trixie: Is the G-spot a real thing?

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking? Ask Trixie here.

is the "G-spot" a real thing? –Anonymous

People continue to fiercely debate whether there’s an actual G-Spot (named for German gynecologist Ernst Gräfenberg). Some people have an especially sensitive spot on the inside front-ish part of their vaginal canals, and when it’s rubbed just right magical things happen. Others don’t feel that much in their vaginas at all and would always prefer the party to be happening around their clitoris. And others think that anything they feel in their vaginas is actually coming from their clitoris any way.

Wait, weren't we talking about the G-Spot? Yes, but bear with me. The clitoris, like an iceberg, takes up a lot more territory than the bit that’s visible, and therefore might be the source of physical pleasure for the whole vulval/vaginal area. So what you feel in your G-Spot area is possibly just another form of stimulation of the giant clitoral body. 

If you want to learn more about the amazing clitoris, The Huffington Post just published a pretty amazing story package on the clitoris complete with history, diagrams and swell animations.

The moral? There's really no correct location for your orgasm, despite what Dr. Freud* thought, so the important thing is to figure out what feels really good down there and do more of that, whatever you want to call it. You can read more about The G-Spot here and here as well.

*Sigmund Freud taught that clitoral orgasms were 'immature' and after puberty women should only have vaginal orgasms, which he deemed 'mature.' This was based on absolutely no scientific evidence except his belief that real sex was dictated by the penis and intercourse. Despite it being total bullshit, this myth continues to this day even though a significant percentage of women don't experience orgasms located in their vaginas.

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

About Lady Mary's sex book and 'The Thing' she asked Anna to hide

Mild spoilers ahead...

[Downton Abbey, above, and a 1924 conversation that could have taken place yesterday in Texas Anna: I'd like to buy one of these birth control thingies Shop Lady: Have you considered abstinence instead?

As a major sex geek and a rabid fan of Downton Abbey (check out our weekly podcast here), I've been loving the storyline around Lady Mary Crawley's Liverpool tryst and the birth control she asked Anna to buy and hide. I've also been fascinated with the Twitter conversations debating what that book was (Marie Stopes' Wise Parenthood, likely) and what Anna was asked to buy (a diaphragm or cervical cap, although someone thought it was a used condom - ewww!)

The New York Academy of Medicine has a great article about British scientist (and cat lover) Marie Stopes, whose work helping women control their reproduction and have a more enjoyable sex life, got her both lauded and banned (much like the US's Margaret Sanger).

They write (our boldface):

Stopes (1880-1958), a paleobotanist and campaigner for women’s rights, was the author of numerous books on social welfare, many concerning birth control (see Peter Eaton’s valuable checklist for a complete list). Married Love was a kind of self-help book designed to help couples understand each other’s physical and emotional needs. When it was published in March 1918, post-war women embraced the book. The initial 2,000 copy run sold out in the first fortnight. Eaton counts 28 editions, and translations into more than a dozen languages. By 1921, sales had topped 100,000 copies. An early ban of the book in America on obscenity charges was overturned in 1931, by the same judge who overturned the ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses.

In addition to lawsuits, the publication ofMarried Love prompted fan letters containing many questions. Women wanted more specific instructions on birth control methods. Stopes obliged eight months later, with the publication of Wise Parenthood in November 1918.

By the early 1920s, Stopes made advocacy of birth control for the working classes her biggest cause. In 1921, Stopes opened the first British family-planning clinic in north London. A staff comprised of both male and female nurses and doctors offered free birth control advice. By 1925, the clinic moved to central London, and instituted a mail-order birth control service (note to Anna Bates: for future reference, that mail-order service could save an awkward moment or two).

Although the mail order service would have potentially spared Anna some embarrassment, it would have deprived us of the great scene in the shop, and Anna running off without the instructions but with her consciousness seriously raised.

As we've joked on the podcast, considering that Lady Mary can't even put on a necklace by herself, how would she sort out the cervical cap insertion? Would inserting and removing birth control be just another part of a Lady's Maid's job description? And considering that Lady Mary lives in a 200,ooo sq foot house (give or take) why ask Anna to hide it in her two-room cottage? But that's a question for another blog.

Just The Tip: Virginity In The News with Jane The Virgin, The Institute of Sexology, Indonesian 'virginity' testing, victorian sex myths that won't go away, and more...

Your weekly roundup of virginity-related stories in your world. Want to hear about them right away? Follow us on Facebook where we post daily. Got a story for us to post? Let us know!  

V-Card and Feminist Ryan Gosling

So honored to have our V-Card sharing space with Feminist Ryan Gosling at Sewanee University of the South after my "How To Lose Your Virginity Myths" lecture at the Bairnwick Women's Center Pinnacle Luncheon. Want me to come to your school? More info here.




"There are no “but”s when it comes to women’s humanity. Not “but” you’re lonely, not “but” you’re horny, not “but” you’re nice, not “but” that’s how your grandparents met, not “but” she was naked in your bed. Women are people, and women just get to exist and set boundaries and say no. Always. Any time. Just like you."

Lindy West's essay for the Daily Dot is so powerful in the way it elegantly connects the dots between online harassment, rape culture, pick-up artists, and the way women are socialized to be 'kind' and 'receptive.' It's a must-read.




Among the many reasons to watch the new CW show Jane The Virgin (aside from the amazing Gina Rodriguez) is the show's sex positive and pro-choice messages, which Cosmo points out is a big step forward for the Latina community.

"A TV show can't change everything about how the Latino community talks about sex and reproductive rights, but it's heartening to see one that reflects the change that's already happening. And while Jane's decision may ultimately not have been your decision, it's a decision she was able to make — not her mother's, not her grandmother's, not her boyfriend's. The show hasn't trivialized or moralized abortion talk; it's normalized it."

I especially love the show for the way it portrays real-life abstinence choices, freely made with actual information, as well as the way it confounds the stereotypes around 'older' virginity. OK, at 23, Jane isn't at all old, but you all are sending me older virgin emails at 19. So. Also, I have a special crush on vain but hilarious Telenovela star Rogelio De La Vega played by Jaime Camil. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it here for free!




Turkish textbooks remove diagrams of genitals

Turkish news outlet The Hurriyet Daily News reports that some Turkish schoolbooks have replaced diagrams of genitalia with cute photos of mothers and baby animals. While pictures of baby polar bears definitely help SEO, they have no place in science books. It's just another disturbing instance of Turkey's increasing conservatism under Erdogan, but keep in mind these censored Turkish sex ed texts are not unlike US abstinence programs which erase information about contraception and gay people–when they're not vilifying them, that is. I hope they still have Our Bodies, Ourselves.




The Telegraph reports that women who are trying to join Indonesia's police force are routinely subjected to 'virginity' testing. The women report that

“My group of about 20 girls was asked to enter the hall and was asked to take off our clothes, including our bras and underpants,” a 19-year-old woman told the organisation. “It was humiliating. Only those who had menstruation can keep [wearing] underpants… A female doctor did the virginity test ... the 'two-finger' test."

The story makes a point of asking what virginity has to do with good police work, but fails to mention that any and all so-called virginity tests don't test anything except how retrograde and ignorant the testers are. Aside from that, these tests were supposed to be abolished in Indonesia in 2010–and they are a violations of human rights.




The UK's Wellcome Collection is doing a year-old exhibit on sexuality called “The Institute of Sexology”, which they describe as:

"a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at 'The Institute', the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex."

I love their NSFW video, which makes the study of sex look classy and illicit at the same time, with scads of naked bodies and naughty words. Totally worth the trip to London, in my opinion!




We got vibrators

From Autostraddle's Rebel Girl series, 5 Bad Theories on Gender and Sex From Way Back When That Still Impact us Today, from with the totally bogus universal theory of gender difference, making European women's bodies the 'normal,' and the ongoing pathologization (is that a word?) of female sexuality.

"The American Psychiatric Association didn’t drop the term hysteria until the 1950s, and hysterical neurosis remained there into 1980. The impacts of the mass misdiagnosis are far-reaching: women today are still labeled “crazy,” and it’s a seemingly natural part of our gender roles."

On the plus side, we got vibrators.


Showtime' series 'The Masters of Sex' on Freud and the myth of the vaginal orgasm

Masters of Sex OK, so I'm just now catching up with the Showtime series "The Masters of Sex" and I'm especially enjoying Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson, one half of the ground-breaking sex research duo Masters and Johnson. It's a bit soapy and I have no idea how much is historically accurate, but yay for a show that takes on sexual myths* and debunks them one by one, just like the original M&J did in their work.

One of my favorite scenes so far: In 'Brave New World' Virginia attends a lecture by Dr. Freud's daughter on 'mature' vaginal orgasms and 'immature' clitoral orgasms, and promptly calls bullshit. This is a myth that will not die, even today, despite profuse debunking: That women who can't have vaginal orgasms have some kind of inadequate sexual response–or the fact that there is even such a thing as a vaginal orgasm. I couldn't find a clip, but here's the dialogue:

Virginia Johnson: So according to Freud there are two types of orgasms, immature and mature. He's saying that one orgasm is better than the other. William Masters: As I understand it, he's saying that when a woman reaches puberty, there's a transfer of sexual response from the clitoris to the vagina. The external, or clitoral, orgasm is the province of adolescent girls. Mature women experience orgasm intra-vaginally with their husbands, otherwise they're frigid. Virginia Johnson: Who would believe something like that? William Masters: My patients. That's why we keep the exam room stocked with Kleenex. A quarter of the women who walk through my door tell me that they're frigid. Virginia Johnson: Maybe that's because their husband can't get the job done. Does he ever address the man's role in any of this? William Masters: Honestly all of Freud's theories have their limits. I stopped reading him after my college paper on the Oedipus complex. Nearly put my own eyes out.

Later, Masters theorizes (as many believe today) that orgasms that happen during penetration may be clitoral as well, since the internal clitoris is quite large and may extend close to the vaginal walls. We can only see the tip, iceberg style, but look out below. But hey, let's stop worrying where they come from and just enjoy them!

Which brings me to another standout scene from this episode. The wife of the head of the university wants to volunteer for their sex study, but gets confused when asked about her orgasms. Watch the brilliant Allison Janney playing Margaret, with Lizzy Caplan as Virginia and Michael Sheen as Johnson.

*Unlike the Showtime site, which has a video about sexual myths. It's nicely animated, but otherwise not all that helpful. Also disappointing for me, except for one unremarkable virginity loss scene, they don't talk about virginity at all. Boo.

On Anti-Rape Wear and Chastity Belts

Chastity belt locked AR Wear is a collection of undergarments that the creators say will give women and girls "more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault" "when something goes wrong" using specially designed webbing and straps the make the garments impossible to remove. They're crowd-funding the project and about halfway to their goal, and their site is full of positive comments, including making a disco shorts version. The creators have their hearts in the right place, but they've understandably come under a fair deal of criticism.

Things like the insinuation that it's the potential victim's job to keep from getting herself raped, to the fact that most rapes are committed by people victims know and trust, to the risk of violence from an otherwise frustrated rapist, to the fact that $50K could go a long way to programs that teach young people about consent and rape culture. And then there's my personal observation that the models in the photos are super slim and this product requires an actual waist that's smaller than your hips to keep them on (bringing up those heinous comments about how fat girls should feel lucky to be raped. Ugh.)

Aside from all those issues, the undies keep getting compared to Chastity Belts, including in Amanda Hess's scathing take-down, which is worth a read. Seeing as our blog is about all things virgin, let's have a little teaching moment about that comparison and the devices themselves. The purpose of chastity belts was to assure exclusive access by the holder of the key, usually the wearer's husband/owner. You could compare this to an even worse owner-operated chastity system: a hideous brand of FGM, where a young woman's labia is sewn shut and then opened by the husband on their wedding night. In the case of AR Wear, it's a totally different story: The wearer has the 'key' and they're in control of access.

One of the few existing belts can be found, rightly so, in the Museum of Torture in Italy. However, many historians think chastity belts were largely a myth. There's very little record of chastity belt use, and since we have tons of other historical record on sexual practices, the lack of anything on chastity belts indicates they must have been very rare. When I interviewed the curator of the Museum of Sex in NYC, she said that she only knew of the one in Italy. On the other hand, there are loads of metal anti-masturbatory devices like this one at the Museum of Sex that they used to put on boys to keep them from touching themselves, and they're plentiful in museums and as awful as you can imagine. There are modern-day BDSM versions as well, but that's a whole other NSFW story.

Which brings me to a suggestion I've heard from several people: That it would be better to make constraining underwear for would-be rapists, except that we know you can rape someone without using a penis and without access to a vagina.

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News with Indonesian V-tests, Dr. Kinsey, Virgin Mary sightings, the King's Virgin mistress and talking sex ed and college sex regrets.

Here's a very quick roundup of news on virginity and sexuality: Kinsey Report on Female Sexuality

While spending a weekend at the Kinsey Institute getting all fan-girl over everything, I had the great fortune of going through lots of archival material, especially the shitstorm caused by the groundbreaking Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It's been 60 years since details of Dr. Alfred Kinsey's landmark book caused all hell to break loose. Women masturbated? Women had affairs? Women

In the words of Reverend Billy Graham: "[Dr Kinsey] certainly could not have interviewed any of the millions of born-again Christian women in this country who put the highest price on virtue, decency and modesty." Happily, many clergy said "Kinsey's work would benefit humanity because knowledge of our sexual natures could only improve people's lives."

Learn more and check out some seriously awesome images here.


An Indonesian educator has suggested using his city budget to institute annual virginity tests for female students 16 to 19, describing it as "an accurate way to protect children from prostitution and free sex". He also said "This is for their own good," and "Every woman has the right to virginity … we expect students not to commit negative acts."

And if you think this makes no logical sense, you're right. And not just because there is no such thing as a virginity test as, we have now written 39 separate times. The good news is even the local Islamic Council thinks it's a stupid idea which was already rejected in Sumatra and West Java. So, progress, maybe?


Windshield image of Virgin Mary“It was a miracle,” Elida Mendoza, 59, said through a translator about seeing the mother of God on the windshield of her truck. She and others tried to wash the windshield, but couldn’t wipe the image of Mary away with mere cleaning products."

The Virgin Mary was sighted on a windshield in Mission, Texas (above), and a cross in Providence Rhode Island.


"There isn't one right time to start, and most sex educators will tell you that it's a lifelong process (because sexuality is just another part of life). The thing to realize is that if you have kids you're already teaching them about sexuality. So why not do it consciously?"

The wonderful Cory Silverberg in a group of columns about talking to your kids about sex education, porn and masturbation.


King Louis XIV mistress Maria Mancini & her 'virginity'"On what basis, I thought, do we continue to assume that [Louis XIV mistress] Marie remained a virgin until her wedding night? Was it possible that young women of her time knew how to convincingly fake it?"

"The project of assuring ‘evidence’ one’s virginity might have been a familiar one to many young women, whether or not they had previously had intercourse with a man. In seventeenth-century comedy, a familiar scene is a dialogue between a young bride-to-be and her governess, who advises her on how to act like a virgin on her wedding night."

From a very delightful and informative article called "On Faking Virginity"

Update from the archives: Swearing virginity to live like a man, in Albania and elsewhere

Sworn I'm reposting this because the topic has been in the news lately, along with an amazing slide show of images by photographer Jill Peters (one photo above, the rest here) who writes:

For sacrificing their innate natures, they are afforded considerable masculine privileges. Skirts and blouses are traded for trousers and button downs, long hair cropped to a manly stubble. They smoke, work and swagger about town with the other men.  They are referred to as "he" and "uncle." Their absolute transition is accepted, posited and taken without question by the people among whom they live.

Here's the original post from 2008: The NY Times has a fascinating story about a 500-year old Albanian custom that's now dying out in the wake of stronger women's rights.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dressed like men and spent their lives in the company of other men, even though most kept their female given names. They were not ridiculed, but accepted in public life, even adulated. For some the choice was a way for a woman to assert her autonomy or to avoid an arranged marriage.

“Stripping off their sexuality by pledging to remain virgins was a way for these women in a male-dominated, segregated society to engage in public life,” said Linda Gusia, a professor of gender studies at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo. “It was about surviving in a world where men rule."

Throughout history women have sworn virginity for greater autonomy. The Vestal Virgins had both great responsibility and great wealth, as long as they never became involved with a man - an act that automatically lost them their autonomy. The downside: breaking your vows got you buried alive. Nuns also enjoyed special privileges with their vows of chastity, like literacy and not dying in childbirth.

Try this at home: Vestal Virgin Braids

Hairdresser and amateur archeologist Janet Stephens has recreated the 'seni crenis' hairstyle she believes was worn by Vestal Virgins and brides:

She first became interested in ancient hairdressing after what she calls an "accidental encounter" with an ancient portrait bust in Baltimore's Walters Art Museum. "I said, 'Oh, that is so cool, I gotta try this at home,'" Stephens told LiveScience. "And it failed miserably." The failure spawned seven years of research and a publication in the journal Roman Archaeology on the techniques of Roman Imperial Period hairdressing. The Vestal Virgin style, however, presented particular challenges because the Vestals' layered headdresses covered much of their hair. In sculptures and other artwork, the details of the Vestals' braids are often obscured.

Note: You need waist-length hair to pull this one off.

Another note: My favorite thing about Vestal Virgins was that the chastity requirement wasn't about purity or morality. Because they had such enormous responsibility and legal power, they couldn't be under the influence of a husband. So virginity = autonomy. Downside? Breaking your vows meant a death sentence. But that was rare, and after your 30-year service, which started when you were a girl, you retired rich.

h/t The Hairpin

Just the Tip: Virginity in the News

Our favorite virgin godmother (and "How to Lose Your Virginity" onscreen expert) Hanne Blank did a talk called "Hymen Wars." Need we say more?


The New York Times has a profile of author Lauren Myracle, who they call 'this generation's Judy Blume.' in part for the healthy candor of her books about teen life, and also because of the calls to have her books banned. We think her take on being honest with young people is great:

Her aim, she said, is to write about sex without a “soft fade” — as in cutting from “he leaned in for a kiss” to “they lay in bed, naked, smiling.” She wants to fill in the blanks, because kids are curious about the mechanics, and deciding when first to have sex has inherent drama.

A commenter added this thought:

I have read ttyl, ttfn, and l8r g8r - these books came out when I was a teenager and I think it's safe to say I haven't turned into a sex-crazed, technology-obsessed drug addict[...] To ban them is to prevent another avenue for young women, like the one I was, to learn how to respect themselves.


While Caterina Migliorini's yet-unconsumated virginity auction saga continues, she will be featured in Brazilian Playboy (NSFW). Virginity Auctions are a real-life marketplace extension of the virginity porn fetish, so no surprise that A leads to B.

Inspired by Migliorini, another Brazilian woman Rebecca Bernardo, 18, is auctioning her virginity to raise money to care for her bedridden mother (top bid currently $35,000). Press coverage is as gross and voyeuristic as expected.


Why not try OK Cupid's "Dating Persona Test"? It is likely a load of bullshit, but OKC does some interesting data analysis and who can resist unscientific pronouncements on your personality? I'm curious what the results are for folks who aren't sexually active, since so much of it has to do with having the sex. You don't have to register to get your results. Let us know in the comments below.


Jezebel ran yet another virgin-themed post the other day, a sort of First-Person-like essay called "How to Be a Virgin." We like her suggestion of printing out business cards explaining why she hasn't had sex so she doesn't have to actually discuss it any more. And we kind of feel like stealing the headline for the new title of our film.

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.

Why Is Sex Fun? And did those Victorian docs really use vibrators on their patients?

The Discovery Channel is just ran an episode of Curiosty called "Why is Sex Fun?" The website has several clips from the show about brain activity during orgasm, intercourse as seen on a sonogram and the giant swath of genital real estate known as the clitoris. They're pretty interesting, although I could do without the intense rumbling 'orgasm' music and the soft-focus camera work. The 3-D graphics blow our junior high health class films out of the water, though. In a bit of genius synergy, the show is hosted by smart/sassy/sexy Maggie Gyllenhaal. Aside from her excellent sex-on-film credentials, she's starring in a new movie called "Hysteria," about the early days of the vibrator-as-medical-tool. It's a subject she also covers in one of the videos here: the practice of Victorian physicians curing their female patients of 'hysteria' by bringing them to orgasm with one of these gizmos.

As popular as this idea has become, even in this very blog, its veracity is under some serious dispute by sex historians. For one thing, it was hard to imagine this took place in a climate where doctors were extremely nervous about being accused of sexual impropriety with their patients. Do check out this article from Cory Silverberg, and a fascinating collection of Victorian sex myths and facts.

Comment of the week: "Palin and Bachmann are true feminists"

Our YouTube comment threads are often a great meeting place of the ignorant and illiterate, but every once in a while we get something so off-base, we have to share it. This one is in response to our clip "Are you a feminist?"

Steinem's idea of feminism meant a woman had to be pro-abortion, anti-family and anti-man -- anti-anything moral! I always believed that feminism was about what a woman wanted to do. That meant a woman had the right to make a choice. Palin and Bachmann are true feminists. They are pro-life, pro-family and they made it in a man’s world without invoking the victim status! Steinem is more about politics than about feminist! As far as eco-feminism? Learn about United Nations Agenda 21.

I invite you to respond to the comment because Trixie Films' You Tube channel needs all the feminist voices it can get. I am bone-tired of pointing out that a woman's right 'to make a choice' exists in total opposition to being 'pro-life' and much of the other socially conservative agendas that Palin and Bachmann both love to push. I also love the fact that our commenter insists that Gloria Steinem is about politics, as opposed to Bachmann and Palin, who are, you know, politicians.

If you want to learn actual real things about Steinem, you can check out a new documentary about her that is airing on HBO. Even if you don't have cable, the site has lots of info. Also worth your time is a nice essay about Gloria Steinem by Shelby Knox*, who considers Steinem a friend and mentor, and highlights lots of things about her that the film missed. The trailer is below:

*Shelby is also in our film-in-progress, which makes us very happy.

[From the Archives] Scarleteen: Debunking the myths of the First Time

Every once in a while we repost something we love from our archives. This originally ran on August 6, 2010. This post is by Alison. I teach SAT prep to teenagers. My students are awesome and deserve all the sex ed they want, which is why I love that Scarleteen, a comprehensive sex ed and advice website, is available as a resource. (It's so interesting that this blog post took me hours longer to write because I was lost in the archives!)

Heather Corinna founded Scarleteen in 1998 and since then has answered hundred of questions and debunked myths about virginity. In fact, about 25% of questions the site receives somehow involve The First Time. In an article entitled "Magical Cups & Bloody Brides: Virginity in Context," Corinna explains how the history and context of the word virgin is much different than its modern definition:

"In ancient times, the virgin huntress icon Diana was a goddess because of her independence, not her subservience or the state of her hymen – she was on her own by choice, and not owned by any man, nor did she wish to be."

Isn't that cool? But wait...things changed. Virginity began to be defined in the technical terms of penises and vaginas:

"The concept of a virgin as someone who hasn't had penis-in-vagina intercourse leaves a lot of people out in the cold. Defining sex by male-to-female intercourse would make a lesbian who has had over one hundred female partners, but no male partners, a virgin. The standard definition of virginity also denotes that a woman is not a fully sexual being until she has made love with a man. Very little of this is positive or empowering, and it leaves a lot of loopholes."

Heather concludes with this hopeful encouragement:

"Much of the misinformation, myth and practice surrounding female virginity has been cultivated in times when women could not make their own choices. But those times are past for many women, unless you choose to perpetuate them. Ultimately, it is in your hands, and those of other women right now, to take the initiative to "own" yourself and your sexuality. Whatever way you choose to do so, so long as it feels right to you physically, emotionally and intellectually, and you make your choices responsibly and thoughtfully is the right way."

Another fascinating article entitled "Blowjobs and Other Boring Stuff" concerns the sexual practices of teenagers. These teens are having everything but intercourse, practices that they have hilariously dubbed "outercourse." They've had years of sex ed and are well-educated about what can and can't get them pregnant. Still, the article ends with a sigh.

"The girls seem to be more or less in control of their sexuality, and that's a positive development. But there is something in many of the kids' stories that leaves me a bit sad. Some of it reminds me of the classic frustrated housewife image, deciding what color to paint the ceiling while having sex – "I think girls do blow jobs and stuff just to make us happy," Jared says. "One day I looked up at my girlfriend's face while I was going down on her and I caught her staring out the window, looking bored." Some of it makes me worry about them, with their combination of emotional innocence and sexual sophistication – I sense danger lurking around unseen corners."

If you haven't read Scarleteen lately, go over and take a look. Here are some links to check out:

Transgressive Grannies

Photo by George Leahy (Southern California, early 20th century)

From Ellice, who keeps finding cool stuff online:
Sadie at Jezebel covers Vanity Fair's article on Grace Kelly's life (and also loss of virginity at 17), but also debunks the notion that young women today are more rebellious than those who came before. The comments section is really cool because readers share stories about their own grandmothers, who are totally wild, even by today's standards.

A few of my favorites:

"My great-grandmother divorced her husband in the 30s as well. He was a philanderer and a drunk, and once she drove her car through a bar window and ordered him to come home. With her second husband, she was one of the first women to race high-speed boats in the country. I remember taking reds in her red Corvette convertible when she was older, which she drove well into her 80s. When she was 85 a doctor told her to stop eating spicey food and ice cream, and she told him to fuck himself. I wish I was old enough when she passed to interview her and collect her stories."

"My grandma was a 50's/60's housewife and when my grandpa retired, she told him she was retiring too and that she wasn't going to do all the housework anymore. He was fine with it. My grandparents were awesome."

–Phyllis Nefler

"Besides being crazy slick, my grandmother was a helluva woman. My grandmother graduated Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts at the age of 19, and got her Master's before her 23rd birthday. Mind you this is in the 50's. Also, she was a black woman. In the 50's. With a child born out of wedlock. She went on to become a social worker, then became the first black female administrator in her field in the entire Tidewater area. She also fought the Norfolk, Va school administration tooth and nail so that my mother could be placed in a predominantly Jewish high school. She won her case, and my mom and a few of her other classmates made history."


"My great grandmother ran away from west Africa on a whaling ship to Africa after falling in love with a sailor. She arrived pregnant and unmarried in Boston and he eventually abandoned her. She lived in Boston until the baby was born then moved back home and entered into an arranged marriage so no one would know the baby was illegitimate. But my grandmother kept her U.S. citizenship since she was born in U.S. soil and that's how my family eventually ended up here."


Comments like these even inspired one reader to start up How I Met Your Grandmother, a blog for archiving "personal accounts, interesting stories, family gossip about or even old photos of the older generations of your families."

Kind of a refreshing reminder, I think, in the midst of the brouhaha over "hookup cultures" aka the moral ruin of today's youth. These are exciting kinds of historical evidence that norms have been challenged for as long as they've existed--not just in the era of "sexting."

What if Mary Wasn't a Virgin?

"More than a century ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, 'If a heavenly father, why not a heavenly mother? And if an earthly mother, why not an earthly father?'

She continued, 'I think the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as something sweeter, higher, nobler than ordinary motherhood, is a slur on all the natural motherhood of the world.'

An unveiled illegitimacy tradition offers this Christmas gift: the restoration of natural motherhood to its rightful place in the miraculous."

– From an article in Slate entitled "The Earthly Father: What if Mary Wasn't a Virgin?" by the Rev. Chloe Breyer, an Episcopal priest and mother of two who works at St. Mary's Manhattanville in West Harlem, N.Y. The article originally ran in 2005.

The simultaneous worship of virginity and motherhood is guaranteed to drive you mad and totally warp your ideas about female sexuality, seeing as the only way to give birth is to first have sex (almost always) thereby negating your virgin status.

A controversial billboard was erected in Auckland, New Zealand just last week showing a post-coital Joseph and Mary.

With the tag line "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow," the billboard was the brainchild of Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, the vicar of a progressive local church. Hoping to draw more people to his church, he said:

"Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ. Its vision is one of robust engagement."

The Catholic Dicosese begged to differ, saying:

"Our Christian tradition of 2000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph."

Not so fast. The Slate article talks about a book called The Illegitimacy of Jesus, published in 1998 by Jane Schaberg, a biblical studies professor at the University of Detroit Mercy:

Her central argument was that Matthew and Luke's Gospels originally told of an illegitimate conception rather than a miraculous virgin one. University of Detroit Mercy, which is Catholic, publicly distanced itself from Schaberg's positions. She got hundreds of angry letters and a few death threats and one night awoke to discover that her car was in flames on the street outside her apartment...

However, the story goes on to say:

Some church leaders feel the pull of the illegitimacy tradition but fear its impact. "Undoubtedly, some sophisticated Christians could live with the alternative … [but] for many less sophisticated believers, illegitimacy would be an offense that would challenge the plausibility of the Christian Mystery," [theologian Raymond] Brown writes.

However well-intended, that fear may be misdirected. When she published her book, Schaberg got seven grateful or supportive letters for every angry one she received.

The Fascinating Evolution of Birth Control... Just don't call chastity belts 'contraception'

Newsweek had an interesting little online feature on the history of birth control highlighting the brave, inspiring (and sometimes brutal and toxic) work by women and men to allow us to decide if and when we become parents.

There's information about early versions of cervical caps from the 1920s and 16th century condoms, and they describe the earliest spermicides made of cedar oil and lead(!) ointment. Yes, the lead went inside the ladies.

I especially like the photos and illustrations they dug up. Like this one above of Scottish doctor Marie Stopes who wrote a guide to contraception in 1918 called Wise Parenthood. She opened the first of her birth control clinics in North London in 1921, the same year Margaret Sanger opened her first clinic in Brooklyn.

Estelle Griswold, medical adviser and executive director of Planned Parenthood clinic in New Haven, and Mrs. Ernest Jahncke, president of the Parenthood League of CT.

And I just adore the look on these two women's faces as they celebrate Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. The headline reads "High Court Rules Birth Control Law Unconstitutional." This was the US Supreme Court case which struck down the prohibition of birth control in that state. Yes - this happened in 1965! It established 'right of privacy' which allowed people to plan their own sexual and reproductive lives, an important precedent for Roe v. Wade.

I do have one major issue with their discussion of chastity belts, which they flippantly call 'an early attempt at abstinence-only education.' These barbaric devices were instruments of torture - and a heinous way for men to control the lives of their women. In fact, according to the curator of the Museum of Sex, you can find early chastity belts in museums of torture, and not in her museum.

I also take issue with calling chastity belts a form of contraception. Contraception's purpose is to prevent conception after a sex act. Preventing someone from having sex in the first place doesn't quite count. I'd say abstinence is in that same category. There's no need for contraception if there's no sex happening.

Thanks to polarchip for the link!!

And for feminist take on Mary...

My history guru Bonnie recommended a fascinating book I'm now reading: Alone of All her Sex: the Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976) by Marina Warner. A line I like from the back of the book jacket:

The figure of Mary has shaped and been shaped by changing social and historical circumstances from the first century to the present day...For all their beauty and power (and indeed because of them), the legends of Virgin Mary have condemned real women to perpetual inferiority.

Here's an excerpt from a review which, I'm so sorry to say, I've lost the credit for:

With Alone of All her Sex: the Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary, Marina Warner found her true metier, looking at the mythology, symbolism, allegories and icons of 'the Christian mother goddess' across Catholic Europe.

[Warner] focuses on the figure of Mary as archetype, the approved model of ideal womanhood: virgin, queen, bride, mother, and intercessor. She argues persuasively about the Marian cult's influence over the centuries in fixing, for the satisfaction of the male Catholic hierarchy, the structure of society and women's roles within it.

I just picked up her book Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (2000) which I hope to get to one of these years...

A new Joy of Sex for our times:Fewer beards, more ladyparts

Along with Judy Blume and Letters to Penthouse Forum, the original The Joy of Sex was the cornerstone of my unofficial early sex education. I can still see those watercolor drawings of the hairy bearded guy and his almost-as-hairy lady friend making sweet, sweet luv on every other page.

A new less-hairy edition of the book, revised by Susan Quilliam, a British sexologist, advice columnist and relationship counselor, is coming out next month in the US. So why in this day and age do we still need The Joy of Sex?

Says Quilliam in the New York Times:

"People desperately need help in negotiating the culture’s bewildering sexual messages. As pervasive as sex is, society seems just as ignorant and nervous about it as ever.

And who could blame people for being confused, bombarded as they are by explicit images, impossible expectations and contradictory, alarming information from an ever-expanding array of media promoting the notion that everyone should be having amazing, contortionistic sex all the time.

Particularly if they get their information from the Internet, as teenage boys increasingly do."

And let's not forget that the original book was a product of its time, with only three references to the clitoris.

“He had a section on tactful ways to take a woman’s virginity. He had a section called ‘frigidity.’ I’m sure he was a lovely man, but he said that most men, given a young and attractive partner, can always get it up — it’s only when a woman lets herself go that he has a problem. And you’re going, ‘No, no, no!’ But that is what it was like then.”

Dr. Comfort said, too, that another part of the female genitalia, the vulva, was “slightly scary” to many males.

But here's one disturbing update for the times:

The Kinsey Institute says that contemporary women have less sex than their 1950s counterparts because they have so little uncommitted time.