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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.

 

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"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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

This Tuesday in NYC: A screening of "How I Learned to Speak Turkish"

If you're in New York this Tuesday, check out my short film How I Learned to Speak Turkish, which will be having a rare NYC screening as part of "Where Less Is More," an evening of shorts presented by New York Women in Film.

There will be a Q& A following the screening*, and an after-party with cash bar and complimentary food. More info about all the films in the program is here.

Screening Info

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Anthology Film Archives
32 East Second Avenue, New York
Tickets $6 - $9 (can be pre-ordered or purchased at box office)
After party: Dempsey's Pub, 61 2nd Avenue

Can't make the screening?

Download the whole film from IndiePix for the low arkadaş price of $7.95 (on demand for only $1.99) or order the DVD from our website. Sorry, no kiss price discounts.
Watch the trailer plus bonus clips of Hakan and the dancing fools of Cafe Vazgal.

And we'd really appreciate if you did this: For film updates, Turkish news, and future screenings, follow our Facebook Page and Twitter feed.

About the Film

Winner - Atlanta Film Festival Jury Prize - Best Documentary Short
Using a witty first-person documentary style, the story begins as the filmmaker Therese Shechter travels to Turkey to interview young Turkish women for a documentary on feminism. Instead, she becomes fascinated with Turkish men. And they, in turn, are fascinated with her. The film is a twisted and entertaining travelogue that asks important questions about identity, sexuality and the nature of female power. And it's all true.

More Trixie Films work to check out!

Go to the film's website
Watch the trailer for our new documentary "How to Lose Your Virginity".
Read The American Virgin Blog on Blogspot and Tumblr.
Get information about buying or screening I Was A Teenage Feminist.

*Unfortunately, I won't be there because it was scheduled in the middle of my trip to Turkey (ironic, no?) but I'll have someone there to answer questions on my behalf. Very sorry to be missing it, but you shouldn't!!

This Thursday in NYC: In The FleshFree love, sex and cupcakes and an encore reading by me!

I'm so honored to be part of this month's In The Flesh Reading Series, a free evening of readings on love and sex–plus free mini cupcakes!

The theme is 'Sex on the Beach' and I'm doing an encore performance of a reading I did back in March at Abiola's Kiss and Tell. A story from the journeys that became my doc How I Learned to Speak Turkish (see trailer above), it couldn't be more perfect for the theme of the night's show.

It's about virginity and beaches and sex, and if you want to know more, please come on out and say hi! I think I'm part of the comic relief, far more funny than titillating (but isn't a lot of sex like that too?).

Here are the details:

In The Flesh: Sex on the Beach Night
August 19, 2010, 8:00 pm - 10 pm

Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street, NYC
(B/D to Grand, J/M/Z to Bowery, F to Delancey or F/V to 2nd, between Forsyth & Eldridge. Look for the hot pink awning that says "XIE HE Health Club."

Admission: Free, 21+
Happy Ending Lounge: 212-334-9676

Get ready to get overheated at Summer Sex/Sex on the Beach night at In The Flesh! The summer's hottest fiction, a romance novelist, a documentarian, erotica and more.

Featuring Abigail Ekue (The Darker Side of Lust), Eric, Hilary Thayer Hamann (Anthropology of an American Girl), Yona Zeldis McDonough (Breaking the Bank), Tony O’Neill (Sick City), Michelle Janine Robinson (Color Me Grey), filmmaker Therese Shechter (How To Lose Your Virginity) and Hope Tarr (The Tutor). Hosted by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Orgasmic, Fast Girls, Please, Sir). Mobile Libris will sell readers' books.

4 free waterproof vibrators from EdenFantasys will be given away and 100 free copies of Sexis Magazine will be distributed. Free Baked by Melissa cupcakes, candy and chips will be served. This is the countdown to the final In The Flesh December 16th so don't miss a very special night!

UPDATE: Does she have to type 60 words per minute, too?

"The woman did not provide the necessary qualifications"

–Reason a Turkish court gave to annul a marriage, regarding a husband's claim that his wife was not a virgin on their wedding night.

Despite the fact that she obtained a certificate of virginity from a Gynecological Hospital, and won a counter-suit for divorce in Family Court, the case was overturned on appeal in favor of the husband. There appeared to be no evidence against her except her husband's oral statement. No word on whether he was qualified to be a husband.

Update from the blog Kamil Pasha via Jen:

80% of Turkish women agree that women should be virgins when they marry! This according to the 2008 Population and Health Report carried out by Hacettepe University.

However, only 8% thought women should not work, and only 12% agreed that educating a male child is always better than educating a female child.

Why it's difficult to get tampons in Turkey, and other virgin/tampon conundrums


Whenever I visit Turkey, I bring my own tampons. That's because it's incredibly hard to find them in the stores which overflow with all manner of pads. (Interestingly, OB tampons can be found and I wonder if they seem less 'invasive since they have no penis-like applicator.)

I got some clarity seeing Sociological Images' post on Tampax's infamous "Are You Sure I'll Still Be A Virgin" ad. The Tampax ad copy says:

I really wanted to use tampons, but I'd heard you had to be, you know, ‘experienced.' So I asked my friend Lisa. Her mom is a nurse so I figured she'd know. Lisa told me she'd been using Petal Soft Plastic Applicator Tampax tampons since her very first period and she's a virgin. In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin.

As Sociological Images writes, tampon-makers faced a very tricky marketing situation:

Because an intact hymen signaled virginity, and virginity has been considered very important, preserving and protecting the hymen was, at one time, an important task for girls and women. You can imagine how tricky this made the marketing of that brand new product: the tampon. Early marketing made an effort to dispel the idea that sticking just anything up there de-virginized you. It worked. (In fact, some partially credit tampon manufacturers for the de-fetishization of the hymen that’s occurred over the last 60 years.)

In the words of the Museum of Menstruation: No company wanted to be responsible for the mass deflowering of American women!

The fact that the above ad is from the 1990s in initially shocking until you realize that the question still gets asked quite often. The website GirlsLife.com offers this sensible answer to the Tampon/Virgin question:

Why wouldn’t you be? A virgin is someone who’s never had sex, not someone who’s never used a tampon. Using a tampon can break or stretch the hymen. But even if it breaks, you’re still a virgin.

This post prompted several comments of "Awesome. Good to know!" Of course they leave out the answer to the most-asked question about virginity: How do you define sex?

Our Bodies Oursevles...in Turkish!

Did you know that 'Our Bodies, Ourselves' the groundbreaking book about women's health, has been translated or adapted into 29 international editions? Like Russian, Albanian and Tibetan and Korean?

These books have provided women with information on health – and women's rights – in areas where this kind of stuff was unavailable and sometimes illegal.

Now there's a version for Turkish women. The organization Mavi Kalem is in the process of translating and culturally adapting the book, which in Turkish is called 'Bedenim ve Ben.' The final edition, which will include narratives of women from every region of Turkey, should be done in 2009.

They have also launched a companion website designed to help Turkish NGOs working on women’s health, as well as a wide-scale campaign distributing badges with the slogan "my body is mine" to encourage involvement in the women’s movement.

This will come in handy in a country where there's no sex education at any school level. Click here for more statistics. There's more info on Mavi Kalem's website, and if you'd like to contact them, you can email Emine Filiz Ayla at mavikalem@mavikalem.org. They speak English and are based in the Fener/Balat section of Istanbul.

Chastity Testing: Still going strong in Turkey

The American Virgin is in Istanbul for a couple of weeks and on the lookout for Turkish virginity stories.

Virginity testing has been a hot-button issue here for a number of years. Although forced testing was made illegal several years ago [yes - you could randomly test young women at school or work!], it still goes on in quiet and informal ways – often by family members who drag their daughters to the gynecologist for hymen inspections.

Readers of this blog have heard me rant about this before, but I can't say it too many times. You can't tell if a woman has had intercourse by the state of her hymen. Most gynecologists will either refuse to do a test – or pronounce the young woman a virgin, basically so she doesn't get beaten or worse.

This recent Hurriyet story is typical:

ISTANBUL - The director of a private girl’s dormitory in Istanbul’s district of Avcılar made allegations to a female student's father that she was sleeping with men, leading the father to take his daughter for a virginity test.

Father of student C.G. immediately flew to Istanbul from the Aegean province of Aydın after director N.D. called him, saying she had seen bruises on the student's face and neck, reported the private news site CNNTürk yesterday.

"Your daughter has bruises on her body, she is sleeping with men and we are kicking her out of her dorm," the father Y.G. stated the director said.

"My daughter said she was joking around with a girlfriend and the bruising occurred because of that. I took her to two different hospitals [for a virginity test]," the father said, "Both of the reports proved she is a virgin."

The managers of the dorm rejected interview offers from reporters.

Hymen reconstruction: It's not just for Muslims

The New York Times just ran a story on hymen reconstruction surgeries, a topic I've written about and have been researching in Turkey. Since it came out, it's become the most forwarded story on the New York Times website.* The story makes it seem like this is only a Muslim issue, but in fact many Latinas undergo the procedure for much the same reasons.

Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.

“If you’re a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage,” said Dr. Hicham Mouallem, who is based in London and performs the operation. “So if you’re looking to marry a Muslim and don’t want to have problems, you’ll try to recapture your virginity.”

*Funders take note. People are INTERESTED in this subject. Is it too much to ask for a bit of funding??

Ever have that 'not-so-fresh' feeling?

Here in Istanbul, women routinely remove every last bit of hair not growing out of their heads, saying it's much 'cleaner' this way. Just the other day, the waxer at the posh Ritz Carlton was trying to convince my gal pals and I to please clean ourselves up in a similar fashion.

Having decided to remain just slightly more au naturel for the time being, I was fascinated to read about a new novel "Wetlands" by German author Charlotte Roche. It's causing a whole big mess of controversy, partly because of its intentional gross-ness, but I was especially delighted by this description in the NY Times:

Ms. Roche, 30, has long identified herself as a feminist and...describes the book as a cri de coeur against the oppression of a waxed, shaved, douched and otherwise sanitized women’s world.

Newspapers here have contrasted her unhygienic, free-spirited fictional heroine to an American-import model of womanhood: the stable of plucked, pencil-thin contestants on “Germany’s Next Top Model,” a popular reality show hosted by the German supermodel Heidi Klum.

But Ms. Roche told the audience here that her inspiration for the book came not from those women, but from the feminine-product aisle of her local store...Ms. Roche explained, to howls of laughter, how the lemon-scented products called out to her in uncensored terms that she was, as the commercials put it, not so fresh, or at least not fresh enough.

Where can a gal get a new hymen in this town?

I'm in Istanbul right now doing research on hymen reconstruction surgery. The cost, in the low thousands, bears no relation to the complexity or length of the procedure. It's outpatient surgery, done in the office and takes no more than two hours. One gynecologist I spoke to said it was just a matter of putting in a couple of stitches, enough to produce the requisite two drops of blood for the wedding night. This is by no means a Turkish thing – I had drinks with an Iraqi the other night who said it was exactly the same over there.

So although everyone knows about it and almost every gynecologist does it in their private offices, no-one – and I mean no-one – will go on the record about doing it. An Islamic journal describes it as: a potential fraud against the future husband of the woman...and according legitimacy to hymen restoration surgery would result in the dilution of societal sanctions against premarital sex, which in turn would encourage waywardness.

Apparently, you get the procedure done in a state hospital if you've been raped or had an accident that damaged your hymen. Like when you went 'horseback riding' last weekend. So basically if the broken hymen 'wasn't your fault' the state will happily pay to turn you back into a model of female virtue.

Hymens, Lost and Found

A Turkish friend just shared this experience with me...

"I had to have a forceps delivery, so I had to have stitches. When my husband and I were allowed to have sex after the birth, I had some pain and some bleeding.

Both of us were scared, so I called to doctor to ask if the bleeding I'd experienced was normal, and he said "I wanted to give your husband the gift of virginity!" (I wasn't a virgin when I met my husband)

I was pissed....but what was done was done. The same OB did my son's circumcision. Talk about reconstructive surgery!"

Orada mısın? Benim, Margaret.

Studio 360, one of my favorite radio shows, devoted part of its latest show to Girl Culture. I was really fascinated by an item about reading Judy Blume books in Turkey. Zarife Öztürk, who translated the books for a Turkish publishing house, talks about why "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" was not the monster seller it has been in the US. You can hear it here:

Host Kurt Andersen presented several other interesting stories: female film students at NYU film school, how culture influenced the design of an American Girl doll from the 1970s - and an odd memoir about a woman obsessed with fitting into her grandmother's dress (more about this in an upcoming post!) You can hear the whole show here.

I think both the show and Kurt are brilliant, so I was really baffled that Girl Culture only took up part of the broadcast. Could the producers not find even an hour's worth of stories on the lives of girls? C'mon - they managed to do a whole hour on Moby Dick!