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On the patriarchal side, there’s this idea of the body belonging to the community. Virginity is an interesting example of this because the woman is seen as a marker of family boundaries, a symbol of the community. She’s viewed as both the source of the literal, as well as, in the more figurative sense, the source of the continuity of the community. That sounds like a privileged status, but in fact what evolves from that is the notion that she needs to be under the control of men — of fathers, of husbands, of brothers. The stress on virginity reflects the imperatives of the larger society: promising society’s continuity through marriage and children. So the woman’s consent is irrelevant, since her purpose transcends herself.
David Jacobson, at Salon, here.
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