AMSA Board Member Co-Edits Book on Cultural Definitions of Virginity
American Men’s Studies Association Board Member Jonathan Allan, Canada Research Chair in Queer Theory and Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Brandon University, has co-edited his second book entitled Virgin Envy: The (In)Significance of the Hymen. The book was published this month by the University of Regina Press.
His co-editors are Cristina Santos, Associate Professor at Brock University, and Adriana Spahr,Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.
Virgin Envy sets out to re-conceive the ways that we describe and relate to virginity as a cultural construct. Zed Books describes it as follows:
Virginity is of concern here, that is its utter messiness. At once valuable and detrimental, normative and deviant, undesirable and enviable. Virginity and its loss hold tremendous cultural significance. For many, female virginity is still a universally accepted condition, something that is somehow bound to the hymen, whereas male virginity is almost as elusive as the G-spot: we know it’s there, it’s just we have a harder time finding it.
Of course boys are virgins, queers are virgins, some people reclaim their virginities, and others reject virginity from the get go. So what if we agree to forget the hymen all together? Might we start to see the instability of terms like untouched, pure, or innocent? Might we question the act of sex, the very notion of relational sexuality? After all, for many people it is the sexual acts they don’t do, or don’t want to do, that carry the most abundant emotional clout.Virgin Envy is a collection of essays that look past the vestal virgins and beyond Joan of Arc. From medieval to present-day literature, the output of HBO, Bollywood, and the films of Abdellah Taïa or Derek Jarman to the virginity testing of politically active women in Tahrir Square, the writers here explore the concept of virginity in today’s world to show that ultimately virginity is a site around which our most basic beliefs about sexuality are confronted, and from which we can come to understand some of our most basic anxieties, paranoias, fears, and desires.
Chapters also analyze men and virginity.
Allan’s previous book was Reading from Behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus.