There’s a gap in the article for me – babies and children.
A woman can maintain her independence and behave like a man if that’s what she wants, or feels impelled to do, if she remains a virgin.
Mary Harrington frames the situation as between being either sexually available or sexually out of bounds – a virgin. That is entirely valid considering our time, but we should’nt lose sight of what sexual intercourse brings about, sooner or later, for most women – babies.
In the 20th/21st centuries sexual reproduction can be technically or medically prevented or halted, so that sex has become a bit different now to what it was for hundreds of thousands of years prior. It is that technological progress that has created the conditions that Mary discusses, the situation we are in today – feminist ideology/angst, trans, queer theory etc.
But still I think it is worth reminding ourselves what sex leads to – the actual physical future of the human race.
Impossible to write a short article on such a densely connected topic without many gaps. But youre right of course. A Spengerlian conservative (but correct IMO) take might be that compared to men, women less often feel the need to make a big impact on the great course of life, because they *are* Life. And women are Life in a sense that men are not due to motherhood and children. I think Mary’s alive to neglect of motherhood and how its less honoured by modern culture as she’s made a few tangential comments on it. But I dont recall seeing a dedicated article on it. Would be good to read one.
Have often thought that. A woman can create a child. A bloke, unable to do so, sublimates his de facto (and arguably un-recognised) womb envy into e.g. writing etc.
Frank, a woman does not create, she conceives the male sperm. Fundamental difference.
She conceives WitH the male Sperm.
Small note…I’m guessing you mean Spenglerian not Spengerlian…as in the historian, Oswald Spengler. (Easy to do when those fingers are flying!)
But as soon as they have children, historic women tend to achieve agency through the children as heirs, not for themselves as individuals. So it’s not valid to include it in this analysis.
Another other great female warrior in European history was Boudicca for whom the rape of her two daughters was the spur to become a tribe leader and general. Jeanne d’Arc wasn’t the only one, though I expect it’s only a matter of time before Boudicca becomes ‘enby’ too.
For that we have the Blessed Virgin Mary though as a model. You can lose your virginity with the purpose of become a mother and have the babies and after that remain chaste and unavailable and she is the most powerful woman in the world so it can be done that way too.
Except Mary had several children. What do you mean by ‘after that remain chaste’?
Female incels for the win! Sorry, let me be more serious. Isnt virginity being queered as asexuality by a millennial generation that is more screen bound, diffident in its body and by many accounts, put off by sex?
modern virgins are more of a puzzel
I’m always a fan of Mary’s but think this is rather overblown. Joan of Arc and Elizabeth 1 are two examples of powerful women exercising agency. There are many, many more, from Boudicca to Thatcher, who didn’t need to remain virgins.
Still, we do need more non binary Joans … if only to staff the RAF.
We overblow, completely, ‘agency’ as exercised in the political/economic world and ignore, completely, everything else. Heck my great-grandmother ‘exercised agency’ constantly…as did everyone’s great, great, great grandmothers. To be an adult in the world is to exercise agency.
That Elizabeth did it as a Queen (as a lucky function of heredity) does not imbue her own agency with any more moral significance than Great Great Great Grandma Helen. But yes, as Queen, her decisions had a much greater ripple effect (at least a more obvious ripple effect).
The truth is — as per Bradbury’s classic story, “A Sound of Thunder” — we do not know and cannot calculate the impact of anyone’s Great Great Great Great Great Great Great…on to the 100th generation….Grandma’s agency. We can only marvel at the ‘flapping of a butterfly’s wings’.
As for Virginity? Thank God our Great Great Great Grandmas felt differently!
It was not always the case that warrior women were envisaged as sexually unavaiable (or virgins), Æthelflæd, Alfred’s daughter and “Lady of the Mercians” was a warrior “queen”, and a wife and mother, and she was held in high regard both during her life time and afterwards.
Are historians certain that Aethelflaed rode at the head of her army and actually fought in battle ?
Or is it more likely that as with Margaret of Anjou her leadership was spiritual and political ?
I think there may be some wishful thinking going on amongst feminists with regard to people like Aetheflaed, the Alice Roberts effect I think of it as.
It’s a pity really because Aethelflaed probably was a wonderfully charismatic leader, but safely, from behind the lines. Why do feminists feel the need to imagine great women as masculine and that that masculinity somehow makes them more admirable ?
I don’t know about Æthelflæd, but Queen Tamara of Georgia (St. Tamara to us Orthodox Christian) is recorded as having ridden into battle at the head of her army, being addressed as “king and judge”, and being twice married, giving birth to her successor (and his successor). She was evidently quite successful as a military leader, as many of the warlike Muslim hill tribes around Georgia converted to Orthodox Christianity after being impressed by their defeat at the hands of a female-led Christian army.
Interesting. Where is it “recorded” ?
The Encyclopaedia of World History, https://worldhistory.org/Queen_Tamar/ tells us that David Soslan led her army into battle, it does’nt say anything about her going into battle herself.
David Soslan (Tamara’s husband),
Yes. Especially where ancient and medieval battle is concerned. You might see it as admirable that someone could screw up their courage and jump right in, but that’s not the half of it. One would be required to kill, at very close quarters, in the most brutal ways imaginable. It’s hard to see how someone could without conjuring a rage so overwhelming as to be genuinely psychotic.
Not very admirable.
Oh dear, I did’nt mean that. I definitely admire great warriors and fighting men, Alfred the Great, John of Gaunt, Henry IV and V, Nelson, Wellington and all our soldiers, providing they’re fighting on my side for a cause I believe in !
I also admire Boudicca and sympathise with her fury and outrage.
And Joan of Arc.
What I don’t like is when feminists and TV historians try to turn historical figures like Aethelflaed, who were admirable in their own way (as far as I know there is no hard evidence that she led her army into battle) and pretend that she was more masculine than she probably was.
What you say about the brutality of hand to hand fighting is absolutely true, which makes it extremely unlikely that a woman would have lasted more than two minutes. The weapons were seriously heavy, it was unbelievably violent and bl**dy.
Why can’t they admire women as they are, or were, without turning them into pseudo men ?
I know the answer I think, but that’s politics and another story.
I replied to you yesterday explaining that you have misunderstood my comment a bit but it has disappeared, I’m hoping it will reappear again once the moderators get in tomorrow, there’s nothing bad about it.
The jury’s still out, but there is some evidence that she did actually ride with the fyrd.
Why do feminists feel the need to imagine great women as masculine and that that masculinity somehow makes them more admirable ?
This comment I heartily agree with. It’s rather anti-woman in some ways to praise all that is masculine and sneer at all that in feminine. I’ve got into many arguments about this with feminist friends, I think I actually changed the minds of a few.
Wonderfully brought to life in Bernard Cornwall’s series about Uhtred of Bebbanberg
I think Joan was a French heroine, a saint, and shouldn’t be meddled with. G.B. Shaw portrayed her well, and accurately, drawing on the actual records of her trial. Anything else is purely fantasy, or in the case of Michele Terry, fraudulence.
I’ve been to Rouen, where Joan died. Her condemning judge was named ‘Cochon’. There are also reports tahat Joan was raped by her jailers. It was a sad affair, and Mr. W.S. should have been ashamed of himself.
Joan of Arc, RIP, ’nuff said.
Surely Joan was just a ‘tom-boy’?
“It is the only form of specifically female power that’s truly culturally off-limits today: virginity.”
And is a virtue, literally, showing/needing great strength of character to maintain?
Historians have pointed out that Joan of Arc always called herself “the maiden” (“la pucelle”) as her standard moniker, which would seem to indicate a female identity beyond any reasonable doubt; and several eyewitnesses at her trial said she continued wearing soldier’s clothing (the so-called “male clothing” which supposedly makes her “non-binary”) in prison so she could keep it “firmly laced and tied” to prevent her guards from pulling her clothing off when they tried to rape her. The bailiff, Jehan Massieu, said they finally maneuvered her into a “relapse” by taking away her dress and forcing her to put the soldier’s clothing back on, then the judge condemned her; but the Globe Theatre’s staff claim that this somehow means that she was willing to die for male clothing. This flatly ignores the dishonest methods that were used to manipulate her into a situation where they would have a pretext for killing her. She was convicted by a tribunal which is proven by English government records to have been composed entirely of collaborators who supported the English occupation, and dozens of eyewitnesses later said the tribunal deliberately falsified the trial transcript and convicted her on false charges. The idea that she “transgressed gender norms” is based on a number of misconceptions: she said she didn’t fight in combat, and we know from the records that she didn’t lead directly. She was a religious visionary in an era when there were many women in that role. She was not “androgynous” as the play presents her: eyewitnesses described her as “beautiful and shapely”, and her hair wasn’t nearly as short as it has been made out to be (the trial transcript claims it was cut at ear level even after a year in prison, which presents a physical impossibility since prisoners were never allowed sharp tools and her hair therefore would have grown out by at least five inches during that time; therefore this part of the transcript was likely falsified along with so many other parts).
Whether we like it or not, men have evolved with a strong tendency to want to have sex with fertile women. The urge itself is not moral or calculated. Like all evolved traits, it must in some way be responsible for the success of the species – ensuring that we have as many babies as possible. The urge can be suppressed but it cannot be turned off. Many of the objectionable patriarchal policies of the past are designed around this – keep women out of public life because they distract the men. In Muslim countries, the covering up of women is to remove the temptation they create, and all the antisocial behaviour that tends to follow. There are all sorts of problems with these approaches, but the western excessive use of ‘shame’ to control men has lots of problems too. Clearly we must suppress it, and suppress it hard, but sometimes I do get a bit tired of apologizing for something that is a feature of our species, and not a bug.
It’s called testosterone. And together with amygdala and hypothalamus 3x larger than females, directly connected to the optic nerve, it means our sexual response happens at 1/5 the speed of a conscious thought. This the root of male desire and treating women as objects. It is hard wired biology and feminists can’t get their heads around it.
You mean, I suspect 5X the speed of conscious thought. As in…if conscious thought moves at 10mph….subconscious, reaction occurs at 50mph.
Actually there’s some significant indication that the difference is much more extreme than that. “The subconscious mind can process 20,000,000 bits of info per second. The conscious mind can only process 40 bits of info/sec. So the subconscious mind can process 500,000 time more what the conscious mind is able to. This according to information from The Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton. There is no formal agreement on how fast is the subconscious mind. For example, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at at roughly 10 million bits per second. Another study suggests that the subconscious mind processes about 400 billion bits of information per second and the impulses travel at a speed of up to 100,000 mph! Compare this to your conscious mind, which processes only about 2,000 bits of information per second and its impulses travel only at 100-150 mph. We have 50 trillion cells in our body performing trillions of processes – so an enormous processing power is required. Another take: only about 0.01% of all the brain’s activity is experienced consciously. In other words, it is as if roughly 10’000 cinema films are actually going on in the brain all at once, while we are only consciously aware of one of them. ”
Googling leads to multiple answers but all consistently indicate radical speed differences between conscious consideration and sheer, subconscious reaction.
I can live with a Joan portrayed as non-binary (though I am not sure quite how that plays out for someone like her – how do you know? Does she keep on shouting “I refuse to conform to gender stereotypes”?) and I can live with her (sorry, them) having they/their pronouns, but it is it not inconsistent when going for the total shock package to have the character played by someone whose skin is so pale? I think that offends my woke sensibilities (as I have now learned from the BBC in particular that the non-white population of this island was for many years significant.)
Casting that particular character as they have is clearly an embodiment of white privilege, and thereby an endorsement of the patriarchy.
And while on the subject, how many of the cast are disabled (sorry – differently-abled.)? Why so few?
Looking back from a great age, I do indeed regret not spending more time on developing my own potential. But I had babies and wanted sex. Was it culture driven? No, I think it was down to hardwired instinct.
Maybe you developed your potential in the most amazing and long lasting way. It will be for me as a father, even more so for a mother.
“Even today, a young woman simply existing in a public space seems enough to prompt … men to look past whatever she’s trying to do and focus on trying to shag what she is. But the problem is an ancient one — and acutely difficult to navigate if you’re female and want to get anything done.”
This is a problem?
If so it’s a problem for both sexes.
Let us imagine ‘a young man, in a public space, trying to get something done, only to find himself distracted by that same, sweet, young thing. The man, of course, can get his butt fired if he doesn’t ‘navigate’ this problem of attraction with the diplomatic verve of a Talleyrand and the sacred reticence of a saint. But really, why is any of this a problem?
Why do we define human desire, the natural attraction between the sexes, the biological imperative we all feel… why do we see all that as some sort of massive hurdle which somehow interferes with …what, exactly?
We describe life in the workplace as Widget Making. And if not making, as Widget Counting, Widget Tracking, Widget Pricing, and Widget Selling. It’s hard to imagine that in any kind of Life Priority Listing that Widget Anything ranks higher than Love…. that finishing my Inventory Report and becoming more Widget Efficient is more profound than Family.
Ms. Harrington notes, with some accuracy, that these initial cross-room glances are focused on ‘what she is’ rather than ‘who’…but isn’t that a given? When neither knows the Other at any place or time isn’t attraction ALWAYS a function of WHAT rather than WHO? Of course it is. And equally it’s a function of maybe…as in maybe she’s The One. Maybe. So maybe distraction is a microscopically small price to pay.
The point is, Life is all of that. Life does not segregate and separate and define itself in task-specific time blocks, no. Life is messy; life is fast; things change; people come & go. And if we, in some miscalculated urge to Widget Boost turn our back on what Desire might do …”what the tide might bring”….we are selling ourselves way short of who indeed we might become.
I don’t want to do that, do you?
Great read as ever. Though the unqualified title question on ‘do virgins get more done?’ may be incendiary to some focussed on the fact that broadly speaking, the opposite is the case, at least for men. Enforced virginity has all kinds of severely disruptive influences, as the Incels know too well.
That said, I think for centuries it used to be well understood (if largely esoteric) wisdom that virgins achieve more- at least in certain fields (such as religion, scholarship & various artistic / creative endeavours) – and also providing the individual is able to successfully sublimate. Freud formalised such thinking with his theory of sublimation, where he stated that the ability to suppress drives like libido & redirect the energy into undertakings like artistic production was nothing less than the source of human civilisation and creativity.
While Freud succeeded in populating the idea of sublimation, by the end of the 20th century he was also in part responsible for discrediting it – in part due to some of the fantastical detail he introduced. Like in his view, women are much less able to sublimate than men due to anatomical differences making them much less able to control fire by relieving themselves! The 90s were a key decade for this in some respects. Studies came out purporting to show sublimation was not a thing – even in the more trivial senses. E.g. it used to be common wisdom that football players ought not to have sex the night before a football match. I remember even national team managers saying that on TV, and the older player sused to tell me & the other kids that in our local Sunday league team. But then said studies became widely known it became unfashionable for managers to keep enforcing the no sex rule. A few decades later in 2011 there was a higher quality study showing that sublimation was in fact a thing, but that got much less publicity, and there has been little follow up in academia. The ‘NoFap’ internet movement has reintroduced sublimation to popular mindset, though Im not sure its methods & symbols are anywhere near as effective as those that highly productive men used to benefit from in ages past.
As to the assertion that virginity can be much more helpful to women – at least to those few driven to try to have a major impact on society at large – as the article makes clear that is much more a result of social prejudices against sexually available women. I cant think of any counter examples to Mary’s suggestion that such anti female discrimination is universal across the ages & across cultures.
Annoyingly, in the last few weeks there’s been quite a bit of buzz that even the benefits attractive women obtain from being seen as sexually unavailable is increasingly a double edged sword for quite a few. E.g. watch the “a perspective on female loneliness.” youtube by good Dr K. Kind of an inverse pretty privilege. To top it all off, I’ve been noticing recently that society seems to be losing one of the centuries old mitigations for such structural injustices against women. Namely, broad sense chivalry. I recall back in the 90s, feminist arguments against “benevolent sexism” became quite prominent in some academic circles, but out in the real world I think most of us benevolent sexists just ignored them (knowing that benevolent sexists are generally preferred by regular women). But where feminists have failed, the nanosphere seems to be succeeding. Their idea that any form of chivalry towards women is “cucked” seems to have permeated across all the big internet platforms. I’ve recently distressed by even a young fellow labour party member telling me some of my thinking is cucked – as he’s at least a chadlite, not someone who has any excuse for bitterness towards women. Bah!
Ah cucks and Chadlites. The lingua franca of the party that used to worry about poor people.
As I look with despair at the farce of the Tory leadership contest, it’s good to be reminded that things could be worse.
Not sure if you’re being ironic? I’ve never heard anyone else in Labour say ‘Chadlite’ (though admittedly I’ve been mostly inactive in the party since Sir Keir took over.) ‘Chadlite’ is incel talk, Im 99% sure they originated the term. While I’ve not heard anyone say it in Labour, it’s slowly permeating into mainstream usage. I use it as I’ve some sympathy with Incels and think their blackpill worldview has considerable explanatory power (though also profoundly and dangerously wrong in some respects.)
“Cucked” was populated by the wider manosphere, who even more so than the incels, generally lean alt right. “Cucked” has sadly became much more popular in the mainstream than the mostly harmless Brad / Chad Becky / Stacy distinction, and yes is used sometimes even in Labour, but it’s far more popular in young right leaning & apolitical circles than within the left.
Snideness looking for anything to hang its cap on
I looked up “chadlite” and it turns out to be one term in an elaborate naming scheme cooked up by (as Adam Bartlett points out) incels and detailed at https://incels.wiki/w/Chadlite and many other pages on that incels.wiki site.
Interesting and amusing though it all is, I’m slightly puzzled why incels should bother expounding in such detail so many varieties and gradations of people who are not incels. As philosopher Sir Francis Bacon asked in his essay on atheists “.. if they did truly think that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves?”
Eunuchs are just as power hungry as men. Case dismissed!
Shouldn’t it be Zi, Joan?
The title of this article might also apply to men.
Step forward, Giggsy
I was thinking about eunuchs who often had important positions in the civil service of the Byzantine Empire and I think in China too. No distractions from women, to slightly change the subtitle of this piece.
Bingo! Argument totally undermined Steve!
Yeah, I did think we might apply it to modern male politicians. Like if you want to go into politics study PPE at Oxford and get castrated.
“But it’s also true that — as Globe artistic director Michelle Terry argued in response to the uproar — reimagining and even fabricating history for new audiences is a noble tradition, with Shakespeare himself a leading exponent of the art.”
It was also once a tradition that women stayed in the home while men went out to work. Why did we get rid of that, and what did we say to those who objected at the time on the basis of preserving tradition?
You make an interesting and useful point, John, even though no one else agrees with you so far. There’s nothing inherently good about either tradition or “re-imagined” history (whether in the form of literary criticism or that of historiography).
For at least 2,500 years, “re-imagining” the past has been a rabbinic method of interpreting scriptural stories, sometimes for political purposes and sometimes for homiletic, mystical or other purposes–sometimes in very fanciful ways that even contradict the literal meanings of texts. This method has several names or contexts, including midrash and agadah. Not every example would edify modern readers, not even Jewish ones. Others, such as the “gay” love between David and Jonathan, edify some groups at the cost of communal division. Christians have “re-imagined” the same texts to show that the Old Testament “prefigures” the New. On the other hand, some of these efforts promoted not only Christianity but also anti-Judaism. The Nazis, too, “re-imagined” literature (including Shakespeare) and re-wrote both history (using Teutonic history to legitimate their own brutality) and theology (Christ as an “Aryan”) to suit themselves. So have the advocates of other ideologies on both the Right and the Left, including feminism and wokism. I find it necessary to evaluate this phenomenon, case by case, on the ground of moral philosophy, not on political or ideological expediency.
Moreover, I worry about the clear link between “re-imagining” the past and “deconstructing it.” I’m referring to the postmodernist tendency to bypass the search for historical accuracy as an illusory and “oppressive” endeavor–as if learning about the past, or about anything else, were not an end in itself but only the means to some political, literary or commercial end.
This stopped me short.
Even today, a young woman simply existing in a public space seems enough to prompt (at least some) men to look past whatever she’s trying to do and focus on trying to shag what she is.
“…what she is”? As a “young woman”? Why not use “her”? Perhaps an examination of the nature of objectification might be necessary as not merely an act of ultimate reducibility.
And why emphasise “at least some men to look past”. What about other men and their alternatives such as not looking past and trying to shag or fantasising to shag?
Mary seems there to be expressing the contemporary problem some young women have with male desire today, as if it is fundamentally unacceptable, even beastly (always could become so potentially if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person).
It appears that it has become more difficult to cope with as the behaviour of both sexes in the West has become ever more free. We got rid of the rules and the polite codes of conduct – so old-fashioned, women are equal to men etc, but that has gone too far for comfort, girls and young women are discovering that in fact they would prefer more restraint, better manners, more protection after all.
We are going to have to row back somehow.
What got me about that section is the idea that women are much more fickle about who they want to copulate with. I would argue that while there are women with standards there are also women who say “oh but he is gorgeous though” when referring to guys who are known to be horribly abusive towards women. And let’s not forget the women who send love letters/fan mail to the imprisoned Lost Prophets singer and the lesbians who are currently sending similar to the convicted killer of Star Hobson!
what about all those virgins in heaven for those lucky suicide bombers?
Nobody ever seems to have wondered if the virgins themselves are happy to pop their cherry with the sort of idiot who is stupid enough to believe such a thing.
I wonder if Joan’s story was kept perfectly intact over the last 600 years. We can’t even keep one going for a week in these days of electronic communication.
Philosophical discussions are always interesting, In that, they ignore the burgeoning reality of the day. it is a distraction and a convenience to hide from life’s today happenings. Only the slave and elite populations have the luxury of time to devote to such balderdash and ruminate upon esoteric concepts. I severely doubt the Ukrainian/Russian or even Fins and Swedes… with death and destruction at their doorsteps are debating biology vs virginity or abstinence. Really, at least Joan might have had a reason and devotion you don’t understand after centuries of reputation manipulation.
To create a Quote from the great minds of the past. “Really, you think you know?.”
Again I am denied the right to show my enthusiasm with a simple click. Why is there no “Like” button? But no, both you and I are condemned to go through this ritual:
“Yes, this is a brilliant essay in response to fundamental questions to which this pusillanimous comment adds nothing”.
How dare you problematize my crush on you
ut Elizabeth never married, and — like Joan — instead made virginity a key part of her personal brand.
Virginity. Riiiight…..She had many favourites, and if they stepped out of line or were likely to blab, she had them topped.