While virginity has become an almost obsolete concept in modern Western society, many cultures still uphold the basic values of pre-marital chastity. Some believe that the freedom to explore sex before marriage results in a healthier and more well-adjusted individual. Others, predominantly based on religious beliefs, feel that virginity must be retained and held sacred.
The Catholic Church is probably one of the staunchest advocates of virginity. Catholic teachings hold that young girls are in essence daughters of the Virgin Mary and as such should measure themselves against this most pristine and chaste of all women. While sex is allowed after a woman has entered into the sacrament of marriage, and married women are viewed with respect and approval, those who remain virgins their entire life are still considered of higher status within the Catholic community. Besides the Virgin Mary, there are other symbolisms used by the Catholic Church to justify the importance of virginity such as the canonization of St. Maria Goretti who died while fighting off a rapist.
In ancient times, the Catholic Church would often impose cruel punishments on women who became unchaste out of wedlock. While these practices are longer endorsed or condoned by the church, there are still many cultures where non-virgins face grave consequences. In countries that follow Hinduism for example, chastity is considered a crucial virtue for all women not only before they get married, but also after their husband's death. In Hindu culture if a woman's husband dies, the widow, who is no longer a virgin, is not considered suitable to wed another person. As such she becomes something of an aberration to society. Traditionally a women in this position would commit what is called "Sati", the custom that prescribes the wife throw herself onto the flames of her husbands funeral fire. This tradition is supposedly an affirmation of her faith to her husband and honor as a wife.
While this horrible practice is now outlawed in India, there still exists a strong fundamentalist movement to bring these traditions back. Nevertheless, premarital chastity is still a highly treasured virtue in Hinduism today. The same holds true in Islamic culture where Muslim brides are required to remain chaste until the night of their wedding. According to Islamic teachings, the hymen was created by Allah to serve the function of validating a woman's chasteness before she is allowed to engage in sex after marriage. Their beliefs dictate that the hymen exists solely to remind women that having sexual relations outside of marriage is unclean and a perversion of a holy act. Islam holds bodily cleanliness in high regard and believes that it should be, above all, protected and upheld.
While the above mentioned cultures maintain the importance of remaining virginal before marriage, most Western societies have evolved to hold personal freedoms in the highest regard. This modern belief essentially leaves the decision to engage in sexual intercourse before marriage up to the individual's own discretion.
Posted by PRS
Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
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