Virgins (3 stars)

Virgins

Anke Bernau

In these enlightened days, discussions about virginity are spread freely across many areas of life from the school playgrounds of the world to the policy departments of the Republican Party. But it wasn’t always this way. In this lively book from Anke Bernau, a Germany-born, UK-bred medieval literature lecturer at the University of Manchester, we learn that not only was chastity a virtue often spoken of in hushed tones down the centuries, but when it was finally aired as a zone for debate, none of the ancient philosophers seemed to quite know how to define it: is virginity a state of mind or a physical condition?

Bernau is interested mainly in the feminine side of virginity and issues revolving around the hymen, rape and female circumcision dominate but arguably narrow down the focus. Perhaps she is brewing a sequel on the chasteness of malehood.

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