I’m a fan of Taslima Nastreen’s writing and of her perspectives on a great many topics, so when I saw that she had written about a recent mass virginity test that took place prior to a mass wedding in India (not to be confused with a mass Purity Test, which takes place in many college dorms), I was intrigued. The notion of 350 brides being inspected for previous signs of sexual intercourse is so barbaric to me, but I am one of those morally compromised souls who doesn’t care a lick if the woman I love had sexual relations prior to my affections.
For the most part, I enjoyed, until at the end when she (I hope accidentally) implied that all men (rather than some men) enjoyed making a woman bleed. However, one of the comments on the piece really set me off. A man named Anil attempted to defend the institution of virginity testing, and I found his perspective entirely disturbing. I suggest you read the piece and the comment, but the gist of his point is that a man should know what he’s getting, since he’s really only marrying a woman for baby making.
First off, women aren’t just for baby making. Even in India, one would have to hope that fertility isn’t the sole reason for marrying a woman. There’s all kinds much more important reasons that one might want to get married, and far more considerations that go into choosing a spouse than the simply capability of making a baby grow in her tummy. And I’m willing to admit that this may be another case of the Westerner with his Western Values and his Western Ideals and his Western Music thinking that marriage is about much more than having a place to throw your baby seeds, but since I’m also quite right in this opinion, I’m content.
A marriage should be about love. But that’s not the way the entire world does things, so I’m willing to concede that point. A marriage should, however, be more than just the arranging of a seed receptacle. As a man, if I was in a situation where I needed to marry, I would want to know the person I am marrying. Does she intrigue me? Is she pretty? Does she click her jaw when she talks? Does she have personal opinions that mesh or clash with mine? Will she like me? Will she be the person I can spend the rest of my life with in contentment? I don’t know anything about How It’s Done in the case of a marriage in India, but I can’t help but assuming that a man would have questions about that. Before I hitched myself to this person, I would want to know the answers to these and a myriad more questions.
But then, I have to wonder what happens if you just don’t care. If she is nothing more than a human oven and your culture is such that unfortunate conflicts between man and woman go to the man, then I suppose these questions really don’t matter. So what if she thinks differently than me, so long as I am the man and can tell her how stuff goes. But the thought of that disparity in a marriage is alien to me, and thoroughly disgusting. But I was definitely raised here by people who loved one another. I cannot possibly relate with that perspective.
But that’s not the only thing with this comment, though it does admittedly permeate throughout. What gives me the shivers about this is the mistrust and fear that the author considers utterly normal. Obviously, if the woman you marry is not a virgin, she’s just going to potentially spend the rest of the marriage having sex with her old partners. A virgin wife, admittedly, cannot cheat in that way because she simply has no prior partners. But does that mean that she cannot cheat? Of course not. That’s just stupid. But the argument is that if he KNOWS she’s a dirty whore who’s had sex before, he will have no choice but to treat her worse. Disgusting.
He argues, then, that the woman should be a virgin, and that the man should give her property rights. That sounds almost like we’re scraping up to a bit of modern thinking, but don’t you worry, he blows it. You see, if she has given her virginity away before the marriage then she should obviously be marrying that dude, right? Otherwise, the two of them are just garbage and will have miserable, pathetic lives. Duh. But if she’s not a virgin, that should make the man want to give her support if and when he divorces her! You know, rather than attacking the problem of women not being able to support themselves, just make sure that when he no longer sexually desires her, he has to pay some kind of maintenance for her.
Now, to be fair, I pay maintenance both for my ex-wife and my children, and I pay an awful lot. That’s my responsibility, and it’s one that I don’t complain about. In fact, it was the first matter I engaged the discussion in when we split up, because I wanted to ensure that she didn’t have the financial fear hanging over her head. It was and is the right thing to do, and I’m glad I did. When two people divorce and one is the primary breadwinner, it’s only fair that the other gets some manner of assistance in surviving, especially in a culture where a woman has so few rights and freedoms. But why would strings be attached? I do not understand.
I also find it fairly telling that nobody is considering some manner of test of the man’s sexual history. Anil explains this because the woman is moving into the man’s house and sharing his stuff, and that if a man were moving into a woman’s house and sharing her stuff, it just makes sense he would be the one degraded. Of course, that is a stupid argument. Even in this grotesquely utilitarian baby making marriage, the woman has just as much at stake as the man. All those questions I asked earlier (and the myriad more)? She has those, too. And if she’s in the marriage, and as much right to fear adultery, to worry about the future.
Honestly, I just find it ghastly to think that any marriage like this would be allowed amongst social animals that think thinky thoughts. Again, back to my opinionated Western brain failing to embrace what I consider to be a deeply creepy perspective. I suppose I’m lucky to live in the West. I don’t want a virgin. I don’t want more children. The woman I love captivates me for so very many reasons, and I “brought her into my house” (not married, but living together) with great joy. Her past sexual exploits do not cheapen her any more than mine do. Okay, mine might a little bit more than hers, as I have made some very poor choices at times.
My own thoughts on the matter are simple. Marriage should be about wanting to be with someone for the rest of your life. If their value to you is merely their theoretical ability to procreate with you (notice that there was no testing the fertility of both parties) then they will become worthless in time. Marriage should also be a joint trust, where it is assumed that the other partner isn’t out bird-dogging around. And most importantly, marriage should never be about owning another person. But that’s just me.