Virginity Obsession

I just read this very insightful analysis of the obsession with female virginity in YA literature. It isn’t just YA literature that is obsessed with this topic either. The entire genre of romance and erotica shares this fixation. So why does that happen? Why is there such an obsessive interest in the mythical hymen that most women do not even possess?

Given that women constitute the majority of readers interested in these books, we have to conclude that women, not men, are the ones obsessed with female virginity*. The reason for that, I believe, is how unhappy most women are with their sex lives. Many women trade sexual desire for an opportunity to be in a relationship with a great guy who suits them in every aspect except sexually.

The obsessive return to the topic of virginity is, for these women, an opportunity to go back to the beginning of their sex lives in search of the moment where it all went wrong. They have a vague feeling that somehow sexuality does not work for them the way it should. The repetitive return to the origins of that misery is an attempt to engage in a symbolic recreation of their own first sexual experience in the hopes that a “perfect” loss of virginity would result in a great sex life.

Of course, this project never works. Once the patriarchal conditioning that prevents a free and happy exercise of female sexuality is put in place, once the relational and / or sacrificial model of sexuality is adopted, only a massive amount of hard work will enable a woman to get rid of these impediments.

Replaying one’s first sexual encounter and attempting to create a fantasy in its place will not help. On her road to sexual liberation, a woman needs to go much earlier in time to find the moment when her physiology was taken hostage by the patriarchal conditioning.

* I’m talking exclusively about the developed Western societies in this post.

My New Course on Spanish Culture

I’m teaching all new courses next year which makes me really happy. There are few things I enjoy more than developing new courses. One of them will be “Culture of Contemporary Spain.” This is how I decided to structure the course.

It will be broken up into eight segments:

  1. History.
  2. Literature.
  3. Film.
  4. Politics.
  5. Languages.
  6. Nationalisms.
  7. Economy.
  8. Music.

As we go through these subjects, we will read (the course is conducted in Spanish, of course):

a) Poetry by:

  • Juan Ramon Jimenez. I don’t like him all that much but he is an absolute smashing success with students. For some reason, they can’t get enough of JRJ, so I teach him to make them happy.
  • Federico Garcia Lorca. I’ve been reading so much criticism by Jonathan Mayhew that teaching Lorca has become unavoidable. I have never taught this poet before and I have no idea how the students will like him.
  • Maria Victoria Atencia. Another poet that students adore. I already know that half of the final essays in the course will be on her poetry.
  • Jose Angel Valente. I’m still working on the selection.

There is space for a couple more poets in the course, so any suggestions are welcome.

b) Prose by:

  • Almudena Grandes. We will read a selection from her most recent novel.
  • Carmen Martin Gaite.
  • Ana María Matute.
  • Antonio Muñoz Molina. We will read an article of his on how we should not allow religious fanatics to shut us up. It will fall right before the elections, too. Hee hee hee.
  • Espido Freire.

I’m still looking for at least three more authors. I’m thinking, maybe something by Javier Marias. He’s hugely popular, and I’d like the students to know who he is.

You have no idea how hard it is for me to choose just a few from all the amazing writers I know.

We will also watch two films:

This seems like an unorthodox choice, given that both films are by the same director, Fernando León de Aranoa. But what can I do if he’s the only director in Spain who makes works of art today instead of producing Hollywood-style trash? Of course, we could watch Pan’s Labyrinth, like everybody else does, but how boring is that? Also, Aranoa’s films work perfectly with my course material. Mondays in the Sun features Javier Bardem when he was still a good actor, not a Hollywood lap dog.

I still haven’t started working on the music section of the course. I will only have 4 lecture days to deal with music, so this needs to be planned carefully. Any suggestions?

I’m sorry if this post is boring. I find it helpful to list these things here to assist me in my planning. Somehow, things don’t seem just as real until I see them in the format of a blog post.

If it seems like I’m missing something, or if things don’t make a lot of sense, feel free to comment.

I’m shaking in anticipation because of how much I want to teach this course. This will be a fantastic experience. No PowerPoints will appear in the vicinity of the classroom. Not a word of English will be spoken. We will do tons of writing. Oh the joy, the happiness of a new course!

Thinking About the Economy: Who’s Stupid Now?

How is one supposed to understand anything about the economy, if most things published on the subject are egregiously unintelligent. See, for instance, this article titled “It’s stupid economists, people.” I don’t know if economists are stupid, but the author of this article definitely is.

The article’s author, who obviously has no understanding of the post-Soviet economies, chooses to pontificate about them:

After the fall of communism, for instance, many economists urged the leaders of the formerly planned economies to switch to market-based economies in one big bang. Since few people knew how to behave in a market economy, it was a disaster.

Within a very short period of time, the post-Soviet people learned, however. Today, just 21 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, there are functioning market economies in the FSU countries. Things are not perfect but the level of economic well-being has soared compared to what was in existence in 1990. Russia, for instance, has weathered the global economic crisis quite well. Ukraine, with its 300+ years of brutal colonial domination, is not doing quite well. Still, I can’t think of a single person I know back home whose economic well-being has not improved dramatically in the past 20 years.

The article suggests that it would have been a better idea to avoid the shock therapy in the FSU countries and, instead, drag out the transition period forever. Yeah, tell that to the people who only have one life to live. Living in a state of transitional uncertainty is very stressful to the majority of people. We went through a couple of bad years when I was in my late teens. But if that period had been extended to a few decades, I can’t see what I would have gained by being 40 instead of 20 when the economy started going back into a working mode.

An attempt to introduce elements of the market economy slowly and make them coexist with Socialist economic mechanisms was made by Gorbachev in the late eighties. This attempt was a resounding failure since the market economy was so much more robust and attractive that it literally exploded the Soviet economic structure from within.

It would be great if the author of the article learned a few things about that before pontificating.

After making these uninformed statements about the post-Soviet countries, the article’s author trots out the old and tired myth about how it is possible to make collective ownership work because, if one looks hard enough, one might find a couple of instances of it possibly working in Nepal and Maine. The journalist seems to recognize that you need to “comb the world” to find something as unnatural and unusual as a successful collective ownership of anything, yet it does not prevent him from cheering on a system of ownership  that, I’m fairly certain, he would not have tolerated for two days in his own life.