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I love Hanne Blank, and I loved this book. For those afraid of exercise this really takes the sting out of the gym. It also rarely uses the "E" word instead encouraging you to think about it in terms of moving instead.
Perhaps not as helpful is you already have an exercise regime, but a great read nonetheless
kimlovesstuff | 2 outras críticas | Dec 31, 2023 |
This is a surprising book full of things you thought you knew.
villyard | 7 outras críticas | Dec 6, 2022 |
I regularly give nonfiction three-star ratings. I don't read a lot of it. The two stars is because of how this book was written and edited. Trigger warnings for this book include but are not limited to: historical and social examinations of misogyny--lots and lots of it; the huge double standard that exists; and historical pedophilia. I don't doubt all the research she did. This book is informative, educational, a lot of it still stands, and it got me wondering a little if society or medicine had advanced in any other way around virginity since. I read this when it first came out. Fourteen years later, I only remembered what turned out to be a few pages. The book flows well. It starts out with medical and historical aspects, with some pop culture references. An enormous hunk of the book examines Christianity's relationship and influence on virginity and its perception, with Catholicism not far behind. Judaism is often mentioned, but Jewish attitudes towards sex are wildly different so they're not presented side-by-side. Pop culture and Western attitudes are increasingly examined as the book progresses. It was trying to be linear, and it did a good job. The author, however, makes bad puns and stupid jokes often. She was trying to break up sections that could be dry, but her choices were annoying. She contradicts herself otften without explaining why, and only sometimes acknowledges it. Her sentences are too wordy. Some, I had to read out loud three times in an attempt to figure out what was going on. In the introduction, she says there's little information. Then she says there's a lot. She says not to see her book as the sum total of research, then says there's not that many books out there. That virginity wasn't important, then that it clearly was. Make up your mind, lady.

From beginning to end, all of this book except for a few paragraphs are about straight female virginity, or just female virginity in the context of historically rooted and ever-present lesbian erasure. At times while reading this, I wondered what Blank thought of the Lonely Island song "I Just Had Sex," a lighthearted take on male virginity loss. The song came out shortly after this book was written. I wondered how she would have interpreted it in the context of her book, and to herself as a consumer of pop culture. Especially now in 2021 as of this review writing, when there are TikTok trends of playing the song upon acknowledgement of virginity loss for all genders. I watched a few that were intended as lighthearted celebration and giggled.

The conclusion doesn't feel like one. It feels like she wanted to hurry up and finish the book. Given the style of it and the poor writing, I don't blame her. I'm glad this was written. It was well-researched and brought a lot of things to light.
iszevthere | 11 outras críticas | Jul 13, 2022 |
Engaging, all things considered. Also, lots of historical info I never learned in school.
bookbrig | 11 outras críticas | Aug 5, 2020 |
A light, quick read. Like Blank's previous cultural history, Virgin, this book is full of fascinating anecdotes, some of which you're likely to know about if you've spent much time involved in gender or sexuality studies. The book combines broad strokes of history with these anecdotes and details smoothly and readable, and like Virgin, ought to be accessible to the general reader.

Like Blank, I have been in relationships that might - or might not - be definable as heterosexual, and so I have a personal investment in her unraveling of the term and its history. I found her eventually conclusion (is this a spoiler? can you spoil nonfiction?) - "this too shall pass" - hopeful and reassuring.

One negative note - I found some of Blank's language choices when discussing transgendered individuals strange, such as the footnote where she briefly observes that "the horrific rape and murder of Brandon Teena" demonstrates her point that "women who are perceived to be overly sexual, or too sexual in the wrong ways - meaning, especially, ways that do not focus on conventional feminine receptivity - are still likely to be shamed, ostracized, and punished." (n 27, p 179; p 143). I don't disagree that the example of Brandon Teena (whose life, as Blank notes, has been dramatized in the movie Boys Don't Cry) demonstrates the brutality that those who violate gender norms often face, or that Teena's rape and murder was due to the revelation that he was not cisgendered - that he was perceived by his murderers as a woman pretending to be a man. But Blank here seems to identify Teena as a woman, against his self-presentation.

This is a small detail, but it did mar an otherwise enjoyable read for me.

elenaj | 7 outras críticas | Jul 31, 2020 |
Learned a lot - we are full of ourselves, yes?
kmajort | 7 outras críticas | Feb 9, 2018 |
Interesting enough; not as enjoyable as any of the works I'm familiar with that the author referenced, but it contained some excellent writing. The end notes in particular were a joy.
Dez.dono | 7 outras críticas | Aug 8, 2017 |
This is a fascinating look at virginity, both the medical/scientific aspects and the cultural/social issues surrounding it. I especially enjoyed the science/medical portion of the book as much of this information was new to me. The author talks about the physical characteristics of the hymen and why so little is really known about it. I was more familiar with the cultural issues discussed in the second half of the book, and I think the author did a good job of compiling and contextualizing these issues. Very interesting read.
LynnB | 11 outras críticas | May 19, 2017 |
On the second try, I actually finished the book. Honestly not sure what I thought of this book. While I agree with the HAES movement, I found her to be a hypocrite. While pushing for fat acceptance, there was a lot of shaming of people who choose to lose weight (or shrink as she calls it). I find it hard to sympathize for someone looking for acceptance for one side's choices while she's simultaneously knocking the other sides. Neither is necessarily right or wrong.
She does have some good tenets and tips for finding the right gym and exercise methods which I find apply to all people.
skinglist | 2 outras críticas | Feb 21, 2016 |
Hanne Blank is the perfect unapologetic fat girl! She has a great fun attitude even when discussing this heavy subject. This book is a great guide to beginning exercisers, whether they be fat or not. I loved that Hanne gave me permission to call my body movement whatever I want - if the word exercise doesn't feel right I can say bounce (my favorite), stroll, spin, etc.
mlake | 2 outras críticas | Apr 28, 2015 |
This isn't a "bad" book per se, but it's curiously pointless. While Blank sets out to limn the history of heterosexuality as a concept, what she really ends up doing at great length and to little new effect, is to write about the legal and social concepts of marriage (companionate and otherwise) and the cultural history of dating. None of this is fresh, none of this has not been done dozens of times before decades before, most more thoroughly and from a more deeply informed historical and/or philosophical perspective. None of this illuminates our current understanding of what's "heterosexual" and what's "homosexual". In fact, beyond the brief personal revelations that open and close the volume, there's virtually nothing here I haven't read many, many times over.

I guess I just can't imagine who's the audience for this book. Anyone seriously interested in the subject of sexuality, sexual/gender identity, and the history of how society and individuals assign labels is not going to find anything fresh, interesting, or particularly useful here. And those who aren't especially interested or knowledgeable are probably not going to read or seek out this book. Sooo?½
marietherese | 7 outras críticas | Feb 22, 2015 |
I picked this book up because it seemed like an interesting subject, from a female perspective. The book was indeed very interesting. It explores the concept and perception of virginity from sociological, biological and historical perspectives. What struck me over and over again is how the concept of virginity is used to control women, in one way or another. I found the parts of the book focused on modern times to be the most interesting, and I would have liked the author to explore other concepts, such as purity balls (the concept of which creeps me out). Very enjoyable for women or readers looking for quirky non-fiction.
LISandKL | 11 outras críticas | Aug 20, 2014 |
This excellently written book looks into the history of "heterosexuality" as a Thing in and of itself. In so doing, Blank touches on may related issues, such as theories of male and female sexuality, the history of marriage, and many more. While I suppose these could be considered tangential, they also enrich and inform the overall points, and for me have put many things into a context of which I was previously unaware.

It is not exclusively about "straight"; in exploring how this concept came to be, and to be accepted, Blank touches on many other sexual realms; none would be possible without the others.

Do read the footnotes; while some are just cites, others have additional enriching commentary.

Very recommended, for anyone interested in how our cultural narrative of sex came to be, and how it can impact us.
cissa | 7 outras críticas | Aug 5, 2014 |
Kindof a neat idea. I assume it's about me, since I have a history of being a virgin.
AlCracka | 11 outras críticas | Apr 2, 2013 |
Erudite, well-written, and wide-ranging, this is a lovely examination of the intersections of gender, religion, and medicine. Highly recommended.
cricketbats | 11 outras críticas | Mar 30, 2013 |
Being a series of refelections (not really a "history") on the concept and practice of heterosexuality since the emergence of the term during the nineteenth century. The first third of the book is by far the best, and would have made a fine keynote article in an intellectual monthly two generations ago when they still were willing to feature extended articles. The author is an innovative thinker who will present and juxtapose concepts in a way which will allow even veteran readers in gender to think of them in new ways.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with big thinkers, her net is sometimes cast with a little more enthusiasm than rigor, leading her to howlers such as maintaining that conventional carnal relations are the only form of sexual activity which has been universally approved throughout history. Try telling that to the many who have been punished, and not infrequently executed or lynched, throughout history for indulging in that act. One could nudge her assertion a little closer to the truth by adding words such as "within marriage" or "between members of the same tribe/nation/race", but even then "grudging acceptance" would be a better term than "approval". This sort of occasional bypass of common sense, a certain disorganized feel, and quite a bit more information on her friends' opinions and her own sex life than I really needed to know keep this on the "flawed masterpiece" shelf.½
1 vote
Big_Bang_Gorilla | 7 outras críticas | Dec 6, 2012 |
This was an interesting history of virginity in Western culture, how it's been defined over the years, the standards women have been held to. An interesting read – I wonder if Blank has written other books?½
Heduanna | 11 outras críticas | Aug 5, 2012 |
I ordered this book online, which meant I never had a chance to thumb through it before buying it. If I had, I wouldn't have bought it since it wasn't what I expected (and was trying to obtain). The book gives a cursory treatment to a broad variety of sex and relationship topics as they apply to "people of size". Throughout, it kind of hammers on body acceptance and fat-positivity.

Unfortunately, what I was looking for was more of an in-depth practical guide to sex for large people. A how-to on surmounting the geometric obstacles for lovemaking if you're large: what positions work best if you've got a 50-inch waist, how to arrange yourselves so that a 350-pound man doesn't crush his lover or squeeze the air out of her lungs, etc. The "Supersize Kama Sutra" if you will. While a section does address these physical issues, it doesn't go into the detail I wanted and expected when I bought the book.½
The_Froo | 3 outras críticas | May 19, 2012 |
Blank notes in her intro that a study of virginity requires information from a variety of disciplines and that there are large knowledge gaps in what we know about virgins and virginity. She describes virginity as a concept that was at one point extremely important and is still culturally relevant today but one that is hard to define and is an intangible quality. Blank’s point of view is obvious – the importance placed on and obsession with virginity is part of a patriarchal system to control sex, is generally only concerned with women’s virginity and is also dehumanizing. The book is divided into the physical/medical aspects and the historical/cultural view of virginity. I thought I’d find cultural issues to be more interesting but that section was somewhat too brief and I wondered at times if she was being inexact. The medical issues related to virginity were fascinating.

In the first couple chapters, Blank details the physiology of the hymen and the history of the search for the hymen as well as various illnesses and conditions attributed to virgins. I’ve taken a number of biology and sexuality classes but the majority of information about the hymen was new to me. Blank explains why – there are rarely medical issues associated with the hymen. This was a very interesting section. The myth of sex with virgins curing diseases wasn’t new to me, but Blank talks about various times in history when it seemed especially notable. Also, I’d never heard of greensickness before – one of those old diseases that makes you wonder what was causing all the cases. Medical issues related to virginity include the controversy over the speculum, hymen reconstruction and the rare imperforate hymen. Blank lists numerous virginity tests, some of which sound quite ridiculous today. In describing these varied topics, Blank often relates them to her previously described themes – concerns with virginity are perpetuated by men and generally leave women out of the equation. Sexuality of women is seen as a dangerous thing – for example, the belief that a doctor using a speculum on a virgin could lead to masturbation and prostitution.

The second half of the book covers the history of virginity in the West. A lot of this describes religious attitudes to religion and sexuality and this isn’t an area I am too familiar with so I wondered if at times Blank was being inexact. For example, she notes that the Greeks had an idea of virgin magic and mentions that Persephone was able to travel to the underworld because she was a virgin. While there are multiple versions of Greek myths, this is not an interpretation that I have ever heard of the Persephone story (though the story can be read as an allegory for loss of virginity, never heard that posited as a reason she could go to the underworld). The rise of Christianity gave new value to virginity especially with the importance of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism. This abated somewhat with Protestantism. The portrayal of virgins as sexual objects is covered then the book ends with virginity in 20th century American and how it was affected by tampons, birth control and feminism. Some of the topics she covers are ones that have been distorted by history and pop culture – vestal virgins, virgin martyrs, Erzsebet Bathory, jus primae noctis, Elizabeth I and William Stead, the journalist who bought a 13-year old virgin to illustrate a point. I thought the history was covered too quickly but does give a good starting point for further reading. In addition, the focus is only on Western attitudes and history. I appreciated that Blank’s history of Christianity, though short, is nuanced – it’s not all Christians are anti-sex. She’ll note that some very misogynistic Christian writers weren’t representative of the thought of the day and writes about how the convent allowed greater freedom to many women. While I did occasionally wonder about the veracity of all her interpretations, this is a informative book on the topic.½
7 vote
DieFledermaus | 11 outras críticas | Apr 9, 2012 |
Straight takes on the – in the words of the author – surprisingly short history of heterosexuality from the 19th century to the present. While one might think that the history extends further back, Blank notes that the term was first coined in the late 19th century, was popularized by Krafft-Ebing and Freud, encompassed a number of cultural ideas and finally became part of the doxa, the generally known information. Blank starts her discussion of the limiting idea of heterosexuality by talking about her own relationship with her partner. Because of a variety of intersex conditions, it is hard to say that “male” and “female” are static, easily defined conditions. Are sexes determined by genes? Hormones? Socially defined gender? Then there’s the difference between sexual attractions and behavior. Heterosexuality is generally defined as “normal” sexuality, but what “abnormal” sexuality is has always differed from time and place. The idea that heterosexuality is a construct rather than a scientific fact, and that it is often quite limiting and discriminatory, is an idea that recurs frequently.

There’s less specific scientific information compared to the other Blank book I read, Virgin, but I was more familiar with the period and topics covered in this book and thought Blank’s analysis of social trends was informative. She covers the period where the term heterosexual first appeared – when the West was moving away from Catholic concepts of sin and sexual acts - not separate identities - to ideas of normal vs. deviant. The rise of the city, the popularization of scientific concepts and jargon and fears of degeneration contributed to the rise of heterosexuality. Freud had a lasting effect and Blank is obviously critical of him as seen in the way she relates his ideas. The concept of sexual identities was given more fuel by the work of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson and the push for equality by various groups in the mid-20th century.

The development of the trappings of heterosexuality is described in the next chapters. Marriage moved from an economic partnership centered around children to an (theoretically) equal partnership based on true love and personal and sexual fulfillment with children optional and planned. There was a lot of interesting information presented in this section – the development of dating culture, the rash of sexual help manuals for married couples and the gradual elevation of the orgasm as the defining measurement of sex. In the end, Blank concludes that the concept of heterosexuality cannot include all the advances in technology, biology, psychology and the overall complexity of human behavior. As examples she points to the rise of gay culture, homophobic politicians who are outed, and court cases involving transgender individuals. Blank’s ideas about the uselessness of heterosexuality might seem extreme but she nicely and succinctly covers all the limitations of the concept. I didn’t agree with her conclusion that studies on homosexuality didn’t have much use and really shouldn’t be done – even if only because prohibitions on studying something are worrisome. While I found this book to be more generalized and big-picture compared to Virgin, it was a worthwhile read. Since I’d read some books and taken classes on the subject before, much of the information wasn’t new but the analysis and examination of multiple trends and influences was helpful. The book was short and very readable as well as humorous.
2 vote
DieFledermaus | 7 outras críticas | Apr 7, 2012 |
The author sets out to provide a history of human obsessions with the idea of virginity, and for the most part, she succeeds. There are some weak spots, and some ideas she could have expounded on further, but all in all, it was easy to read and satisfying.
Devil_llama | 11 outras críticas | Apr 11, 2011 |
Virgin: The Untouched History is at once intensely personal and completely universal. You can have no idea how little you know about virginity in the larger cultural context until you read this book. In a classroom or study group, this book could produce some excellent gendered dialogue, as men and women would read this text very differently. Impressive.
laVermeer | 11 outras críticas | Mar 5, 2009 |
After reviewing the long, oft-bloody (ha HA) cultural history of virginity, Blank concludes that virginity is more of a concept than an actual thing and calls for modern folk to give up the traditional beliefs about virginity and to create our own definitions instead. I agree.½
ChicGeekGirl21 | 11 outras críticas | Jan 3, 2009 |
This is a no nonsense guide for larger people and their lovers. The book focuses on personal issues and limitations people of size face during the most intimate moments of their lives. Highly recommended for anyone of size or anyone who loves someone of size.
lildrafire | 3 outras críticas | Oct 24, 2008 |
The book served to answer one of my burning questions: what does a hymen look like? The descriptions of different hymens, along with the diagrams, were wonderful and helpful.

Of course the book couldn't cover every aspect of virginity in history and culture, but it manages to cover an astonishing amount of information. The section on virginity tests was highly amusing to me. Overall, a great start into researching the concept of virginity.
heinous-eli | 11 outras críticas | Feb 28, 2008 |