Articles on Modern Day Enslavement - Zola M Dube

The Virgin Myth: A global and historical perspective

In Research Topics on June 20, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Perhaps, the most notorious case of the Virgin Myth to shock the international community took place in 2001. A nine months old child from Kimberley in the Northern Cape was left in the care of a friend by her underage mother. Six men between the ages of twenty-two and sixty-six were accused of gang raping the infant. A crime that left the child severely injured. (1)

For many people around the world, current awareness about the “Virgin Myth”, also know as the “Virgin Cure”, stem from its presence in South Africa. The health care system and political leadership have been at a loss to respond effectively to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Filling the gap, the “wisdom” of traditional healers has triggered the belief that sex with virgins cures deadly diseases and an assortment of other sexually transmitted diseases.

According to a 2009 article in the Guardian, Zimbabwe’s economic collapse has undermined the family unit and crippled the war against the spread HIV/AIDS, leaving many children vulnerable to the Virgin Myth. Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network (GCN) has identified the rape of a day-old child in Zimbabwe as the youngest known victim.(2)

Social and cultural institution that purport the Virgin Myth is a global phenomena. The practice is prevalent in Asia, most notably India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Besides the Virgin Myth, the region is also plagued by the “Virgin Rejuvenation Myth”, that has given rise to the term “Trafficking in Virgins” within the commercial sex industry. This myth promotes the idea that sleeping with a young virgin enhances virility, promotes youthfulness, and slows down the aging process. Children as young as 5 are bought and sold to grown men.(3)

What is most disturbing is that even wealthy Chinese businessmen are not immune to the myth; debunking the idea that it is a practice of the impoverished and uneducated. Dr. Martin Brass, an international lawyer, wrote an article about his own experience. He recounts an invitation from a Chinese law firm for a gentlemens night out that ended with each lawyer selecting an elegantly dressed Chinese girl, among the many who floated around the entire evening, to spend the night with.(4)

Western tourist are not removed from sex with virgins in foreign countries, though the motivation is unlikely a cure for disease. NGO End Child Prostitution compiled data for 160 foreign males arrest for sexual exploitation of minors in Asia.

40 abusers from the U.S.A., 28 from Germany, 22 from Australia, 19 from the U.K., 10 from France; Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa were also on the list.(5)

Foreign tourists who have sex with virgins fulfill their pedophilic desires with the added advantage of unprotected sex with less chance of contracting AIDS or STDs (for the pedophile). In the grand scheme of things, the vast majority of offenders go unpunished, undetected, and return freely and unblemished to their home country and professions.

The oldest historical records of the Virgin Myth are from Europe. Referred to as the “Virgin Cure” it is first recorded in 16th century in response to syphilis and gonorrhea (today’s HIV/AIDS equivalent). Indigenous peoples were often the victims of early European explorers who raped children as a life-saving measure. The raping of children was also rampant in Europe.

In 2007 Hanne Blank published the book, Virgin: The Untouched History. “In 18th-century London, one in every five capital rape cases involved children under the age of 10, and the rapists commonly cited the virgin-cure myth in their defense.”(6).  In a disturbing twist to the myth, there is the case of Countess Ersebet Bethory who ruled Hungary in the 16th-century. 600 virgins were slaughtered for their blood. The countess bathed in their fluid in order to preserve her beauty.(7)

It is interesting to note that readily available historical information about the Virgin Myth appears to leap from 16th-century Europe to the present. Yet, an extended examination of the history of syphilis reveals a historical omission in contemporary dialogue on the subject of the Virgin Myth.

Between 1918 and 1929 Western Europe was in shambles. Over 10 million people died in the Great War and those who survived represented the many more left wounded. Germany and Italy were ruled by fascism. Austria-Hungary and Germany’s governments collapsed. Western Europe was not equipped to respond effectively to the social and health crisis that continued to be presented by syphilis.

Western Europe’s global market dominance fell and yielded to America and Japan. By most accounts, America also pioneered and provided leadership in managing the global syphilis crisis and searching for a cure. In the 1920 publication Syphilis by Dr. Thompson Loyd, a prominent American doctor, the author provides extensive information about the global social challenges brought to bare by the syphilis pandemic. At the time, its host location was commonly identified in terms of “[harboring] syphilitics in immerse numbers”, or densely populated cities such as London, New York, Paris, and Berlin.(8)

Consider that the scientific, social health, economic, educational, and political challenges of syphilis of the time are similar to what the developing world is facing with HIV/AIDS(9). What is particularly fascinating is that there has also been a similar concerted effort to find a cure for AIDS as there was for syphilis. Countries engaged in rigorous international knowledge sharing conferences, namely the Transactions of the Fifteen International Congress of Hygiene and Demography hosted by the United States took place in the nation’s capital. (10)

In the 16th-century the rapid spread of syphilis lead to the accusation of women engaging in witchcraft (another parallel to contemporary developing world). In Dr. Loyd’s time, females and prostitutes were believed to cause and spread deadly and debilitating diseases. This may explain why the cases studies sighted by Loyd are predominantly male-child victims. Using data collected from various doctors during international conference and correspondence, Loyd revealed the following information.

Wolbarst reports a caschre of the lower abdominal wall in a boy aged two years, while syphilis insontium is far from unknown in the very old. Syphilis contracted during sexual intercourse has been observed at the extremes of life.

Wolbast saw a genital chancre in a boy, aged five years.

That young children sometimes are exposed to syphilitic infection of genitals is due to the superstition still prevalent among certain cases that intercourse with a virgin will cure venereal disease.

It was probably on account of this superstition that the case reported by Haines contracted by syphilis and gonorrhea. In this case a child of sixteen months was found to have a typical chancre of the sulcus, just to the right of the midline, as well as a profuse purulent, meatal discharge which showed gonococci.(11)

As to how a five years old child, let alone sixteen months old develops a caschre on his genitals through the act of Virgin Myth rape leaves a little bit too much for the mind to wrap around.

It was not until 1947 that penicillin had been validated as an effective cure for syphilis. If treated within early stages, one dose of penicillin will prevent painful, chronic physical illness and eventual death brought on by the advancement of syphilis.(12)

Along with eradicating the Virgin Myth, a critical piece to protecting children from sexual slavery and Trafficking in Virgins is effective prosecution of offenders, including those in government and law enforcement. There is a litany of global evidence that shows government and law enforcement corruption deeply undermine efforts to eradicate child trafficking due to its link to criminal syndicates and internal cast of perverse character. Lock Wan Jun, an Advisor at the National University of Singapore, presented an outstanding study in 2008 entitled Supply Side of Child Trafficking: Economic Analysis using Utility Models focused on Southeast Asia. In the paper, four utility models of traffickers are discussed to explain why criminals are inclined to continue to trafficking despite prosecution followed by recommendations to curb activity, decreasing the economic incentive, and empower children to protect themselves. (13)

Given a global and historical overview of the Virgin Myth, the implications of the myth make it difficult to measure whether the greatest calamity is the presence of a globally prevalent and relentless incurable virus itself (with all of its inherit tragic loss of human life, pain and suffering) or the emergence of opportunistic, diabolical human behavior during a historical era of an incurable virus, in the midst of ill equipped and unintelligent social, cultural, traditional and political leadership and institutions.

In the absence of logic and scientific explanation, institutional assumptions that support the Virgin Myth inform abominable and antisocial human responses; proven problematic throughout history and geography. From the Virgin Myths recorded origins in 16th-century Europe, to early 20th-to mid-century North America and Europe, up to Africa and Asia today, humans under the same constraints have reacted the same until otherwise prosecuted, educated and nationally stabilized.

– Zola Dube

(1) CNN. South Africa facing child rape crisis. 26 November 2001

(2) Smith, David. Guardian. Child Rape Epidemic in Zimbabwe. 9 November 2009

(3) Mam, Somaly. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009. Page59.

(4, 5) Brass, Dr. Martin. Soldiers of Fortune Magazine. The Modern Scourge of Sex Slavery. 2004

(6) Kuczynski, Alex. New York Times. Sweet Chastity. 25 March 2007

(7) Blank, Hanne. Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury. 2007

(8,11) Thompson, Loyd. Syphilis. Lea & Febiger. 1920

(9) Andreski, Stanislav. The Syphilitic Shock. pp. 370 – 393  Ritual and Belief: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion, 2nd. ed, Hicks, ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2002)

(10) (Transactions of the Fifteen International Congress on Hygiene and Demography. Washington, DC. September 23-28, 1912

(12) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (05-2004). STD Facts-Syphilis. Centers for Disease Control.

(13) Jun, L. W. (2008). Supply Side of Child Trafficking: Economic Analysis using Utility Models, The Journal of Young Investigators, 18 (4)

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