PC 120 Virgin ……

‘Virgin’ – as a noun, a person who has never had sexual intercourse or a person who is naive, innocent or inexperienced in a particular context. Or, as an adjective, being related to a virgin or as in not yet used, exploited or processed.

Historically the Christian world started with a ‘virgin’ birth. You can imagine the scholars, mainly disciples of Jesus Christ, who got together to write about events in Bethlehem forty or so years before. Must have had good memories huh? Could I write about events that occurred in 1978 today with any degree of factual certainty? How much was ‘created’ I wonder? Unlike today, little was known of the reproductive process at the time; no one knew that male semen and female ovum were both needed to form a foetus. It was widely thought that Mary’s bodily fluids would provide all the matter needed for Jesus’ body, including his male sex. The idea of a ‘virgin birth’ was initially only mentioned by two of the gospel writers, Mark and Luke. There were plenty of precedents for the idea of a virgin birth, as it was common in their mythology that deities would impregnate mortal women. It occurs to me today that here was a wonderful opportunity for a promiscuous woman to explain a pregnancy to her husband in their sexless marriage – “Oh! Perseus visited me last month!” Anyway, despite lots of scepticism among scholars and other gospel writers, the view prevails and Mary Magdalene became known universally as the Virgin Mary.

But those who wrote the story of Christianity wanted it to be known that the son of God was a reproduction ‘in his own likeness’. So the word virgin became associated with purity, goodness, newness and so when marrying it was expected that the female would be a virgin. Note that there seemed to be no requirement for the man to be so, indeed it was expected he would gain sexual experience before getting married. This always seemed to me a little unfair but it was based, I suppose, on the belief that a virgin would bleed during her first sexual experience so you could check. No such check was possible on a man.

You might wonder why I am scribbling a PC on such a topic. Well, it seems that the whole world has developed falsehoods about virginity, based on a myth. The phrase “losing your virginity” as a female relies on the erroneous belief that the hymen breaks during the first penetrative sex ……. and that there will be blood.  Keeping your daughter a ‘virgin’ until she marries is regarded as a crucial cultural milestone in many many societies. Indeed there are some medical men, and I am refraining from using the word doctor here, who make a living reconstructing a hymen for those who need demonstrable proof.

The world seemed to go on as normal so I am not sure many people saw the fascinating article in The Times in January entitled; “The Virginity Myth and the G-Spot Shock.” If everyone reads it and accepts it is scientific fact, the culture of certain countries will have to be turned upside down. You missed it? Well, read on.

In their new book ‘The Wonder Down Under’ – and no, this is not a title of some advertisement for an Australian or New Zealand holiday – Norwegian medics Nina Brochmann and Ellen Stokken Dahl lay out the truth about female genitalia. Excuse me? A PC on female genitalia? Why not? It’s not as if they are a rarity; bit like male genitalia but then these appendages have been talked about, fascinated over, depicted in marble statues since a Greek stonemason first lifted a chisel towards the block of marble.

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Female ones were covered up by a fig leaf (why fig?), hidden under some pubic hair, or even covered by a hand, to create a sort of mystic!

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The curiosity starts in childhood ……… and for some goes on well into their dotage! On one British TV channel an adult programme called ‘Naked Attraction’ asks contestants to choose someone for a ‘blind’ date by looking at their genitalia, in most cases of the opposite sex. I say ‘most cases’ because in 2018 this seems a little too traditional and other choices are available! I can tell you, we are all different!

You can be hear the two Norwegians giving a TED talk ‘The Virginity Fraud’ and having read the article, that’s what I did, hearing the message that these two young doctors want to deliver. Shock horror; The Hymen myth! “The hymen” according to Brochmann and Dahl, “is a seal formed in female embryos, possibly a piece of redundant evolutionary tissue from our aquatic ancestors. The seal dissolves before birth, leaving a residual ring.” They illustrate their TED talk by covering a Hula hoop with cling film, popping it to illustrate that the hymen is simply the ring, rather like a stretchy scrunchie.

How can this physical aspect of the female gender have escaped the microscope for so long? Or is it in the interests of the male dominated societies to perpetuate the lies? For sure, fewer than half of women surveyed report bleeding when they first have sex, and no one really knows where this blood comes from, but the authors have had letters from women in the Middle East particularly who have been threatened with violence as their hymen didn’t behave as the textbooks had predicted – ie bleed!

Fortunately most people today believe that the ‘virgin birth’ is as likely to be true as those who believe the earth to be only 10,000 years old or that the moon is made of blue cheese. And when I think of the word virgin today, I think of Richard Branson and his various companies, Virgin Media or Virgin Airways!!

Funny world, inn’t?

Richard 24th March 2018

PS Space precludes me from explaining in detail their take on the ‘G-Spot Myth’. Suffice to say that the clitoris is a huge organ, about 7-12cm long, under the skin and delightfully described by Helen Rumbelow of The Times (Ed: There’s an interesting surname for such an article!!) as ‘if I am allowed a poetic bit of symbolism, in the shape of a wishbone’. For a man, think ‘boner’ for an erection; and now think boner for women who can have the same erectile tissue, but hidden beneath the skin.

PPS Another myth demolished by these two doctors is that far from the idea that the male sperm is one of millions heading to fertilise the only egg, actually there are thousands of eggs from which to choose from. So it’s a miracle it happens at all!!

PC 119 Why can’t you just do it?

After two hugely satisfying careers I found myself, in 1991, a victim of the economic recession and was made ‘redundant’. Such a horrible word but you have to get your mind around the fact that it was the job that was no longer, that you were still ‘you’. Taking a personal stock check is a hugely cathartic process and so essential at certain times; this was one. Friends said: ‘Stay with what you know (the Defence Industry); now is not the time to change’. But my own stock-take had confirmed lots of transferable skills and I had always been attracted to some sort of PR role, maybe even advertising. So I networked and, although I wasn’t successful in finding something in those sectors, knew it was possible to do something different. A couple of months later I found myself poacher turned gamekeeper, as I got a job helping people who were unemployed!

When the recession finally ended, the stream of unemployed executives needing assistance dried up, but I had learned enough about the ‘unlocking your potential’ process to sell myself as an executive coach. Often people firstly think of the reasons why they can’t do something, whereas a change of thinking might unlock a new path, an alternative thought process which reinforces the reasons they can do something. It’s the challenge for those of us who work with others to assist in finding the key that unlocks that process.

Although I have hung up my toolbag, yesterday, exceptionally, I had a session with someone who needed help. I still get excited by starting with a new client, even after 22 years! From the many hundreds of clients, here’s one story that I remember vividly, as it demonstrates how simply talking to someone can be so beneficial. I have changed the names and situation a little.

A friend suggested that Sally came to see me as she was due to come to the end of her current contract in the Metropolitan Police and had admitted to being rather unsure of what she, unmarried and 29, wanted to do next. She sat down for our session, actually quite confident and self-assured. So I asked her what she wanted to talk about, did she know what she wanted to do next.

“Probably advertising!” she replied, although I detected the slightest suggestion of doubt in her voice.

“OK!” I said, “So why have you come to see me?”

“Well, you know, simply confirmation that this is the right thing to do.” I didn’t know Sally, and to make some judgements, I had to understand a little of her background.

So then we started the tale, from the beginning; how she had actually wanted to become an internet webpage designer, seemed to have a gift for it, but her father had other ideas, wanting to see his daughter ‘do something with your life’ – suggesting of course that webpage design wasn’t quite the right thing! Her elder brother was equally adamant. Funny, and sometimes tragic, how family pressure can seriously affect the decisions you make in your late teens, often only realising later in life with more maturity and experience that you should, perhaps, have stuck to your guns.

Sally asked her father whether he would loan her some money to pay for the web design course that would give her the skills she needed. He said: “Of course! But I have an inkling you could carve out a great career in the Metropolitan Police;” following his own illustrious one. “Would you please me and just see whether you could pass the selection tests? If you decide it’s not for you, then I’ll give you the cash you need.” Well, she did well, and he didn’t honour his side of the bargain; with no funding, she stayed, resentful and untrusting. Many years later we get to ‘today’ ……… and ‘advertising’.

As we talked about relationships and her experiences, she began to trust her own thoughts and ideas, secure in the unthreatening confidential coaching environment. Suddenly, and I can remember this moment as if it was yesterday, she leans forward and says: “Do you know what I really really want to do?” “It’s not in advertising then?” “No!” “Go on!” I say; and out it came, ideas unfettered by parental judgement and personal insecurities, a stream of excitement and enthusiasm. She outlined her ideas, her timescales and her business model. Eventually, breathless, she asked: “What do you think? Can I do it?”

“If you think this idea has merit, it’s worth pursuing. Only then will you know whether you can do it or not”

Great” she said, and got up and left!

I sat there in the aftermath, reinforced in my personal belief that if you really want to do something, the best thing is to do it. In my hand I held her metaphorical brake!!

Richard 11th March 2018

PS Sally emailed later to say that she had re-established contact with her brother after 6 years and had seen her father. The past was going to remain the past.