The Disappearing Virgin

The New York Times just did a great article on the tradition of sworn virgins in Albanian culture – that’s the tradition that says a woman can foreswear marriage (& presumably, sex) in order to live as a man & so be head of household, inherit land, etc.

Betty & I had an Albanian cab driver in Boston not so long ago who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him about it, & no Albanian I’ve ever met – I ask them all – has ever heard of it, either. But the article makes clear exactly why your average Albanian wouldn’t have.

What’s most interesting to me is that in every case they cite – and I don’t know if this is true for every case – it was the woman’s choice to “become the man.”

2 Replies to “The Disappearing Virgin”

  1. Interesting. In a similar vein, during the Renaissance in high society, a courtesan, (read that call girl) was entitled to a higher education. However, a wife was not. They literally segregated libraries and learned institutions whereby only males and courtesans had access to them. The wives, of course, had higher status, but were not allowed to exercise their intellects other than by reading the Bible, poetry and novels.

    Hence, even though that cab driver did not know of the custom, there certainly are roots for it that appear to date back to the 14th Century.

    Perhaps our lovely Lynette might have some insight into this.

    In Japan there are still some Country Clubs, i.e. Golf Courses that allow only males (company men) and women that are nightclub owners. Wives are not allowed to play. Tokyo is one big nightclub. Most if not all the nightclubs are owned by women for the most part. Nightclub and bar ownership is really the only place where women can be independent in the Japanese economy. They have given up on marriage and have taken on personal financial responsibility. They are NOT courtesans. However, they usually have men who are members of their nightclub (most are invitation only) where they develop extremely deep, sometimes intimate, relationships that last lifetimes.

  2. It might have something to do with the ethnicity of your Albanians. They are divided into two distinct groups who don’t like each other a lot. Their customs and traditions are totally different- the Ghegs and the Tosks.

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