Friday, 27 January 2012

The Virgin Cure: Then and Now

Dear members,


As we reach the final pages of this month's book club pick, there are many things to reflect on with one important concept being the "Virgin Cure". Known as the virgin cleansing myth, it was seen that if a man was infected with some sort of sexually transmitted disease, he will be cured by having intercourse with a virgin girl.
As we have read in the novel, syphilis has become a commonly known disease  during the 19th century, becoming widespread since the 16th century in Europe. Today, the virgin cure continues to be prevalent in countries such as Africa, where the belief lives on.
In Ami McKay's website, she talks about the past and present of the virgin cure, particularly in New York during that time:

Syphilis was an overwhelming, widespread puzzle of a disease and it was this taboo topic that my great-great grandmother chose for the subject of her graduation thesis. In her day, there continued to be much argument over how the disease was spread and there were many unsuccessful (and sometimes destructive) forms of treatment. Worst of all, along with the human wreckage of a disease with no remedy, was an even greater tragedy, a horrible myth that preyed upon young girls.

The myth of “the virgin cure “ (the belief that a man with syphilis could “cleanse his blood” by deflowering a virgin) was without social borders and was acted out in every socio-economic class in some form or another. In fact, the more money a man had, the easier it would have been for him to procure a young girl for this unthinkable act...

Much like Dr. Sadie and other doctors of her time longed to find a cure for syphilis – scientists, doctors and researchers today are desperately trying to find a cure for AIDS. Sadly, “the virgin cure” of the 19th century is still being acted out in parts of the world today, (in sub-Saharan Africa, India andThailand, to name but a few places) with an alarming number of child rapes occurring in the last few years, because of a growing belief in the myth. I feel it is important for us in Western society to remember that the tragedy of the myth of the virgin cure is part of our history as well. In an era when those who are on the front lines of fighting the AIDS crisis are saying the pubic seems to be “burnt out on AIDS,” perhaps a page from our own history will bring us back to the conversation – fostering a sense of global community and the desire to take action.


The novel also contains many interesting characters to dwell on, including Moth, Dr. Sadie and Miss Everett. New York in 1871 definitely has many layers of stories to tell and the life twelve year old Moth is one such intricate story.
 

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